Keep organized with these mindfulness tools during the back-to-school season.
Throughout the pandemic, mindfulness has become a key practice for many parents. As lockdowns set in, it became much more important to focus on the small things that brought us joy, instead of grieving for those things we had lost.
Now that parts of the world are returning to a state of normalcy, mindfulness is still just as important as before — but the way in which we practice it is going to have to change. Why? Simply put, in-person responsibilities are returning. On top of practicing mindfulness, parents are once again taking kids to and from school, dropping them off at after-school activities, attending sports events, going to social engagements, and returning to in-person workplaces.
With the resumption of hectic schedules, continuing to stay mindful — and organized — might feel like a hassle. But there are simple mindfulness-oriented organizational strategies parents can rely on to make their day-to-day routines less frantic. If you find yourself struggling to stay peaceful and organized lately, consider the following tools to improve your everyday life and regain a sense of inner calm.
Tool No. 1: Anti-Procrastination Mindfulness
Are there certain checklist items in your day that you wish you could get done, but when you actually sat down — or stood up — to do them, you decided against it? This might feel strange, because clearly what you intended to do was important.
It might be that you needed to start the laundry this afternoon before picking the kids up from school. Or maybe you wanted to make a homemade dinner tonight instead of ordering out. But for whatever reason, you just lost your motivation to make it happen.
If you find this happening often, you might want to tap into an anti-procrastination mindset. What does this mean? In essence, your mind is in control of how your body reacts and responds to tasks you need to complete. If you perceive that you have a cluttered or frantic schedule, your perception is far more likely to become your reality.
At the same time, without a clear path forward — a way to visualize the completion of your goals — it becomes difficult to stay invested in the goals at hand. If you are unsure of what to make for dinner, you are much more likely to order out. If you have no idea how much time you have before the kids are done with after-school sports practice, you might not start the laundry on time.
The next time you are faced with a task you need to get done but feel hesitant about doing, ask yourself two questions, “Am I perceiving this situation as frantic, hectic, and fraught?” and “Have I tried envisioning a clear path forward for the task at hand?” Chances are, reframing your situation with these questions will help you tackle your responsibilities in a much calmer, mindful way.
Tool No. 2: Mindful Decluttering
Now that we have discussed mindfulness in the context of scheduling, we next need to discuss a mindful approach to removing clutter in our lives. For parents with children, clutter is a constant — children can sometimes feel like unstoppable tornados that roll through the house at random and without warning.
Unfortunately, clutter and an unorganized environment can lead to other, more detrimental outcomes. If you often find yourself buying duplicates of the same items, missing bill payments from forgetfulness, being un-present with your kids, looking around for your keys, wallet, or purse, and moving countless unused items into storage units, your environment — and brain — might be subject to too much clutter.
If this is the case, here are several tools you can use to improve the clutter in your surroundings, and ultimately become a better, more focused parent.
- Take a room-by-room approach. If you find your house is in a constant state of disorganization, it might feel like a lot to clean up everything immediately. One mindful way to approach organizing clutter involves going from room to room and decluttering each space over an extended period of time. This can be an effective way to break down your organization so that it does not overwhelm all the other important parts of your life.
- Consider a 15-minute organizational sprint. Another mindful organization tool is to take advantage of small windows in which you can organize. Your kids might take control of most of your schedule, but most of us do have 10 or 15 minutes of silence at some point during each day. Take advantage of those moments to organize briefly.
- Become comfortable with the slow approach. Like most things with mindfulness, how we think about organizing tends to impact our ability to do it. If you think your life is too disorganized and that your home is a cluttered mess, you will probably never get organized. Similarly, thinking that organization is not a worthy goal because your children un-organize things from time to time is also not helpful. A slow but measured approach to organizing will help you work to take care of your living space without feeling the pressure that is often associated with cleaning.
- Categorize to organize. The last important tool in your mindfulness organizational toolkit should be categorization. This is a next-level tool to use once the main mess has been cleaned up. In categorizing your things — books, pills, garage tools, you name it — you end up doing multiple things at once: cleaning, organizing, taking inventory, and more. This is a great money-saving tool, too, as you will find yourself having a better understanding of what you own and what you still need.
With these tools in mind, you will likely find yourself sleeping better, making fewer trips to stores and storage units, saving time, having less anxiety and depression, and ultimately becoming more mindful. And those are all wonderful qualities and traits to have as a busy parent!
Mindful Organization: A Constant Practice
With proper scheduling and decluttering, a mindful organization can greatly improve your ability to take care of what needs to get done as a parent. And, like most mindfulness exercises, eventually, your conscious decision to get organized and scheduled will become a habit — something you do not even have to think about to perform. When that happens, organization will undoubtedly feel less like an obligation, and more like a way of life.
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!