Episode 26 –
Organizing your home intentionally with Ashley Strong
“It increased our ability to communicate it even though it’s something so simple as, where would you like this in your house? We started to communicate not only on our environment but then building off of that what we wanted our house to do for us, [based] on our family values.”
Our guest today, Ashley Strong, felt like she was drowning as a new mother of 2. She knew she needed to make a change and she started with her environment.
Now she teaches others how to implement the strategies and organization techniques that have worked so well for her family!
On this episode, I speak with Ashley on organizing your home intentionally and she shares great tips on organizing your family’s home so that it works for each member AND how to deal with all the papers, artwork, and school work that we find in our homes.
Check out Ashley’s course here and use the promo code Raiseology to get 25% off!
What have you done to organize your home this year? Head over to the Facebook group and share! Thanks for listening!
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Welcome to the Raiseology podcast with your host, pediatrician and parenting mentor, Sharon Somekh, here to empower parents to raise resilient and independent children. Grab your coffee or your Margarita and let’s get started. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should be used to supplement rather than substitute the care provided by your physician.
Sharon: Happy New Year everyone, I wanted to invite you all to join the Raiseology Parenting Facebook group. I’ll put the link in the show notes for this month. I will be doing almost daily facebook live sharing different parenting tips every day. So join the group if you haven’t already and I look forward to seeing you there.
Welcome to the podcast and Happy New Year everybody. We are still in that early part of the new year and I am excited to bring to you today’s guests, Ashley Strong and we’re going to talk about getting organized for this New Year and really starting the year off on the right foot. I’m going to let Ashley here introduced herself. She has a really interesting story to tell. Um, so let’s get to it. Thanks for being here, Ashley.
Ashley: Yeah. Thank you for inviting me on.
Sharon: So can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your story, what it is that you do and sort of how you got to that?
Ashley: Yeah, so that’s a really good question. So I am the founder of home intentionally and the creator of the core organization method. And what does that mean? I’m going to tell you about a, about a little over a year ago now. Um, I had given birth to my second child, my son and I was struggling, um, to the transition from one to two is much harder for me and I honestly, we spent maternity leave, I think crying like more often than we did all three of us. And I just, I found myself in this place of just being constantly overwhelmed. I felt like I was failing more often than I wasn’t at that point. I didn’t, I really couldn’t see any wins that I was making. It just seemed like I was failing as a mom, as a wife. Once I got back to work, I felt like I was failing as an employee. Like there’s just a lot of, a lot of heaviness there, and I was tired all the time and beyond normal new mom being tired, right.
I mean I just felt just physically and mentally drained and exhausted and I was also starting to feel really resentful. Um, I was feeling resentful of my husband because I just felt like he wasn’t helping me enough and just really agitated and not myself. And it took me a really long time to finally bring myself to the conclusion that there was something wrong. This was just beyond new mom being tired, having two kids. And really what did that for me is there was one night where I was going back and forth really between the two rooms and I had woken up from the toddler bed, yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that. But I woke up from the toddler bed and in a panic because my son had not woken up at his normal time to be fed.
And I ran into his room and it was Summer at the time, air conditioning was on. But I felt his body and his body was cold. And I had this moment where it was just a few seconds of really his life flashing before his eyes that I saw, I had this moment of, oh my goodness, all my son knows of me is that I am tearful, I am frustrated, I’m anxious and I’m depressed and that’s not okay. And obviously he was fine. It was just the air, but it was, it was really a life changing moment for me and I decided to go get help. Um, and I, I did and I did all the steps. I went to therapy, um, but one of the biggest things that I did for myself was I changed my mindset. I no longer let depression be this source of control over me, but I started to see it as an opportunity for change in my life.
