How to declutter and simplify your daily schedule and remove some of the stress that an overbooked family can bring with it.
When you talk about decluttering most people’s thoughts go right to their homes, which is only natural. Clutter is most commonly associated with physical things. Stuff, piles of paper, stacks of books, bags of random items scattered all around. But if you dig a little deeper, clutter relates to so much more. There is mental clutter, financial clutter, even commitment clutter and it’s the latter we are going to talk about today.
It’s no secret that clutter causes stress. Psychology Today says, “Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli causing our senses to work overtime.” If we can eliminate some of the mental clutter and, in turn, reduce some of the stress in our day-to-day lives then it’s a win-win all the way around.
When I was a young mother with 4 active boys at home I needed a wall calendar that spanned the full front of our fridge just to keep everyone’s activities in line. Our calendar was like an air traffic control tower telling us who needed to be where, at what time, and what supplies to have in hand. That calendar was our lifeline and without it, I am sure we would have missed many events or shown up without the correct equipment. We had things going on nonstop and every day it seemed like my Hubby and I would collapse into bed pretty much asleep before our heads hit our pillows.
The funny thing is, no matter how busy we were we never said no to a request and if asked to help out, yes was the only response we considered giving. It never once occurred to us to tell anyone we were too busy. That we had too much on our plates and there was just no way we could host, run, bake, or attend whatever it was they needed us to do.
Now that my boys are grown and starting families of their own I see a familiar story evolving before me. They too are filling up afternoons and weekends, running their way through life.
Helping them and you, if you are still reading along, learn to slow down and how to scale back so you can soak up memories instead of your time is the purpose of this article. I hope by the end of it you will have a new outlook on your family’s time and book in a bit more fun and relaxation going forward.
How to Simplify your Daily Schedule
Many folks skip over this area when cleaning things out. Maybe it’s because decluttering physical items gives us the most visual impact. When you can actually see the transformation it allows you to fully enjoy the before and after.
And even though we are going to focus on events and time rather than things, the process is still the same.
Gather, sort, purge, organize
Before we dive into the step-by-step, let’s be sure the prework is done so you are ready to do things efficiently without overwhelming yourself.
Prework Step #1. Set Up a Work Zone
Since you will be dealing with papers and calendars you will want an open area that will give you enough room to really spread out. I like to use a kitchen or dining room table for this. If your family uses your table each day for meals, then a folding table or desk may work better.
Action Step: Clear everything thing off of your work area so you have an open space to work.
Prework Step #2. Take it Seriously
So many times our decluttering projects start out strong only to peter out just a handful of hours later. The number one reason for this is how we see the project at hand. Before you may have looked at decluttering as just another chore, instead I want you to look at decluttering as an event.
What’s the difference? A chore is something that you need to get done, whereas, an event is something that needs to take place. When you change the wording of your project you give it importance making it something that will get completed rather than something that sits unfinished.
Action Step: Be all in and ready to finish this project all the way to the end.
Prework Step #3. Book it like an Appointment
Let me ask you this. Would you ever consider not showing up to a Doctor’s appointment because you just didn’t have the mental energy to be there? Of course not. That appointment was a commitment. One that got real estate on your planner and calendar. Not written in pencil, but in ink!
From now on I want you to treat your decluttering and organizing projects the same way. Put them on your calendar and write them all in ink. This is your mental reminder that you have to show up, be all in, and do the work.
Action Step: Set aside time this week to work on simplifying your daily schedule and commitments. Write it on your calendar and be sure you show up ready to work.
How to Declutter your Schedule and Commitments
Okay, now you are all ready to get to the step by step. Let’s break it down so you can just follow along and create a plan that fits you and your family going forward.
Step #1. Gather
Before you can declutter you first need to know what you have. Take a walk around your home and collect any papers, schedules, planners, calendars, appointment cards, invites, anything that tells you it has a date or time.
Step #2. Sort
Once you have everything together you want to sort things out into piles. If you have a family you may want to do things by family members. I suggest using Post-it Notes dedicating one for each family member writing their name in black magic marker. Under each, you can place any papers, invites, or schedules that relate to them.
