Are you putting off getting organized until the mayhem dies down in your home? What if you could make changes that make a big difference right now, in the midst of chaos? In this episode, Kathi talks with Kristi Clover, author of M.O.M.—Master Organizer of Mayhem, about ways to get organized, no matter what life season you are in.
This week, you’ll hear how decluttering is something you’ll have to continually come back to, even when things are going smoothly. The more you have the foundational basics in place, the more you’ll be able to manage chaos no matter what happens. You’ll also learn how to:
- Control the things you can to adjust for chaos you can’t control
- Create systems to keep you on track
- Save yourself chaos down the road by planning ahead
To learn more, order your own copy of Kristi’s book, M.O.M.—Master Organizer of Mayhem on Amazon today.
What is your best organizing, planning, or decluttering trick that works to help manage the mayhem in your family?
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Clutter Free Academy Podcast #390
Getting Organized with Mother of Mayhem
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. My son was a Lego builder growing up. If there is anything in the world that’s harder to organize than Lego, I don’t know what it is. So, this is what caught my eye about today’s book. First of all, go to the podcast page, ‘cause you have to see how pretty this book is, but it is a thousand Lego bricks in a rainbow pattern. It’s just gorgeous. There are two things that come up instantly for me. One, oh my goodness, trying to organize all the things, and two, stepping on them in the middle of the night. Even though the cover is beautiful, it does produce some anxiety, but we have someone here to help. Today, we have Kristi Clover and she is the author of M.O.M – Master Organizer of Mayhem: Simple Solutions to Organize Chaos and Bring More Joy into Your Home. Kristi, welcome to Clutter Free Academy.
Kristi – Oh, thanks so much, Kathi. What a joy to be here.
Kathi – Well, and we got to meet just a little while ago at MOMCon, which was super fun. It had to be drive-by, because we’re both so busy, but I was so glad to connect with you. I am loving this book. It’s kind of funny, because people say, “Being clutter free is easy for you because you don’t have kids.” I’m like, “Okay, can we all collectively remember?” I raised four children. This happened. It definitely is easier to be organized now, than it was with all those kids, but if you don’t have the basics down when you have kids in the house, it’s not automatically going to become free and easy when the kids are out of the house. I love that you’re saying, “Let’s get organized, no matter what stage you’re in. Let’s keep some basics going.”
Kristi – That’s exactly it. I feel like, if I had come into my marriage being clutter free and being organized, it’d have been great. If I had started my parenting journey with the same? That would have been awesome. But, nope. In the midst of it all, I decided something has got to give and it really was me. I had to learn how to get organized, and I struggled. So, I kind of giggle. I go through ten rules that I’ve had for the last thirteen years that I have been using for a long time and I don’t do them all, in fact, I openly admit which ones are the hardest ones for me, but when they’re all working together, it’s awesome. But I struggle.
Kathi – Yeah, and the same thing with clutter free. There are things that I advocate for that I don’t actually do, because they don’t pertain to my life or, they’re really hard. I know that they are easier for other people, but yeah. It’s interesting. Somebody just said, “Kathi, I need all your advice about how to organize a paper calendar.” And I’m like, “I can give you none, because that is my own personal war.”
Kristi – Oh my word. When I first started doing live streaming, I giggled, because, “Oh! You do organization? Oh! Can we talk about…?” And they were showing me these homemade bullet journals. I use a bullet journal thing, but they were putting all the stickers and the artsy stuff, and I was like, “Oh, no. I get those journal Bibles, so I can take notes on the side, not do pretty pictures.” I can’t.
Kathi – Can I just tell you? All those journaling Bibles, where people do these elaborate things on the pages? That causes me so much anxiety.
Kristi – Okay, I love you. I really do.
Kathi – I can’t. I can barely read God’s word on the regular and you want me to now draw about it? I am so glad that works for some of my friends, but…
Kristi – I know. It’s great.
Kathi – I cannot draw a straight line. Here’s the even bigger shame, and then we actually get to the book, my grandmother was the first woman art director, ever, for Hallmark Cards.
Kristi – Oh my word!
Kathi – Right? So, her Bible would have been legendary. Her Bible would have been off the hook. I am the shame of the family. My mom is this beautiful quilter and can quilt Bible verses and things like that. My grandmother would do these amazing cards. I write words. That’s what I do.