And I really took to my environment at that moment. There’s a lot of studies out there that show you and tell you that our environment has a significant effect and impact on our mental health and our wellbeing. And so that’s where I started. Organization has always been a really natural process for me. So I started decluttering, get rid, get getting rid of things that we didn’t need a really getting down to the basics so I was not managing my stuff anymore and what I had learned from that whole process of going through and taking a deep dive into my home and my environment was that being somebody who’s naturally organized, I was always organizing for myself and what made sense for me. But that was not sustainable because it didn’t make sense for my husband. Didn’t make sense for my kids and instead of me taking the time and asking, I wasn’t. I was just. It was faster for me. I thought it was faster for me to just reorganize and change my environment and when I started letting him in and asking the questions and putting my detective hat on and observing how we use the space, how my kids use the space, I was able to use that information to create sustainable organization systems.
And what was most impactful for me is as my husband started to see this change and this change in our environment. The change in our kids, the change in himself, he looked at me at the end of the week when normally our house would just look like just pure chaos. I always say it as more of it looks like a Frat, like 50 deep of college boys came in and just partied really hard in my house. It’s really how it felt. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but that’s how it felt. And it was toward the end of the week, Thursday or Friday. And he looked around. He goes, wow, our house for once is really clean and I feel really good about that. And then he looked at me and he said, you have to share what you’re doing with people. What you’re doing has not only impacted our house, but it’s impacted all of us and we have more time together and people need this message.
And you know, at first I kind of took that like, I don’t know what, how can I share this? I don’t know that anybody really needs this information from me. Um, and I started, I decided, you know, from talking to him, from talking to other people in my life that started to kind of urge me as they were seeing this change. I started my blog and just started writing about what I was doing. Um, I was writing about different methods that were working for us in our home, working for families. And then I started working with my friends and coaching them in areas of their life and their journey, working with them on creating similar systems in their home. And it really started taking off from the blog and people were very interested and I started getting requests for creating a course. Um, so then I dove into that and really my goal, my mission is to help families create organization, sustainable organization systems in their home so that they can create more freedom and time to do what they love with who they love, right?
So they can be more intentional and just be more mindful about where they are and, and it, it improves your mental health, it strengthens your relationships. It did a lot for my marriage. Um, and the time that I had really purposeful time that I had with my children, it decreased the time that I was cleaning up and just increase the time that I had with my family where I was really and truly in the moment. So it was very impactful for me and I hope to be able to share that message with others and help them find the same thing in their lives.
Sharon: Yeah, I mean, can you talk a little bit about sort of how it affected your marriage and how it changed your relationship and, and really what kind of involvement it required from your husband. I mean, I’m thinking about even my home, right? And um, what would need to happen in our home for us to really feel that we had a good system in place and, and I’m curious to see sort of, now he appreciates and knows the value of it, but when you were first starting to make these changes, how did he get involved? Or did you involve him at all? And I imagine today he needs to be a partner in that, in that system.
Ashley: Yeah. So that’s a great question. So really kind of going back to the strengthening of our marriage. So at the point of kind of my lowest point of being in this depressed state and I would, I would get very frustrated and very agitated with him. I mean honestly, I would spend a lot of time cleaning and organizing only for him to not put things away. And in my mind it felt very, very much of like he didn’t care. Um, I felt very hurt. I felt like he didn’t really want to be involved, which really wasn’t true. It’s just, you know, our minds kind of start playing on our emotions and telling stories. So in my mind that was the story I was telling that my husband didn’t care and, and so that resulted in a shift in my behavior toward him then and being frustrated with him and that resentment was coming out.
I was a little bit short tempered. I’m not definitely not definitely not the person that I wanted to be or the wife that I want it to be, but we were starting to fight a little bit more and, and disagree on things and um, or he just wasn’t fully communicating with me because what’s the point when somebody is just going to snap at you and yell at you? Right.
Um, so when I started this process and kind of, when I first made the shift in my mind to see this as an opportunity and let him know that I was going to make changes, um, I think he knew that I was serious about things, but he didn’t necessarily jump on the bandwagon right away. Right. He wasn’t like, okay, sweet, let’s clean our house. Um, this is going to make it all better. But as he started to see some of the changes in me, just as in my personal development, he started to notice, I think a different approach to how I was working through my house.
