Along with diet ads and ways to save money, January is often filled with encouragement to organize your home and implement new routines. But why bother? Your spouse may not be interested in going along with your changes. Your kids will just mess up the house again. No one will follow the new routines. And you'll just get discouraged and revert back to the norm.
But it doesn't have to be that way at all.
Every year, my husband and I do a big house cleanout and Goodwill run, as well as a family meeting to discuss what worked in the past year and what needs to change. It used to be more of an unofficial thing, but as we've seen how beneficial it is we've turned it into a dedicated calendar item. This year, we enlisted the grandparents to take our 8-month cherub for a day at the end of December so we could have our annual meeting sans interruptions. And boy, was it worth it.
Maybe a big annual meeting seems a little too "rah-rah" for your tastes, a little too much like a goofy corporate retreat (believe me, I've been on a couple of those!). But taking a few hours to reconnect, fix what's not working, and plan your year can have a huge impact on your marriage and your family. By living in dysfunction, you're damaging your relationships. Good routines and a decluttered space lead to family harmony.
"That seems a little overdramatic," you say. But think about it. How many times have you and your spouse gotten into an argument because a task didn't get done? How much time do you spend nagging your spouse or child to do something that a simple, predictable routine would solve?
Knowing what goes where and who's responsible for what, and when, alleviates that burden. Instead of wondering who's going to take out the trash and recycling on pickup day, you'll know.
There's really no one-size-fits-all for family routines and organization. Some things that we do work only because I stay at home with our son. If I worked outside of the home, our routines and organization would obviously be different.
Take some time to sit down with your spouse and answer two deceptively simple key questions:
1. What's not working?
2. How can we fix it in a way that works for our family?
For example, nutrition is a big deal for us. Brian and I both see a functional nutritionist, and we try to eat a healthy, gluten-free and low-sugar diet. We love to cook complex meals together, but after our son was born last April, it became clear that something had to change.
We knew that eating well was important to us and that was something we would not compromise on. So instead of buying, say, whole carrots that needed to be peeled and chopped, we bought bagged baby carrots and other pre-cut vegetables. We also have purchased pre-made burger patties, kabobs, etc. Although it costs a little more than raw ingredients, it's worth the extra expense for us. We're still eating healthfully, but with a few tweaks, we've made it work for our current life stage.
The biggest thing to keep in mind as you evaluate what isn't working? Make sure your solutions are tailored to your family. It's so tempting to read or hear about a clever solution and immediately implement it in your home, but if it won't work with your needs and life stage, it won't work, period. Just because it's a good idea does not mean it's a good idea for you. The goal is workable solutions and processes that make your life easier, not harder. Complicated chore charts and stickers, for instance, may seem appealing, but if you can't keep up with them and your kids aren't responding, don't bother.
You may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of routines or organization solutions that need to happen. Don't. Focus on your one biggest problem (say, making everyone's lunch for the next day) and figure out how to solve it. Once you have that new routine firmly and successfully in place, move on to the next biggest problem.
Routines may seem oppressive at first, and you may get some resistance from your spouse or kids (or even yourself!). But as you gradually implement healthy new routines into your family, you'll find they have a trickle-down effect. If you're truly committed to getting organized and making new routines work, family life will become a lot more harmonious.
All photos courtesy of Unsplash.