Thursday, February 10, 2011


Feb 10, 2011

Back in the late 1970’s I was striving to organize my home and life, much like now. While at the local bookstore I stumbled across a book titled SIDETRACKED HOME EXECUTIVES ™: from Pigpen to Paradise written by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. It’s been re-published since then, but the concept is still the same. S.H.E. was about to become part of my life.

I took this bright blue book home and read it cover to cover. Highlighting the ideas as I went. The entire concept made a lot of sense to me. Everyone has certain chores they need done daily, weekly, monthly and annually so why not be organized about them. But we all get sidetracked.

You know the old joke/story you probably live it at least occasionally in your life—me it tends to be a nearly everyday occurrence.

You get up in the morning fully planning to getting a certain chore done and at the end of the day, although you have worked hard all day it’s still not done. Some people call it the “but first” syndrome.

Here’s an example for you: Today is laundry day, I’m going to get all the laundry done. As I sort the laundry I see a button about to come off of a shirt. Granny taught me “a stitch in time, saves nine.” So I decide to sew the button on before it gets lost.

I go to the living room for my sewing kit to take care of it. Once in the living room I see bills that need to be mailed that day. It’s 9:30 am and my mail carrier runs at 10:30 am. The mailbox is 2/10 of a mile down the drive. It’s a pretty day and I need exercise.

So I decide to walk down to the mailbox to mail the bills. I grab the camera “just in case”. Whistling for the dogs I head for the mailbox. Stopping along the way to snap photos for the greeting card business and throw sticks for the dogs.

The mail carrier arrives just as I got to the mail box. We chat and exchange envelopes. On the way back I realize I’ve not fed the dogs and other animals yet.

As I feed the dogs the geese honk at me wanting “treats”, I know the garden needs some weeding and they love weeds. I find ripe produce in the garden and decide to pick it… and thus goes the day. By the time I remember the laundry it’s too late in the day to hang them on the line.

All were things that needed done, but the scheduled laundry didn’t happen. Then I felt guilty for not getting it done. Guilt does not look good on anyone.

The two ladies who wrote S.H.E. broke all these much needed chores down into 3 x 5 color coded cards. The system was quite easy. Certain chores on certain days, on easy to spot colored cards. There are days scheduled for relaxing, for bill paying and much more. Each day includes “me time.”

It also talked about how to get help doing those chores. After all why can’t your kids empty all the trash cans in the house? How to organize storage and much more.

The most important part was it was as flexible as you wanted it to be. Little Johnny comes in and needs three dozen cookies for in the morning and baking day isn’t for three days no problem. You simply move your 3 x 5’s around and work out what works best for you at the time. NOTHING is set in stone. You just rearrange the cards. The card is kept in the queue until it’s done and then it’s moved to its next scheduled time.

I’m not sure why we quit using the S.H.E. but as time went on we moved away from it. Over the years we tried other organizational systems and some worked, others didn’t.

I tried the flylady system, which works well for some people. For me it did not, too structured, too unflexible. Quite frankly, those dogs need me to throw sticks for them more than I need to make sure my sink is absolutely shiny every second of the day. Once a day is plenty if something important like LIFE comes up. Nor do I want all the emails that come in from the flylady group nagging me to do certain things at certain times each day. I never did well being nagged at.

Slowly I developed the Princess Plan for my complete decluttering of this ranch. You can read about the basics of it at:

I had just got it going good when the two men lost their job and was making real progress. Then we hit the road. We’ve been home for several months now and I’m having trouble being sidetracked again.

As some of you have read I’ve been working on getting our menus and foodstuffs organized. I decided to do this on 3 x 5 cards. Doing this I remembered I still had that big 3 x 5 storage box in the closet upstairs. Imagine my surprise to find the complete S.H.E. system still inside it, all these years later.

As I looked through the cards I enjoyed memories of my kids school days because of the cards for different events in the box. Suddenly it dawned on me. Part of my problem around here is I have more irons in the fire than a blacksmith. I was tackling each section of my life in a separate way. Lack of organization was undermining my efforts to get organized.

Digging through that 3 x 5 box an idea started forming. Many of the cards were no longer appropriate for our lifestyle or home, but most were.

First step was to sort through those cards and get them set up for the proper days, weeks, months and year.

Next I worked on plans for the Walt Disney World trip this next winter. Because I’m having trouble finding an assortment of different colored cards I’ve been using 3 x 5 different colored cardstock cut to the right size. Luckily I have a greeting card business ( so cardstock is easy for me to find.

WDW is bright pink. On these cards I broke down all that needs to be done to be entirely ready for an easy getaway when the time is right, including fund raising ideas to make it a cash only trip. These cards were divided up between the months between now and then. Viola’ no last minute rushing to pack, make reservations and more importantly no sheer exhaustion that leaves me in tears on the day we leave.

Once I put the things that needed to be done before the trip on those simple 3 x 5 cards the planning didn’t seem so overwhelming.

Garden Planning on bright green cardstock came next. We want to go to a year round gardening system. Again I broke it down, divided it up, including daily and annual for these cards. Again, simplicity.

Menu planning, became white cards with divider cards for the main protein ingredients of my menu plans. Recipe cards in another section alphabetized for easy locating.

Working my way down through the Princess Plan on lavender cardstock I broke the year down exactly the way I had it on the Princess Plan, tying it to the original S.H.E. plan where it fit, adding cards in each time frame where needed.

Mystery shopping and merchandising schedules went on daily cards.

Continuing on through other aspects of our ranch life I added more and more cards. It’s a big card file. But the number of daily cards is not overwhelming, because it’s all broke down and simplified.

I’ve only been back to setting this up during the last month, but I am seeing progress already, of course I still get sidetracked, but when I move the current cards to the next day I don’t feel guilty. I know that all things will come together eventually. I keep finding more things to add to the 3 x 5 system, a few I’ve decided we don’t really need.

My husband smiled when he saw the big file box and realized what I was doing. He knows what’s coming is a return to an organized and clutter free home.

Combining systems is working well for me, maybe it will for you too.

Jan who says for further reading check out not only the book Sidetracked Home Executives but the following websites:

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