Want to learn how to be an organized mom? Check out these simple organization ideas for busy moms.
Organization for Moms 101
Do you have a nagging suspicion that you screwed up way back when it was time to register for basic life lessons?
While everyone else studied hard in all the right classes, such as*:
- “Advanced Effective Toddler Bedtime Techniques,”
- “A Clean Minivan Is a Happy Minivan” and
- “Organization for Moms 101”
…you were off doing your own thing.
Blissfully unaware of an impending future of woeful unpreparedness, you spent your time down in the school’s basement, breezing through – well, your own set of classes.
- “How To Avoid Two Trips By Carrying Everything At One Time,”
- “Stairs Are Made for Stacking”
- “Storage Bin Stuffing for Dummies” and, my personal favorite,
- “The Art of Starting 15 Projects at Once.”
And ever since then, you’ve felt like you’re missing the fundamentals of adulting. Especially adulting with a family that expects food, shelter, and clean clothing.
Time to Go Back To School
While I can’t address all of the fundamentals of adulting (let’s pretend I know them) in one post, I can share at least a few basic mom organizing tips.
I’ve got no advice for the toddler bedtime thing. Sorry.
You really should have taken that class…
I started this article for a magazine that asked for “busy mom organizing tips.” When it kind of grew beyond a few simple sentences, I decided to post it here on my blog as well.
After all, organization for moms (specifically organization for moms with ADHD who really struggle with the basics) is what Life Unflaked is all about.
It also means I can recycle my magazine answer into a post. So… less work for me.
Which is what I’m all about.
Organize Yourself Before Your Stuff
I know the magazine writer probably meant mom organizing tips that focused on hacks for organizing spaces in the house.
But for moms who struggle every day just to hold on, I think it’s more important to talk about organizing chores and actions.
By that I mean:
- Overcoming the overwhelm that makes you want to crawl under the nearest unmade bed
- Getting undies and socks washed and put where they belong
- Having a backup plan for meals so Door Dash fees aren’t your second biggest expense – right there after your mortgage payment
- Getting groceries into the house more easily in the first place
- Preparing for the near future instead of treating every week like the surprise party from hell
- Setting yourself up to automatically complete the essential, if excruciatingly boring, everyday tasks
- Plus an extra dose of that last one I just mentioned (it’s important, so I made it into two tips)
- Tip #1 ~ Chore-Chunking
- Tip #2 ~ Get Laundry Done Faster
- Tip #3 ~ Have a Back-Up Dinner Plan
- Tip #4 ~ Let Your Grocery List Write Itself
- Tip #5 ~ Be Prepared for the Week Ahead
- Tip #6 ~ Put the Essentials on Auto-Pilot
- Tip #7 ~ Use Triggers to Get Things Done
- Recap: Organization for Moms Who Struggle
- Further Reading For Moms Who Need Help with the Basics
When I think of organization for moms, I instantly think of overwhelm. So let’s start with one of the most fundamental organizing tips.
Custom made for moms who regularly feel overwhelmed…
Organization for Moms: Tip #1 ~ Chore-Chunking
Breaking up tasks into small chunks leads my list of mom organizing tips for minimizing anxiety and overwhelm.
Even if you’re not overwhelmed, just majorly short on time, chore-chunking makes it possible to ram bigger chores into miniscule spaces of time here and there.
- You’re an overloaded, busy mom with small kids and, therefore, no large chunks of time, OR
- You’re a mom with ADHD like me who no longer has small kids but still struggles with focusing on one thing for an extended period,
I do this with just about every split-uppable chore that takes more than 15 minutes.
Just knowing I can quit after 15 minutes and still mark something off my to do list coaxes me to start.
And sometimes I even surprise myself and finish all the chunks at one time.
How to Break Down Chores
Let’s take a big job like cleaning your car.
Instead of writing “clean the car” on your to-do list, think about what’s involved in cleaning your car.
What individual steps make it a more manageable chore?
NOTE: If the following long list also freaks you out, keep reading. I have another alternative, as well.