And then I started to notice that, hey, he’s not doing this intentionally. Right. He’s not actually just trying to disrupt my whole being by leaving things out on the counter, like that’s not as intent. He doesn’t want to make me angry. Um, he is a very visual person and he even has a song where he says everybody needs a little bit of clutter. For him, that visual sense of things being out, being accessible to him is very calming versus to me that’s like the opposite of common.
Sharon: He doesn’t want to have to search for things, right?
Ashley: He does not want to have to search for things he doesn’t want to guess. And the other thing was I was coming up with systems that made sense for my brain and where I put things made sense for me, but he didn’t know that I wasn’t communicating how I was organizing things, where I was putting things, I was just doing it and expecting him to know, right. Um, which obviously wasn’t, wasn’t not successful. So when I started to really stop and say, okay, so you keep leaving, you know, you’re close on this part of the floor even though there’s a hamper right here, how can I help you with this? What do I need to do? And he’s like, oh, well, it just makes more sense for the hamper to be right. Here I am. This is where I tend to change my clothes, whatever. Okay, fine. So we can move the hamper here. And then the clothes naked in the hamper. I’m happy, you’re happy.
For the kitchen, there were certain things that when we sat down and had the discussion that he felt like he needed accessible to him when he’s cooking, he wants to have the spatula, the spoon and those types of things in arm’s reach for him. He wants to have the cooking oil in arm’s reach for him. And for me, I’m like, okay, but we have tons of cupboards and drawer space. Can we put it in arm’s reach away? Uh, but for him, that visual, he needed that visual representation. He doesn’t want to have to try to figure out where it is. So, um, we use trays on our counter, so at least it’s controlled of where things are, but it helps. I started putting labels on things and, and having that conversation to say like, hey, does it make sense for me to put the pasta here? Yep. Okay. And labeling it and those labels, although it sounds a little crazy, those were so impactful because then I didn’t necessarily need to nag him and say, uh, the pasta goes here. Remember we talked about it. It’s very obvious that the pasta goes there.
And what was funny was that I wasn’t necessarily sure if it was working, if it was the communication or the labels or a combination. And one of the labels had actually fallen off of one of the bins I was using and had something the kids food or kids’ snacks written on it from what I had used it before. And sure enough over the week the kids snacks started coming into that bin versus the pasta. So it was kind of a combination of all of that and that, that, those labels. But he appreciates it because I’m not necessarily having to constantly nag him or talked to him or, or say, hey, just so you know, I rearrange things and I’d really like you to put the rice here. He has that visual representation and as a visual person that’s really helpful. But for me it’s also, it has a home which is very important and it’s put away in a sense.
So it worked really well for both of us. It increased our ability to communicate it even though it’s something so simple as, where would you like this, you know, in your house? We started to communicate not only on our environment but then building off of that what we wanted our house to do for us on our family values. So for us having dinner at home together, was very important. Cooking together is very important. And so having a kitchen that worked for both of us allowed us to both be able to cook in the same space. It was no longer filled with tension and that resentment or just not wanting to talk because of where we were. But really being able to enjoy the things that we once loved again and I think it was really a result of both of us kind of dropping our stories, both coming together and having that communication, which I don’t think would have happened right away just in the sense that there had been a lot of damage.
There’d been a lot of hurt on probably on both of our ends, but just in how I reacted to things. So I needed to start making the change for myself. I knew that I couldn’t control or have him want to buy in right away. But starting that change and then leading to that, that communication and those, those just the conversation about how we wanted things set up, which was very much reminiscent of when we first got married and we talked about finances, we talked about religion, we talked about how many kids we wanted, we talked about all of those things, but we never once talked about how we would use or organizers space what our family values would be in that sense. Um, or how our family values would impact the space that we had. So it really forced us to have those conversations too, on not only that superficial level but almost a deeper level.
Sharon: Yeah, I love that. How, how do you involve your kids in this process? Because you have young children, right? You said one of them is a year old, so obviously he’s not organizing anything quite yet. How old is your other child?
