The 10-Step Sanity Saver Plan

 Posted by on May 28, 2010  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
May 282010

This morning, I’m overwhelmed.

Do you ever have mornings like this? When you get up and immediately think, “I can’t handle this today?” For me, it happens when I walk out to the kitchen and find a pile of mail on the counter, mess all over the table, dishes waiting to go in the dishwasher, and a slew of appointments on the calendar. Combine that with a late night (Cakes made a friend at Chuck E. Cheese though, and didn’t mention Bee once the whole night. I’m counting the days until she starts preschool in August) and broken sleep (at least DJ is back to waking up only once a night), and things look a bit bleak.

As I drank my coffee, I looked out the window at our lawn, which is full of weeds and very overgrown. It hasn’t been mowed in almost two weeks because my husband is still recovering from his knee surgery. I noticed that my flowerbeds need weeding. Our garden hasn’t been planted, and probably won’t be this year. I have three months of bank statements to balance, and I never seem to get to them, the laundry situation has truly become a crisis, and the last time I returned library books, I had $7 in fines because I can’t seem to keep track of details lately. I must make doctor appointments, send out thank-you notes, suspend Netflix for the summer, register the girls for swimming lessons….

Sometimes, when I think of all this stuff at once, I almost feel a panic rising. It’s enough to make me want to give up and curl up on the couch in the fetal position. I have to remind myself that it’s OK. In the big picture, it doesn’t really matter all that much. If I get my children to bed each night, fed, reasonably clean, happy, and healthy, then I have done my job.

The real issue here is me. I am genuinely unhappy when I fall behind, because I’m a person who is calmer and more at peace when things are neat. Sometimes, when everything is in chaos, I actually feel tears welling up because I can’t think or concentrate, and it makes me anxious. For times like this, I developed my emergency recovery plan, or “The Sanity Saver.” It doesn’t fix everything, but it does help me get things under control enough that I can actually focus on what needs to be done.

Here are my 10 steps:

1) Decide on a supper menu. Take meat out of freezer, or start food in crock pot.

2) Make the bed. Neatly and carefully. For some reason, this immediately makes me feel calmer, and it gives me a smooth, clean surface where I can sort and fold laundry.

3) Get a laundry basket. Walk through all rooms, picking up dirty clothes and emptying hampers. Haul laundry downstairs (sometimes this takes a couple of trips). Don’t bother with sorting it all – just pull out enough that you can start one load.

The house should already look much neater.

4) Get another laundry basket. Pick up every scrap of paper – this includes newspapers, school papers, bills – and put it in the basket to be sorted and dealt with. This always lowers my blood pressure because it makes my kitchen counters look so much neater.

5) Empty dishwasher (if needed). Gather all dirty dishes and stack them neatly on the counter next to the dishwasher. Load dishwasher. If anything won’t fit, just leave it for the next load.

6) Get another laundry basket (I have a lot of laundry baskets because they make clean-up quick and efficient). Walk through kitchen and toss in everything that doesn’t belong there. Set basket next to the door.

7) Wipe down kitchen table and counters. Sweep floor.

8) Pick up laundry basket again. Move throughout living room and hallways quickly, tossing in anything that needs to be put away. Don’t actually put it away though. The goal right now is just to get it contained.

9) Shut the doors to the kids’ rooms.

10) Wipe down main bathroom sink and counters. Quickly swish toilet if needed. Sweep floor.

These 10 steps work for me because they focus on the three main things that keep a household running – food prep, dishes, and laundry – and on restoring order in the kitchen (where I spend nearly all of my time), and in the common areas that are always visible to me, and cause me the most anxiety when they’re messy.

By following these steps, I can usually achieve reasonable order in my house by noon, even when it’s a really bad, crazy mess, and then I can actually concentrate on all the other stuff on my neverending to-do list. It works because for me, doing something always feels better than doing nothing.