Home Systems: Think in Three
Seven years ago, I was approached about an opportunity to speak with a local mom’s group about household management and organization. I was delighted to take on the speaking engagement, though I inquired why I had been chosen, seemingly randomly, for the task. The group leader explained that she had overheard me talking to another mom about “setting up systems” that work well at home, so that things like laundry and grocery shopping become part of the fabric of daily life rather than overwhelming (and neglected) chores. The leader confessed she had never heard anyone use the term “system” before in relation to managing a household.
So last fall when I dove into Mystie’s Simplified Organization course, I immediately knew I had found a soul-sister for a whole variety of reasons, one of which was her incorporation of the term “system.” While reviewing the course, I found my note that a system “is decided on ahead of time so that you do not have to make a decision about it every time it comes up.”
Now that I’m a decade into managing a home with little people underfoot, I have come to rely on a whole variety of systems. So much of what we do in our home with regard to tidying, cleaning, and organizing is on auto-pilot. And while auto-pilot can be dangerous in marriage or parenting, I have found it to be a very good thing for our household management.
Today I want to share two examples of small systems we have in place that remove so much potential stress from household management. I have found that setting up systems in steps of three makes them more memorable and easier to move through.
Daily 3: Kitchen Prep
Every night I “shut down” the kitchen in 3 steps. This process takes less than a minute, but it reaps tremendous peace of mind and an easy start to my morning when I “open the kitchen” the next morning.
- Take the dish cloth and dish towel(s) used that day and toss them into the laundry (which is conveniently located right off our kitchen).
- While in the laundry room, charge the battery for our 2 handheld cordless vacuums and empty the canister of both vacuums into the trash can.
- Place a new dish cloth and new dish towel on the counter for the next day.
Every single morning, I begin knowing my kitchen has fresh linens and 2 fully charged up vacuums that are ready to take on a whole day of crumbs. Note: my kitchen shut-down does not include any actual cleaning. If it did, I might be tempted to skip it. But the cleaning occurs a couple hours earlier, immediately after dinner. [I wrote more about our family’s simple cleaning routines here.]
Weekly 3: Church Prep
Preparing the kids for church is now a well-oiled process, something that has taken years to establish.
- Set out the church bag the night before, right in the kitchen (I’ve written more about the contents of our church bag here.)
- Set out the kids’ offering bag. After the children finish up breakfast, they runs to their bedrooms and return with offerings to deposit into the bag.
- Load a small snack, plus diaper and wipes for the toddler.
Even as I wrote out this simple 3-step process, I realize one of the reasons that this system works so smoothly is that we have other systems in place to support it. For example, every other week I bake a huge batch of cinnamon rolls and freeze them individually, so that every Sunday morning we can pull breakfast out of the freezer. We never have to wrestle with the question of what to serve Sunday morning – a potentially stressful decision when we have to be out the door by 8:10 a.m.
Even as I work my home systems, I return over and over to one truth from the Simplified Organization course: our systems serve our family; we do not serve our systems. Reversing the order hurts relationships, the repair of which is a lot messier than any mess the system may have prevented.
But with the correct order in place, simple three-step systems can smooth the way to less stressful days.