How Organizing My Days Helped Me Get a Handle on My Life

Sign in to save article

Not to put too fine a point on it, but The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, organizing guru Marie Kondo’s bible on decluttering, really did change my life, and I read it at a time when I needed it most. I discovered this book about seven years ago, when so much of my life was in chaos. I was going through a divorce and drawn-out custody battle, and it felt like I had so little control of anything else that was going on around me.

But this tome, so tiny and compact, called out to me and became a life raft of sorts. While I’ve always been a minimalist, I still had stuff I needed to prune out, including my son’s belongings and a seemingly endless mountain of mail that never received the attention it needed. This book offered me a plan on how to tackle these organizational obstacles.

But the lessons went well beyond physical decluttering. I also learned how to declutter other aspects of my life, including how I spend my working time and my free time. From this book I learned to focus on activities that spark joy for me and organize my days so I have more time to do those things. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way: 

Clutter-Free Space Equals a Clutter-Free Mind

I work from home, and in order for me to work effectively and efficiently, my environment has to be clean and clutter-free. Otherwise, I am too distracted to concentrate — I’ll always find a dish to wash or a load of laundry to start. My work desk is set up in a corner of my dining room, where I have a birds-eye view of the kitchen, and there’s nothing more disconcerting to me than counters filled with items to be put away. So, before my workday starts, I take 10 minutes to do a counter sweep and clear away everything on top and spray the surfaces with a cleaner while I’m at it. This gives me the mental clarity to get into “office mode.”

Establish a Morning Routine With Kids

I only have one kid — a son who is a junior in high school — so I have it a little easier than most households, but even still, having to keep after a teenager to get going for school is challenging most days. I admit, even with the best-laid routine, our mornings still go awry. I see this as a work in progress, but the one thing that does help is for me to wake up about half an hour before my son and get my morning routine started — this involves making my bed, having that first cup of tea, some light stretching, and a little morning NPR. This at least puts me in a better mindset even if the morning goes sideways and we’re late for carpool … again. 

Bedtime Routine

Speaking of morning routines, a bedtime one is also necessary. My son is too old to have a bedtime routine so he just does his own thing (and what teenager can be wrangled into one anyway?), but I have to have one in order to put myself into sleep mode. This includes tidying up the common spaces (I don’t think I can sleep thinking of dirty dishes). This doesn’t have to take long. Twenty minutes is all you need to put everything away; save the deep cleaning for the weekend when you have more time. And when I finally retire to my bedroom, I try not to bring my laptop with me and further stimulate my mind. I bring a nice hot mug of herbal tea instead and read a book to wind down. 

Write Out a Schedule

I have this quote by Annie Dillard, from her book The Writing Life, written on the first page of my planner: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” 

It is a sentiment I try to live by. I work a full-time job and have freelance clients on the side, plus I’m raising a son half-time as a single mom. Organizing my time is essential in order to do everything I need to do in a day. I use Google Sheets to block out the hours in my day, factoring in school drop-offs and pickups, carpool, making dinner, and going to the gym. Oftentimes I over-commit — things crop up like doctors’ appointments or a long, unexpected phone call from a relative, a last-minute project — and I have to remind myself that the schedule is merely a guide; not accomplishing everything in it is not a sign of failure. But having one is immensely helpful in guiding my days. 

… And Plug in Downtime

A spreadsheet for your schedule might seem rigid, but I also block out downtime throughout, especially on the weekends. Saturdays are spent on household chores like grocery shopping, meal prepping, and laundry, but Sundays are blocked out for doing things I love, such as hiking, going on day trips with my son, having brunch with friends, knitting, or napping. And I always cap it off with a hot yoga class in the evening. Scheduling relaxation and self-care at the end of the week prepares me for the challenges that lie ahead for the following week, when the cycle starts all over again.  


Tags: Motherhood, Organization, parenting

Sign in to save article

Written By

Genevie Durano

Genevie Durano has worked in various magazines in New York City, and currently is the food editor for Las Vegas Weekly magazine. See Full Bio

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit current Girl Scouts: the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us. So CircleAround for inspiration, and CircleAround the leaders of tomorrow. CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA.

Love this article?

Sign up for the newsletter to get the best of CircleAround delivered right to your inbox.

to our circle.

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us.

So CircleAround for inspiration, and the leaders of tomorrow.

About Us