“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.)
Some days, I feel a little like Alice, tumbling head-over-heels down the rabbit hole. I find myself lost in Mommy Wonderland. For me, Mommy Wonderland is a strange place I visit when I’m tired, stressed, and stretched beyond my limits. I go there when I am frantically searching for my lost keys, phone, or sanity–only to find I’ve misplaced them in the refrigerator.
Occasionally, I go all “Hatter” on my family–pacing around the house, mumbling mad riddles about how nobody helps me, nobody puts things away, and everybody loses my stuff. Then, one of my kids points to the phone I’ve been looking for (of course, it’s in my hand), and suddenly, I feel a tad guilty for my mad, mad outburst.
The question is how does a crazy-tired mom organize her life to stay out of Mommy Wonderland? I realize being the self-proclaimed Mayor of this loony place makes me either the most or the least qualified person to answer this question. Luckily, my second career as a speech-language pathologist (someone who helps people with communication disorders) has taught me a little about organizing my students and myself.
In the spirit of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland who “believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” I’ve created a list of five possible organizational tips I thought of after breakfast and one mad, mad cup of coffee:
1. Stop multitasking and find your focus. As much as I like to brag about being the queen of multitasking, it’s usually the real reason I can’t find my keys. Somewhere between kissing boo-boos and pontificating world peace, they end up in the dog bowl or the dishwasher. My number one rule for keeping keys out of the dishwasher is to stop multitasking.
I also try to refrain from multitasking when spending quality time with my kids. For example, I focus my attention on my kids with no distractions for a set amount of time…no phone, email, work, or computer. I focus on their giggles, words, and smiles. Honestly, sometimes this doesn’t work. On those days, I close my eyes for few seconds and imagine that the thought I’m holding on to is a helium balloon floating weightless into an empty sky. Weird, right? Probably, but it totally works for me.
2. Find a place for little things and put them away. At school, I urge my students to find homes for pencils, erasers, and other important items and always put them there. It worked so well at school, I decided to try it at home too. I chose the top five things we lose and found permanent places for them. We have a shoe basket and coat rack in the entryway and a special cubby for those infamous keys. Also, organizing things in convenient places (like shoes by the door) ensures you won’t procrastinate putting them away because their proper storage place is accessible and easy.
3. Write it, visualize it, and do it. Don’t just write down your to-do list; visualize yourself following through with it. To reduce anxiety for my students, I create a schedule using pictures and words to prepare them for their day. Over the years, I’ve discovered this strategy works for me too. I take 10 minutes each morning to write down a few goals I can realistically achieve and visualize myself doing them.
But remember, the key to staying out of Mommy Wonderland with a to-do list is to be flexible. Sometimes, watching reruns of Phineas and Ferb with your kids takes priority over the list. Remember, you shouldn’t feel guilty when you choose flexibility because the list will still be there tomorrow and your kids will think you’re a rock star for spending time with them.
4. Habits can be good. Over the years, my students have proven to me that creating habits can change our communication and our lives. Most of us focus on our bad habits: overeating, nagging, and watching reality TV marathons. But, we forget we can create good habits too. Initially, a new task like putting keys in the same place every day takes brain power, but after a month that simple action will literally change the wiring of your brain, possibly making you a genius. Okay, maybe not a genius, but you’ll be able to find your keys faster than your kids can unearth last year’s Halloween candy from under the couch cushions.
5. Think small. The most important lesson I’ve learned from my students is to celebrate small wins. One small change has the power to create an avalanche of transformation. It doesn’t matter if students are learning their first or hundredth word. We should celebrate and build on each stepping stone. The same goes for organization. We should celebrate when our kids remember to put their shoes away because next time they’ll put their bag away too. Don’t underestimate the power of small.
If all else fails and you find yourself lost in Mommy Wonderland, hit the panic button. When resentment begins bubbling because life isn’t as organized as it could be, take a breath. Close your eyes and imagine your child’s smile, feel his endless hugs, or think of an ordinary beautiful day and grab on to it. Then, open your eyes and remember every moment spent fussing over lost keys, pining for the perfect house, or comparing yourself to the mom down the street is a moment wasted. It’s a moment spent lost in Mommy Wonderland, away from your own imperfectly breathtaking, sometimes disorganized life.
QUESTION: What strategies do you use to organize your life and stay out of Mommy Wonderland?
CHALLENGE: Chose a couple of strategies that work for you and give them a try when you find yourself heading toward Mommy Wonderland.
Originally posted September 24, 2012.