For me, it looks like this:
- Gather laundry baskets and trash bag
- Shovel out interior
- Find vinyl cleaner and cloth
- Wipe down vinyl
- Lug vacuum and extension cord to garage
- Put everything away
- Find rags, soap, and bucket
- Wash and rinse car
- Clean up mess/wind up hose
Breaking up how I think of car cleaning lets me fit a time-intensive chore into bite size pockets of time.
Or allows me to do it in a more ADHD-friendly, sporadic, and less boring way.
When Having Too Many Tasks On Your List Overwhelms You
However, as I noted above, creating a longer list does the opposite and paralyzes some of us.
If that’s you, then break it up into fewer pieces.
- Gather supplies
- Clean car interior
- Wash car
- Clean up
Or go with the original, longer list, but then move just a few of the pieces onto your to do list for the day. So you only have to deal with a couple at one time.
Benefits of Chore-Chunking
“I really need to clean my car” feels like a monumental task.
But “I need to go grab a trash bag and some laundry baskets and put them in the garage” sounds doable.
BONUS: Even if I only get part of it done, at least I shovel out my car more often than if I force myself to take on the entire car-cleaning adventure in one fell swoop.
Really distasteful, exhausting or time-consuming chores are much more bearable in small doses.
Organization for Moms: Tip #2 ~ Get Laundry Done Faster
Speaking of distasteful chores…
Everyone’s always grumbling about laundry.
BTW, I go into the specifics of laundry in some of my other posts:
- This one on catching up when you have a ton of laundry and
- Another one on being prepared for a trip to the laundromat.
One of the best quick tips I have when it comes to organization for moms who can’t keep up with laundry is to pre-sort dirty clothes by location or person instead of by color.
Most of us sort by color before washing. Which means re-sorting by location post-dryer.
Once I switched to pre-sorting wash loads of clothing by bedroom (or person) instead of by color, putting it all away turned into a much less mind-numbing chore.
Now each load comes out of the dryer and goes directly to its final resting place instead of sitting there waiting for another round of sorting into smaller piles to put away.
The “Efficiency” Bottleneck
The “efficiency” of refusing to put two socks in a drawer when I knew the next load of laundry would have more of the same used to be my biggest laundry bottleneck.
- Everything that goes in one drawer ends up in the basket all at the same time, and
- It’s all ready to put away as soon as it gets to the right bedroom,
…I’m way more likely to take care of it right then and there.
Before that, I never quite finished the laundry. By the time I got it put away, another laundry mountain loomed.
NOTE: If you’re worried about grubby white socks and underwear if you do it this way, switch to colored undergarments. Or use color catching sheets.
Organization for Moms: Tip #3 ~ Have a Dinner Back-Up Plan
Speaking of underwear, let’s talk about dinner.
Kidding – I had no other transition and wanted to see if you were paying attention.
Every list of mom organizing tips must include ideas on how to feed your family.
Because it’s easy to forget until 5:00 p.m. that you’re legally obligated to keep your little heathens from starving to death.
To prepare ahead for tired nights when making dinner is the last thing on your mind, keep a dinner plan in your back pocket.
Choose 2-3 simple, quick meals that everyone likes. Meals that don’t require fresh ingredients you’re unlikely to have on hand.
Then keep the specific ingredients for those 2-3 family-friendly meals always in stock in your pantry and freezer for the nights when you’re totally rushed or forgot to plan dinner.
Examples of “House Specials”
For my family that would be tacos, calzones (made from pre-packaged crust mix), and Korean beef bowls, courtesy of The Recipe Critic.
Other than lettuce, which we usually have anyway, it’s easy to keep a supply of pantry and freezer ingredients for these meals in the house.
Use Your Freezer for More Variety
Each of my backup plan recipes uses freezer ingredients, but it’s okay. They’re still last-minute Plan B recipes because they thaw in minutes.
Pre-frying the ground beef, portioning it into baggies, and freezing it means you can always have easily-thawed beef ready to go.
