My Story: Getting Life under Control

contributed by Barbara

I have never been very good at the "big picture," and as a result, I have been plagued throughout my life with last minute tasks that seemed to have slipped my mind. I wake up late on an important day when I have to be at work early. My life lurches into overdrive as I try to find something appropriate to wear (that's clean), realize that I could have showered the night before and done something nice with my hair, and ignore chores that I was too tired to do the night before and promised to do in the morning.

My days did not start out well, and I often carried the agitation with me throughout the day. Thankfully, I took the first step. Now, I am slowly trying to improve the quality of my life with a little pre-planning. Here are tips that have enhanced my life 100%:

  1. Have a housekeeping schedule. I always thought I was a horrible housekeeper, but in reality, I just never made the time. I would "relax" when I got home from a hard day's work, only to sit and watch TV for too long, become sleepy and stumble off to bed. I was wasting my life and my precious time. So, I found that lists motivate me. If I have a list of things to do, I am very focused and I love checking things off that I have done! I made a list of basic items I wanted to accomplish every day, and then I split up my weekly housework into the days evenly. This takes some time initially, as you discover what tasks are important to you and how accomplishing them fits into your schedule. I have found that I can get all the weekly housekeeping, laundry, etc. done in three days when doing a few things before and after work. In fact, I have been adding items to my list because I keep freeing up more and more time by being caught up on everything!

    Since my house is more orderly, I think of things like cleaning drapes, washing my car and regularly cleaning out closets. And, since my last task of the day is to put away anything used that day, I need to have a place for everything, so this process has also de-cluttered my house. To stay un-cluttered, on Friday evenings, I choose an area, pull everything out, clean the area, and put back only what I really need to keep. The rest is given, sold or thrown away. This takes about an hour, on average, and is worth every second that is spent. This helps prevent what I call "Selective Sight," where I look past (without actually seeing) all the junk in a given area to the item I use regularly. Knowing that I will soon be cleaning out an area makes me really look at what is there and ask myself whether I need it or not.

    In addition to a schedule, my husband came up with the idea to pay ourselves for the tasks we do. If there is more than one person in the house, this is a wonderful way to reward the one that cleans. We don't pay ourselves much. We pay $1 for a load of dishes, $3 for cleaning the bathroom, etc. It's just enough to feel rewarded for our effort.
  2. Set out clothes ahead of time. I tried doing this on Sunday, but I found that it was too easy to let it slip and then the whole week was shot. Plus, it took me forever to do it all at once. Now, when I come home on Monday from work, I set up my clothes for next Monday. On Tuesday, I set up for next Tuesday, etc. By the end of the week, next week is planned. I hang everything for one day on a hanger, including undergarments, jewelry, scarf, etc. I have a purse fetish and will even hang a matching pocketbook on the hanger. This requires that I have just about a week and a half to two week's worth of clothes. Some of my pants, skirts and jackets can be worn more than once before washing or dry-cleaning. I have found several benefits from this process. First, I have more interesting outfits because I have the time to pick out and match things. Because I have to think ahead to what will be happening next week, I find I am less apt to forget appointments, etc. Also, I was actually able to weed out a lot of clothes, shoes, etc. that I never wore. And when shopping for clothes, I buy things that I really need in my wardrobe, as I am now very familiar with it.
  3. I truly want the people in my life to know that I am thinking about them. A great way to do this is to send birthday cards, holiday cards, etc. I got this idea from my stepmother, the lovely Margaret. At the end of each month, write out all the cards that you would like to send next month. I seal the card, address it, and put a return label on the envelope. I put the date that I need to mail the card (about 3-5 days prior) where the stamp goes and I put the stack by the door with a roll of stamps. I check the pile as I go out each day, and when the date arrives to send the card, I stamp it and take it with me to mail or leave it on the postbox for the mailman to pick up.

    Since I generally send a lot of Christmas cards, I also do about ten Christmas cards at each sitting as well. That way, by the time Christmas rolls around, my cards are done. I wait to address them in case of change of address.

In summary, if you are anything like I was a few years ago, this schedule may sound a little overwhelming, but I have never been freer! I can invite people into my home any day of the week and never have to say, "Please excuse the mess." My husband and I eat much better because our kitchen is regularly stocked with fresh food (cleaning the fridge, grocery shopping, and preparing the week's food are on the list). I have gotten rid of unnecessary clutter and items I don't need or use. I look professional and put-together every day for work, even if I woke up with just a half-hour until I have to be at work! I am certainly not perfect, and there are still weeks where nothing gets done. However, things never seem to get as bad as they were before, and it is pretty easy to get back on track since there is a system to it all. Best of all, my life is more peaceful and contented. I have time to think about the really important things.

The progress towards a quality life is very individual. If these tips can help anyone else, I'm thrilled. However, the goal should be to find what works for you in your own life.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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