The Home Guru: To Organize a Home, Make Lists!

The secret to a one-ordered life at home is really quite simple. Just make lists!

Every day my biggest quest is to better manage my time to maintain a well-ordered life at home and to tend to my business. And, I’ve managed to grow in that endeavor from initially just throwing scraps of paper into a “to do” folder to a system of defining my long-term and immediate goals, organizing them, and setting time frames in which they are to be accomplished.

When I was at a convention last winter in Atlantic City, Bill Rancic of The Apprentice fame was the guest speaker and, during the Q & A, he was asked how he manages to accomplish so much every day. His answer was a simple one:  each night, he makes a list of what needs to be done the next day. Really simple, right?

When he said that, a smile crossed my mind as I thought of my wife who is constantly making lists:  what she will cook for that holiday party and the groceries needed, how she will re-organize her closet, books she wants to read, the guest list for a fundraiser, and items to purchase on her next shopping trip.  I tease her about it.

Frequently, I am asked by homeowners planning to sell their homes how they might best approach doing all the chores needed to be ready. I went to my resident expert and asked her how she could organize a list of tasks designed to make our  home ready for sale, or for that matter, just to improve a home for better living if there is not a plan to sell. 

Almost immediately she came up with a great check list to organize a home, whether it is being staged to sell or simply to enjoy a wonderful living environment, free of defects and clutter. She addressed chores that we needed to do, room by room, and the list was thorough. But the one omission was that there were no real schedules or timetables indicated, other than spaces she left to note “done” or “to do.”  With such an extensive list, it would be easy to avoid doing anything at all if a certain commitment isn’t made to scheduling each chore on the calendar.

This can be handled several ways. Let’s say that a house was going to go on to the market in six months, with the hope of selling it within the next nine months (Should I mention that the expected time to sell a house in Westchester and Putnam, in today’s market, has expanded from six months to nine months?), I would re-juggle the list according to what is practical to do in each of those preparatory six months, starting from the logical point of a project. I’ll give each project a two-week time frame and check off each step along the way as I get to my deadline.  

Or, I can give projects a “most important” to “least important” evaluation, going from numbers 1 to 10 and hitting the low numbers first, but with a designated deadline for each.

My foray into lists about household chores led me to a number of websites that will help you do it. One of these is www.lets-clean-up.com. This site helps remove this burden of listing chores because it remembers everything you tell it. It is based on the premise that it can be a bonding and learning experience for the whole family, each of whom takes responsibility for certain chores and, together, everything is accomplished.  The family that cleans up together stays together.

Another smile crosses my mind as I remember my first household responsibility at age five. I’m sure I was too young to do it well, but watching my mother dust furniture, I asked if I could do it too. I had previously pleaded with her to let me try vacuuming the carpet, but I was so small and the Hoover was so big that I couldn’t push it.  So my mother got a nice clean dusting cloth and said I could be her “official duster.” 

I loved to dust and to see the immediate results of my work.  To this day, I can’t pass a piece of furniture without noticing whether it’s developed a layer of dust.  I just never have a nice dust cloth around to do anything about it.

Bill Primavera is a realtor and columnist who writes frequently as The Home Guru. For information about the housing market or to buy or sell a home, he can be reached directly at: 914-522-2076.


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