Saturday, December 22, 2012

Organization is not always pretty

I recently blogged about creating Master Meal List, creating a Weekly Meal Plan, and using that to create the grocery list in my post What should I make for dinner tonight?

I just wanted to make the point that these lists don’t have to be pretty.  They just have to work.  (Plus, they are small and simple enough that visitors probably won’t notice them.)

If the main way you learn about getting organized comes from home magazines, it is easy to get the impression that organization will always be (and should always be) pretty to look at.  Thankfully, that is not true, and understanding this will help you jettison unnecessary guilt.  (Keep in mind that if magazines did not have pretty pictures, we wouldn’t be so drawn to them, so these magazine editors know a pretty picture of rows of color-coordinated ribbon in a white shelf is going to please the reader more than a system that is functional but slightly messy.   However, magazines can’t capture some very useful aspects of organization visually, like routines and systems.)

Yes, pretty is a bonus, but if pretty conflicts with function and efficiency, living will not be as easy and streamlined as it could be.  As an example, do you want to see what our meal planning system looks like?

This stack of papers represents our Weekly Meal Plans and grocery lists, probably for the last 37 weeks.  We keep it clipped together hanging on our refrigerator.  No way are a bunch of squealing homemakers going to share this on Pinterest.  ;-)

We only cook for two people, so our grocery lists aren’t going to be very big.  It saves paper to have our grocery list on the same page as our weekly menu.  Also it means there is only one piece of paper to keep track of, instead of two.  Yes, the paper looks dog-eared.  That happens when you keep putting it in your pocket and taking it out over and over at the grocery store.  Yes, I could copy the menu onto a nicer sheet of paper after grocery shopping, but that would add an unnecessary step.

Next, here’s our Master Meal List.

Obviously this is also not something likely to show up on Pinterest.  The major advantage is that it is really easy to add to it.  I can do it with a pencil if I want to!  (As opposed to printing something out with just the right font, or making a bunch of mini tags with scrapbooking doodads and bows on them..)

For a while I used a chart on which I listed our meal plans for a whole month, but that turned out to be not so helpful. 
Notice how usage trails off after a while..

For one thing, we could see we had eaten quesadillas at least once every week, and seeing that over a month made us feel pathetic.  (Who wants to be shamed by their own organizational methods?  Not I, said the duck.)  So we decided we only needed to look at a week at a time.  We’re okay with eating quesadillas once every week as long as we don’t have that frequency blatantly called to our attention. 

What systems do you use that work really well but wouldn’t get featured in a home magazine?

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Carin said...

For a while, we made a monthly menu calendar. Then after a few years, I kept them and typed them all into the computer. That was great! Then I could just pull up the monthly menu, make a few adjustments and print, done!!! No decisions to make! Then I decided that we were eating too much meat and I wanted to put more vegetarian meals, so I bagged the monthly menu planning and went back to a week at a time, on little scraps of paper (grocery shopping list on the back) fastened to the refrigerator with a magnet (and it looks much like yours). I think the trick is just getting yourself in the habit of planning and then sticking to your plan. In helping others learn, I have emphasized that you don't have to stick to the plan. If one night you need a fast meal prepared, just take one from the list that you have made and shopped for. Then switch out the meal for the day you pulled from.

Michaela Stephens said...

Carin, that is FANTASTIC! Maybe I shouldn't write off the monthly plan so soon. Maybe all I need to do is sort through the 37 weeks worth of menus I've accumulated and find ones with the most variety..

That's pretty neat that you're willing to start all over again for the sake of finding more vegetarian meals. You're hard work will eventually pay off with some fabulous monthly menus, I'm sure.

Thanks so much for sharing!