Moving from chaos to order is no simple feat for special needs families. Today's post is the first in a 2 part series about creating a more orderly life.

Moving from chaos to order is no easy feat for parents raising kids with special needs. I know that from experience. That experience is what I drew upon recently when asked to speak to special needs parents about how to bring order from chaos. Today’s post is the first in a 2 part series about what I’ve learned about taming chaos over the years.

From Chaos to Order in Ten Easy Steps, Part 1

When my sister and I were kids, we shared a bedroom. We zealously guarded our respective sides of our bed, chest of drawers and vanity dresser. Her sides of each were neat. Mine…not so much. I remember the day when my sister said, “Jolene, if you put just a few things on your side of the dresser, it will look better.” Lo and behold, she was right. Then she added, “And if we make our bed in the morning, our room will look a lot cleaner.” Again, my sister was right. Her wisdom brought much needed order to my natural bent toward chaos. And that little bit of order her suggestions injected into my disorder felt very, very good.

What I learned instilled in me a desire that remains to this day–a desire to transform chaos into order with as little effort as possible. That desire ramped way up after the arrival of our first child who was born with a life threatening birth anomaly that required years of corrective surgery. The problem was that, as I mentioned before, I was not a naturally organized person. I don’t have an innate ability to create order. But I am very good at recognizing and adopting proven organizational techniques and tweaking them to meet my needs. So throughout the early years of our son’s life and after our second child was born 6 years later, I collected organizational strategies and eventually implemented 10 strategies that brought order to our home. Now that my kids are grown and gone, I have time to share those 10 simple steps with you.

The first step is to carve out time for yourself. Even if its 5 minutes a day, find some time to do something that gives you energy and rejuvenates your soul. It could be reading a book, watching the sunrise, a short walk or exercise, or listening to music. It could even be locking yourself in the bathroom and enjoying the quiet.

From Chaos to Order: Step 2

Step 2 is to increase your happiness quotient. Shawn Anchor, who researches happiness at Harvard–this is a job I seriously want–suggests 5 research-proven methods for increasing happiness: write down 3 things your grateful for each day, journal about positive things, meditate, exercise, and practice random acts of kindness. I know time is at a premium for parents, so choose just one of those ideas and try to do it just once a week.

From Chaos to Order: Step 3

The third step is to create ample margins. Refuse to squeeze too much into your day. Instead identify your priorities and stick to them by saying “no” to other activities and events. Say no without feeling guilty. Remember that this season of life will pass. When it does and the margins in your life are more than ample, start saying “yes” to those activities again.

From Chaos to Order: Step 4

Step number 4 is to deal with the obvious first. Like my sister and me making our bed–the biggest thing in our room and the easiest to do. So find the biggest source of chaos in your life that can easily be tamed and deal with it first. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes, and you’ll be motivated to find the next biggest source of chaos that can be easily tamed, too.

From Chaos to Order: Step 5

Step 5 is to start small. The Fly Lady is an online coach who helps people develop house cleaning habits. She recommends starting with just a 15 minute routine that always includes “shine your sink!” Starting small, with just 15 minutes every day, can make a big dent in your family’s chaos.

There you go. The first 5 steps in moving from order to chaos. I’ll be back in 2 weeks with 5 more steps designed to bring order into your special needs parenting life. In the meantime, feel free to share your ideas in the comment box below. Thanks!

Part 2

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