One of the reasons I love my job is that it ensures that no two days look the same. While most of my days are full of client walkthroughs and overseeing organizing projects and designs, some days I’m out of town for work (hello from Chicago!) and other days I’m flexing my expert skills in front of an audience.
Last week I had the honor of joining Responsibilty.org at the #TalkEarly Summit in DC. #TalkEarly is an amazing campaign focused on “empowering parents to be confident about their own decisions regarding alcohol, model healthy, balanced behaviors, and create a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age”. As a mom to 9 ½ year old twins, being the one to provide such important information to my children on these topics is key for making me feel a bit more in control about the messaging that they see and receive as they grow older.
I joined incredible parenting influencers on the conference panel roundtable where we discussed how to manage holiday stress (how it doesn't have to necessarily include alcohol), how we as parents give ourselves permission a lot of the times to overdue things during the holidays and some practical solutions for stress management in helping to calm the emotional and physical clutter in our lives.
I was brought on as the organizing expert to discuss how organization can help to reduce stress, and this topic is something that I couldn’t wait to share on the blog because I know that so many of us are in the same boat. I work with everyone from stay at home moms to lawyers to Real Housewives of New York and I can tell you that there are two things that everyone has in common regardless of their status: they don’t have enough time and they have way too much stress in their life.
Like many of you, I wear many of hats throughout a day. Between being a mom, running a full-time business and managing my team, plus keeping my house and personal well-being in check it feels like there never is enough time. We are always searching for time to add to our day. There are things that I can do throughout the day and week that can get me--and you, too--more in control so that when the kids get home and I close my computer for the night my knee-jerk reaction is not to unwind with a glass of wine in hand.
- Set up a command center. Command centers are a low-tech, high-reward system that will cut down on the time you spend coordinating everyone’s busy schedules. The command center is where we keep our calendar and is a way to take stock of what we have going on in our lives so that we know the fundamentals of who, what, when, where, why, and how. I have one designated go-to spot for everything.
- PRO TIP: Remember that when you are setting up your weekly or monthly calendar to schedule in time for self care. I know that we are all busy and this may feel unrealistic, but getting a time on the calendar to focus on you will give you something to look forward to and also put some much needed and deserved time spent on making and maintaining a better you.
- Create a meal plan. Besides being a busy time, the holidays are also synonymous with food… and overindulging. Almost every event is centered around a meal or some kind or sweet treat, and there’s nothing worse than arriving empty-handed because you didn’t plan ahead or not having any options available that you can feel good about eating. My command center is where I plan my meals for the week. Because I have my schedule mapped out, I can see when we’ll be having family meals at home, when we’ll be going to an event, and when I’ll need to prepare a dish to share.
- PRO TIP: Because the holidays can pull you in multiple directions, this might be a good time to consider trying a grocery or meal-delivery service like Peapod, Instacart, Blue Apron or more. These days, more and more families are turning to prepared meal services to help save time. If meal-planning around the holidays makes you break out in a sweat, and this option is within your budget, why not give it a whirl?
- Contain paperwork/gifts. When the holidays roll around it’s just an influx of paperwork. Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly lucky to be the recipient of so many sweet holiday greetings, but let’s face it, sometimes the amount of paper clutter - between the cards, catalogs, and packages we bring into the home, can be overwhelming. When it comes to papers, I subscribe to the “touch-once” principle, which means that each incoming item is dealt with as it comes in. I try not to let papers pile up without taking action, whether that be signing, filing, or recycling. The idea is to avoid holding onto things that you don’t need. It takes two minutes!
- PRO TIP: I treat my kids paperwork like the daily mail. Seriously, when my daughters get home I go through the papers with them to identify what is To Do, To Read, To File. Once the “To File” folder gets full we do a once-over to make sure that they still want to keep what they’ve included inside the folder, and then I transfer the contents over to each of the girls’ “Save” boxes.
And most importantly, what’s helped maintain the organization and somewhat even the sanity in my home is by involving the kids because this is not a one woman show. Giving them responsibility and control in the process in ways that are just as simple as letting them choose the color or pattern of bin that they use for their toys or near the door to collect their shoes will make them feel a part of the process and more likely to help keep up the system. There is no way we can do it all. The systems that we put in place as parents are bound to fail if we don’t have support from other people, even if those other people are your kids. They have responsibilities and expectations at their school and they are completely able to do the same at home, so give them the ability to do that. Sure, the end result may not be exactly how you pictured it to be, but it will worth it and in the end helpful for you.
I'd love to know: what holiday plans are on the horizon? How early do you begin preparing? If you have any tips or timelines that you follow, please share in the comments section!
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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.