This episode is a little different. It is actually the audio from a live class that I led on social media. And it is jam packed with some serious value. I’ve got everything that you would need for the back-to-school season and beyond. This episode is about systems, organization, and a streamlined, simplified approach to handling incoming paperwork, email systems, extracurricular activities, routines & rhythms, meal planning, and how you decide what is worth your time and what isn't. So, whether you have school-aged kids or not, this should be helpful!
In This Episode Allie Discusses:
Processing incoming paperwork and emails
Life-hacks to make mornings easier
Simplified meal prepping
Solutions for your family’s “drop zone”
How to decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t
Setting a seasonal intent for your family
Teaching your kids responsibility
Maximizing the fringe moments with your kids
The benefits of a digital calendar
Mentioned in this Episode:
Allie’s Facebook group
Allie’s Courses (Use the code PURPOSESHOW for 10% off!)
Sunday Night Meetings mentioned in Ep 109: Let’s Talk About Life, Business, & Motherhood with Reina Pomeroy
Does motherhood feel more like a hurricane of chaos that you’er surviving rather than the awesome, joy-filled season you want it to be?
Unburdened lightens your load so you can live abundant, well, and intentionally focused on those who matter most! It’s the overwhelmed mom’s guide to a simpler motherhood.
who doesn't love a GIVEAWAY?
Reviews are everything on iTunes! Would you take a minute and click here to leave a review? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a screenshot of your review on iTunes. You'll be entered to win one of Allie's amazing courses for FREE!
Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.
Hey friends! Oh my gosh! This episode is packed with some serious, serious value. It's longer than my usual episodes because it's actually the sound pulled from a really big live class that I held on social media. So, if you missed it or you just want this for the future, here it is for you!
It is seriously packed with everything that you would need for help for the back to school season. But this doesn't even have to be listened to when it's just back-to-school. It's systems, organization, and a streamlined, simplified approach to handling: incoming paperwork, alerts, events from the school, your mail, your regular life, email systems, before and after school routines, and how you decide what is worth your time and what isn't.
What about extracurricular activities? How do you decide what your kids should do and what's not for right now? What about obligations like being the “room mom”? And you have all of these feelings like you should be doing more? How do you weigh out to say, “yes” or “no” to those things? What about simplifying lunches, meals and just everything if you have school-aged kids?
It's really, really jam-packed.
So, I'm going to let it play for you now, but please know that this is for everybody. Amy, she's on Team Allie and she was at the live to be admin in the chat for me and she texted me afterwards, “Oh my gosh! That was so good! I don't have school-age kids yet and I got so much out of it!” Her oldest is 2, so just so you know, this is for everybody. But it was so good and I didn't want to let it fade away into the cyber universe, so I'm sharing it with you here today.
Alright, so here's what's going on: My name is Allie Casazza and I help overwhelmed women, particularly mothers, simplify their lives so they can spend more time focused on what matters and less time on the side-note things. The things that are supposed to be “extras” that support the life you want to live, but if we're not careful they can tend to completely take over and “maul” us and then all we're doing is the side-note stuff like cleaning up and meal prep. Then, all those things that are supposed to support a great life end up totally taking over and distracting from it.
So that's what I do. I think it all starts at home. I love to get people started with clutter, but then that spills over into calendar, schedule and all of that. My personal opinion after years of doing this for myself and with other women—leading these online programs that I create and coaching women to take action—my belief at this point is that home-decluttering is Step One and that everything kind of stems from there. Then, from that place, the next step would be to apply this kind of minimalistic approach to your schedule, your life, the way you're living, and the way you're spending your time.
So we’re gearing up for August to focus on that Step Two, because a lot of you guys came to the How To Declutter Your Home In Two Weeks live trainings that we did, and a lot of you guys have come to join Your Uncluttered Home and you're getting your house simplified and doing all of these great things and you're ready for Step Two. Step Two is all of this kind of stuff.
It's back-to-school season so it (accidentally) works out perfectly, and I think that we should take advantage of that and make it happen.
If you haven't decluttered your home yet, it's okay. But just know that you can set up rhythms and routines and simplify all you want but you're not going to really see a huge difference if you don't declutter first. That's a tough truth and it's a little disappointing when you just want to get things lighter and you haven't started yet. Everyone has to start somewhere and it does matter where, okay?
Part of the thing that I do in creating these online programs is I passively coach women on their own time because it's all prerecorded and automated. Sometimes we'll add in an accountability group so that they can talk to me live and talk to each other as they're all working towards the same goal. But basically it's like passive coaching because everyone's in different time zones, in different countries, and it's a really cool setup.
So, essentially what I create are these passive coaching programs for women who want to simplify. We do Step One, Your Uncluttered Home, and then Step Two would be Unburdened. If you find this episode helpful (which it’ll be super deep and really helpful), Unburdened is times a hundred. So, if you've ever been wondering what's the difference between the programs, that's the difference.
Unburdened is life stuff: systems, rhythms, and getting things done in a way that serves you in the life you want to live. I hope that makes sense. Okay, let's get started.
The first place I want to start with is paperwork because, whether you have kids or not, paperwork is always coming in. But when you do have kids it absolutely increases, right? We get a ton more papers just by the fact that we have kids.
You send your kids to school and in come the papers—announcements, activities, all these things they're sending papers home for. If you homeschool that can mean even more paperwork than if you don't. What do you do with all the paper? A lot of schools are doing a more digital setup where it's email-based but that can also create clutter.
We're going to talk about how to handle it in a way that is helpful, life-giving and feels attainable. Sometimes people share decluttering tips or organization systems and you know you’re not gonna keep that up. My least favorite thing in the world was when I moved into a two-story house for the first time and looked for tips for how to handle when things are downstairs that belong upstairs. Things were making a mess at the bottom of the stairs because no one was going up and putting things away. And all of the tips were like, “Oh just be disciplined. That’s the rule. We go upstairs and we put it away. Don't be lazy. We just go upstairs and put it away.”