Ashley: So my daughter is two and a half and then my son is one. So in a traditional sense and a lot of rooms you see for kids spaces is putting everything in a toy box or something like that. Um, which is great. There’s nothing wrong with a toy box, but what seems to happen is, you know, your child wants whatever’s in the bottom of the bin and they toss everything out. So then you have all of these toys and chaos and it can be overwhelming for them as well. So in organizing their spaces, I have designated bins for certain things.
So if we’re going to play with the kitchen, we pull out the kitchen bin and play with all of the things that our kitchen, her dishes, her fake food, all of that kind of stuff. Um, and then the process for us is that after we’re done playing with that thing and we want to move on to something else, we put everything back in that bin and put it away. And for my daughter, my son’s not so much involved. He’s starting to put things away in the bin. Um, but for her, she likes to know what’s in those bins and be able to be independent and do it on her own. So we were at, and this is more of a recent thing, but her and I were able to sit down and pick out pictures in magazines of what that looks like. So what’s in the bin? Is it a baby doll or baby dolls and doll things? Is it her kitchen things? Is it her superheroes? And cut out pictures. And then she helped me actually put it on the bin itself. So now she’s, she knows exactly what’s in there.
We did the same thing with her clothes recently because she’s starting to want to be a little bit more independent and dress herself and pick her own things out. That’s great. She’s very opinionated on what she’s going to wear. Um, so to make that process easier for her, we did the same type of things with her clothes bins so she can actually go in and say, okay, I need a, I need a shirt, I need pants. Um, and it’s a little bit less of a mess. She can put it back. Of course they’re not perfectly folded, but that’s not really the point.
I want to encourage them to just know how to take care of their things and do and really train them to be independent and put their things away. Um, so that’s, that’s how we kind of involve them in every night prior to really before dinner, we have kind of a quiet pickup time where we involve them as well. Again, my son is still a little young. He kind of gets the point, but it’ll take him awhile to get there. But my daughter is a little bit more understanding of our process, so at the end of the day it’s a 20 minute pickup and everybody kind of picks up anything that’s on the floor and she participates in that process and she, she knows now that’s part of their routine. So she’s kind of tends to expect it. And about five, 5:30, she’ll even start picking up because she just knows that that’s of the next step before dinner.
Sharon: That’s great. Um, how long would you say would you anticipate making all of these changes should take a family?
Ashley: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So it kind of depends on the family and the eagerness of each person to be a part of this process. In most cases I would say it’s one person that feels the need initially kind of similar to my situation where I felt that there was a need to change and I felt like it needed to come from our environment, but it took about a month and a half month, month and a half for my husband to really start seeing the effects not only in our environment but ourselves. And then once he was on board, actually things started to pick up a little bit faster, so we in ourselves, we’re able to organize the main parts of our house and really create those systems in about three to four months, um, which does seem like a long time, but because you’re, you’re not just creating something once or you’re not creating something that you then have to continually reorganize and do that whole rinse and repeat process.
Once we have these systems organized and created these systems in our home, we actually spend less time cleaning it. For the most part, we can maintain our house in about 20 minutes time of day. So it was worth every bit of that, roughly four months period to get everything the way we wanted it. Organization is a process. So there will still be things, especially as our kids grow, that we’ll have to kind of work on at that time. I would say if both people are. For instance, there’s a woman in my course and both her and her husband actually see the need for this and they’re excited about it. I worked through with her and just some steps on how to have this conversation upfront and to be honest with him. And so she started with that conversation and he was very receptive. So in the first two weeks of this course, she’s actually made pretty substantial headway in her home and is already finding that sweet spot of that 20 minutes even though she’s in process. So she’s, she’s already seen the great value in that short period of time.