Kristi – That’s beautiful.
Kathi – Thank you! So, you wrote some words, too.
Kristi – I did. I wrote a few words.
Kathi – You talk, in Chapter Two, about a really dark time in your life where you said, “Okay, I have to get organized.” Tell us a little. You know what? My goal on these podcasts is to expose everybody’s secret shame and it’s not so secret, ‘cause you wrote about it, but I want us to all feel like, “Oh, okay, so she gets me. I see it”.
Kristi – I get it. Yes. No, I do get it. So, as I’ve mentioned when we stared chatting, I had that moment where everything that could go wrong. When they say “everything that could have gone wrong went wrong” people are like, “She doesn’t really know what she’s talking about.” Oh, no. Name an area in your life where there could have been chaos, disruption and sheer anxiety? That was my life at the time. We had to move because of my husband’s job, to a different area. We had thrown down roots, really deep, in our community. So, we moved to a new area, which was San Diego, so everyone is like, “Awe, poor thing.”
Kathi – Yeah, it’s like saying you moved to Hawai’i. The sympathy level. But it’s hard. Like, if somebody told me I had to move to San Diego today, I would be weeping and gnashing.
Kristi – Yeah! It’s so hard. The hardest part was that, I had a toddler, and I had a brand new baby. Brand new. I was having difficulties from the birth, so I had to have another procedure to help me. This is me keeping it ‘G’ for any possible men who are listening. Women would be like, “Yes, sister. I get it.”
Kathi – You know what? If we have one man, he’s already heard it all, so.
Kristi – Right, so I was having bleeding issues, post-partum. I had to have surgery. My husband was in an accident six days before we moved, and so he had to have emergency surgery, and all this crazy stuff. As soon as he had recovered from that, he took on a new territory, so he was, not only travelling for business, now he was travelling all the time. When we moved, we moved into a new house, where everything was wrong. It wasn’t ready to be inhabitable, and we had no choice. The moving truck was coming, escrow had closed, we had moved out of our apartment.
Kathi – Did you just cry all the time?
Kristi – All the time. That’s what I opened with. I was crying so hard my girlfriend was like, “You need to pull over!” So, I did. I pulled over, curbside, crying hysterically and my girlfriend could not find out what was happening. She’s like, “Do I need to call the police? What’s happening?” I was like, “No!” and I just cried. She’s like, “Do I get in the car? What do I do?” But we had marriage issues, obviously. My husband was gone, we were travelling. We had no support system. Oh! And as soon as we got off the plane and came into our new home, we were looking at it for the first time, and my son apparently had the stomach flu, so he vomited everywhere. I had no paper towels. You name it. Our car got hit while it was parked. Everything. Everything was chaos. So, I remember, I was so emptied, and I prayed a ton, but it was like, “I can’t control some of these things that are happening in my life.” So, what I learned was that, I had to figure out what I did have control over. So, that’s what I started with. Okay, I can’t control if a construction team is going to show up today or tomorrow. I can’t control whether my husband is suddenly going to go to Timbuktu for another conference. I can’t control some of those things. I can’t control if my child’s going to have a blowout diaper, but I can start taking control over things that were happening with our home and within our calendar, to the degree to which I had some control.
Kathi – Right. You can’t determine when your kid’s going to have a blowout diaper, but you can say, “Hey, I’ve packed an extra pair of pants. I’ve got diapers and I’ve got enough wipes that I could clean up the entire car.” Those are the things that you can control. Right now, we are splitting our time between two houses, and it’s so funny. Never in my life have I had a garage I could park in. Now I do. The change in my life and my attitude? I’m like, “How did I go decades without being able to do this? This is a gift.” So, yes. There are certain things you cannot control, so you just have to be as prepared as you possibly can be, both in your home and in your heart. Then, you can say, “I know I’m doing the best I can.”
Kristi – There are going to be bad days, and that’s when people are like, “I’m a failure!” It’s like, “No. You just had a bad day.” Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off.
Kathi – You had a really bad day, and this would have been a bad day for anybody.
Kristi – Oh, yeah. I had a bad year, I think. A really hard year.
Kathi – Oh my goodness. It really sounds like it.
