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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chaos to Calm

Last night was rewarding for me. The kids all knew how to be prepared and calmly respond in disastrous situations. They worked well together and the older ones showed the younger ones how to keep safe in an earthquake or fire. Jack thought his emergency backpack was a present and started hugging me as he unpacked all his new treasures. He was ticked when he realized it wasn't a backpack to go on vacation, it was to be used to get out of danger.

Danni was full of questions like "Why do moms and dads have to buy crap like toothbrushes and toothpaste?" and "What will we do without the Wii?" and more importantly "Do I
have to wear underwear with this dress?" I think this last one is an extension of an earlier conversation of why we have split lines in between our butt cheeks. I swear our house is not like this, but where she comes up with this....she only watches Nick Jr. and PBS. Hopefully she'll remember her shoes (and underwear) if we ever have to get up and get out of the house quickly.

After a good long laugh I was reminded how little kids can lift our burdens and how much laughter really can be good medicine. Like any other human out there, I find myself with rarely enough time, money or energy to do EVERYTHING I want to do. One thing that makes me sleep better at night is knowing I've done most of what I can to better our lives for that day. I also like knowing what the day ahead will probably have in store.

I like knowing what I am doing and when I am doing it. I am a Lister! Lists are the only thing that keeps me sane, and once it's on my "to do" list I trust myself it will get done. This helps me turn my chaos to calm everyday. There are still stressful things in my life, but if I have a game plan I feel like I can accomplish whatever it is before me.

I know this isn't how every one's mind works, but who wants a chaotic life? Here are some suggested tools to help you bring clam to your chaos.

1. Make a budget. It doesn't matter how much you make you need a budget. Take out 20% for savings if you can, but any amount is good and you can build up to 20%. Prioritize your expenses and cut the unnecessary things. You can live without eating out every week, make it monthly and plan where you want to go so you can look for coupons or deals. The thing about money is the YOU control IT. IT should not control YOU. I promise you can have a great life if you focus on the big picture--retirement, paying off your house, finishing college, whatever, if you give up just a little bit of frivolity. Now the hard part is to stick to the budget. Make it realistic and remember you want to enjoy this journey.

2. Make a list of weekly meals. This helps you budget you money and cuts the chaos. My "busy time" is 4-7 p.m. every night. This is when I perform the nightly circus act of homework for three, piano practice and lessons, making dinner, making lunches, and bath time. I do get help from the hubby, but it's stressful. If I at least know what we are eating, we are less likely to go out and more likely to participate in the important bonding ritual of having dinner together as a family.

3. Don't go to the store without a list. I am so frazzled when I get to take the kids shopping with me. I forget why I went to the store in the first place. Knowing what I need makes my plan clear and easier to get in and out without overspending.

4. Make time for you. Everyone needs a little downtime, but women often put themselves at the bottom of the list. Everyone else comes first and there is often little leftover for us. Indulge in a good book, exercise, take a class, go to the spa, whatever you do to rejuvenate your spirit, DO IT.

5. Use a calendar. I hate being late. I think it's rude when people make a plan and fail to follow through. My time and your time is equally important, so be where you should be, when you should be. I love my Franklin, but Andy recently got a Blackberry, and I love that more. Any type of calendaring systems works, so pick your fave. I color code my calendar at home so I know who is doing what, but I realize that's a little OCD for some. Budgeting your time is as important as budgeting your money. It's also OK TO SAY NO to things that aren't a priority for you right now.

6. Chore charts are awesome. Each family member should have some responsibility around the house. Even my 4 year old can pick up toys and clear her dishes from the table. It's never too late to start teaching kids how to pitch in, their future spouses will thank you. If you don't have a houseful to share the load, divide what is necessary to get done each week, and assign it a day to be done. Wednesday is laundry day, Thursday is grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning day, Friday is garbage day, etc. Consider your house as a living, breathing object. It needs to be taken care of. Every few months dejunk your space. Your unused things can often be re-opurposed or donated to charity. If you space is pleasing to you and clutter free you may be able to get more accomplished because you won't be overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done, an end up giving up on it all. ASK FOR HELP if you need it. Someone who isn't attached to your things may have a perspective to help you know what you need and what you don't.

Enjoy the journey without the chaos.

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