Maybe I'm lazy, but I'm not going to go upstairs to put something away when I'm staying downstairs. And I know that I could tell my kids to do that all day, but it's going to turn into a nag session and a fighting match that I don't have time for. So, I had to create my own solution. I put a basket at the bottom of the stairs instead and that is where things that belong upstairs go. At the end of the day, we bring it up and we empty it.
I like to do things like that. I like to take whatever is not working for everybody and I'll just figure it out for all of us and then share it. That's what we're going to do today.
So, I'm going to teach you my system for incoming paperwork. I know everyone's getting started with back-to-school, maybe your kids have already started. I homeschool my kids. Emmett goes to school a few days a week and the other kids have programs that they go to a couple of days a week, so I'm kind of half in and half out. But it doesn't matter because there's a system that I have that's for everything: mail, random papers (like when you write a note down on a post-it and you're like, “I'm not going to remember that; I’m going to lose it,” or you write it in your journal and you don't want to forget it, so you’re like, “I'll rip it out and put it here”). I have a system for all paperwork ever and this will absolutely work for back-to-school.
Okay, here we go.
The first thing you need to do is basically create an “email inbox system” for physical papers. So, the first thing you're going to do is get yourself a physical box. Mine is tin or metal and I got it from Target. It's white. It matches my house. And it's super simple. It's like a magazine holder. So, you're going to get a physical inbox and this is your home, this is your landing zone for paperwork that comes in. Okay?
The other thing you're going to get is one of those normal folders that you can just get for school or whatever. Get whatever color and pattern you want. Mine says “follow up” on it. The folder is going to live inside of your new physical inbox.
Okay. So, Step One, buy a physical inbox. Step Two by a little folder. Now, I’ll explain how this works.
When the kids go back to school or if they already have, you will need to process all the papers. I'm going to show you how to set up a normal weekly rhythm for processing incoming paperwork, but when your kids first go back to school, you're probably going to have an extra amount of papers, so you're going to want to process them all right away and then start your weekly rhythm, okay?
I have one day of the week that is my physical inbox processing day. It used to be Sunday, because we have our Sunday meetings. I don't know if you guys have heard that podcast episode or not, but Brian and I have a Sunday night meeting before the week starts and I thought, “Oh this goes in perfectly with that. I'll just do it then.” But it didn't go perfectly with it because I don’t want to process mail and big decisions like that on Sunday night when I'm not usually in my calendar, I'm definitely never at my computer, and sometimes mail comes and I need to update an insurance problem or something. I'm not going to do that on Sunday night.
So, I moved it to Friday. It's the end of the week. I'm wrapping things up. I usually have team meetings on Friday; I'm wrapping up work. I'm in my office. I'm in that mode of let's get things done and wrap it up so we can have an amazing weekend because we take Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for our weekends here. So that's my mental process.
Pick a day. Don't overthink this. Just pick a day. What day of the week is going to work for you? It's okay to pick a day and then move it later. Just pick a day. That day is your processing day.
Make it fun. Brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea, get a juice, or whatever. Sometimes I'll go and get an iced latte and bring it home. Make it a treat. This shouldn't be a burden. It shouldn't be a big ordeal. It should be something you look forward to. You have a system. You are being an action-taking, problem-solving lady. You’re the CEO of your home and this is the day where you organize, systemize, and handle that crap that would stress you out otherwise.
You're going to sit down and go through things. You are going to process piece-by-piece. Open the mail, look at the school flyer, whatever it is. Look at it and you're going to be processing that. What is this paper? What's the point of it? What action needs to be taken on it, if any?
Sometimes the action is a quick action, like adding an event to your calendar. Other times it takes a little more time. Maybe it warrants a response from you or maybe it warrants a conversation with your spouse about what decision you want to make about the idea that this paper is presenting to you and your family.
Whatever the action is, do something immediately. If it is a quick action, do it immediately. Add an event to your calendar or add a task to your to-do list or make a reminder of something. Do that right away. You look at the paper and you're like, “Okay, 5K for the kids' elementary school project on September 5th. Yes, I want to go to that. I'm putting it on my calendar. I'm sending a teacher an email. Yes, I want to do that.” Now, done, processed, finished, trash.
If it's not a quick action that you can take, if you need to think about it, pray about it, talk to your husband about it, talk to your kid about it, or whatever, then you're going to put it in the “Follow Up” folder. This folder is for following up on things that aren't quite closed and also for decisions you haven't quite made. Your goal every processing day is to put as little amount of papers in this folder as possible. Any time that you can take immediate action and make it a quick task, do that. But if you must, put it in this folder, okay?
This is just a place for you to come back to. You know that your physical inbox is empty because you processed things, but these are things that you are not quite done with yet. If you need to come back to something in the middle of the week, like maybe you send an email to somebody and then you have to wait for them to email you back, that paper is a reminder of what you emailed them about and all the information you might need. So you put it in that folder.
You could take a picture of it and make it digital if you want. To me, I'm coming to this zone of my house when I'm dealing with incoming things, so I just want it all in one place. I don't want to take a picture of it. I'm already minimalist. I've already taken pictures of tons of stuff. I don't need another iPhone folder. This is already here. It’s just easier for me. Does that make sense?
Let's say that you get a piece of mail and it's something from your insurance. Something happened and it lapsed or something and it's Saturday. Okay, well that sucks. You need to follow up with that. So, you reach out to them. You call them. You leave a message. You email them or whatever. That's going to go in here because it's not finished. It's not processed all the way yet. When things finish processing, when the decision is made, the action is taken, the issue has all panned out, then you can put it in the “done” pile, shred it, throw it away, or whatever. Okay?