Kristi – It was so crazy. You said you have a puppy, but we had a dog who was still somewhat in puppydom and forgot how to go to the bathroom. She was an 80 lbs. dog. So, it wasn’t little poop.
Kathi – Ours are like Tootsie Rolls. Yours were like loaves of bread. That’s a totally different thing.
Kristi – The middle of the night stepping on things is not good.
Kathi – Oh my gosh. I would actually rather take a Lego. I’ll be honest with you. Yeah. Oh my goodness. We know that chaos can happen. So, what you said is, you think that setting a good foundation is most important to creating a chaos free home. What do you mean that? What does that foundation look like?
Kristi – I’ll back up just a smidge. When I was first asked to speak about home organization, I kinda laughed at first. I was like, “Really?” but people saw in me something that I didn’t see in myself. I had been studying and researching and learning how to get more organized, so when I was asked to speak on this, it was thirteen years ago. I just had my two boys at the time. Now we have five kids, but I came up with these ten rules. I was asking myself, “What is it that, when everything is working together, what works great?” So, that’s the foundation, these ten rules that I came up with. You can call them rules. You can call them principles. You can call them whatever you want to call them if you’re scared by the rule thing. My thought is this: You can declutter all you want, but you’re going to come back to it again. So then, how do you create habits? We talk about habits. You have to stick with it, so there’s got to be some determination in your heart. You can’t be lazy. You’ve got to figure out what’s broken in your system. You need to have priorities. If you don’t time to do some stuff in your house, then it’s not going to happen. So, that’s what the foundation is all about.
Kathi – Okay, so when you talk about the foundation, how does your day look different than another mom’s who hasn’t had a chance to think this through yet?
Kristi – Well, right now, we’re in the middle of a house renovation, so my day looks different than a lot of people’s.
Kathi – Bless your heart. We just got through that.
Kristi – Yeah. It’s beautiful. Everybody is laughing. “It’s the book title, isn’t it? Master Organizer of Mayhem.” I’m like, “Right! I just brought it on myself.”
Kathi – I said, when I wrote the book Clutter Free Home, of course, let’s just destroy every surface. The only thing we didn’t renovate was our downstairs half bathroom. That was the only thing. That is a whole different book, at some point.
Kristi – On a normal day, one of the biggest things that I do that not every mom thinks through, is I have systems in place. Some of those systems are planning ahead. Some of them are just little rules that I have figured out for myself that really help. So, everybody is always blown away. I do all of my husband and my laundry in one day. Even if that’s four loads.
Kathi – Okay, that was my third question. Your laundry system is legendary.
Kristi – Well, thank you. Well, that’s it. I was actually giggling as I was pulling things out of the dryer last night. I was like, “I really can get all this laundry done in one day.” It surprises me, but you know, that’s really the difference is, I figured myself out. I learned how to tweak other systems to work for me and my home. That’s what I encourage readers to do. But I also plan ahead in weird ways. I pack the diaper bag, but I’ll make a list and this is what has to get done because I can’t trust my brain, when I’m in mommy frazzled mode. So, I know I can quick glance and know “Yes, I have all those things.” Like, Ziploc bags in my diaper bag? I used to always carry Ziplocs, because you do have those blowouts, or those really, “who knows what you fed your child” moments and you’ve got to stuff that diaper somewhere afterwards. Or their clothes. Or YOUR clothes. It happens, but finding those little nuances. I’m always tweaking. We’re getting ready to go to Hawai’i and I have a list for Hawai’i. I not only have a list for what we pack, I have a meal plan for every single time we go on vacation, so I don’t have to think about what I have to grab at the store. We try to be very frugal when we travel. So, I know exactly what we’re doing. I don’t have to think about it. It’s one less thing I have to do. When we’re on vacation, I literally plan for the easiest possible meals that we can have, to save money, but also to stream line everything. Who wants to truly cook when they’re on vacation? Not me.
