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Organizing the S.M.A.R.T. Way

Organizing the S.M.A.R.T. Way

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It took me eight years to realize that I really enjoy cooking, cleaning and being organized. Don't roll your eyes! If you are someone that dreads organizing or just don't particularly enjoy the household responsibilities that fall to you, or you can't even imagine how I could possibly enjoy these tasks unless I'm a total neat freak, keep reading because what I am about to suggest will empower you and perhaps even provide you with some long-lasting successful results.

I think I've arrived at this point in my life (where I actually anticipate cleaning or cooking) due to the fact that, without upsetting the feminists out there, I've attributed enough pleasure to my household duties to enjoy feelings of success and gratification when I cook a good meal or have everyone's clothing folded and ready for the week.

When you see yourself as a woman of power- successful, influential, capable, and talented, not only will your tasks be easier to do, but more importantly, you will experience pleasure in doing them and therefore be able to turn to them into another "notch on your belt". They will become trophies to add to your shelves. These feelings of pleasure actually create lifelong changes.

You can read more about the Pain/Pleasure principle in self-improvement books written by authors like Anthony Robbins or Wayne Dyer. It seems the principle is most helpful and long-lasting especially when working to try to fix a "negative" habit. A "negative" habit, according to this principle, simply means that you still attribute some pleasure to the "negative" habit, making it almost impossible to quit. For instance, if you bite your nails, there is some kind of pleasure you still experience from the habit, even if you know consciously that it is harmful to your body or something you think you should stop. You find it so hard to stop though because there is something still pleasurable about the habit, say relaxation, for instance.

Not being organized can be a "negative" habit- many women dread it, feel they can never achieve it, and just don't know where to start. Based on the principle above, perhaps you could say they experience some kind of pleasure in NOT being able to stop the "negative" habit, or more simply, they don't get enough enough pleasure from doing their tasks.

Wouldn't it feel great if every time you cooked a wonderful meal your family actually complimented you and thanked you? Your husband sharing with you how cared for he feels when he comes home from work and there's an amazing dinner waiting for him? Or some of the anxiety or behavioral challenges your kids display due to a crazy weekly routine melts away because they get the sense that someone is "grounding" the home? These things would give you pleasure in life, right?

And that is the whole reason we are here in the first place. Because G‑d wishes for us to experience pleasure in all the things He has given us.

So, take a deep breath and think about what I'm about to suggest. Let's start getting even more pleasure in and from our homes and here's how I think we can begin.

It's funny, after Passover, many people don't even want to think about cleaning or organizing EVER again. But, now is specifically a great time to start!

Think about it, the kids are still in school, what if you're able to get the home organized NOW before summertime and even into the rush of the new School year? You'd have the whole summer to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor, maybe even more able to enjoy a family vacation or even a staycation in your home. Wouldn't that feel great?

Sounds like a real opportunity, doesn't it? We just finished a holiday that requires us to become somewhat aware of what is inside of our homes and therefore, why not continue it all throughout these next few months, perfecting ourselves even more? Let's call it the Post-Passover Organizing Challenge.

Sounds a little bit like the counting of the Omer maybe? The counting of the Omer, the six weeks between Passover and Shavuot, are assigned to us to count, as a manageable way to perfect our character traits, giving us "bite size" self-improvement activities each day.

I propose to use this time, and extend it a bit further, until the beginning of the summer months, to work on ourselves most importantly, and also to work on what is inside of our homes- almost the same thing-since our homes are a reflection of our souls.

Sound a little daunting? We said "bite size", remember? Let's take our home and all of the clutter and processes that may need some improvement and put them on a piece of paper in manageable pieces for you to look at over these next few months.

It doesn't matter really if you are a full-time working woman or a stay at home woman. Either lifestyles demand the same amount of responsibility and I find that either of you ladies are perfectly capable of handling these tasks, as long as they follow the SMART goal formula, (commonly used by corporate America) and as long as you decide that you want to. No one says you have to, and if you are not decided that you'd like to participate in the Post Passover Organizing Challenge, then don't! No Judgment! I'd rather you not set yourself up for failure.

Here's the SMART formula if you do decide you'd like to participate in your personal challenge.

S - specific

M – measurable

A – achievable and attainable, action oriented

R - realistic, results-oriented

T - time-based, tangible, trackable

You may be able to see right now why it's critical that all goals be SMART. If you just say out loud, "I'm going to get my house organized before summer," without specific tasks, dates, or a way to measure your successes, you'll never get it done and just feel disappointed that you weren't able to accomplish that small inkling of desire you had when you first thought about getting organized.