When you are in a rhythm like this, there are really not a lot of things that you will need to take immediate action on. Everyone usually freaks out, “Once a week? But what if I receive it on Thursday and it needs an immediate response and I can't wait til Friday?” Well, usually there's a note on the envelope, “immediate action required,” or a pink slip or yellow slip or something in there. It’s okay to break your own rule and respond to it or whatever you need to do. But usually things can wait until Friday, so once a week is enough. It'll be fine.
The goal here is whatever the action is, take it immediately if it's quick. If it’s not, add the action to your to-do list and put it in your “Follow Up” folder to reference until it's completely processed.
Your new inbox processing day is now a nonnegotiable. Okay? Because if it's negotiable, you're going to get all inspired and you're going to be like, “Oh, Allie told me to do this. I'm going to go do it.” But when life happens, you're not going to take action. And then you're just going to have this pretty inbox sitting there and it's pointless. You need to make this a nonnegotiable. Put it on your calendar. Set alerts to go off to remind yourself for 30 days until you have formed a habit.
You need to understand that you are going to be overwhelmed, you're going to cause yourself so much stress, you're going to fall back into that hot mess mom culture that we don't want to be in (that's not where we belong and it's not necessary) if you don't get a system in place.
This is the part where everyone has excuses: “Oh, there's no day of the week...Well, I'm not good at things like this.” And this is my favorite one: “This won’t work for me because of [insert reason.]” Anything can work for you if you make it work. If you decide that you don't want to be a mess, if you decide that you want to process things, it will work.
There are weeks where I have to move the day. Whether I'm just so exhausted I forget, or I'm out of town so I have to do it on a Monday. It doesn't matter. The point is there’s space in my calendar to handle my life, to make decisions, to go through the mail, to respond to things and it all works out.
Then you get to feel like your to-do list is crossed off. You responded to those emails. You answered those papers. You committed to this event and not that one. You were on top of it and you did something about it. Okay?
Email basically works the same way except it's already an inbox just digital. We took the physical inbox idea from the idea of how email works. Email is just already set up for you. What I want you to do in your email is I want you to set yourself up with three new folders. Basically any email system that you use (I use Gmail) will allow you to make subfolders in your inbox to categorize different things.
I want you to make three new folders (or labels, tags, however your email system works):
Respond Today—I have a rule where I don't respond to almost anything right away. I will put it in the “Respond Today” folder and wait and just think through it or talk it out or whatever.
“Respond This Week”
“To Reference Later”
I got this idea from my friend, Stacy. She's amazing. It's brilliant. I've had this setup for a while now and it works so well because it keeps you constantly at “inbox zero.” Your inbox can be such a complete crap show and it doesn't need to be.
I immediately label everything either: “I need to respond to this today,” or “I can respond to this later this week,” or “I need to just save this information because I might need to reference it later.”
You can get as deep as you want. You can have subfolders. I have subfolders underneath:
Reference Later/ Receipts,
Reference Later/ Giving,
Reference Later/ Business Tips I want to see later but I want to save.
You can do whatever you want. So, you might have “Reference Later/ Kids School.” Or Reference Later and it's all general and you can just search to find stuff. So, that’s how you are going to organize this.
Use “Unroll Me” to originally purge your inbox. Say you get emails from Anthropology—I mean, I don't know why you want to unsubscribe to those because their emails are just so beautiful, but let’s just say you want to unsubscribe from Anthropology. Search for “Anthropology,” select one, “unsubscribe” from it and then go back and select all of them and delete all of them. It will take you time, but you can also use subscriptions like “Unroll Me” and things like that. Do the original purge and get to that “inbox zero” and organize everything else by folders in your inbox. Okay?
That is how we're going to handle both physical and digital incoming information. Especially for those of you who might have ADD, or a lot of kids, or just a lot going on, having a system like this is ingenious. It takes the problem out of it. I literally put everything in my digital or physical inbox. Every day I check the mail and I put it in there. Then on Friday I go through it.
If I write down an amazing business idea on a post-it note while I'm cooking dinner, I take that post-it note and I put it in the inbox. So then, later, when I'm processing on processing day and I see the post-it note, I'm going to open up Asana where I keep dreams and ideas and I'm going to put this in my “ideas” list in Asana. Now I can throw the post-it note away because I processed it. At the time when I had the idea I physically couldn't get to Asana so I just jotted it down. You guys, if you do things like this, this is the answer to all of the things.
Sometimes I will empty out my purse because I've shoved random gum wrappers, post-its, pieces of paper with ideas, thoughts, and to-do lists in there because I couldn't get to my phone at that moment. I will empty out my purse of all the things I jotted down and put it in the inbox to process later.
Sometimes I voice-memo myself on my phone and I will put a post-it note in the inbox as a reminder to process voice-memos. So, when I'm processing I'm like, “Oh yeah! I voice-recorded some ideas and things I needed to do,” and I'll go back and listen to my voice-memos and then I'll make it a to-do list or just do it right away. Okay?
When it comes to the morning time, I think the overwhelm is because there's so much to do. The kids are sleepy. You've got to wake them up. You've got to feed them. You have so much to do that it becomes this tornado of chaos and you end up sending them out the door while you’re yelling and you aren’t who you want to be as a mom. And that is absolutely the worst feeling ever. It sucks.
I know that's not how you want to be. I know that’s not aligned with who you are as a mother. It just comes out sometimes when you're really, really busy. There’s a rush and there's a consequence if they're late all the time. You look really bad and you're embarrassed. You just wish you could get it together.
Here's the thing that nobody does that is going to solve a lot of that upfront: Count backward from the time that controls you. What I mean by that is: count backward from the deadline. So, if you're homeschooling and you say, “I want us to start school by 9:00 AM every day, otherwise it's just going to take too long and it's not going to work,” then that is the time that controls you. If your kid’s school starts at 7:45 AM then that's the time that controls you. When I say “the time that controls, I mean: “When do you have to be there?” Or “When do you have to be done?”
