Creating Needed Structures / Life Organization----LONG

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Creating Needed Structures / Life Organization----LONG

Postby Nackie » Wed Sep 13, 2006 1:10 am

Hello all,
I'm pretty new here, and have read most of the posts on the board, but haven't seen anything dealing with organization.

First off, \"Organizing\" as a topic is one of my (on and off) favourite subjects to dwell in. I love figuring out \"better\" systems for the smooth running of my household. Maybe not a typical scanner subject, but I work long hours, am often away on events for days at a time, hubby works long hours, my son needs strong structures in his life for school, plus we have an au pair that has classes, appointments and social dates as well. So structure is a MUST, even if it comes hard to me. (Although I'm an \"organizer\" by nature--that's how I earn my money, I guess!)

Anyways, in typical scanner fashion, I read everything available on the subject of organizing. I can sit and stare and contemplate, deciding on how the best way to organize my family's life is. I move all the furniture around, so that the in/out box for school papers can be at the exact right height for my son that he doesn't forget to take them back to school (has to look nice too, no purpose in ugly structures!), buy lots of unnescessary storage stuff, have made lists to no end, laminated lists that you can put little stars on to reward good behaviour, hooks on the walls at kids height to make putting away things easier, and on and on and on ad naseum.

But nothing works.

And I've come to the conclusion that when I've made the structures and have \"implemented\" the organizational techniques, we stick to everything for about 1 week--sometimes I'm all gung ho and it's a full 2 weeks! But it doesn't stick.

The coats and shoes and school bags, that COULD be hung on cute little hooks at the right height, get scattered across the hall.

Weeks after special appointments with the school, I find the actual paper crumpled in the corner of my son's school bag.

The family calendar, with a column for everyone's name, is generally showing the previous month and hasn't been updated in weeks.

I try to stick with the organization but feel sabotaged. Due to the fact that I'm often not there for a few days at a time, everything slacks off. The au pair tries hard, but if it's hard for ME to make leeway, she has no chance. Hubby and son just don't work with me--they are both not open to new chances of everything running better, in the fashion of: we've always done it this way. But \"this way\" doesn't work! It makes everything so much harder, and I'm overwhelmed with trying to think of school papers, check homework, make sure son has right books, is hubby home tonight or away on business?, is au pair there tonight or does she have class, or is it my night for classes??, is lunch made for tomorrow, where are my gloves, mom?, is the field trip tomorrow or next week?, did I give son the money for the class trip or did I forget again??

This of course implying that I'm not in the middle of working from home, concentrated on making complicated calculations, doing invoicing or trying to make detailed schedules and not forgetting the time! More often than not I start to think of these things around midnight, when everyone is in bed, and I find myself buttering bread, going through backpacks (finding letters from the school), looking to see that the homework has really been done, ironing shirts because hubby doesn't have any, etc. I get to bed by about 1 am and am up at 6:30. I'm tired! Sick and tired, too, of trying to be in control, and unable to stay in control, due to both inside and outside forces.

HOW DO YOU OTHERS ORGANIZE YOUR LIVES???

It can't be as chaotic as around here, please tell me about your successes (or make me feel better that you are indeed just as chaotic!).

Thanks for your patience in getting this far through my crazy thoughts, I would really appreciate your input on this topic!

Nackie
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Postby Vasalisa » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:14 am

Hi there Nackie :D

As I read your story, some things popped out for me. The system isn't working so you keep re-organizing it. The guys don't like change and they're really not that big on structure anyway - right? Whatever invisible system that they have going - it seems to work for them. If they are already resistant to both change and structure, nothing you re-organize is going to stick.

I suggest this gently and without judgement: With you going to bed at 1am because you are tying up so many loose ends - why would anyone who had it so good want to change that?
Change won't come from them, it has to come from you.

Hubby can iron his own shirts.
If your son doesn't get the right things signed, he doesn't go on the trip.
Any little extras that they can do for themselves before the day ends, are theirs to do.

Then, after Mum gets her basic human sleep allowance for a few weeks, maybe then you can revisit this. Or maybe you won't even want to. :wink:

Take good care of yourself
the rest will follow
V
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Postby AlanHilton » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:57 am

Let's play a game. Imagine you have a perfectly running household. Everything is perfect. Nothing needs improving. What would you do with your time?

My opinion, \"it\" does not have to be perfect, just workable. One thing Barbara mentioned was don't worry about getting things organized, just clear the decks for action - doing what you want. What are you not doing?