Just break it up with a mallet or rolling pin and rinse it in hot water in a colander.
5 seconds and – boom! – ready to use.
I also freeze pre-shredded cheese and pre-portioned sour cream, both of which thaw in minutes.
How to Maintain Your Back-Up Plan
As soon as you use a Plan B dinner, add the ingredients right back onto the grocery list so they’re always available.
If you’re afraid you’ll forget and use these backup supplies for something else, label them.
SIDE NOTE: Check back for a post I’m working on with a ton of ideas for these types of meals. I asked some fellow bloggers who cook for real and aren’t picky eaters like I am, to share meals composed of shelf-stable or easily-thawed-frozen ingredients.
I’ll link it here once it’s live.
Organization for Moms: Tip #4 ~ Let Your Grocery List Write Itself
The back-up entrees I mentioned save me from revolt by the hungry masses when our regular dinner plan doesn’t pan out. But I also make a rough meal plan every 2 weeks.
Because even though I may be happy if we have tacos and calzones every night, my husband most definitely objects to meal monotony.
Don’t Depend On Your Memory
To make it faster and simpler to plan a variety, keep a list of meals and their ingredients handy for your meal-planning session. I collect mine in the binder I use as a planner.
You can also keep it in Evernote or Google Drive if you don’t use a paper planner.
Psst – If you need help starting a planner, check out my post about using a planner even if you’ve failed before.
If I didn’t have this list, there’s no way I would be able to remember all the possibilities. My brain doesn’t work that way.
It totally gets stuck at hamburgers and pizza.
And once I did think of something adult-friendly to make, I’d forget what ingredients each meal takes.
This way, when you write in meals for the week during a planning session, the ingredients for that week’s grocery list are right there in front of you.
Circle anything on the list you’re not sure you have (or highlight it if you’re typing) so you know to double-check your pantry before shopping.
This not only makes your grocery list faster to create, but you won’t end up one ingredient short. Which isn’t optimal when dinner needs to be on the table in 30 minutes.
Organization for Moms: Tip #5 ~ Be Prepared for the Week Ahead
You may have noticed that organizing your life as a mom includes at least a little planning.
Actually, I’m pretty sure that course catalogue I ignored probably had a whole degree program just in planning.
My weeks go a lot more smoothly if I sketch out a skeleton plan for what’s coming up.
To loosely plan your week, take an hour each weekend (or any day of the week – just try to do it the same day each week) to check the next week’s calendar and sketch out a rough plan.
You’ll get a general idea of when to fit in necessary tasks like cleaning and shopping around appointments and everyone’s work/school schedules.
Remember That Meal Plan I Mentioned?
Don’t forget to pencil in a dinner for each night and make a note on your skeleton plan to thaw meat or set up the crockpot for the next day.
(Of course if you forget to thaw that yucky fish, you can always have tacos or calzones! You know, since you have a backup plan and all…)
A rough plan provides a framework to avoid last minute decisions when you’re already worn out from the day.
Your wallet (and your thighs) will send you a thank you note.
A real one, via snail mail with a stamp and everything.
That’s how appreciative they’ll be.
An Example of How I Plan My Week
I keep a basic weekly schedule I work from so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every week. I outline my own weekly schedule here.
Organization for Moms: Tip #6 ~ Put the Essentials on Auto-Pilot
My final two ideas I sent to that magazine asking for organizing tips for busy moms both relate to those excruciatingly boring everyday tasks I mentioned.
Obviously, I can’t write about organization for moms without including at least a little about routines.
I understand if you resist them. I hated the idea myself.
To avoid the monotony of doing things in the exact same routine way every morning, I made up a light, reasonable task list I can do in just about any order with a goal time to have them all done.
Whether mornings are lackadaisical or rushed in your house, following a routine to automate tasks results in a happier “afternoon-self.”
How to Get Started
Begin by making a short checklist of the barest essentials to tackle every morning.
Start small with any absolute basics you sometimes forget.
As the tasks become habit, you can add more.
But start only with the most basic of tasks – the things that absolutely need daily attention.
