Family Life

New Year, New Era, all the Organization

I tend to think of my past life in eras. The high school era, the CWS era, the CFA era, the Harbortown era, etc. Well I am beginning a new era. David and I have been married nearly a year and a half, we’re expecting a baby, and we no longer live in the home we spent the first 15 months of our marriage enjoying. I miss our old home a great deal. The sense of warmth and comfort, of belonging, of HOME. But I have to admit that this new home is beginning to grow on me and it won’t be long before it feels like we belong here now, too. It’s been an unbelievably hard transition into this new home involving lots of big expenses, breaking appliances, tons of maintenance work, and lots of sickness too. But a couple days ago as the mess began to clear, and I unpacked my candles and lit them up and began to smell my favorite homey scents, I started to feel peace and belonging again. This is a new era. The era of these next few years of our marriage, the era of becoming parents,  and the era of living in this house with all the ups and downs.

I’m nearly finished with my first trimester, and I can already feel my energy returning. In the last few days I’ve managed to do all the loads of laundry that have stacked up in the busyness (and fatigue) of life lately, get our home tidied up as best as possible considering I’m still not finished unpacking, and managed to sketch out and schedule the spring semester and what life will look like for the next 4 months.

I’m a planner. I thrive on organization and preparedness. I do not fly by the seat of my pants well. If you want tips for how to be more chill and “by the seat of your pants” then see my husband. But I thought I’d share with you guys some of the ways I keep myself prepared and organized throughout the year. Inevitably as with all New Year’s goals and resolutions there are some days, weeks, or even months, when I completely lose my organization and preparedness, but the most successful years I’ve had are the years that I’ve created a formula to help guide my days and those are the years I stay most organized for the majority of the year. So here are some tips on getting, and staying organized and aware.