Sharon: Yeah. I think, um, like you said, I mean for every family that the challenges are going to be a little bit different. I know for us, like our biggest challenge, um, and I’m, I’m sure that a lot of people struggle with this, but we have, you know, kids of all different ages. They, um, they all also have very different personalities in terms of how organized they are internally. Um, and um, and I find the hardest thing for us happens to be like papers that come from school. Um, even for our littlest ones, like the projects that come home to the oldest were, you know, homework assignments that it’s like, once they’re graded and done, my, my personal feeling is like, okay, let’s get rid of it, you know, and obviously I’m not getting rid of every single project, right? Because our kids made them and they’re special. But how many pieces of paper with circles drawn on them can you possibly keep? And my kids are totally fine with throwing things away and some of my kids I already see their hoarder personalities coming through, so it’s interesting. And, and, and my husband in all honesty, happens to be the more organized of the two of us, but he also is the one that doesn’t like to let go of things, which is a very interesting dichotomy there. Um, so how would you speak to that?
Ashley: Yeah, so this is actually one of my favorite topics because it is such a challenging space for most people. Um, and I think paper is probably one of the number one sources of clutter I’m in in most homes. So it’s very normal. And so in terms of all of the projects and kind of school papers and things like that, of course, like you said, you don’t want to get rid of all of those things, right? For the younger kids, what I recommend doing is, and really even for the older kids too, is having some sort of memory box or accordion folder or something like that that they can keep the things that are important to them and that might change as they grow. But those special projects, they have a place and so they’re no longer kind of piling up on your counters or your desk or someplace like that. But they have a place for them.
And another thing that I like to do is, and I’m not sure if you’ve seen them, there are like shadow boxes that have a hinge on it so you can actually open and close them. And what I like to use those for it. So you can display your child’s artwork for as long as you want. Maybe each, you know, special picture gets, um, a week or a month to kind of up on the wall. But it’s a nice way to really present their work, make them feel special about their accomplishments, and then having the conversation with them of what they want to do with it. Is it something that they want to keep in their memory box? Is it something that maybe you can that maybe grandma wants to hold onto for a little bit? Maybe she wants to put that up on their wall.
A friend of mine, it was really funny because I asked her how she dealt with it and she said both of her mother and her mother in law, they live out of state, so all of the pictures get about a month, about a week or so on their refrigerator and then they all get packed up and shipped to either grandma or both grandmas either set and then they get to determine what to do with the. With the paper. So if you yourself have a hard time kind of determining if you should get rid of that are not passing it off to somebody else sometimes is okay. Grandma’s like, those things have in most cases, I don’t recommend passing it off to somebody else. Um, and then have as your child gets older too, you can start having the conversation of is this something that we should keep or with like the homework for instance, I know for some, and you know in some cases I’m kind of like this too, and I know I was like this in college, but I might need to reference this physics lab at some point and if that’s the concern and you can go through and ask them, like if you get rid of this physics lab, what are you going and you do need to reference it. Where can you find this information? Like is it completely gone and you’ll never know it? Or could you find it again online or in your textbook? Or are there other options? For some people that works, for some it doesn’t, so you can, you have an area that they keep their things and then I would say maybe yearly at the end of the school year, kind of going through those papers again and determining is it something that they need to keep, have they referenced it and kind of trying to work through some of that with them so they know that if they get rid of this, what’s the worst that can happen? Okay. They might need, they might need what the information on there, they might want to reference it, but where else can we reference it so it’s not gone. Right.
And the other thing that I like to do is there’s a lot of programs like shutterfly that you can actually create books and this is probably more so for the, the little art and different things that our kids tend to draw on and make you know the same circle over and over again that you can scan those in and create a book for them. So then they always have it, but you don’t necessarily need to hold onto all of the projects and the paper in that sense, but you’re still recognizing all their work and it’s something that you can look back on, um, you know, when they’re 20 or they can look back on and you can say, look, this was the book that you made or this is the first person you drew, or um, something like that. So it’s still there and you’re still recognizing and appreciating those memories. Um, but they’re not necessarily necessarily paper that’s cluttering your home.