You are spending a lot of energy making things \"better\" for everyone else. Perhaps they did not see anything wrong with the way things are now. If you want to get involvement and participation then let the others decide how the things they do will be done. In other words model the process then improve the model and the process will follow.

Perhaps no is trying to sabotage anything. They just do not attach the same importance to things that you do. Also when things get done are different for different people. It's not that son and husband conspire to frustrate you, it's just that it is not even on their radar screens (awareness).

What I find interesting is you statement that you cannot even stay with any of YOUR methods of doing things for more than a couple of weeks and then things fall apart. Remember the French (?) proverb, \"The more it changes the more it stays the same.\"

So back to the original question. If you were not always organizing and changing how the details of your house operates, what would you do?
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Postby Nackie » Thu Sep 14, 2006 12:17 am

Dear Vasalisa, dear Alan,
thanks both for your eye openers. Of course you are both right, sometimes it is hard to step back and see things objectively.

I'm trying to be a \"But!\"-kicker, so I'm not going to reason why things are so or so, because you're absolutely right. Especially on why those two should change, they obviously won't just because I see the need.

Which brings me to Alan's point, what else would I do with my time. I don't spend every hour of every day deciding what I can change next. Just sometimes I get really frustrated and need to find the answer to the frustration--and it always comes back to being organized! Maybe I just do tooooo much other stuff with my time and should spend MORE time working with my structures?

*Sigh* It's depressing even to talk about it! :roll: Why won't men change to how you want them to be, darn it! It's my right as a mother and a wife to make them behave how I want--isn't it??? :lol

Thanks for the input. If anyone else has any other ideas, I'm all ears!

BR, Nackie
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Postby scannergirl » Thu Sep 14, 2006 12:40 am

Nackie,
I know what you are talking about. I was in the same place with my husband who is a bit chaotic sometimes. And I need structure or I get frustrated. I feel that when my surroundings are cluttered my mind becomes cluttered, too. Maybe it has something to do with the many ideas flitting through my brain. Neat surroundings = clear thinking.

However I found that I cannot make my husband feel the same. His \"threshold of pain\" (is that the word?) is quite different from mine. So instead of re-organizing the whole household I decided to change just ONE thing. I thought about what would make the greatest impact and set up \"the box\". This is just a pretty box (without a lid) for each of us where we can put our keys, wallet and everything else flying around. I put it on the refridgerator because that was the place where he often put things anyway. And it worked great! Whenever I found something important lying around I would just throw it into his box. And he started to use his box, too. So simple, but it's made things a lot easier.

So, my point is: Think about the one thing that makes the biggest difference and then try to implement it. This way it's easier for all of you to stick to it.
Good luck!
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Postby kazbah » Thu Sep 14, 2006 2:29 am

hi nackie

reading your post i was about to say the same things as Vasalisa (hi Vass!!) ... i read the word control as being quite a strong one for you ... and releasing the need for that may help you quite a bit.

something became really clear to me recently talking with a friend who said the most important thing she wanted her son to learn was self control. and she had been advised to get him there by trying to strongly control his behaviour \"externally\" ie by punishment and reward, which wasn't working at all.

after we talked, it struck me really strongly, that to enable someone to learn self control, we need to allow them to experience REAL consequences. in your son's case, that might be by missing out on his trip or whatever if HE doesn't remember his notices and to remind you he needs money etc.

real consequences have an impact when they cause enough pain (or pleasure) to get someone motivated to change their behaviour from the inside.

i also really like scannergirl's idea of picking on something really easy and straightforward that is actually just a slight improvement on what is already a pattern ... ie they already put stuff on the fridge, so now they put it in the box instead of leaving it lying around. veeery simple, easy to do, doesn't require much learning of new habits.

for yourself, you might like to share with your family that you do all this last minute catch up stuff late at night, which means you are sleep deprived, and as of tomorrow, you won't be doing it any more.

maybe you can make a big notice in red crayon and attach it to your door.

you might also like to get a copy of \"don't sweat the small stuff\" and decide which things are life and death, and which things really won't scar anyone for life if they don't happen.

good luck!

:)

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Postby forestgirl » Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:21 am

How do I organize my life?

No way to make myself look good here. I really don't do well at organizing my life. I have what someone described here as a high pain threshold. I have a very high tolerance for clutter.

Of course, the high tolerance for clutter doesn't fix anything. It just means that when the clutter finally exceeds that threshold, it is a HUGE job to beat it back down to a tolerable level. When I am on my own, it's not a big deal; I just accept that every now and then I'm going to have to expend a great deal of effort getting my life to a state of unclutter.

