I walk on my desk, yes. But did you know, I also write on my walls? Oh, not all of them (that was my daughter’s job from 18 months to about two and a half–I could have gotten rich if I’d bought stock in Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges). I have one, in the mudroom, that is made to be written on. It’s a chalkboard/whiteboard/magnetic board/corkboard thingy with wall-mounted document holders. It’s the Family Control Room Wall, and I stole the idea from supervillains.

See, supervillains do keep their shit together for most of any good spy flick. They have the upper hand until the last five minutes, when the super-spy swoops in and kicks ’em in the Fatal Character Flaws. Now, I have a 6 year old in my household, so that means I’m automatically smarter than the average Evil Overlord (tip number 12). And why do these supervillains seem to have their shit together so well? Because they have giant boards of cunning plans and incredible diagrams (sometimes even dioramas, but my mudroom doesn’t have space for a diorama).

My cunning plans usually involve getting everybody out the door before we’re over an hour late. Less conquer-the-world stuff, more conquer-the-schedule. The biggest help comes when everybody knows where we need to be, and when. And nothing does that like having the schedule written in giant letters on the giant wall board, just before you leave the house.

Organizers Are Like Fingerprints

But while the idea of running out and buying a board organizer is a sound one, control that impulse for a little bit. Not all organizers are created equal, and not every one is right for your family. Speaking from experience, the wrong organizer will just end up putting more holes in your walls.

Pay attention to how your family is DISorganized before you hatch a plan to  become organized. Where do the school papers, the mail, the keys, etc. go when you walk in the door? How do you currently keep track of appointments, meetings, and schedules? Where does the important paperwork land? The wrong organizer can actually make your life worse, rather than better–your family will become confused and resentful if your system forces them to change their habits too drastically. They are your family, not your henchmen or minions–they will rebel. And no, you can’t drop them into a tank of ill-tempered sea bass with frickin’ laser beams.

Manage Your Weaknesses

We look for organizational tools that make our lives easier. Where are your weak points? Do you lose track of schedules? Does the paperwork monster bury you the minute you stop fighting it and take a breath? Does the equipment pile up and get lost? Look for organizers that play strong to your weaknesses.

Time gets away from me pretty quickly, so my organizer includes diligence at syncing my google calendar with my kid’s and my husband’s, as well as syncing with my phone. But if we’re not always around electronics, the “note to self” of the white board means that there’s a reminder up there that practices on Thursdays start at 5:30. Things like doctor’s appointments and one-time appointments get written on the board as well. Repeats go on the section of the board that serves as “weekly schedule–as of now, it’s pretty blank, but at the end of the week, we’ll know who’s got gym on what days, and when library books are due back.

We also flail in paperwork far too conveniently, so there are two plastic folder holders screwed to the wall–one for each kid, so that homework that needs to be returned is in a place close enough to backpacks to not forget it. I also keep a vertical file for other school-related documents on the kitchen desk. And yes, I force myself to go through it every few weeks.

Not Perfect? Don’t Beat Yourself Up

My organization system isn’t perfect by any stretch. I still have squalls of paperwork that spring up by surprise, and the occasional worksheet still goes missing, but what I’m doing is training my family to look after the paperwork along with me, and to be aware of where we all are at any given time.

Tie In The Writing

How does all this help a writer? Well, for starters, I walk around less with that nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten to do something. I can see clearly where the time goes, and how much time I have. And I can also schedule in my own writing time activities. If the rest of my life isn’t so crazy, then the writing doesn’t suffer. Under my schedule heading I have “Treadmill Time” – and it’s marked out as “busy” so no squeezing in PTO tasks, or chauffeur duty in at those times. Knowing where and when for everybody else frees my mind up to focus on who, what, where, when, why, and how for my characters.

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