University of Illinois Extension

Getting Organized Saves Time, Reduces Stress

Ann Marie Marshall, Family Life Educator

How many times have you had to search through stacks of papers to find something? Often, we get stressed out because we can't find something we need.

Managing the paper in your life is one way to help you find things quickly and reduce stress. Sometimes we avoid getting organized because the task seems too large. Take time to think through what you want to accomplish. Make a list of what you need to collect and group those items into logical categories.

If the task seems overwhelming, divide it into three parts. Make your first priority to sort things you must keep. Things you may need are second priority, and things you probably won't need but want to hang on to are third priority. Next, think through a system that will work for you. Not everyone has the same space or inclination for organization.

Here are some ideas that have worked for other grandparents:

  • Identify a location to store information. Large envelopes are one suggestion. Label them in large letters with the contents. A spiral or loose-leaf notebook with topic sections helps keep things in order. Sections could include a list of addresses, school information, medical and immunization records, agency contacts, finances, legal papers, and notes. If a notebook isn't flexible enough, you may want to set aside some space in a file cabinet or buy a cardboard file box. If you have a computer, information can be transferred to computer files.
  • Collect more than you need. You never know when a piece of information will be useful.
  • Keep a diary, log, or calendar record of telephone calls with agencies and the parents of your grandchildren. Record the date, with whom you talked, and details of the conversation.
  • As you work toward getting more organized, don't get discouraged. If the task seems too big, try doing just one thing toward the cause each day. You don't have to file everything in one day.
  • Learn to use little bits of time. Sometimes called the Swiss cheese effect, you poke holes in a project that seems too large. Do small chunks at a time instead of waiting for a big block of time. That may never happen.
  • Identify your prime time for paper work. If you are a morning person, try getting up 15 minutes early and work on organization before you get dressed or go near the kitchen.

As you work toward getting more organized, don't be too hard on yourself. Organization takes work and time, but the payback is great. Instead of spending time looking for things, you can use that time to relax or do something else.