The problem is when I share my life with someone with a different threshold. If their tolerance is lower, they will tend to jump in and start uncluttering much quicker - before I am even aware that there is an issue. It's not that I want them to take responsibility for everything or do all of the work, I just honestly don't notice. If their threshold is higher...well, I'm not sure. I've never shared my life with such a person.

This is not something I particularly like about myself, and like you I try all kinds of schemes to get myself to stay organized. Nothing seems to stick for me.

So coming from the other side of the fence, I guess I would give you this advice:

1. If this is a matter of different tolerances for clutter and disorganization, then it is likely that the things that are driving you around the bend are simply not on your husband's/son's radar screens. This will not change if you continue to do all of the dirty work.

2. Don't expect your husband or child to know or understand why these things drive you crazy. It might be completely unfathomable to them. They might not really even understand why you go through all of the trouble that you go through to help organize things. They might see it as an amusing thing that you do, without really understanding why you do it. If you approach them and couch your solution in terms of \"this will help us get organized\", they will likely not get inspired, because they don't feel disorganized. What should and probably does matter to them is that you are OK. If something really really bothers you, then that is what they need to understand.

3. That said, don't run around crying foul at every little transgression either. I think people are generally willing to make an effort for those they love, but it is not always easy. Asking for too much all at once makes the other person feel like there is no way they can succeed, so they are less likely to try at all. That means that you have to really really focus on what drives you crazy the absolute most. Is it a time management issue? A clutter issue? A control issue? Decide what the main source of your stress is, and define the problem.

4. Once you have defined the problem, do not try and find a solution yourself. This is what you have been trying and it doesn't seem to be working. If your husband and son do not understand your problem, they are not likely to understand the solution either. Without understanding, it will be very difficult to follow through. Why expend the extra effort to hang everything up on hooks when there is no obvious benefit (and someone else will probably hang it up for you anyway)? Where I work, if we wish to re-design a process, we bring in all of the players, from the bottom to the top, and get them all working together on a solution. When people are involved in the design/re-design of the process, there is a higher level of buy-in and success than if one is imposed upon them.

Maybe this is what you need to do: get together with your husband, son and au pair, identify the problem and why it is a problem for you, and come up with a solution together. Your son is much more likely to hang up his bag if it is his idea rather than yours. Likewise it forces you to think carefully about your own role. Maybe there are things that you can learn to accept, just as there are things that your husband and son can learn to do.

Personally, I'm a lot better at doing the maintenance work if I have a clear idea of why I am doing it rather than just what I need to do. Also, I'm much more motivated if it is clear to me that someone other than me is impacted by my actions (or rather, inactions).

I don't know if this will work for you. I'm not married and I don't have any children, so my perspective might not be realistic. But it's something to think about.
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Postby AlanHilton » Fri Sep 15, 2006 5:57 am

Forestgirl makes some very very good points. Ownership is the key. Get them to \"buy in\" to the process. Let them experience the consequences.

My wife and I have different \"clutter tolerances\" also.

I like having things out where I can see them and be reminded of them. For me the idea of an \"avocation station\" is like heaven. I don't want to have it all boxed up and put away. I want it out where I can flip a switch and start doing the activity.

My wife likes things put away. Cluttered tabletops drive her nuts. So periodically I \"clear the decks\" and put the month's worth of junk mail in a box where I will get to it eventually. Funny thing though, if you open the drawers or the closets they are crammed full of stuff. She's a \"stuffer.\"

No one way is better or worse than the other. But living together we need to accommodate the other. So she tolerates my piles and I clean up the mess before I would if it was just me. I do that for her and she does that for me.

My room, the garage, and the shed are mine to mess up. The living room, family room, bed room, etc. are kept more like she likes it. It is a compromise and it works, most of the time.
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Postby Nackie » Sat Sep 16, 2006 3:32 am

You all make good points.

The talk about \"control\" being a strong word for me hit home--I had never thought of it like that, but it struck a chord and led me to do some thinking. Although I have let my family \"experience\" what happens when I am not \"in control\", but in the end it always turns up to be my problem to deal with.

For example, my son had a very hard time getting used to school, as in taking responsibility for his homework, the neatness of his school bag, remembering to take his lunch, school trip money etc. And would get in trouble at school for having missing homework or missing books etc. The longer I let him \"take responsibilty\" for these things, the longer the letters from the teacher would be. And then I am the one responsible at parent-teacher meetings, not my son (of course--he is just a kid). It is like a devils circle here. It never bothered my son to be in trouble for things. Now in grade 5 I have him to the point that at least he can do his homework independantly and usually well, but it still needs to be \"controlled\" (that word again!). And to control these things there has to be a system in place that allows control. If there are no rules about where the letters brought home from school go, and where the signed letters to be taken back go, and this is not regularly used, then it is no wonder when I find school letters everywhere but where it is convienent and thought-triggering.

