You are here.
Those are the first words I looked for on the map in the highway rest area. I needed that point of reference to put everything else into perspective. And it’s like that with just about everything. When it comes to making progress of any kind, you need to know your starting point. That’s evaluation. From there you can decide what should be done first, next, and so on. That’s prioritizing. Only after taking those two steps can you begin to make real progress.
There are three “life currencies” that we all like to have organized—time, money, and belongings. (Actually there are more—such as physical energy and emotions, but for now, we’ll focus on three!) To really organize any of these areas, we need to first evaluate, and then prioritize.
How many of us wish we had more hours in the day? Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about that—everyone gets the same twenty-four. But maybe we can learn to do more with the hours we have. Evaluating how our time is spent is a good place to start. Different life seasons require different amounts of time investment. A mother with babies and young children will spend much of her day just caring for their physical needs. Recognizing, acknowledging, and appreciating that simple fact will save a lot of frustration for everyone in the family. This may not be the season to take on projects or hobbies that require a big time commitment.
That season will come, but in the meantime, trying to force thirty-six hours’ worth of expectations into a twenty-four-hour day is just not going to work. It’s been said of this season that “the days are long but the years are short.” So true! I’d suggest using a blank monthly calendar to just record what you do each day. I don’t mean a long, exhaustive list—but just a summary of the day’s activities. That way you’ll be able to evaluate where time drains may be happening, and where you may be able to carve out a little time to do the things that you would like. It’s easy for me to allow a 15-minute email check to drift into an hour-long blog-surfing session without even noticing. Add a lengthy phone call or two, and half a day can be gone! Even for one week, evaluate where the hours are going, and see if there are changes you’d like to make. Then prioritize. If the bills need to be paid today in order to avoid late fees, that would be a priority. If you’ve been meaning to call your mother-in-law but never get around to it—make it a priority one of these days. Spend time reading and memorizing Scripture each day, even if it’s just a few verses. That’s a priority you’ll never regret.
You get to decide what’s important to get done, and you get to schedule it as a priority. Just the feeling of having that bit of control over your own time is rewarding. If everything on the daily list doesn’t get done (as it rarely does), at least the items listed as priorities have the best chance. Do remember to list spending time with individual children as a priority. “Tea with Anna” may never happen, nor “Play Battleship with Andy,” if you don’t list them as priorities.
Finally, with a clear picture of how you really want and need to spend your time, you can begin to organize your days and hours to suit. It took me years to figure out how much simpler it would be if I just always, as much as possible, scheduled any appointments for Wednesdays. I could always just plan on Wednesdays being a light day for getting much done at home, and always plan on a slow-cooker or make-ahead meal for Wednesday nights. I love how this works for me now. Also, I know I don’t do well with a lot of running and errands and commitments every day. So I make sure that more than half the days of the week are left “white” on the calendar. I can tell with a quick glance if things are getting too busy. It means that I’ve had to learn to say “no” fairly often. It still isn’t easy for me . . . but I’m getting better!
Like time, money has a way of disappearing each month with little left behind to show for it. It’s a bit tedious to actually record where every dollar goes, but it’s a necessary “you are here” step in financial management and planning. It’s only when you recognize and plug holes in your family’s spending that you can begin to make any real changes. Prioritize your financial needs and plans. Food and shelter are primal needs. Keeping a roof over your family’s heads (no matter how humble) and meals on the table (no matter how basic) are priorities.
Crown Financial Ministries and Dave Ramsey both provide a wide range of free budgeting tools and advice from a sound Christian perspective. Prioritizing is one of the biggest keys to financial stability and progress. You can spend hours clipping and sorting coupons only to blow most of the savings by paying credit card late fees or exorbitant interest, or bouncing a check.
Organize your finances. It’s not a quick and easy project, but little by little you can get your financial life organized. Start with keeping track of expenditures for a month to find your “you are here” position, as tough and discouraging as it might be. After an honest, intelligent look at that starting point, then you can begin prioritizing (think of it as financial triage!) and organize an approach to financial wellness. In the meantime, keep track of every receipt. Just put a basket or bowl in a prominent place and make sure every receipt gets deposited there. Take that first baby step of financial organization . . . starting today!
We all have stuff, and most of us have far too much of it. If your family received gifts at Christmas, this would be a good time to evaluate, prioritize, and re-organize your belongings. Toys, books, music, games, clothing, linens, housewares, sports equipment . . . the list goes on and on. Most of our houses are brimming and overflowing with belongings. It’s time to evaluate. Take a good look around. Did any new belongings come into the house during the holidays? What can you get rid of to make room for them?
Here’s a challenge—I’m doing it myself and having each member of my family do it also. Set up a box in a bedroom or out-of-the-way location. Each day this month, place one item in there that you do not need or do not love. Do you think you can come up with thirty-one items? At the end of the month, tape the box shut and donate it to your local charity thrift store. Now, I do need to add a little disclaimer here. Our family has a bit of a pack-rat tendency . . . and that’s okay. My husband can disappear into the garage and come out with bits of wood or wire or who-knows-what to fix or rig up solutions to just about anything. I have a “thing” for magazines, but I do use them, love them, and refer to them over and over again. Our daughter is a die-hard crafter, who especially loves to sew. She has just about enough fabric, ribbons, buttons and beads, and bits of scraps to start her own store. Her under-the-bed storage gets too stuffed to function, the garage gets too full to use, and the bookshelves start overflowing. Then we realize it’s time to prioritize! We selectively weed out, based on what we’re most likely to use, want, or need. Then we can organize the rest.
Becoming organized can do so much to preserve your sanity as a mom or a wife. Taking baby steps will get you on your way, no matter what your destination.