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Life Organisation Tips From Busy Mums Who Have It Down Pat

The juggle can be easier, we promise.

Whether you're a working parent, business owner or just plain busy, life can feel full on at times. We can blame 24/7 technology or long commutes but at the end of the day, everything still needs to get done.

Thankfully, if you're not that great at keeping on top of everything, you can take pointers from others who are. Ali Linz and Julie Tylman are the co-founders of GroupTogether, an app that helps coordinate a group to pay for something collectively so the organiser isn't left short. The pair has become expert at organisation with seven kids among them, including two sets of twins.

"My biggest tip is to inherit lots of money and hire a full-time cleaner, cook and groundskeeper. Problem solved!," Tylman joked.

"I'm kidding. At GroupTogether we work hard to find technology that offers the best solutions. My first tip would be to use two calendar reminders -- I repeat, two -- for everything. Not just for meetings, but for picking up the kids (an hour before + 15 minutes before), dinner reservations (one day before + one hour before), buying birthday gifts (one week before + one day before) -- you get the idea."

Reminders are your friend (and will help avoid those "sh!t!" moments).
Kerkez via Getty Images
Reminders are your friend (and will help avoid those "sh!t!" moments).

When it comes to everything you need to do, don't try and remember it all. Jotting it down somewhere gives you more mental clarity for everything else you've got going on.

"Find a to-do list that works for you. Let's be honest, no to-do list is perfect unless it picks up the dry cleaning for you, but we are over the moon with WunderList. It takes the worry and stress out of keeping track of all the tasks and jobs you need to get done. Plus it gives you a very satisfying chime when you've ticked something off," Tylman said.

Tylman also swears by social media, not as a mindless time-waster but as a crowd-sourcing tool.

"Closed Facebook groups can be very useful. As invaluable as Google is when looking for answers, closed parenting groups on Facebook let you post to mums (and dads) in your area and get instant advice from women on issues varying from 'Where can I get a ninja costume by tonight?' to 'What can I get my 85 year old father-in-law from the gang?'."

Bricks and mortar shopping centres are great for when you've got a few hours to browse -- ideally kid-free -- but if that's just a pipedream, make friends with online shopping. For everything.

"Anything that I can organise from my phone or computer, ideally in bed, is a big timesaver. Online groceries, online fruit and veg, online kids clothes, online collecting for the teacher's gift. Online!," Tylman said.

"Mary, you forgot to order the actual pasta, you silly sausage."
Getty Images/iStockphoto
"Mary, you forgot to order the actual pasta, you silly sausage."

Ever get stuck in the supermarket spice aisle trying to remember if you've got oregano or paprika (only to get home and realise you had three jars already, even though you bought another)? Tylman avoids that by using her smartphone camera.

"Take photos on your phone of everything. It will become your brain's external hard drive. Recipes in waiting rooms, school forms signed and emailed back. Or try TinyScanner, an app that makes scan-grade versions of forms, and Docusign which lets you fill out forms and add your signature, so you don't have to print and scan anything," Tylman said.

When it comes to being organised, Tylman witnesses people trying to overhaul everything at once, which is far too overwhelming -- and then old habits resurface.

"Let's face it, we're all so busy that unless you graduated dux from the Martha Stewart School of Organisation, it's impossible to keep a handle on everything that needs to get done all of the time. So don't wake up one day and decide to organise your life. Start small. Identify the one area that really annoys you and organise that. Is it grocery shopping? Then stop procrastinating and devote an hour to finding the right online shop, creating a shopping list (don't forget to save it) and then place an order. Put a calendar reminder in with a link to the website so you can place your order next week."

As for 'the drawer' every household has that holds all the miscellaneous stuff that doesn't have a home, Tylman has a solution for that, too.

Look familiar?
Ross M. Horowitz
Look familiar?

"A few years ago I found a fantastic way to organise that kind of stuff. In addition to 'that drawer' I have a cupboard filled with plastic containers whose lids have vanished (or melted in the dishwasher), so I collected the lot of them and one rainy afternoon sorted all the "stuff" into the various containers."

"Little ones hold keys, USBs, rubber bands, tradie business cards and assorted erasers. I sorted pencils, pens and highlighters into their own medium sized containers and the deeper containers hold the miscellaneous -- screwdrivers, eyeglass repair kit (never used, of course), scissors and takeaway menus. Now, I only have to clean up that drawer once a year," Tylman said.

If your family members rip off ties, school jumpers and socks the minute they walk in the door and it's your job to pick them up, consider nominating a central area for them to be placed.

"I bought a lovely wicker basket with a lid. The lid is very important because you do not want to see what's inside! I spent six months pestering and pleading with my kids and husband to use it! It finally paid off. Now I just have to get them to carry it to the laundry room."

"As for my handbag, I chose a drawer in my kitchen and carefully found new homes for the items in it, and now it is home to my handbag, as well as all the other items I tend to collect -- doctors receipts, random pieces of paper, lip balm...sigh...I think I need more plastic containers," Tylman said.


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