I like to give myself an extra 10–15 minutes because I know myself and I know my kids.
So, whatever the time that controls you, select it. Add a little “give” if you want. Then you move backward. If you have done this multiple times, you have kids that have been in school a few years, you probably just know that it takes 30 minutes (or however long) for everyone to get dressed and brush their teeth. And it takes 15 minutes (or however long) for them to eat breakfast. You might already know. Take those time increments and count backwards. What time would that mean that you've got to be up and going? I would even add another 10–15 minutes to that and that's your wake-up time.
How far is your drive to school? How long does it take you to get ready? How long does it take your kids to get ready? If you don't know, test it out. Estimate what you think, and then keep tabs. It's a little bit extra in the morning, but if you give yourself some extra time, you can jot it down in a journal. How long does it take? That kind of data—that's power right there. You’ve literally got data on how your family does their mornings. That's amazing. That's so powerful for you to know. Knowledge is power, right? That's how this works and these are the kinds of little tweaks that nobody else is doing.
So, from there decide what everyone's wake up time is. Is yours going to be earlier than theirs? Is there anything you would like to get done in the morning for yourself before the day starts? All of these things will factor into what time you wake up. If you calculate that and it's an ungodly hour and you're like, “I'm not getting up at 4:00 AM” or whatever it is, then you have a choice to make. What things are you willing to drop? And let me also tell you this, the most helpful shift you can make is to ask yourself, “What could I possibly get done the night before?”
Act as if this were a game of “Who can get the most stuff done the night before?” and the prize is $1 million. Think about it like that. I bet you can think of so many more things than you ever have before, such as:
Laying out the outfits and shoes, that's a given.
Giving your kids showers and baths so they don't have to do it in the morning.
Having their backpacks packed, and everything ready to grab and go at the door.
Having your dinner ingredients chopped or things in the slow cooker. Whatever you could chop, slice, dice for the slow cooker and put in the fridge the night before.
Make breakfast the night before, and only make breakfasts that can be easily eaten and still be yummy the next morning. There's so many ideas on Pinterest for that. I'm not going to provide you with any; go look.
Set your coffee timer
Maybe have your quiet time the night before when the kids are in bed and asleep and you're just sitting there. Don't turn on Netflix. Read your Bible. Journal. Read a book. Pray. Go for a nighttime walk. Maybe you could implement some peace the night before and then you just wake up and go.
What could you get done the night before? How much can you cut from your morning? All of these things are going to help you.
Then when you know what your morning must-do’s are—these are the things that, no matter what, must get done in the morning—you use those things to count backwards from the time that controls you. Then you know about how much time you need. And you can test and tweak it, but I think that you should give yourself a little bit extra time too—at least 10 extra minutes.
I feel so much better when I know that I've given myself an extra half-hour in case Emmett decides all-of-a-sudden, “Oh! I can't get my shoes on,” and does this weird lazy drop thing that he does. Anyone who knows me in real life knows what I'm talking about. He'll just drop and he's suddenly “paralyzed” and just can't do anything for himself. It's super annoying and I'm not going to have it, so I have to do the whole, “Emmett Finn! Get up right now!” thing. So, I feel really good when I have an extra 25-30 minutes and I'm not having to yell and freak out. I can have my kid do a toddler-drop situation and not freak out.
The main goal for me is to not be freaking out. I just want to be calm. I just want to be the mom that I want to be. Sometimes it's a total botch and it doesn't happen. But when you prepare and you are an action-taking, problem-solving woman, then you've solved a lot of the problems before they even start. You took action. You know you tried and everyone just has bad days and that's okay.
Okay, so let's talk about a few quick tips for making meal prep really simple because time at home in the evening is often limited. I was just talking recently with my friend Kendra Hennessy (I think some of you guys probably know her and follow her) about how everybody tends to think you have to have a brand new, amazing meal, especially at the start of the school year. We all go into it like, “I'm going to be like June Cleaver. Everything's going to be perfect. I’m going to have this amazing meal because I have these new routines in place.” Routines that we all know you're not going to stick with for more than two weeks because they never work. We've got to solve the actual root problem so that our routines can stick. Right?
You don't need to have a different meal every night. I have friends that rotate two weeks’ worth of meals constantly and that's how they are. I feel like I'd get sick of things, but they don't and that works for them. Does that work for you? What can you do?
Instant Pot. I love it. Pre-chop and prep the ingredients. If you're like us and you need to cook a lot of things from scratch for health reasons or just your preference, then pre-chop and prep the ingredients the night before, or even the week before, freeze them and then saute them up to defrost and then cook.
There's so many things you could do no matter what your dietary restrictions are, no matter what you’ve got going on to simplify meal planning. Get the meals ready the night before. Set a takeout night on the hardest night to cook. What is the night that you pick up the kids late from school because they had something extra and you had to rush? You don’t even go home, you just go straight to the sports or whatever. What is the night of your schedule that is just the worst? How can you flip it around and make it positive? Is it that the kids look forward to eating out and you budget for that because you know every Thursday you’re eating out?
On the night that you guys choose to have a takeout night or a “no cook” night, find a place where the kids eat free that night and go there. If you have time to go into a restaurant, that's a great option. But if you're choosing that night because it's crazy and you can't go out to eat and sit in there and eat, then just order from somewhere and take the load off yourself.
If you guys don't have a ton of extracurricular activities, just pick a night that you tend to kind of poop out. What is the day of the week where you're like, “Man, I'm really ready for the weekend. I’m done.” Is it Wednesday? Thursday? Is Monday really hard because you're coming back from the weekend? Pick a night to simplify.