Think about anything in life that you do or have done really, really well. Most likely, it's due to the fact that it followed the SMART formula in some fashion.

Let's get to work.

If you've decided you would like to take advantage of the next few months before summer to organize your home, let's start by identifying the areas that need to get organized and then determining if your goals are SMART enough.

To assist you with this, let's start by taking out a notebook and drawing five columns on the page. First column is the room you are in. Second column is the area you wish to organize. The Third column is the level of priority. The Fourth column is the level of difficulty. The Fifth Column is the Date you will accomplish the actual task of organizing.

What you put into the form could be something as small as the junk drawer in your kitchen, for instance, or something more vague like a system that needs to be developed for putting away your Shabbat china each week, or getting dinner on the table each night. Don't sweat the details, just get it down on paper.

Just take a casual walk around the house and do a "brain dump"- looking at all of the areas in your home you wish to organize.

Here's an example of my own "brain dump" for my home office. My home office is a separate room in my house that my husband and I share. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Well, what I haven't said is that at one point, myself and my husband were each running 3 separate businesses plus managing all household papers in one room. You can imagine the amounts of paperwork and clutter that began to pervade throughout the room.

I followed my own advice and put together a brief chart. My chart looked like this:

Room

Areas to Organize

Priority

Level of Difficulty

Date and Time Estimate

Office

File cabinet- need to go through each file and weed out papers

A

***

4/1/10

2 hours

Office

Bookshelf-declutter bookshelf and remove items we no longer use

B

***

4/20/10

1 hour

Office

Cabinets- straighten out cabinets, group “like” items together

C

**

4/22/10

1 hour

Office

Back of the Door- clear off purses and decide to keep or donate, remove other bags that could go into cabinets

A

*

4/25/10

20 minutes

Here's how I made sure these were SMART goals. It wasn't enough for me to just think, "I'm going to organize the office". I needed S-Specifics. I needed to know what specific areas in the office needed decluttering. You can see here, that I knew which "pockets" of my office were disorganized and needed help.

My goals were also Measurable- meaning, I would know when I was complete with each task. I knew that for the file cabinet, I wanted to go through each file folder and get rid of outdated papers, shredding the documents from past years that we no longer needed. I knew I wanted to be able to stick my hand into the file cabinets without my cuticles bleeding. Yes, it was measurable, because I knew that when my cuticles stopped bleeding, the job was complete.

Organizing the office was also something that was both action oriented, and attainable. Meaning, this were specific actions that I needed to complete in order to attain organization. Were they realistic and results oriented? Yes. I accomplished what I set out to do because they were realistic. If not, I think I would have set myself up for failure, possibly attempting to organize the office but not finishing the project and enjoying the results that come along with a finished project. And the last word in the SMART formula that we need to check in with is if my goals were time-based, trackable, and tangible. I knew when I needed to finish my goals, so they were time-based. I also had a feeling for how long these tasks would take me so I could track my progress along the way. I could also see that my goals were tangible since they produced real results that I was very excited about. And so was my husband when he came home!

It pays to dedicate just a few minutes thought to your goals and whether they follow the SMART formula so there will be no doubt of your success and a finished project.

One last note on this challenge- it might seem silly to you to write things down, and perhaps you already know it all in your head- here are two reasons why I'm asking you to write down your findings. A) because it will feel so good to cross of your list when each task is done B) you can't just suddenly stop what you're doing, take off work, and start on these projects. They need to be written down and taken out of your mental space so you can refer to them later and assign them a space in your calendar. (hint- that's a time management tip!)

Sound easy enough? Take out a notebook and walk around the house making a note of the "pockets" of your home that you need to declutter and manage better. Make sure what you write down is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results Oriented and Time-based (SMART). Feel the excitement coursing through your blood that you are about to embark on something entirely possible and entirely pleasurable for you and your entire family.

Rivka Slatkin is the founder of Jewish-Life-Organized.com, a website geared for helping the Jewish woman organize her life.
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Discussion (2)
April 25, 2012
Good idea...
The question is...how will I keep it all tidy when I've organised it?
Chaya
Israel
May 24, 2010
Organized
Thanks, a very excellent reminder!!!
Lawrence Sykes
Pontiac, Michigan