Over the past year, adjusting to being single, doing most everything for myself, and— for the first time in nearly 8 years— living by myself, my organization skills could have gone one of two ways:
Choice 1: abject panic. It would have been easy to crawl into a hole of depression and anxiety and lose total control, wondering what happened? How can I do all of this by myself?”
Choice 2: channel my inner Daenerys Targaryan and get.shit.done.
It was an easy choice, but I had to establish some habits right off the bat. No longer could I just ask someone to pick up dinner on their way home from work. If I have to travel, what do I do with my pets? How can I automate parts of my life so I can maybe exhale a bit and enjoy the rest of it?
After a year of doing trying to optimize my life (oops, I sound like Tim Ferriss now), I am at the point where friends of mine have asked me to write a blog post talking about how I manage to not get completely overwhelmed managing my home, my finances, my myriad pets, work, workouts and everything else I do.
How do I keep everything together? After a bunch of trial and error, I have a few essentials:
A paper planner. This is something I really only discovered about a year and a half ago, but is now my constant companion. For years, I’ve been the epitome of the tech savvy, smartphone-obsessed, Xennial. I read my books on a tablet, my notes and to-dos in Evernote, and of course, my calendar on my phone and in Outlook.
That doesn’t work for me, and I have finally embraced it. Too much reliance on my phone or laptop makes me scattered, I miss things, and a to-do list is so much more satisfying if you physically cross something off. I had an 18 month Moleskine planner, which was fine, but I switched to Passion Planner this year and I really love it so far. It has a month view, a weekly view, with places for mind maps, prioritization, and a monthly reflection.
Paper notebooks. I take every note — whether it’s for work, writing an article, or just journaling— and do it in a notebook. I date each page, and can go back and reference, or just mark everything off when I’ve transferred the information into an email or another document that has to be digital. First, it’s nice to have meeting records to look back on, and second, it’s even nicer to be able to flip back to a particular date or meeting to review without searching. I also have a notebook for lists (sort of like a Bullet Journal), one for workouts, and one that I use for journaling.
Amazon Echo. I still have a lot of early adopter in me, but now I prefer tech that makes my life simpler, not more complicated. The Alexa is fantastic for when I need to remember something, but am not in a place to write things down. For example, it syncs my grocery list with AnyList, and in any room of my condo (also known as “whenever I remember I need salad or toilet paper”) I can add something to the list. It syncs with You Need a Budget so I can check how much money I have budgeted for takeout or for groceries. Ordering items directly off of Amazon is (dangerously) easy, and I also set timers and reminders by using it. My Echo Show also shows my next meeting, which, since I work from home, is really handy for when I’m grabbing coffee or lunch and can’t remember if my meeting is in 15 minutes or an hour. It also allows me to separate from my phone (and social media) by keeping me connected, but not “always on”. You’ll hear more about how much I welcome my robot overlords in other posts in this series.
Tidyness: Despite having five animals, loving to cook, and traveling a bunch, my home is usually tidy. Yes, I’m that person who apologizes when she thinks it’s a mess and my guests look at me like I’m nuts. Maybe it’s because I don’t have anything better to do, but everything has its place — and I generally keep everything in its proper place.
Make Your Damn Bed: Seriously. Every day. It’s the best start to being tidy and you’re more inclined to keep the rest of your place up, too, if your bed is made. It takes me about ten seconds and sets the tone for the rest of the day. It sounds pretty Martha Stewart, and I didn’t believe it either, but the difference is huge.
Having a Place for Everything (and putting it back) Remember how your mom probably told you to put things back after you use it, and you never did, because you could put it away later? Just me? As you use things, put them away: when I’m finished cooking dinner, everything goes straight into the dishwasher. When my clothes are dry, I put them away as soon as possible. My purse has a place, my wallet and sunglasses have a place, the dog’s leashes have a place. If you asked me where just about anything in my house is, I could probably tell you without looking. Plus, it’s much less daunting to put away a couple of things at a time than a ton of things that have piled up. I’m sure I drive the dogs nuts by constantly putting their toys away, though.
Cleaning As You Go: This one is especially important for the kitchen, but I clean up behind myself as I cook (and relates to “putting things back”). A little at a time is just easier. When I walk upstairs, I always have stuff in my hands to take up, and same when I go back upstairs.
Keep some things in multiple places: This only applies to things that you use all the time, in multiple rooms. I have a pair of glasses upstairs, and a pair of glasses downstairs. My living room, office and bedroom all have nail files, hand cream and lip balm stashed in them. Paper towels live both upstairs and downstairs, and I have doubles of cleaning supplies so I’m not running up and down when I need to clean up a random pet mess. I have phone chargers on both sides of the bed, in my kitchen, and in my office as well as in my car and my purse. This is all about efficiency: having things where you need it.
So maybe I’m not The Unburnt, the Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains, but I’d like to think I’m Mistress of my Own Domain.
I’ll be sharing a few more secrets over the next few weeks. Sign up here to make sure you get each and every post!
Some of these links are affiliate links, and I receive a small amount for your clicks, which helps keep wine me, dine me afloat!