Maybe you have frozen pizzas in the freezer and you just pull those out every whatever night that is. Maybe you order pizza, order takeout, get Uber eats or whatever, but pick a night to give yourself a break. Plan on that.
I'm not a meal planner/teacher. There's Pinterest for a reason. There's so many other things. If you have Your Uncluttered Home, you’ve probably got the bonus of The Minimalist Meal Planning that comes with it. Go to that. Use Hello Fresh, or whatever you want to do. But just know the biggest takeaway is that meal planning is an area that we overcomplicate so much.
Stop over-complicating meals. You don't need something new every night. You're doing a fantastic job. This is the place with a lot of wiggle room. There's not a lot of wiggle room in other zones. Your kids have to be at school at a certain time. There's not a lot of wiggle room there. There’s not a lot of wiggle room after school either. Simplify your meals. There’s so much wiggle room there. You can make it so flexible.
Hey beautiful friend! Pausing this content right now because I want to talk to you about something that is currently open and is super temporary. I don't want you to miss out!
Do you ever feel like you are just stuck in the mud? Every day feels like you're sinking in quicksand and you can’t get out? No matter how much effort you put in you just sink further and further?
If life feels like it's just heavy…maybe you've decluttered, maybe you've simplified your home but life, your calendar, and your schedule just really feel heavy and you wish that you could implement minimalism to that part of things just like you did with your house. I am so excited if you’re saying “yes” to this because Unburdened is open!
Unburdened is the second course that I created. It is basically a tool and resource for you to use to pull yourself out of that pit and do it a whole lot faster than if you did it without help.
Basically, Unburdened will help you set boundaries for your phone, your technology, yourself, and other people, to make space for what matters.
It'll help you take ownership of your time. We're going to gut your calendar and clear the clutter in your life and your schedule, create your ideal day and set up daily and weekly rhythms (which for those of you who don't do routines and you can never make them stick, this is the answer because I'm like that and this is literally my biggest secret.)
I'm so, so excited!
Step 3 in this program is you're going to implement a plan for doable self-care because you can't give your family water if your well is all dried up, right?
And then Step 4, you're going to get purposeful in your day-to-day, because how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, right? This stuff matters.
I'm super excited to get you guys in there and help you reach success in the change that you're seeking for your schedule, your routines, and how your days go because this is the kind of stuff that's so exciting to get to work on once you've simplified your home.
Let's talk about “the drop zones.” The entryway, places that your kids tend to drop stuff like their shoes, their backpacks, sports equipment, like just everywhere. This is tactical, practical stuff.
First of all, I don't think enough can be said for hooks and baskets in the entryway or your “drop zone.” Some people come into their house from their garage. Some people come in entering the kitchen. Some people have an actual mud room. Some people are like me and they come in the front door and there's not really a mudroom, but they made an entryway for themselves. Whatever your situation is, where do you guys come in? Where do things tend to get dropped?
Listen, let me just save you a lot of effort and freak outs. Wherever the drop zone is right now, wherever your family tends to dump stuff, that is always going to be the drop zone. Don't try to change where the drop zone is. I personally don't think it's worth the effort. It is so much harder to change a habit. This is just the way your family seems to use your home.
I think we should just see that the drop zone is the drop zone and create a system there. So, unless it's a terrible place and you just have to change it, I think it's better to just make it work instead of changing the habit because you're going to end up nagging and being like, “Dang it! I told you don't put your stuff here!” And we don’t want to go down that path. Just accept that the drop zone is the drop zone and set it up so that the dropping isn't a problem anymore.
This is kind of the same idea I mentioned earlier of how I put a basket at the bottom of my stairs where stuff collected. Instead of telling my family, “New rule! Nobody drops things here. Everyone takes everything upstairs when you're done. I don't care if you're staying downstairs, go upstairs and put it away,” the basket came into play. Because, otherwise, it's just not going to happen. I'm not going to do it. So how could I expect them to do it? I need to get stuff done and move on. I just need somewhere to put my thing until I'm ready to go upstairs and put it away. So, I put the basket at the bottom of the stairs and that's where we put things that go upstairs.
At the end of the day we have our nighttime family rhythm (Unburdened—it's opening soon— teaches all about rhythms) where we do a quick 15-minute, whole-house pickup as a family. And part of that is emptying that basket and putting things away upstairs, then putting the empty basket back downstairs at the end of the day.
So, what is your drop zone going to look like? Do you need hooks for backpacks? Do you want a basket or bin for shoes? A bin for sports equipment? You can have hooks for backpacks. A bin for shoes. I hate shelves for shoes because the kids never lined the shoes up on the shelf and it ends up piled. Instead of piled on the floor, it's piled on a shelf. So, we just got a metal bin from Target and we all just throw our days’ shoes in that bin and it works great.
You could do hooks for backpack and jackets, a bin for shoes and then a basket for sports stuff, so that it's basically on a wall altogether. It looks super organized and pretty, but it's housing all the drop zone stuff.
If you guys just naturally come in through the garage when you come home that's even better, because you don't have to have it in your house. You can make a mud room wall in your garage and everything's out. That's amazing. If you don't come in through the garage, you have to just ask yourself, “Where is the drop zone?” Is it in the kitchen? Is it in the front of the house? The front door? Where is it? What is going to work? And get creative.
Another great thing to look up on Pinterest is faux mud rooms and things like that, but I suggest you stop trying to get your kids to hang stuff in the closets (unless they already do) and just start noticing, “Okay, where’s the drop zone in my house? I'm going to create a storage solution right around there so that I don't have to change the habit, and we're all happy.”
You might also consider doing what I did and putting your physical inbox (that we talked about earlier) in the drop zone as well. That way you could have the kids hang their backpacks on the hooks, pull out all the papers their teacher gave them and put it right there. Then the physical inbox is already in the drop zone and they're putting their papers in there for you. You know where to go and get your physical inbox when it's time to process.