The other thing for maybe assignments and things like that is having them scan them and keep them. Maybe if it’s math that they really feel like what they wrote down for those notes they might want to reference and it might be easier for them to reference their own notes. Having them develop a system by scanning something and having a math folder on their computer and then routinely reviewing that and determining if it’s, have you really used it? Is it helpful to you? But helping them kind of develop their own way of organizing and determining how for them would make the most sense.
Sharon: Yeah. I love that book idea.
Ashley: We’ve made a couple already for Bella. She writes on everything, she’s really excited about it and I am too. I love it all, but I, I want to be able to keep some of that and reference it, but not necessarily like I know my mom and I’m the oldest of six girls so I know she has like and I think recently she’s gotten rid of most of it but she for awhile with saving every art project and every little drawing that we made on any scrap of paper and I mean she ended up having a large bins of, of these papers. So, um, which didn’t, I mean we weren’t able to really look back at it either unless we took out a bin, although I understood why we were keeping in. It didn’t necessarily serve us. So the book’s ideas are kind of nice because you can have that on a shelf and you can look at that and you can show, you know, grandma or grandpa or aunts and uncles when they come or a kind of reminisce on that as they get older.
Sharon: Yeah. Well, you gave us a lot of really great tips and I really appreciate that you shared your story too. I think that um, there was, there’s a lot to learn from that. Um, how can the audience get in touch with you if they would like help organizing or re-organizing their home?
Ashley: Yeah. Um, so probably one of the two of best places to find me online and that is my site homeintentionally.com that has a lot of information on my blog and other resources that I do offer. And then my facebook community Home Intentionally is a really great community of like-minded, most of them are moms, but this, what I teach isn’t necessarily just for families. It translates very well to, to anyone. So there are kind of a diverse group in there, but mostly moms, really looking for ideas and ways that they can be more intentional about their time and their space and it’s very interactive. So I really love that. So those are probably my two best places to really reach out to me and all my contact information is on my site so they can feel free to book a call or whatever they feel like they need in this season of their life.
Sharon: Great. Thank you. And I will put all the links to all of that in the show notes. And then you did mention briefly that you have a course and um, can you just briefly tell us about that?
Ashley: Yeah. So my core organization course is a course that you can work through the same process essentially that I worked through when I was in my, when I was struggling with all of this. I’ve just laid it out in a little bit easier way where you can within six weeks really develop that communication strategy with your significant other and your family. You can organize the main rooms in your home so you know your living room, your bathroom, your kitchen bedrooms, those main spaces, create your own sustainable organization systems and then develop ways to maintain those in as little as six weeks. With the course you get a workbook, you also get coaching and group calls end to be a part of a really great community of people striving for the exact same goal that you are. Um, so that is open enrollment will close January 31st, and for anyone in your group, if they use the promo code Raiseology, they will get 25 percent off the course.
Sharon: Oh, thank you. That’s great.
Ashley: Yeah. The New Year is a really good time to really dive into this and, and the benefits of really boosting your mental health, reducing the time that you’re cleaning, spending more time with your family and strengthening those relationships. Those are priceless. So being able to start your year off in, in such a great positive light and will really transcend throughout the year and years to come.
Sharon: Awesome. Well thanks again for being here and for all of your great tips and tricks and happy new year!
Ashley: Happy New Year!
Thanks for listening to the Raiseology podcast. Head over to www.Raiseology.com where you’ll find plenty of. You’ve got this resources for parents and any links or tools mentioned in today’s show. Be sure to hit subscribe on your podcatcher so they you can listen to the next episode, the minute it’s out. Until next time, have an empowered week.
Meet Your Mentor
Sharon is a general pediatrician, loving wife and mother to 4 daughters.
After a decade of practicing general pediatrics and working with families, she realized there often wasn’t enough time while tending to children’s medical needs to help parents in the way that would be most helpful in shaping their children’s futures.
The Raiseology Program was developed to teach parents how to raise their children with the love and authority necessary to promote resilience and responsibility.
Sharon’s experience with hundreds of families as well as her own help her meet you where you are on your parenting journey to help you make it what you want it to be.
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