Former tech CEO, motivational speaker, author, and mom of 10 Jennifer Davis understands the chaos a messy house can bring better than anyone else.
Tasked with managing a huge household and a constant impending crisis, organizing her house was a necessity for Mrs. Davis. And, over time, her house has become a model of tidy calm.
About 20 years ago, Mrs. Davis and her husband, Dan Davis, were going through a challenging time in their lives. With their software business, Davisware LLC, growing rapidly, they had offices in Chicago, Boston, and India.
As Mr. Davis ran the engineering side of the business, he had to travel extensively. In 2004, he spent more than 200 days in India. During this time, Mrs. Davis, who was in charge of business operations and pregnant with their fifth child, was left to manage the household often as a single parent.
“It really was an extraordinarily hard time in our lives," Mrs. Davis told The Epoch Times.
Having small children, Mrs. Davis made a mindset shift and integrated both her personal and professional life into one. She dubbed this “Living Exponentially,” which is also the title of her Amazon Best-selling book.
By doing this, she noticed that she could apply a lot of organizational skills from her workplace to her home.
"As a mom, I tried to ensure that there was someone in the household who could be available to help manage the crisis," Mrs. Davis said. "There never seemed to be a day that passed when a kid didn’t forget their uniform, homework, lunch, etc."
By design, the entrepreneurial power couple located their workplace just two minutes from their kids' school, making it easier to deal with the crises.
As more people were added to the household, Mrs. Davis found that the biggest challenge she encountered was that the kids weren't putting things back in the right place, and thus, a lot of time was wasted trying to find where each thing was located.
1. Establish a Workflow“Developing the physical ability to have a workflow and then following the workflow is key to starting an organized home,” she said.
Using the simple example of a mudroom (shoe and coat storage room), Mrs. Davis says hers intentionally has no door: “It’s one less thing to get in the way."
Putting up hooks for each kid, as well as a beautiful basket above each hook for their trinkets, meant that they could always locate their coat and keep track of their belongings. Also, there's a bulletin board for important notes located right above the conveniently located, built-in bench, making it easy to see and put there immediately upon arriving home.
2. Eliminate TrashVery early into her parenting journey, Mrs. Davis realized that a great deal of her picking up had to do with trash. She started going through her mail in the car, putting the excess into the recycling, and all extra packaging—“whether it be toothpaste or shampoo, etc.,”—was immediately removed when the groceries came home.
3. Label EverythingMrs. Davis uses a label maker for almost everything.
"It doesn't take kids long to understand how to put things away if they see them always put there, and if you are the best example of how to do it,” she said.
When Mrs. Davis’s kids were small, she used pictures and colors as well as actual words to help with this.
“In our multi-section laundry chute, I had the colors of the rainbow in each chute, so they knew exactly which color went down which row,” she said.
4. Touch It Once and Sort EverythingMrs. Davis approaches everything from a "touch-it-once" perspective. This means deploying methods such as laundry sorters instead of throwing clothes straight into a basket and placing dirty dishes into the dishwasher in a similar methodology to how they’ll be put away.
5. Use Clear BinsWhenever possible, Mrs. Davis places things into clear containers. This trick not only allows her to see what food is running low but helps members of the family see all their options before making a selection, eliminating the need for kids to open all sorts of packaging to see what’s inside.
When storing hand-me-down clothing, it was all labeled by size in clear bins. This helped make it very easy to see what was stored in the bins in order to swap things around.
“I am a huge fan of clear bins and containers,” Mrs. Davis said.
For Mrs. Davis, who thrives on order, her enthusiasm for organization stems from her childhood as she grew up with an “organized hoarder” mother and an “organized purger” father.
This taught her and her eight siblings to organize, whether it was a lot or a little.
While waking up to a tidy house is a pleasant feeling, Mrs. Davis says that the rewards of decluttering are manifold.
"The biggest advantage of decluttering, and one most busy moms don't even think about, is that I answer a lot less questions," she said. "The less things we have, the less questions there are to answer. It's pretty simple."
She also believes that decluttering helps with freeing up the mental capacity to use time and resources effectively.
"The more things we have, the less of our own time that we have," she said, noting that just moving, dusting, and cleaning requires time.
Mrs. Davis revealed her most effective tip for decluttering: having a giveaway drawer in her laundry room and kitchen or a laundry basket in her wardrobe.
"Every single time I think there's something I don't need, I put it in there," she said. "By the time the baskets are full or the drawers are full, I then make the final decision."
With the chance to take a final look, Mrs. Davis makes a more informed decision about what she doesn't need since she understands the attachment that comes with owning things.
Since sharing her philosophy and tips online, many are discovering that they can thrive in a more orderly environment. The long and short of it is making each moment count, Mrs. Davis said.
“Shut the TV off, put down the devices. Immerse yourself in your spaces and in your family, and you will find much lost time to keep your house and your family organized," she said. “Most of the time, we waste opportunities to create order by allowing ourselves moments of laziness.
"Tomorrow’s mess doesn’t get less daunting or smaller, put a shoulder into it and get it done. You will never regret taking the time to get organized or create a better space for your family in the morning.”
And finally, Mrs. Davis said to not underestimate the value of children helping out.
“Often, as mothers, we feel we’re not doing our duties by delegating them, when in fact, delegating them teaches our kids the skills they need to live," she said.