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How does she do it all? (Hint: She doesn't!)

How does she do it all? This question was posed on a mom's chat room, and of course, I felt I had to throw in my two cents. It's an issue I love to tackle (for obvious reasons, since I work part-time as a professional organizer), but I do know with my own two little ones (almost 4 and 6), that it can be hard to practice what I preach and definitely walking the talk is not always easy.

That said, many people expect professional organizers to be OCD perfectionists with a need to have everything "just so." Nothing could be further from the truth. I think instead, most of us POs have simply mastered an "Everything in moderation" mindset and strive to achieve balance in our days and in the tasks we tackle. No, my house is not pristene 100% of the time, and my kids do throw curveballs which make the 30-minute dinner an endless endeavour. But, overall the skills I have learned (yes, it CAN be learned) allow for me to have fewer "ugh" moments and more, "ah" moments.

As for answering the question, "How does she do it all?" I would suggest the answer is, she doesn't. Instead, I offer the following quick bits:

* She probably doesn't do it ALL; rather, she knows her strengths and weaknesses, so she volunteers for the mom's club or PTA out of love for the job and not just out of obligation. She knows how to say "no" to the rest, so there's time for herself and the family w/o all the stress.

* She has a routine which keeps the kids, esp. little ones in the know about what's going on and what's coming next. Humans are like that, we crave routines (which is part of what makes the back-to-school season so grand)! If kids have dinner at 5pm some nights and 8pm other nights, there is no predictability for them (or their tummies) to rely on. If bedtimes are a chore, odds are there is a lack of routine that prepares them for the downtime to come. (A simple teethbrushing, PJ changing, story reading order of things can really set the right tone for everyone.)

* She has a grocery list that matches her menu that matches her pantry. Looking at some favorite recipes to make along with some easy fall-backs in the pantry allows for many dinners to be made without an extra trip to the store. I rely on www.AllRecipes.com when I am low on supplies: you can look for recipes by ingredient, both what you have on hand and what you do NOT have. It's amazing how many creative options are available!

* She has the kids and hubby contribute whenever possible. Kids as young as two can be part of the chore routine. Whether it's helping to unload groceries, dusting or vacuuming, separating laundry from whites and darks or just putting away toys, many chores can be educational. Plus you're preparing kids lifelong skills that will make them a competent adult (and appreciated spouse)!

* She has "a place for everything" and "everything in its place." Telling kids to "put toys away" is hard for them to master if there is no designated spot for "away." Rather than separating trucks from dolls and Legos from Lincoln Logs, you end up with a hodgepodge of stuff. Having containers or shelves for specific categories makes it easier for anyone to clean up a mess in record time. Doing it often is key. Maintenance takes much less time than any overall organizing project.

* She asks for help when needed. Not only with daily chores (where husbands, kids and even babysitters can do their share), she asks for help in other areas -- whether asking a boss for a different schedule so she can be home earlier one night a week or asking a friend to come over and make a date out of cleaning a closet, or hiring a pro to partner with her and make a difference in just a few hours' time!

Best wishes to all moms as you strive to replace a mission of "doing it all" with a goal of doing "enough" instead. (And being happy with that!)

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