Before Marie Kondo, there was Julie Morgenstern. The organizational expert has spent more than 25 years rearranging the closets of and clearing the clutter from American homes, and since she launched her career, she’s also turned her talents to time management and now, better parenting.
So, how can we be more organized, how can we be happy and organized at the same time, and most importantly, how does this impact our kids? Julie has five crucial tips.
Be proactive and calm.
Disorganized people can absolutely be great parents, but they may feel more stress and guilt about the amount of time they lose to disorder: that is, time and energy they would rather spend on quality time with their kids and for themselves.
When we are disorganized, we lose time looking for things, it’s harder to delegate chores to the whole family (which then places a burden on us), and there’s often lots of tension due to rushing around and looking for things. Being organized creates calm, and improves our ability to be present. Being organized is about being ready: for opportunities, for life’s surprises, for unexpected questions and needs our kids bring to us.
Reinforce a daily schedule.
The key is to stop thinking of everyday routines as something you need to rush through to make space for quality time with your kids, and instead organize yourself to use these everyday moments as moments of connection. This works best if you do two things:
1. Simplify the routine, and make it predictable and consistent. This will take a lot of the decision-making off your plate. It also lets kids know what to expect.
2. Reinforce the schedule by verbalizing it. Tell your kids, “We have dinner from 6 to 6:30, free time from 6:30 to 7:30, 7:30 is bath time, 8 pm story, 8:15 lights out.” This builds time consciousness in kids (which is a great time management skill for later in life!).
Be firm about screen time.
Create (and stick to!) rules about screen time for the evening hours. That applies to you, the parent, as well as your kids. Technology disconnects us from the people we are with and distracts us from truly connecting and relaxing in healthy ways.
Create a docking station for all phones and devices by the front door (maybe with a cute sign above it that says “Be Here Now”), and if there is any screen time allowed in the evening, it should be the same for everyone, parents included. I’d say 30-60 minutes, max.
Meal prep on the weekends.
Think about stage-managing the week ahead, by making as many decisions and prepping as much as you can in advance. Meal prep a couple of meals, so you can just heat and serve in the evenings. Prep veggies and snacks for the week, and put them in fridge drawers, so you and the kids can reach for healthy snacks on the go. Consider picking out your clothes for the week on Sundays. And batch chores into one block of time on the weekend, so that everything is done for the week ahead.
Being organized helps kids feel secure because their house feels calm. It frees you and your family to live, work, and relax every day. When done efficiently and well, it creates the space for quality time with each other and on your own, and the ability to be prepared and present for your activities inside and outside the house.
Create a simple chore system for everyone.
Organizing for one person is hard enough — organizing for a multi-person household is a super-advanced challenge! So you must create extremely simple systems that people of almost any age and ability can follow. Focus on just the hotspots — that is, the areas causing you the most time and stress and do something I call “Automating the Predictable.”
Cleaning, cooking, laundry, shopping — shrink each system to its smallest footprint. Don’t make any system more complicated than it needs to be. If a system meets these two criteria — easy for everyone to follow, runs with minimal effort — it’s good enough. And good enough really is good enough. Trust me!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.