Let's talk about saying “no” and extra commitments and all of that. Classroom parent stuff, being the “room mom,” classmate birthday parties and being the mom that brings the homemade cupcakes, extracurricular activities, just all of the things that we feel obligated to do.
If you guys came to the two-week class that I hosted multiple times, or if you have had me teach you about decluttering, you know that the first thing I say you need to do when you're walking into a room you're going to declutter but you don't know where to start is that you need to set the intent for that room. This is a really, really beautiful way to make decisions in your life too.
I'm not going to tell you right now to set the intent for your family. I think you should, but I'm not going to tell you right now to decide what your core values are. That's a really big discussion and I think it's important that we all do those things, but that’s not so much what I’m talking about when you're prepping for back to school. I think, right now, it’s important to just set the intent for this season for your family.
For example, and I think a lot of you guys might do this because whenever I talk about it people are like, “Yeah, thanks for saying that. We do that too.” For our family, we kind of flip flop. We will head into a really restful season. The intent that we set for that group of months or weeks or whatever is set to be in “rest mode.” It is full rest mode. We say “no” to everything and we just rest.
We just came out of a really big rest season and now everyone's noticing that I'm back. I'm doing multiple webinars a week. I'm doing all these things. We're getting ready to open up the doors to Unburdened again and do this great big launch party with everybody that's joining this time around. We're doing all these big things because I just came out of a season of rest. We're getting back to homeschooling. The kids are going to start baseball soon. I love baseball season because we don't do it every season. We take rests, so when it comes back around, I'm ready and excited and I can't wait. I'm not fatigued because we also did soccer and now we've got to go straight into baseball.
Set the intent for every season for your family. What do you guys need right now? Do you need rest? Do you need structure? Summer’s over and you’re like, “Everyone's bored. We all feel like we're going to kill each other. We need structure.” What is the intent that you're setting?
How do you want your kids to feel the end of this season or the end of the school year? What do you want them to be like? How old are they? If I really sat down and spent 10 minutes or so on each of my kids and I thought, “Okay Bella first. What do I really want for Bella this school year? I really want her to feel confident in overcoming some learning disabilities that she struggles with. I really want her to continue to love reading. I want her to create a group of friends, and I want her to just feel more confident in general.” That's a really great intent and every decision that I make will either align with that or not.
Just like we set the intent in a room before we declutter, we set the intent for this season of our families’ lives before we say “yes” or “no” to things. And when you're in a room and you're decluttering and you have set the intent, that is going to help you make decisions about what stays and what goes, because you say, “Well I wanted this room to feel like this. Does this item help with that?” Yes or no? It's simple.
Same thing with your calendar and your schedule. If you set the intent for this season of your family and it’s rest, then you’re going to go ahead and pass on football this season. You're going to pull out of that. Cancel. It doesn't go with your season because that's not going to be restful. There's multiple practices a week. There’s games, maybe some travel. It’s a lot. It's not rest. So it doesn't align, right? It makes it so much easier to say no.
It makes it easier to ask yourself things like, “Will saying ‘yes’ to this serve my entire family and align with the intent that my spouse and I set for this time?” If not, are you willing to push that intent back? Probably not a good idea.
I also think it's worth asking yourself why you’re considering this commitment. Why are you considering being the room mom? Is it because you feel guilty because you work and you feel like you should? There’s something in there to work through. Heart issue alert, right? Is it because you're controlling? Is it because you love it and it's something that you want to do? Great! That seems like a green flag to me. Thumbs up! Ask yourself, “Why am I even considering this?” There's such an easy pull to say “yes” to everything.
I also want to give you guys freedom. We don't put our kids in things all at the same time. They take turns. Two of the boys will be doing baseball, but we're not doing horse lessons for Bella right now. She's going to have to wait. There's give and take. And if they ever are doing things at the same time it's not in the same time frame, so it’s not like Bella is doing soccer, Hudson's doing football, and Leland and Emmett are doing baseball. So, there's two different baseball teams in the afternoon, plus a horse lesson in the afternoon, plus a football practice in the afternoon and we all have to split up. I don't do that. We're a family. We're together.
If Bella's horse lessons are in the morning on Wednesday and Hudson's piano lesson is on Thursday mornings and is a part of school, great, then they can all do their things in the same season because they don't overlap. But I'm not willing to spend time apart from my family and do the crazy run around thing. Not at all. The boys play baseball in the same league, so even if they're on fields that are next to each other, we're all in the same place together. We might need to take turns watching each team, but it creates togetherness. I want my intent for my family in every season to create togetherness. Do you see what I'm saying? Set the intent. Where do you want to go?
Remember my favorite quote by Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” These are the decisions, ladies. These are the decisions that you're making that are going to create how you're spending your day-to-day, and that's going to end up being the life you live. That's going to end up forming the childhood your kids will look back on and say, “My childhood felt really busy,” or “It felt really happy,” or “It felt really balanced.” This matters.
If all of the decisions you're committing to will mean heading into a busier, fuller season, okay; it's good that you're noticing that. Are you just now wrapping up a really restful season? If not, it might be too much. It might be exciting to look at all this structure like, “Okay, good. They're out of the house. They're going to school,” or “We're starting our homeschool year. We've got our new curriculum. We're going all in. We have baseball on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we have Karate on Wednesdays, and we have the…[whatever.]” It might look good and you might feel like you're doing your kids a huge service by making them so cultured and putting them in different things, but you’re really, really not.
You're going to poop out. If you don't have enough space in your week to call it off, to take an afternoon to breathe, to just be a family, order pizza, and just chill together for your kids to catch up on homework, it is too much. It's too much.
