Ah Autumn...chilly nights to cosy up by the fire, spectacular colours in the forests, kids back to school, Thanksgiving (gulp), Hallowe'en (double gulp). Smell that? Nope, it's not falling leaves, it's panic! How can one season possibly have so many things packed into it, and what happened to the summer we were all going to use to get organized so that THIS year, we wouldn't be scrambling?
With the best of intentions, many folks are heading into the holiday entertaining season without having done any of The Things. You know The Things: Yard clean up to get ready for winter.
Entryway or mudroom decluttering and organizing to get ready for the wet mittens, boots, scarves, coats and snowsuits that are soon to join the book bags & keys.
Finding, sorting and putting up autumnal decorations.
Planning a Hallowe'en party for the littles.
Sorting out the dining room so that holiday meals can actually be served and enjoyed there without the need to sweep aside all the clutter at the last minute.
Going through the serving dishes ahead of time so that you aren't realizing that you forgot to replace the broken platter just as you're lifting the turkey out of the oven.
Freshening up the spare room for company, including getting rid of the things that were stored there "for now" that have been building there for months and are now a mountain of chagrin.
Cleaning out the garage so you can park in it and avoid needing to scrape your car off Every. Single. Morning. Gah!
OK. Breathe. You can get through it! You have two things on your side: Time and Planning. Regarding time: The good news is, you do have the time. The bad news is, you might need to make that time by carving out chunks from your usual routine.
Regarding planning: My mom always told me "Plan your work, then work your plan". Here's a planning primer to help get you started:
Start by making a list of the things you need to accomplish and when they need to be finished by, then put them in priority order.
If some of the tasks are ginormous and overwhelming, break them down into smaller chunks to make them more manageable. Rather than just writing "garage" on your list, for example, look for tasks within that such as:
1. Go through shelving, discard or donate unused or unusable items, creating a home for other items currently "stored" on the garage floor; 2. Go through kids toys/bikes/sporting equipment, discard or donate; 3. Go through yard/lawn equipment, discard or donate; 4. Create different storage "zones" within the garage so that everyone knows where items can be found and replaced to. This time of year, outdoor items like bikes can be stored at the back of the garage and you can bring forward winter items (shovels,skates, etc) so that they're easily found and used. Using this method, you don't have to tackle the whole thing at once. Instead focus on single areas and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as you finish each one. Get the family involved - who says a little child labour isn't a good thing? There are lessons here for your kids to learn: how to let go of things with grace, the importance of donating good quality items that are outgrown so that someone else can enjoy them, the pride in accomplishing tasks. You can also use this as an opportunity to have some fun and create some memories (like the memory of your voice telling them to 'plan their work and work their plan'...)
You can break down most larger tasks in this way throughout your home. Whatever room you're working in (and I'd recommend only working in one room at a time) usually has sections that you can tackle individually.
Dining room: 1. Table; 2. Hutch or china cabinet (top, then interior); 3. That pile of stuff over there in the corner that does not belong in the dining room.
Spare bedroom: 1. Closet; 2. That chaos on the floor; 3. Bed; 4. Tops of other furniture; 5. Interior of furniture.
You get the idea...
Smaller tasks in your house, such as going through the serving ware, or checking table linens don't necessarily need a lot of time, but it's always best to actually schedule the time to do them. Do remember that you may need to factor in shopping time for replacing worn out or needed items, or for upcycling or repurposing other dishware or linens or decorations, so it's best not to schedule these as last-minute jobs.
The Almanac tells me that the Autumnal Equinox is September 23 at 2:50 am EDT this year, so now is the time to start planning. There are lots of celebrations and beautiful times and sights in the fall, and you deserve to enjoy them rather than spend your days in a panic and frenzy.
Of course, you can always call a local home organizer (such as me!) to help you out - whether it's just for guidance on creating your plan or to help you accomplish specific projects. I know...shocking that I'd mention that here :)
By the way, do NOT forget to buy (and change) furnace filters!