Ask Your Guru: Time Schedule Needed

I am not an animal of habit. I grew up as the 4th child always taking hand-me-downs. I am 47 now and still live paycheck to paycheck. I hold a full time job (12hr days). I am very handy with power tools and sewing and often find myself keeping things that I would like to refurbish to fix up house but never get around to it. I also hoard paperwork. I have a 21 and 18 yr old that live with me but will not help me clean up and they are also very messy. I find that when the misorganization in the bedrooms get so out of hand that they start trickling to the living room and kitchen. Do you have a time schedule or week schedule that you tend to do things that I can try and get myself to follow to help me?

Dear Maria:
Your past does not have to dictate your future! You deserve more than hand-me-downs and living paycheck to paycheck. But first you need to commit to making a change – and just by reaching out I know you want to make things better! I know it’s overwhelming when you look at everything to be done and think you have to do it all yourself. But you don’t have to do it all today, and you don’t have to do it all yourself!

From your note, I believe these are your priorities: getting your finances in order so you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck; finishing your refurbishing projects; clearing out the paperwork; cleaning up the house; getting help to do it!

Let’s tackle these one at a time:


There is so much you can do to make sure you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. There are resources online and many, many financial blogs. But the easiest way to get your money in line is stop buying things you already have. Take stock of your cupboards; organize them in a fashion that you can easily see what you have and what you need. One of the best ways to save money is to plan your weekly meals and cook at home. Ordering out after working 12 hour days is totally understandable, but if you can get your meals organized, you can save.

Another way to save is to pay you first. I know this is hard when you have bills to pay and a limited income, but if you put aside just 10% of your income, it will get you started on the road to savings. If the reason you live paycheck to paycheck is your debt, then you need to reduce it – quickly. Review the online sites for financial guidance – many have books that can point you in a direction that works best for your situation. Some advocate paying off the smallest debt first, other advocate paying off the largest debt first, some have debt reduction calculators to see how long/quickly you can reduce your debt. If you have additional income or help with bills from your kids, then it will be easier to save and/or pay down your debt in the manner that best suites your lifestyle and situation.


Let’s face it, you don’t have the time for your projects and having unfinished projects around is deflating. Get rid of all the things you have to refurbish but three – be ruthless! Keep your future projects to three only and only start a new project when those three are completely finished! This will help keep some of the clutter down as well as not have unfinished projects sitting there reminding you of how much still needs to be done. Three is a manageable number, any more than that and you have clutter. When you DO finish a project, it will give you great satisfaction and motivation to start the next project. That is not to say you can’t keep a notebook of ideas that you could do once the three you are working on now are finished – you can still dream and plan – just don’t act on the ideas until you are really ready to tackle them!


You know what I’m going to tell you – get rid of the papers you don’t need. And chances are that many of them you don’t need to hang on to for any reason! Again, be ruthless. If you don’t need it for taxes, shred or toss it. If it relates to a project or recipe, create a file folder for those things and FILE it. Put a date on the top of the paper. Put a date on the calendar quarterly to go through those files and toss papers you have not handled in 6 months.

The best way to reduce paper clutter is to catch it as it comes in the door. Make it a rule that you go through paperwork (mail) as it comes in DAILY and toss/shred anything you can; and deal with everything else immediately. Even if you are tired, it only takes a few minutes of your time and honestly, you will love the difference – so much less paperwork! Can you do your bill paying online? Can you go green and do paperless statements? More and more businesses and banks encourage their customers to go paperless – it’s less expensive for them and less paper clutter for you! Give it a try!

Cleaning Up

It’s a little hard at first to get into a routine of cleaning, but once you have it down, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Here is a loose schedule to follow that will have your home clean and tidy by the weekend. The tasks listed can be on a rotating chore chart for you and your kids to switch off. Everyone should be responsible for their bedrooms, but share in cleaning of the common areas. Once your home is clean you will find it is easy to maintain if you keep in this schedule!

Monday – sort mail; review bills to be paid that week and get them set to be mailed/schedule online payments; change beds and do laundry of bedding, dust living room, make dinner, do dishes & clean up kitchen from the meal prep

Tuesday – sort mail; clean kitchen, do one load of your laundry, dust dining room, make dinner, do dishes & clean up kitchen from the meal prep

Wednesday – sort mail; clean bathrooms, sweep and mop floors, do load of towels, make dinner, do dishes & clean up kitchen from the meal prep

Thursday – sort mail; clean family room, living room and entryways, vacuum, kids to do their laundry today, make dinner, do dishes & clean up kitchen from the meal prep

Friday – sort mail; clean home office/den, review grocery fliers and make weekly menu and shopping list, clean bedroom, make dinner, do dishes & clean up kitchen from the meal prep

Saturday – grocery shop, sort mail, file anything that has not been filed this week, work on fun projects, choose one area of the home to deep clean or work outside, make dinner, do dishes

Sunday – relax, this is your day off, no cleaning or cooking if you don’t want to!

Get Help from Your Kids!

Your kids are way too old not to be helping you out and keeping their own personal areas cleaned up as well as pitching in to keep the common areas clean and neat. Start with telling your kids why you want this change – you are working way too many hours to do this all on your own, and you want a home you feel good about. AND you want the time to do some of the things you really like to do – like refurbish things! AND you want the time to really get a handle on your finances – unless they want YOU living with them when you are ready to retire!

To get you ALL started, initiate a chore chart (the Buttoned Up Chore.pad is a good starting point too!), and be sure you include yourself on the chart. Discuss with them what needs to be done, and show them that you are included in the mix; you are not dumping on them, you are embracing change and you expect them to do the same. Set some ground rules – like if a chore is not completed and done properly to standards you all agree upon, it is not automatically rotated, they will still have to do it and do it right PLUS keep doing it after that for maybe three more rotations instead of just the once. You may allow switching of chores based on schedules. You may think of additional things to add into the mix; and they may want to add to the list too.

Make sure that they know you are not asking them to do these chores, it is a requirement of living in YOUR house.

Maria – I hope these ideas help you get organized. You can buy Alicia and Sarah’s new book, Pretty Neat that is full of tips from real women on how they manage the balancing act of home, work and kids. I think you would like it – it’s not about pretty glossy pictures, it’s about what works for you in your life.

Keep me posted on how you are doing and be sure to read our blog for more tips throughout 2011!