Kathi – You know, I call it ‘taking care of your future self’. If I do a little bit of planning now, boy, it’s going to save me so much chaos. And by the way, if I have a plan? Then the rest of the family doesn’t question the plan. They’re like, “Oh! There’s a plan!” Instead of trying to figure it out in the middle of the chaos. What we did for Disney World, we did one big trip to Disney World for my husband’s 50th birthday, where all the kids saved up and we did it. I flew out, ‘cause it was Southwest, so it was a free bag, I flew out a suitcase of food and preordered milk and things like that from a local grocery store. It was delivered to our hotel room. So, we didn’t pay for any breakfast the whole time we were there. Yes, you want to have the nice dinner at the safari park, and all the kind of stuff, but who wants to pay for a bunch of kids to get a donut or something like that? I don’t want to pay for that.
Kristi – $5.50 per donut.
Kathi – Right. Exactly. We’re not doing that. So, now I need to know why do you do all of your and your husband’s laundry in one day? What is the advantage to you on that?
Kristi – First, we have to keep in mind that there are seven of us in the home. So, the laundry system that works best for us is that we are all assigned a day to get our laundry done. So, that’s natural accountability to get your laundry in and out of the washroom. So, that works for us. It’s going to be a different dynamic for other people. So, for my laundry day, for this week, ‘cause I put it off, because I didn’t do it every week, I had two weeks’ worth of laundry. I had to do four loads yesterday. My key to any one doing laundry is, “Keep your loads small.” What I found, is that everybody stuffs their washing machine because they only want to do it in one load. Who wants to fold a mega? I keep my loads small. It makes my clothes cleaner. Then, when I transfer, I set timers for myself, so I remember to switch them over. Unless, since we’re working in this much house, I hear the timer on the actual washer and dryer, but as soon as it’s done, I pull it out and I fold it right away. I fold it strategically. That sounds really silly, but I’m literally pulling things out of the dryer. I’m pulling all the jeans out for my husband. All my jeans out, so that’s taking up 50% of what’s in the load, then I’m folding everything else and I’m creating piles. So, I had a girlfriend come over and help me with my laundry after a baby, and she literally just stacked all the clothes in one big pile, and it was great that it was done and that she helped, and I loved that, but it just made putting it away that much longer. It’s that extra touch, right? I had to put it here, then I had to touch it again and organize it here. So, it’s too much organization that I have to continue to do, so I just do strategic piles and, before I know it. It’s just, when they’re I don’t let myself start my next cycle, like, I can’t move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, which we have a front load washer and if you don’t open that baby you’re going to have mildew, so maybe that’s my own weird trick. Get a washing machine that’s going to ruin your clothes.
Kathi – But it’s so true, right? I have the front loader as well, and it’s like, “I may not do that again.” I don’t know. It’s a challenge.
Kristi – That’s a whole talk on mildew, right there.
Kathi – Exactly. Okay, so you guys, especially if you have kids, creating these systems that are not questions. Often times, when we’re clutter-y thinking, we’re trying to decide again and again. You just don’t need to do that. Just make one decision and stick with it, then tweak it if it’s not working for you. Now, we have a couple of fun things here. Kristi is going to give us a link to this freebie. Can you tell us about it? Sanity Savers for Moms. Tell me about that.
Kristi – Yes. So, Sanity Savers for Moms is a fun little quick read ebook that I created. It’s just fun. It’s encouraging for moms in the throes of things. So, I have everything. I talk about how to say ‘no’, which is important. I talk about how to make your crockpot your very best friend. Just fun little hacks that bring you more sanity. Like you were just saying, the fewer decisions we are forcing ourselves to make every day, the better.
Kathi – Amen.
Kristi – That’s just my heart for moms, right there. It’s just a fun, quick little ebook.
Kathi – So, I want you to go to the podcast page and download that. Then, there will also be a link to purchase M.O.M. – Master Organizer of Mayhem. We’re also going to give away two copies of this amazing book. Here’s what I want you to do. When you go to the podcast page. I want you to tell me what is your best trick? It doesn’t have to work for everybody, it just has to work for your family. I love what Kristi is saying. Doing all of her laundry on one day works for her family. That’s not my system, but you know what? God bless you! You found something that works for you. Go with it. So, I want to hear what works for you and your family. We’re going to pick two people randomly to receive a copy of M.O.M. – Master Organizer of Mayhem. Kristi, thanks so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.
Kristi – Oh, thank you for having me. This was so fun.
Kathi – And guys, thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items
Meet Our Guest
Learn more at KristiClover.com