  1. No insane goals. If there is anything that bums me out it’s making a goal that’s just too complicated or difficult to attain, and then when I mess that one up I lose motivation for all other goals. So be realistic. Plan to live well, not perfectly.
  2. Planners. Planners are the most wonderful gift to people like me. Each year I buy a planner that I think will be my best assistant, and I begin the year by mapping out my work/financial schedule for the spring semester. So go get yourself a planner that has plenty of room for writing and planning.
  3. Organizing and scheduling the planner with everything I can think of. And make it fun. I make it fun with different colored pens. I color code everything I write. For instance: red pen = bills due; green pen = pay days; purple pen = church events; turquoise pen = household projects/chores; orange pen = self care/health; dark blue pen = spiritual words/bible time; pink pen = all things baby; black pen/pencil = the recurring scheduled events, i.e. the piano lessons that I have at the same time every week, or family dinner each Thursday night. Choose what colors/categories best encompass the events of your life, and get creative with how you record them! I fill my month-at-a-glance page with these things, and then for each day’s entry I record the to-do list of things needing to be done that day, and also a verse from my scripture reading that morning that stood out to me.
  4. Spiritual Growth. If you are anything like me, then one of the New Year’s goals is to once again make an effort to be more faithful with scripture reading and prayer. I think there isn’t a single battle that a Christian wages more than the battle on scripture and prayer time. If Satan can keep us from being in touch with God, then he can slowly gain control over more and more of our lives. However, I’m not a very disciplined pray-er. I struggle with distractions and forgetfulness, so this year I’ve begun using a prayer journal so that each morning when I spend time in prayer I am physically writing my prayers down. This keeps me focused, and it reminds me through a physical action that I need to pray. Never underestimate the usefulness of getting your body physically involved in your spiritual life. I found a 3 ring binder that appealed to me aesthetically, and filled it with college ruled note paper, and each morning I write out what is on my heart to talk to God about that day. The physical action keeps me accountable to not forgetting.
  5.  Accountability: Another benefit of using a planner for everything is accountability in scripture reading. I mentioned in #3 how I record a verse from my scripture reading that morning. The purpose of this is two-fold. First, it allows me to keep a written track of my progress in daily scripture reading; I can see in my daily planner that I’ve read scripture that day, and when I haven’t, I see the blank space. It’s a visual reminder and encouragement to keep on and fill that planner up. Second, the physical writing out of a scripture verse that stood out to me in my reading allows me to process that verse more thoroughly which keeps it centered more in my mind throughout the whole day. The result is that I feel constantly more connected to Christ and in communion with Him, as I was created to be. The result is a much more satisfying and peaceful day. Planner accountability can reach farther than just scripture reading. If there is some other habit that you are trying to cultivate, then recording it, or something you gleaned from it can serve the same purpose in accountability.
  6. Self care. This is a big one. Self care is so important. There are certainly ways that the concept can be abused and taken too far. This is a rampant problem in our culture. When self care is taken too far, the result is selfishness and self absorption. Note that that is NOT what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is a healthy ability and priority on caring for one’s own mind, heart, and body. If God places such a high priority on knowing us, and knowing our hearts, and valuing our hearts, then who are we to say that our hearts don’t matter? There are some basic self care priorities I have like showering, and making my bed, and starting the day with a clean house so that I don’t feel stressed by the mess, but what I’m talking about is a little more in depth. I find that if I don’t set aside time weekly to have a me-day, then very quickly I begin to spiral into bad habits emotionally. From self-worth issues to feeling lost in who I am as a person, I find that if I don’t prioritize time to address my needs, desires, and emotions, then things can get ugly. So here’s what my self care time looks like: my self-care day begins with physical care of showering and putting makeup on and shaving my legs and feeling like a legitimate person. Then, after accomplishing scripture reading and prayer time, I take my book bag with my planner, journal, a few of the books I’m currently reading, my computer, and my ipod for good music to Panera or Starbucks or some such place and settle in for a few hours of sorting through my thoughts and reflections on the week, expectations for the upcoming week, planning what needs to be done and what my week will look like. I spend time listening to myself and getting into what thoughts are filling my head currently, and maybe journal them out to help myself process. I read a few chapters of whatever literature I’m currently on. (At the moment it’s A Man Called Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton) Then a chapter or two of whatever pregnancy book I’m studying through, and lastly a chapter or two of whatever spiritual book I’m working through, whether addressing spiritual life, or marriage, or what-have-you. On some days when I have extra time I’ll paint my toenails, or color in my coloring book, or sketch in my sketchbook. Often I’ll go to a local park and enjoy the surrounding nature for an hour or so. All the while, listening to music that uplifts my mind and attitude, and builds up my soul. These are some of the things that help me feel like the best version of my self, and practicing these habits help me to feel in touch with my own needs, refreshed, and therefore better able to serve and love on others. So I would encourage you to find healthy ways to observe your own self care.
  7. Meal Planning. For me, this one is a doozy. Especially considering the huge changes in life lately, the lack of appetite and presence of nausea due to the pregnancy, and the lack of time and ability to plan over the last month of moving and sickness, I haven’t even attempted to get ahead of schedule with food. The result of that though, is that each day I really don’t know what we’re having for dinner, and on top of that you end up spending more, because you shop more often, instead of planning out what you  might need, and then doing one big shopping trip at the various stores that have the best prices for certain items and taking advantage of sales and coupons. But now that life is settling down a little bit and I’m beginning to build more of a routine again, I’m getting back into the habit of knowing ahead of time what we’ll be eating in a day. Right now there is a beef roast, potatoes, carrots and onions cooking to perfection in the slow cooker. The refrigerator, freezer, and pantry is full of enough food to make meals and plan ahead for another week or so before more shopping needs to happen, and this frees up my time for other things so that I’m not constantly making last minute grocery stops. So whether it’s keeping a log in your head of the dinners you’ll make each night, or getting a notebook and writing out in detail what meals you’ll make and what shopping lists will consist of, you do you. But finding a way to plan ahead for food really helps the budget of both time and money, and it gives peace of mind and a feeling of preparedness.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you for now. Now it’s time to go feed this hungry belly (or should I say baby) and then there are some floors in this house that are in desperate need of a sweeping and a mopping. Hope you found any of these tips interesting, or maybe even encouraging! Each person is different, and formulas should always be developed around certain personalities and souls, but sometimes it’s helpful to get ideas from other people’s formulas. Now you know mine. If you feel so prompted, share some organization tips of your own in the comments! I’m always interested in ways to make life easier and more fulfilling.

Have a happy day!

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