If hubby has no shirts to wear, then he will often iron them, but I deal with the I'm-a-working-mom-that-feels-guilty-that-her-home-is-not-perfect syndrom, and I can't watch hubby iron shirts at 11 pm when he has worked a 14 hour day or has been gone days at a time. The theme here: \"I can handle the sleep deprivation better than him\", or in other words, I have better control over the situation.

Yes, I think I have a control problem lol. I will be thinking about and working on that.

Alan and forestgirl, you are right, everyone has different tolerances with clutter, and my tolerance is quite high as well, whereas hubby's is not. As long as the GROUND STRUCTURE is intact, i.e. I know that everything has a home, and when I get around to tidying up that everything is IN it's home, I'm ok with untidyness. Hubby can't STAND things lying around, and is, as is your wife, Alan, a STUFFER. That makes me ABSOLUTELY INSANE. His motto is \"main thing is that it isn't lying around\". When I start to clean up, and find pens in the napkin drawer, napkins in the music shelf, pots in the bowl/mixer cupboard and measuring cups in the vase cupboard then I start to go BONKERS, and it depresses me that I have to reinstate the ground structure to be able to start to put anything away at all, and by the time all that is organized I have no more energy nor do I want to deal with the cleaning up. And it's not that the storage system is badly organized, I have spent a lot of time figuring out the best way of organizing things. I.e. pots and pans are in the cupboard beside the stove, cooking utensils in the drawer beside the stove, bowls, measuring cups that kind of stuff in the cupboards where I have counterspace to work with these things. It makes no sense to put bowls beside the stove where I can't work with them, and pots 4 meters away from the stove!

Whew, as you can see I have a bit of steam that's built up over the last few years. I HAVE spoken with my family about these things, many times, but they just don't CARE and that is the crux of the matter. If I were to put the legos and the playmobiles in one box, there would be a mruder-mad 9 year old here. Or if I were to collect hubby's shoes and put them in one place he would be angry (he has places for each pair of shoes--one pair under my makeup table, two pair under the bed, one pair in the closet and a few pair in the shoe cupboard--always the same shoes in the same place, but does that make SENSE??--drives me nuts to have size 13 shoes everywhere).

But as you all have noted, and I am starting to understand, basically it is MY problem. Let go of the control problem and let the others take control--makes me feel a little nervous, to be honest! Can this turn out well??

Thanks for the help,
Nackie
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Postby kazbah » Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:23 am

oh i am dying to suggest that you put all the toys in one box, and all your husband's shoes in one place


and when they DO get angry .... explain this is just how you feel when they do what they do with your stuff ...

:D
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Postby Nackie » Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:55 am

Hi Kazbah,
I have tried putting them in one place, but they always get put back in their old spots. Plus, the agony of hearing, every day for the past ten years, \"Honey, where are my slippers, I can't find them ANYWHERE?\"--because I put them in his shelf of the shoe cupboard.

I'm trying to release this, I have been working hard on it all week. It's difficult though. I think because I basically can't understand that it has to be this way.

Last night, another call from my son's teacher--his books are disorderly and he is getting lost trying keep his pencils sharpened and get out the proper books...where do I draw the line? I have been reminding him and reminding him to tidy up his school bag, püt loose leaf papers into the right duotangs (why the heck are they called duotangs??), get his pencils sharpened, etc. I only hear \"yeah, I did that already!\" So I made a point of NOT going into his bags to look, and now I have the teacher breathing down my neck...

*Sigh* oh well, maybe he'll get the point, but I don't think he really cares, even if it DOES affect his grades--he's only 9 and just doesn't care.

BR, Nackie
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Postby kazbah » Fri Oct 20, 2006 8:00 pm

Hi Nackie

i would love to hear how things are going for you and your family in the tidying, control and organisation game.

re your son's stuff ..... i think you need to try and deflect the teacher's comments back to your son, or work out a little programme with her where she doesn't land the blame for his lack of organisation on you. If you let her know you are trying something different and would like her support, you might start to make some progress.

what i would encourage you to do, is not to just throw your hands up in the air whenever you encounter some resistance to change. changing anyone's behaviour, including our own, is incredibly challenging - not impossible, but challenging - it takes time, focus on the WHY for everyone concerned, and commitment.

you can do it, i am sure ..... but as i started off this post - i would love to hear how things are for you all at the moment.

Kaz
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