Cut the Chaos and Become Organized Advice

Written by Paul Wolf

Parenting is hard enough, but parenting amid chaos is worse. Here are ways to do be better organized.

It's hard enough being a person without children living in a disorganized household. But when there are children involved, disorganization can spell disaster; lost homework, an essential part of a favorite game gone missing, a child who shows up at school looking as if he's dressed himself from the free box at the local shelter.

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In today's world, with two parents working in most households, efficiency and multitasking are a parent's best friends.

Here are ways for parents to get the upper hand on getting organized.

1. Everything in your house must have a place.
Once you know where everything belongs, it becomes possible to put everything away. If you can't assign a place to something, ask yourself if you really need it. If you don't, sell it, give it away or farm it out to someone who has a bigger house.

2. Keep infrequently used stuff out of your face.
There is a reason why people keep keys in their pocket, says Diana Brock Makes, an organizational consultant based in Arizona. The more essential something is, the closer to hand you should keep it.

3. Forgive messiness ... if order lurks beneath.
Because you're not the only one living in your house, you can't always control how neat it is. But a foundation of good organization will mean that order is always within reach.

4. Practice the art of neatening.
The term is coined by Cheryl Mendelson in her book, Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House. By "neatening," Mendelson means organizing as you go along. If you see something on the floor, don't just walk on by. Pick it up and put it away. School your spouse and children in this habit.

5. Practice what transportation engineers call "trip-chaining."
Pick up the dry cleaning and the kids from school if they are on the same route. Plan out the day's tasks so that you can get things done in geographical clusters.

6. Make children part of the solution.
If you're the only one who feels responsible for the state of your house, you're the only one who will ever feel obligated to make things look good. Help your children feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their stuff and spaces from a young age.

7. Move mountains of stuff.
Take regular trips to the Salvation Army, Goodwill and foster care organizations that need hand-me-downs, Makes advises. If you take your children along, you can help instill humanitarian values while simplifying your life.

8. Be a systems specialist.
Design as many systems as you need to fit the operations of your household. Get the tools you need to be as efficient as possible. Communication, eating, bathing, dressing, cleaning can all be seen as household systems.

9. Create an infrastructure of cooperation.
It's hard work to create a mind-set in your children where they willingly help with the household chores. But if you don't put in the effort now, you'll be organizing everything all by yourself until they leave for college.

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