Spring cleaning is the perfect time to clear your home, home office (and mind), but how do you get it all done when you’re a work-at-home mom? In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen offers expert tips on easy ways to simplify your life this spring.
Go simple this spring
Learn from your tax mistakes
When your work-at-home income comes from being an independent contractor or business owner, tax time takes on a whole new meaning. Every year when I’m in the throes of tax season, I swear I’ll adopt a more effective system for the coming year. As soon as the pain wears off, however, it’s out of sight, out of mind… and so the pattern goes!
To end the vicious cycle of paperwork procrastination, Alaia Williams, owner of One Organized Business says to embrace the fact that spring cleaning season coincides with tax time. Celebrate the completion of one tax year by archiving the records used to complete the filing, and creating fresh files for the current tax year. Organizing your home office right after tax time, while you’re still clearly in touch with what worked — and what was a major fail — in your recordkeeping system, can shed light on what works for you — even if it’s not sophisticated.
Though there are many “in the cloud” apps that allow you to go paperless, for example, your priority is to find a simple system that naturally fits your life and working style. “An overwhelming system pretty much guarantees you won’t use it,” says Williams.
Tackle the surfaces
If you’re waiting for an opportunity to clear out the entire basement in a heroic act of spring cleaning — expect to wait a while! Instead of making spring cleaning an epic affair, Williams suggests “chunking” projects by tackling surfaces instead of entire rooms. One day, you might clear off desktops and counter space. Another afternoon, clean out one or two junk drawers. “These are quick things you can do that don’t cost you a thing and make a big difference, whether you see it right away or not.”
Get the kids to help
As though you don’t have enough clutter of your own to maintain between running a business and raising a family, your kids’ closets and toy chests are a task all their own. But, the longer you ignore the clutter, the longer it takes to clean. If kids are older, have them go through their own drawers, searching for items that no longer fit, are stained, ripped, or that haven’t been worn in a year, while you do the same. Smaller kids can even help, provided that you post a picture of what items should go where. If kids get distracted or refuse to give up anything, invent small challenges, like who can find the sweater with the two missing buttons.
Regardless of the size of your home office, keeping your personal workspace aesthetically simple inherently eases your mind, and helps you focus. Personal development coach and best-selling author Arvind Devalia suggests facing a clear wall when you work, and removing all paperwork from your work surface. Keep fresh water with lemon nearby to keep yourself hydrated and alert — and less likely to feel distracted by thirst (or snack out of frustration or fatigue). Add something to your office that makes you want to be in it, whether it’s a small fountain, a plant, a soft rug under your desk, or even a candle.
Don’t add to
It’s tempting to buy storage bins, shoe bags and file folders when you’re motivated to get organized, but Williams advises holding off on the “storage shopping” until you know what you need. “Buying lots of boxes and bins can add up quickly. If you take the time to sort and purge your items or paperwork before you go shopping, you’ll know exactly what you need without spending a ton of money, or adding to the clutter.”
Working Mom 3.0
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition their careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one. Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of “working mom,” as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine “having it all” on her own time and terms.