Let's talk about delegating and getting your older kids involved as much as possible. I'm just going to do a quick note on this. My goal is to raise good people, confident people, capable adults who will be an addition to society and will make great spouses. But they are currently children, so they're in training and there's so much grace, but ultimately when they're done and they're all baked and heading out into the world, that's my goal. So, I need to teach them—graciously—how to manage their time, their things, their responsibilities by giving them responsibilities in the first place.
I need to teach them teamwork and help them learn how a home runs smoothly, right? And it runs so much more smoothly when we're all doing things together. Yes, Emmett—and the things that he does—is not really helping me, but it's not about that. It's about teaching him, “Look, you matter. You have a say. You have a job here and we need you to pick up the toys. Thank you so much. You're doing a great job.”
You know the older kids (Bella’s 10, Leland's 8) they do the dishes and they help with the laundry. Those are big things and they’re finally at a point where they really do help me. And so, communicating that, giving them those responsibilities, and showing them, “Look guys, you chose to play instead of doing your chores and now we need the dishes washed for this meal. So, now you have to hurry up, and it's a bummer.” Just showing them that, teaching them that.
I'm really, really big on bringing the kids into things. I'm not big on the whole idea of a massive chore chart—all of these responsibilities and consequences without any teaching. I think it's unruly and a little harsh. Then the mom freaks out and is like, “Who washes a dish like this? Get back here and do it again.” It’s like you never taught them how to, you showed them once and that's it. Of course, I make mistakes and I yell and I have freak-out days, but in general, I really, really am big on teaching, showing, talking to them and understanding that it's my responsibility to teach them. It's not their responsibility to know how to do everything.
I really don't like when there's talk, especially in the Christian circle, about kids and chores. It's very harsh, almost demeaning and demanding. You guys know what I'm talking about? Kids need to be taught. They need to be talked to. They’re people. Respect is mutual. We're all in this together, and I'm wanting to train them to be good humans. Yelling at them and expecting them to know things that they couldn't possibly know because they’ve never learned is not doing that.
I think you should ask yourselves, “What are my kids capable of doing?” Think about what they're doing in school. They're given so much responsibility. They're doing homework. They're learning big things. They can probably do more than you think they can. Just try it. Say, “You know what? I'm going to give you the job of after dinner dishes,” and see how it goes. Be with them. Show them. Teach them. If you want to do monetary gain for doing chores, do it. That's your call.
For us—just to give you guys an idea if you need help—we don't do paid chores. I think that we are all a team and we're all here to help. However, there is a list of extra work that if somebody wants to do, there is an attached payment for and it's like $1 or $2, so they do earn for extra things. And I really like that setup. It's worked really well for us. But you guys do what you want.
I also think it's possible if you have kids who are a little bit older, to give them the breakfast role. We've done this in our house and it's great. Having the kids be in charge of making or grabbing a really simple breakfast for themselves. My kids get their own breakfast unless we're having a special family breakfast because we won't be together for dinner, which we do sometimes especially if I'm going to travel that night or whatever.
Some really simple breakfast ideas like cereal and fruit, oatmeal and fruit, pre-made smoothies packed with nutrients that you made that they get out and have. Toast and hard boiled eggs. The hard boiled eggs are pre-done and they just make toast and put butter on it themselves and they eat their breakfast. Things like that. Teach them that responsibility. Obviously, this won't work for super little kids.
Have them help pack their lunches the night before and then come up with a plan to give that responsibility over to them. Have them pick out their clothes the night before. I've taken this as an opportunity to actually teach my kids how to form an outfit that's socially acceptable. And it's been great. My kids totally know how to dress and I love it, because you guys, if you follow me for a minute, you know that I love that kind of stuff. I've taken that opportunity to teach them like, “Okay, this isn't going to work because you’ve got navy on navy, so we need to pick something green or white. You really don't want to do black and navy.” I've taken the opportunity and it's been great. Make it fun.
Okay, let's shift into ways to maximize time spent together in the evening. I know we’ve got a lot of work-out-of-the-home parents with kids in public school, private schools that are trying to squeeze in dinner, homework, bedtime routine all in an hour or two, so we need to get into where are the fringe moments that you have and get into quality time over quantity time, which is all that matters anyway, and how we can streamline.
There is so much to be said for a bedtime ritual. This is such a sweet time. I know you're exhausted. I know you're pooped and you're done. Just so you guys know that I'm human too. Brian got the kids this book from a Navy Seal that wrote a children's book (which is questionable already; it seems like it would be disturbing, but it's not.) And it is the longest children's book ever written in human history. Literally feels like I'm reading the Bible out loud. It is so long. Also, I don't like books that have very little writing on the page, so you're turning the page every second. It seems like a lot of work. Maybe I’m lazy. But it is the longest book in history and the kids, of course, loved it.
After I spent five weeks glaring at Bryan with the evil eye because he bought this book for them, I decided we're done with this book. The book went “bye-bye,” and I hid it. I don't want to sit and pour into my kids, read them this giant story, and hear their hearts. I'm tired. Go the frick to sleep, people. But having said that—so you know, I'm a normal mom, I'm tired and I don't want to do it—it only takes a minute.
Put the long Navy Seal book away and don't read at all. Go and sit on the edge of their bed. If you just make a minute to listen to them, hear their heart for a second and just make space for them to feel, that's what kids want. That's all they want. They can share with you without the stress of knowing that there's a rush to get somewhere.
Earlier in the evening, there's just so much rush, even if you don't have extracurriculars. There’s dinner, homework, stress, and sibling rivalry, and you yelled because you’re just done. At the end of the day, that bedtime moment is really a sweet time.
But I think we overthink it like it’s got to be a story, a prayer, and this long, overdrawn-out thing where you're just like, “Look, am I a terrible mom that I don't give a crap and I don't want to do that?” No. You’re not a terrible mom. You're just normal.