Step #4. Purge
As you are sorting you will begin to see who is overcommitted. This is a good time to look at what activities are set for each family member and maybe rethink things just a bit. I am not telling you to pull them out of commitments right now, but you may want to keep this in mind when you are asked to sign them up again.
Just like with our things, if they love what they are doing then you can keep it in their schedule but if they are fighting you each time you are heading out the door, this may be a sign they don’t really love it after all.
Look at each family member’s schedule and see if it is realistic. Do they have days that are overly booked? If so, what can you do to alleviate things just a bit?
A few ideas are:
- On overly booked days premake meals to take and eat in the car. Healthy foods will help kids not get stressed or worn out. Premake what you can and make grab-and-go options ready for anyone that needs them.
- Set up your car for homework. You can create homework totes with supplies so your kids can work on lessons or projects in between activities.
- Include a lap pad for easier writing.
- Play music that encourages mental clarity.
- Prepack sports bags and set up your entryway for fast easy exits. Color code and label the bags by sports and child.
- Set up carpools with other parents to help give each other a break.
The less stressed you are the happier your family will be.
Step #5. Organize
Finally, setting up a scheduling system that makes sense to your entire family is the most important part. Don’t overcomplicate things, keep it simple and easy for everyone to read and use. If it’s simple everyone will most likely stick with it and that is the number one reason that systems succeed. They are easy for everyone to use.
Take a look at what you are using now. Ask yourself if it is working and if it’s not, look at why that is.
- Is your daily schedule big enough to hold all of your family’s info? If not, try a larger option and see if that helps.
- Is it organized so you can easily see everyone’s schedule at a glance? If not, you may want to try a different layout.
- Where is your calendar located? Is it in a central location so your family passes it daily and has that visual reminder of where they need to be and when?
- Is this space working? If not, try out a new area for a week and see if that helps.
- Is it located in a place where everyone can add to it? If you have younger children you may want to lower your calendar so they can more easily write on it.
- Can you find a more accessible place to keep it? In our home, the front of the refrigerator is the very best place to keep our family schedule. Since we are all sure to be in the fridge at least a handful of times a day, I know everyone will see what is going on and if they need to be aware.
A Few Ways to Keep an Organized Family Calendar
I know I may sound like a broken record at this point, but it bears repeating. A calendar will only work if everyone is able to use it. Its purpose is to be an organizational tool that is front and center at all times.
Here are a few tips that will help you to set up a family calendar that keeps everyone in the know a bit more easily.
Calendar Tip #1. Go Color Coded
If you have multiple events for multiple family members on your calendar for each day of the week, it might make zero sense. This tip will help you to streamline it more so it is easier to use.
- Assign a color to each family member and use this color each time to write their individual events and appointments.
- Give each family member a different color so they can quickly see what the plan is for them each day and week.
- Be sure to have a key at the top so everyone can be reminded what color is for who.
Calendar Tip #2. Ask the Hard Questions
Once you have everything entered for the month take a step back.
- Are you overbooked? Is anyone in your family spread too thin?
- What can you do to make your family schedule easier for everyone?
- What can you let go of?
- What can you say no to?
Calendar Tip #3. Your Calendar Sets the Rules
This is my favorite part of a simplified daily schedule that is in writing. Whenever you are asked to do, host, volunteer for an event, stop and pivot, and consult your family calendar. This is your overview of your family’s commitments. If your calendar says, “you really do not have the time to do this event justice” then that is your cue to say, sorry but I can’t this time.
D/M PRO TIP: It is okay to say no. Even though the person asking may be disappointed, your family will not suffer from an overbooked and stressed-out parent. If you put your family and yourself first and say no when you can’t, you will find more opportunities to say yes. And BONUS, when you do say yes you can go all in and actually enjoy the event rather than freak out over it.
Family time is the most precious time so guard it with all you’ve got. Say no to the excess so you can say yes to more moments that you can treasure forever.