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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

The Real Mom’s Guide to Getting Organized

By Meredith Ethington

1. Make sure you have a place for everything and that everything has a place. Have a backup place for everything, such as the dining room table, kitchen counters, or the middle of the living room floor. Teach your kids to put their backpacks on the hook you hung in your mudroom, and then watch as they throw them on the couch every single day after school.

2. Create a meal plan. Pin all pretty recipes on Pinterest. Make a menu plan that includes herb-crusted tilapia and teriyaki rice-noodle bowls. Buy all the groceries. For four days in a row, fix hot dogs, cereal, mac-and-cheese, and chicken nuggets for dinner. Finally muster up the energy to cook a real meal and realize all your expensive ingredients have now turned to mush in the bottom drawer of your fridge. Order pizza.

3. Follow a routine. Get everyone an alarm clock. Trust your 7-year-old to set it before school the next day, and then jolt awake at midnight when it goes off on full blast, static mode. To get your kids to bed earlier, let them fall asleep in the car on the way home from the pizza place, and then carefully lay them, fully clothed, in the bed. Be surprised when they wake up at 4 a.m. wanting to play the kazoo next to your head because they went to bed at 5 p.m. the night before.

4. Regularly clean out closets and bedrooms. For 364 days of the year, swear under your breath every time you have to get something out of a closet or open your child’s bedroom door. Build up a foot-immunity to Legos since they are constantly not in their freaking place. On the 365th day, when your kids are not home, clean out literally every single toy bin and purge half the toys.

5. Organize papers. Kids create a lot of paperwork, so create an elaborate file folder, complete with your child’s picture. Never put anything in it. Instead, leave papers on your kitchen counter until your 3-year-old knocks his drink over and ruins half of them. Quickly act like you are sad that you have to throw them away. Take what remains to a safe resting place in another room until you can throw them away later. Avoid eye contact when your child asks where his certificate from the science fair went.

6. Keep your car clean. Every time you arrive home, tell everyone in the car to carry everything in. A week later, notice a horrifying smell and realize they did not listen to your directions. Pay lots of money to get your car professionally detailed and swear the kids can never eat or drink in the car again. As soon as someone cries, hand food or drinks back to them. Get faint whiffs of the rotting milk your child left in the backseat. Sell your car.

7. Get a planner. Try for a while to keep things on your phone, but realize that you haven’t been getting your alerts since you never do the updates. Forget important dates and events, and weekly apologize to your children. Accept that you’re a hot-mess mom and probably always will be. Finally, get a planner to get your life organized. Carry it with you everywhere. No seriously, you really need to do this.

Meredith Ethington is the author of Mom Life: Perfection Pending (2018). Find her at