I grew up in a super-organised home. My brilliant mother brought up 4 kids, in a time when Dad went to work all day, and she managed the home front. She did a pretty good job. My siblings are all lovely grownups. So hats off to Mum and Dad!
She described herself as a stay-at-home-mum. But do you know what else she did? She published 13 books. Hand written, hand illustrated books that were timeless and beautiful. She had a weekly newspaper column for about 15 years. She had a small catering business, did a ton of volunteer work, frequently entertained at home, had an active social life, and went away a lot. Every meal was made with care, every birthday party held at home.
When I look back, I have a new-found appreciation for how much she did. How full her life was.
Our home ran like clockwork. She never picked anything up without immediately putting it away when she had finished it. Everything was on the calendar. You didn’t step out of a bed without making it. Shopping was done weekly, and meals were planned. She never went to bed without having the house back to tidy and sorted. Everything in its place. She never walked up the stairs without picking something up from the bottom step and putting it away. The washing was hung out every day. It was just how she was.
How on earth did she fit it all in? There were 4 of us kids and a dog! And no such thing as help with the kids.
When I first tried adulting, I resisted this a bit. As you do. I was very disciplined with how I ran my career, but my home life was more ‘laissez-faire’. Which worked fine when the household only comprised 2 adults. I could wander around the supermarket and decide what to cook on the way home from work. I could skip the washing for a few days, and then catch up. I could stack paper in the study and ignore it. If I didn’t feel like exercise in the morning, I could do it after work.
I had a reluctance to commit to being so organised. I didn’t want life to be so structured. I wanted the freedom to choose what felt right, in the moment, without being tied down, and restricted by an earlier commitment.
Which is all great when you have nobody to consider except yourself. When I had children, I found the transition from my career to being ‘just a mum’ hard. But I also found the lesson about ‘you have to be really organised’ even harder. It took me years to understand and accept what that really meant for me.
If you are a mother, you have no choice, you have to be super-structured. Deciding what to eat at the last-minute wastes time you simply don’t have. Creating piles of stuff around the house to put away later, just creates work later. If you skip morning exercise, you just miss out.
I can honestly estimate I have spent at least A YEAR looking for lost homework, health records, thermometers when they are needed, goggles for swimming lessons, the second shoe. I have spent MONTHS on late night trips to the supermarket for nappies, milk and bread.
And my house is tidy. I don’t live in squalor. Far from it. But I still wasn’t that organised, and my time wasn’t that structured. My house was tidy on the surface, and looked nice, but it was a bit chaotic when you opened the cupboards. I never knew what was going to be in the school lunch boxes until I got to the kitchen. And the hidden stress that was triggered by all those hundreds of tiny things, was tiring. And such a silly waste of my time. Household disorder is just stressful. You walk into your home and immediately feel compelled to put things away. Or leave. Which means you stop enjoying walking into the house.
So I am converted now. Back to Mum’s ways. My version of the old routines. Structure is my new habit. There are lists for everything. Life is on a schedule. Being super organised is just something I do.
Being structured and organised earns me the right to kick back, and have some fun. If I have done my exercise, everyone is fed and things are in control, then we can do whatever we want with the rest of the day. There is the freedom I was looking for. Being organised opens my life up, so I can fit more in. It means I feel in control. I no longer feel like I am on the back foot, always scrambling to get sorted.
We resist because we think that having structure and being organised will take away all the spontaneity from our lives. But do you know what? It takes away chaos. And it makes space for spontaneity. Less time going in circles, more time doing what you love.
“For the first twenty-five years of my life, I wanted freedom. For the next twenty-five years, I wanted order. For the next twenty-five years, I realized that order is freedom.” ~ Winston Churchill
What about you? How organised are you?
Did you inherit good habits or bad habits from your parents?
Are you resisting being organised?