- Get ready for the day (important if you’re a stay-at-home mom, as it’s easier to put off de-smelling and sprucing up when you’re not leaving the house)
- Feed pets
- Dole out morning meds
- Grab lunches out of the fridge
- Check for backpacks
As the essentials turn into habits, add in a few more tasks for a less hectic afternoon/evening (like unloading or running the dishwasher).
Set a Deadline
If you go out to work each day, set a goal to get them done before you leave.
If you stay home, set a goal to do them all by a certain time. Try setting an alarm for 30 minutes before that time to remind yourself to get started.
When I stayed home with my kids when they were younger, I made a goal to finish the list by noon each day.
Later, when I went back to work in an office full-time, I followed a different list that I did before work.
Now that I work from home, my goal is to complete the list by 10 am.
Organization for Moms: Tip #7 ~ Use Triggers to Get Things done
Coming up with routines makes you feel more organized. Imagine never having to show up at the school in your PJ pants and a hoodie to deliver a forgotten lunch again.
But routines lose their magic if you forget to do them.
So use triggers to cue each routine.
Obviously, getting out of bed triggers morning routines.
But it’s easy to struggle with routines you’re trying to establish during other times of the day.
Why Do I Need a Trigger?
One big example of this is how easy it is to fail at a bedtime routine. If every night is different, remembering to start your routine might feel impossible.
You’re also tired, which adds an extra whammy. Waiting until right before bedtime can lead to skipping it because you’re too tired. Or maybe you fell asleep reading bedtime stories to your toddler.
Once you’ve decided what you absolutely need to accomplish each night before bed, use dinner as a trigger to start your list.
So instead of being a bedtime routine, it’s an after-dinner routine.
If you’re out at evening activities and get dinner while out, use your return home after dinner as an alternate trigger.
When my kids were younger, we had an after-dinner routine. They showed me their homework and laid out school clothes. This made for an easier bedtime and less crazy mornings.
Because I didn’t find out at 9 p.m. that a project was due.
And I wasn’t late for work because the club t-shirt they needed that day for yearbook photos lay crumpled in the clothes hamper.
BONUS: If you’re not going back out after dinner, you can even do kid baths and take off your makeup.
Recap: Organization for Moms Who Struggle
While staying ahead of your family and not constantly dropping the ball challenges some of us, these tips can get you started on learning how to be a more organized mom.
- Break overwhelming or time-intense chores into smaller chunks.
- Pre-sort laundry by person to cut through the putting-away bottleneck.
- Always have a back-up plan for dinner by keeping pantry/freezer ingredients in stock for family-friendly meals.
- Use a meal idea/ingredient sheet for a more accurate grocery list and fewer frantic store runs for forgotten ingredients.
- Have a skeleton plan for your week to avoid last-minute conflicts and unpleasant surprises.
- Follow a morning task list to automate your mornings, even if you hate the idea of a routine.
- Use triggers to remind you when to do basic tasks.
Whether you’re a fellow ADHD-er or just struggling with the basics and need some help with…
- Getting food into the house and onto the table
- Finding clean clothes to wear
- Getting the necessary daily stuff done:
- Pet care
- And/or managing bigger, weekly tasks, so you’re not always putting out fires:
- Grocery shopping/Errands
…these tips will gently move you forward in your quest to be a more organized.
It’ll be like getting your GED in “Organization for Moms.”
Further Reading For Moms Who Need Help with the Basics
If you struggle with everyday tasks, you’re probably also having trouble keeping up with your house. Check out the posts below for some tips on dealing with cleaning.
If you need motivation to get started cleaning, this one will help.
If you’re drowning in clutter and need to find some easy things to get rid of, here’s a list of 100+ ideas.
And if you’re so down that it’s too hard to even think about washing a dish, I also wrote a post about cleaning motivation when you’re depressed.
*Apparently most of them slept through “How To Not Judge the Moms Who Chose the Wrong Classes”
If this post helped you, I’d appreciate it if you share it on Pinterest so it can help other moms, too!