How to Organize Your Life, According to Working Moms
A shout-out to the organized moms around us: It’s hard not to classify you as superhuman when you’re dressing your kids, yourself and your spouse. (Come on, the fact that you consistently know the whereabouts of wallets, keys and a sock that went MIA puts you in a league all your own.)
But now, let’s pull back the curtain: Controlling the chaos is hard, which is why we consulted ten working moms in our lives who make it look effortless and asked them to spill their best tips on how to organize your life.
1. Set Up a Shared Calendar System That Works—and Stick To It
This mom of two and her husband use their work calendars for all things home-related, so that everything is in one place. How? They send each other invitations for all the things that aren’t work-related—meaning the stuff that relates to their home life and the kids—so each person always knows where the other person is and where the kids are at all times. An example: Say, you have a hair appointment at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Technically that appointment only involves you, but by sending a calendar invite to your partner, too, he knows that he’s on duty and needs to be home to cover the kids. Other great methods: a shared Google calendar, an app (a lot of moms like Cozi) or—gasp—a paper calendar where everyone in the household pencils in their schedule at a glance. The point is to have one singular location that notes everyone’s schedule to minimize confusion and disorganization. Major win.
2. Write Down Every Single Item on Your To-Do List
Finding a consistent place to track your to dos is essential if you want to get and stay organized. A small business owner—and mom of three—told us that her methodology is two-fold: For short-term to-dos like errands she needs to run or grocery lists she needs to track, she uses a notebook that she carries around with her everywhere. But for bigger picture projects and long-running to-dos (like a vacation she’s planning with a variety of moving parts, like booking plane flights), she uses the Teux Deux app. For her, it’s all about finding a system that helps her streamline—and feel productive as she crosses things off.
3. Always (Always) Date the Leftovers
We repeat, life is chaotic—and as much as you want to believe your brain won’t forget that, yes, you ate meat lasagna on Tuesday, which means you probably need to toss it by Saturday, it will. That’s why one mom of two we know swears by keeping masking tape and a Sharpie by the fridge and dating the leftovers so she never feels confused about the expiration date. It takes just minutes a day, but you’ll never have to wonder, “Should we give our baby this chicken that is either from yesterday…or two weeks ago?”
4. Categorize the Kids’ Clothes
It’s not that you need to create a budget line for the Container Store…but you kind of need to create a budget line for the Container Store. One mom of two we chatted with uses little boxes in her kids’ drawers to organize all of their tiny clothes—one for socks, one for underpants, one for leggings, one for bathing suits, etc. The payoff? Speed when she needs to hustle and get her entire family out the door. “It makes it so I can actually find what I need in a hurry,” she says.
5. Delegate So You’re Not the Middleman
“I ask the school to include my nanny’s email on everything,” says one mom of two boys. As a working mom, her nanny is the front line in terms of school announcements and notices that have the potential to impact the daily routine. . For example, next Friday is a half day because it’s a teacher administrative day (aka your kids will need an early pickup). Or there’s a field trip in need of chaperones—caregivers included. This way, she’s looped in—but not pigeon-holed into a position where she has to funnel every update along. (Her husband is also on the blasts.)
6. Schedule Time for an Evening Pre-Brief
The morning rush is real, which is why one mom of three recommends doing a nighttime run-through to discuss the events of the next day. But here’s the kicker: She does this with her husband and kids during the bedtime routine, rattling off everything from birthday cupcakes that need to be packed to a permission slip that needs to be signed. “You’d be surprised what kids sometimes remember that we don’t,” she says. “I look at it as my last line of defense.”
7. Declutter on a Regular Basis
It’s true: Kids grow like weeds—which means they quickly outgrow everything they own. And not just clothing, but toys, too. A mom of one says she tries to purge the baby stuff once a month. “As they move from one phase to the next, you suddenly realize you don’t need the same equipment on hand,” she tells us. “Not only that, it really is just cluttering up your space.” She sets aside time once every season to review the contents of not only their closet and dresser drawers, but also their toy bin. “If I relegate a toy to the giveaway pile and no one notices for a month, I think that’s a solid sign that we’re in the clear to part ways and—if it’s still in good condition—pass it along to another home.”
8. Set the Laundry Cycle on Delay
It’s the bane of nearly every mom’s existence: laundry, ugh. But did you know there’s a “delay” setting on most machines? A working mom of two outlined this pain point: “A lot of mornings are so rush-rush-rush that I start a wash cycle—then forget to move the clothes over to the dryer, so they sit and get mildewy in the machine all day, requiring a re-wash.” Her solution? She relies on the delay setting, so that when she does a load midweek, it automatically runs an hour before she walks in the door, so the load is ready to flip to the dryer.
9. Invest in Duplicates of Essential Items
One mom of twins decided to bite the bullet and create a bin in her car with empty sippy cups, bibs, diapers, wipes, a changing pad, sunscreen, non-perishable snacks and clean clothes. Her reasoning? “This is super helpful on days when I forget to put something in the diaper bag—or days when I forget the diaper bag altogether, which happens,” she says. But it doesn’t stop there: She has a back-up lovey (her kids will never know the difference) and duplicates of inexpensive, but essential toys that come with a lot of easy-to-lose parts. Preparedness saves time and sanity, after all.
10. Embrace the 10-Minute Cleanup Before Bed
It can feel a bit daunting, but setting a timer for ten minutes and tag-teaming the clutter with your spouse and older kids can really help minimize the morning mess. (Is there anything worse than waking up to unwashed dishes or toys that should have been picked up, but weren’t?) One mom we talked to is all about this approach: “The timer starts and my husband and I put our attention on the stuff that’s visible to the naked eye and in the way,” she says. “You’d be amazed how much it helps start the next day off on a better foot.”