I think it's just about simplifying it. Make it a minute, just a moment. Sometimes I'll go in, sit on the edge of the bed, and just ask, “How are you feeling about tomorrow? You ready for a new day?” And just see if anything comes up. It’s just a minute. Usually there's nothing. But every-once-in-a-while one of the kids will be like, “Something weird happened today and I just feel really bad and I want to talk.” They'll start to talk to me about somebody who said something and it hurt their feelings or whatever. And if I hadn't just made a second, it wouldn't have come up.
And you know what? I will hide the really long books all day long and I might really botch the bedtime prayer because I want it to last about 2.5 seconds, but I will always create space for my babies to just have a moment with me. And I can do that. We can do that. No matter how much we worked in a day, no matter how tired we are, we can do that.
So, just simplify it. Just make it a second. It's a wonderful sweet little pocket of time that we can cultivate.
The next part in maximizing our time together in the evening is to never be afraid to reevaluate the things that you've said “yes” to. Not to talk about the podcast the whole time, but there's another episode called It's Okay To Change Your Mind, and that's what this is. There's no shame in backing out of a commitment. You don't want to do that all the time, but if that's what's going to shift, if you're going to learn a lesson from that, back out of it. Just be better next time. It's okay to back out.
Every day is time on this earth. Time with or without your family that defines where you guys end up. So don't waste it pushing through until the end of a commitment that is toxic to you and your family simply because you said you would do it. That's ridiculous.
Bouncing back to some of the practical stuff, I also want to highly encourage you guys to use the Google calendar or iPhone calendar, something color-coded to keep track of your practices and appointments. That's just the way to go. Color coordinated helps so much. Put events on your calendar, not tasks. Have a separate place for your tasks. You can even get something that syncs with your calendar so that tasks show up in a different color.
On my Google calendar I have reminders in bright green that every Friday is physical inbox processing day and it's also the day that Brian takes the cars to get cleaned out. We get our cars cleaned and detailed so they feel clean and nice. We're paying for them for a reason. It's a nice car and it feels really good and clean like our house does. So, that's a reminder not an event. An event is at 2:00 PM on Friday you have a doctor's appointment, or for me at 1:30 on Tuesday you are doing a live training. Don't clutter your calendar with ideas, thoughts, to-do lists. Don't do that. Have those separate.
Let's get back to the idea of Sunday night meetings. Sunday night meetings are basically when Brian and I will come together, we'll sit together and we will just look over the week. What's going on? What do you need from me? What do I need from you? How can we support each other? How can we make this week simpler? Where are the really heavy days?
For us, Tuesdays are always a really heavy day. It’s a really big day of work for me because it's technically my Monday. I'm always really excited and inspired to get back to things on Tuesday, so I really go all in and have a really thick, heavy, long work day where I'm working all the main part of the afternoon. I'm working all day. Where are the cracks? What could we do to make this better? All of that.
Consider adding Sunday night meetings to your Google calendar into part of your weekly rhythms because it's a really great way to reconnect. We keep this separate from date night because I don't want date night to be a CEO/COO planning session, which it can feel like if you talk about these kinds of things there. I want date night to be just fun.
On Sunday night we stay at home, we get the kids busy and we go over everything, get on the same page. This is so important for you to feel like you're not running crazy. You know what I mean? It's so, so helpful.
Consider adding a Sunday night meeting. Go over all the things. Pull out your calendars, ask how you can support each other. It gets you on the same page in a really positive, action-taking way. There's a whole podcast episode and blog post about that. You can get that freebie, go listen to the episode if you want. There's a lot about it because it's so helpful.
Okay, I just want you guys to know before we go, if this helped you at all, you're going to frigging love Unburdened because it is a masterclass for your entire life. Your entire schedule, your rhythms, your routines, how your life is flowing and going, all condensed into a boot camp style, masterclass for everything. There are life hack tips in there like the basket at the bottom of the stairs, tons of stuff like that.
I help you completely set up rhythms. I don't like calling them routines because it's not routines. Routines don't really work for me. They never stick. But I found a way to create rhythms that do stick because they're just attached to things that I'm going to be doing anyway. Every day I wake up. Every day I eat lunch. Every day I get ready for bed. So, I attach the things that need to get done to those things. And then they're just natural rhythms. They are almost more like habits.
And so, I teach you how to take that idea and set up routines where you need an actual routine, but set up rhythms where routines just aren't sticking, but you've got to get these things done for your life to feel like it's put together. I walk you through that in your entire life.
It is a deep dive masterclass. It’s pouring into all the things like this about fixing your life, your calendar, your schedule, how your days feel like they're flowing. You walk out of Unburdened feeling a million times lighter. I think it's one of my favorite things to teach you guys.
Unburdened is only $99 too. Your Uncluttered Home is a higher price point. It’s so much bigger, thicker, and a huge undertaking, and Unburdened is less money, less time and packs a huge, powerful punch.
And again, it only opens once a year. So even if you're not ready to do it right now, just get in while you can. The price usually goes up, and it's closing for at least six months, probably. I think, looking at my year, maybe more.
But anyway, love you guys! We're done here. I hope this was super helpful for your back-to-school needs.
Homeschoolers, if you didn't get what you need it's because the Simplify Your Homeschool course is legit every single thing that you'd ever need to simplify your homeschool. So, head over there and get that.
I love you guys so much. Thanks for hanging out with me and I'll talk to you next time.
This was an episode of The Purpose Show. Did you know there is an exclusive community created solely for the purpose of continuing discussions surrounding The Purpose Show episodes? And to get you to actually take action and make positive changes on the things that you learn here? Go be a part of it. To join go to facebook.com/groups/purposefulmamas.
Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, and get step-by-step help from me, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, courses, classes, and ways to learn more about what the next step might look like for you and to focus on whatever you might need help with in whatever season you are in right now.
I am always rooting for you, friend! See ya next time!