Balancing work, home and raising children can feel overwhelming at times, but a Brighton mom has developed her own system of organizing to help keep everything balanced.
Mona Shand has a busy career, is married and has three children. Her days are busy, but she manages to find time for herself and her family by planning about a week in advance.
"By Friday night, I try to have all the following week's meals planned out," Shand said. "Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the whole week. I write it out on a grid every week and then make a shopping list out of it."
Shand said she shops for groceries early Saturday morning before everyone else in her home is awake, and she prepares the food on Sunday afternoons during her children's nap time.
Shand writes the week's menu on a chalkboard in the kitchen, along with the week's activities, so that her three children, Noah, Ceci and Ely know what to expect. She said planning ahead creates more time for her to spend with her family during the week.
"The more prepared we can be, the more I can just come home, be relaxed, my husband's already put dinner in the oven it will be ready soon. I can actually spend quality time with the kids," said Shand.
Shand keeps her home tidy by making cleanup a team effort. Her children know that it's their responsibility to pick up their toys. Shand has a labeling system in the children's toy room. Each label has the word and the image on it so the children know where everything is kept.
To keep clutter from collecting around the home, Shand set up a personal basket for each child that sits on their stairs.
"If they take off their socks and drop it in the middle of the floor, I will tell them to go put those in their basket and at the end of the night everything from the basket needs to go back up to their rooms and go back into their place," Shand said.
In addition to helping her out, these strategies are a learning opportunity for her kids: "It is just about getting them to take ownership for their possessions and for their lives really," Shand said.
Parents often struggle with what to do with their children's artwork, but Shand has a solution for that too.
"It's a great thing, but there is only so much macaroni art that you can hang on your wall," she said.
Shand saves her children's work by taking pictures of it with a digital camera. She collects her kids' projects in a bin and at the end of the year takes pictures of everything and organizes it into a photo book.
Barbara Reich, an organization expert and author of the book "Secrets of an Organized Mom" offers advice to help parents decide what to save of all the schoolwork their children bring home.
"You really want to save creative writing and things that speak to who your child was at a particular age," said Reich. "You don't have to save their homework, you don't have to save their spelling test, you don't have to save their math homework. None of that is really meaningful."
Reich also emphasizes the importance of developing a routine.
"If you do it the same way every time, then it becomes routine and it frees up a mental space for you to focus on things that are more important," said Reich.
Shand works from home on Wednesdays to help keep her routine going.
"Especially when you're a working mom and you only have small windows of time with your kids, you really want those to be quality time and not chaos and not just focused on cutting up vegetables or preparing meals. You want to have fun, so I think it pays off," said Shand.
Whatever strategies parents use to simplify their lives, Shand recommends that they start small. Getting organized is about reducing stress, there's no need to get overwhelmed by thinking you have to overhaul your entire life. Every family is different, so every family should find out what works for them.
"When I am more organized, I feel that I can be a better mom, I can be a better wife, I can be a better friend, all of that," said Shand.
Part of being organized is clearing the clutter in a home. Coming up Monday on Local 4 News at 5, we share Reich's four steps that you can take to start being organized. We will also reveal the one thing she says can really overwhelm a family in their home.