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Some organizational basics for you time crazed boomers: First things first. One thing at a time. And, most importantly, expect one aspect of your life--or part of your house or workspace--to fall apart while you concentrate on an immediate disaster area. You can always worry about it later, and possibly even find time to fix it, too.
This triage approach is advanced by KayLee Parker, also known as "Your Mom's Organizer." She knows that "organizationally disadvantaged" people need more help than most "corporate organizer types" provide. Parker knows that her customers ("regular people," not Fortune 500 executives) aren't organized enough to get organized on their own. So she takes them by the hand, providing them pads of pre-made lists for handling chores or rooms or events that frustrate them.
Parker realized that she never taught her teen-age son how to manage a home--or his life--after he whined that he "wished he could stay home all day and do nothing, like me," Parker recalled. The mother of four young children was directly a musical and writing newspaper articles from home then. It sure didn't feel like "doing nothing."
She realized that she had made it look so easy that her family members took her organizational prowess for granted. That made her mad enough to write a book on all that goes into meshing family and work responsibilities while making time for social and service interest. Dedicated to her son, she called it "The Organization Book Your Mother Should Have Given You."
It seems she had information people wanted. She gave seminars on organization that she thought went over well--except that she knew people didn't really stick to their intentions. Their overwhelmed lives, not to mention kitchen cabinets, were still a mess. They meant to read her book, but even that was too much to start with.
She took some of her own organizing advice to heart: Simplify, simplify, she thought. That's a recurring theme in most time-management approaches. She pulled apart her book, offering instead packets on how to organize one things: a vacation, holiday preparations or whatever responsibility is intimidating.
Here are some examples from her packet on "How to Get A Meal on the Table."
|Organize your recipes or toss them. People love to collect mouth-watering recipes. So why then do most of us cook the same old thing over and over? Because the same people who like to clip out recipes don't necessarily get any kicks from organizing them so they can be found again, let alone tried. She recommends using three-ring photo binders with clear magnetic plastic pages. Divide the binder into categories by type of dish or main ingredient: beef, chicken, fish, soup, desserts, and so on.|
|You'll save a lot of time and frustration by spending five minutes making a list before you head to the grocery story. It's a basic, but it's usually overlooked by those so rushed "they don't have time" to make a list. She has lists of alphabetized items standard in many homes, and two types of lists by general food category. On one your write things in, on the other you check things off. The trick is to find a style you like and then do it regularly. That, by the way, holds true for most organizing projects.|
|Wise up and plan menus. They don't have to be too detailed. Even deciding that Tuesday is pasts night is a start. But set up a seven-day menu because you'll have to make time to buy items and then use them before they're slimy.|
|Keep lists organized. As you plan menus, jot down the items you need on the list you always keep next to the fridge. To save money, plan on creating meals around what's on special at the store, or various stores if you like to shop around. By looking at the ads, you can decide what to buy where, or whether you could get by shopping at just one store this week. Parker includes a form to compare different types of things at four different stores.|
|Before you leave home, take what you need. Besides your shopping list, take along your calculator (since most stores no longer mark items individually) your coupons, your grocery store ads, your grocery bags to be recycled.|
|Stock groceries in ways that make sense--to you. Parker doesn't go shopping unless there will be time to put things away properly afterwards. Good home stocking can save you time when you're scrounging around for a quick meal. Put things away according to the product itself (all canned veggies together) or in menu groupings. By that she means putting all the thing you need for chili on the same shelf: beans, chili seasonings, tomato sauce. If you have tons of space, you have the luxury of putting food away by the day you intend to prepare it.|
Finally there's the food preparation itself. Parker knows our slothful ways: "Many of you have been starting with this part trying to ignore the four other steps that some before." OK, so I admit it.
|To fix a meal: schedule time to do it. Take out all the ingredients, which is easy since you put ingredients on your shopping list as you planned menus and you've already purchased them and put them away where they can be found again, right? "Defrost the frozen food." (Thank you, God, for microwaves.) "Assemble food to be made ahead of time. Prepare food. Set table or eating area. Serve food, Clear table. Wash dishes and pots and pans, sweep floor, wipe off counter tops and stove, take out trash." Personally, I'd settle for any three of those.|
Someday, of course, your spouse and children will be willing partners in this quality time opportunity. The sooner, the better.
Parker's son, by the way, never looked at her book on how to get organized. But she got the last laugh: He's in his first apartment now and things are probably piling up. It's just a matter of time.