Focus on the Family Broadcast

Practical Tips for Getting Organized (Part 2 of 2)

Practical Tips for Getting Organized (Part 2 of 2)

Kathi Lipp and Jean Daly discuss the value of house organization and explain what it means to treat your living space like a “grown-up kindergarten room.” Our guests also offer suggestions for best cleaning practices. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: August 2, 2013


John Fuller: Last time on “Focus on the Family,” we had a rather humorous confession from one of our guests and it happened to be Jean Daly, Jim Daly’s wife about something she just can’t seem to get rid of.


Mrs. Jean Daly: I still have the mold from when I got my braces when I was 15 and I did show my boys and we had a good laugh over that. But I think now I can probably get rid of that. (Laughter)

Mrs. Kathi Lipp: So, here are a couple of questions.

John: Jim is hoping you will. (Laughter)

Jean: Well, I just wanted [them].

Jim Daly: I threw those away a long time ago. (Laughter) Sorry to tell you.

Jean: No, I dug them back out. (Laughter)

End of Recap

John: Well, I’m not sure what you might be hanging onto from your childhood days, but we’re going to be talking about how you could bring your organizational skills to bear on your home and reallyclean things up. Along with Jean Daly, we also have Kathi Lipp, the author of The Get Yourself Organized Project and our host is Focus president, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, you’re a brave man. (Laughter) We’re coming back to a topic that a lot of folks struggle with and not only that, but you brought your spouse in, as well to help you.


Jim: Well, I’ll tell you about household organization (Laughing), but you know, Jean and I, we’ve just lived it. You know, this is an area for us that we’ve had to work on, that we’ve had to communicate about. We don’t always do it well and one of the things I thought it’d be great to have Jean here, to hold me accountable, to make sure I wasn’t presenting a perfectionistic orientation, but Jean, it’s great to have you back.

Jean: Thank you. (Laughter) It’s great to be here. I have many areas that need help (Laughter) with organization.

Jim: Kathi, it is great to have you back. Thanks for last time and let’s get right to it.

Kathi: Sounds good.

Jean: Okay, Kathi, I need help and I’m sure if I need help, there are millions and millions

Jim: I’m sure, maybe billions.

Jean: –of … yes (Laughter), hundreds of millions of other women and men who need help with the piles of paper.

Kathi: Oh.

Jean: I have piles and piles and piles of paper.

Kathi: Yeah.

Jean: How do we first of all, even begin sorting these piles of paper and then I would love to know, okay, once we have them sorted, how do you stay on top of it? What do you do with the mail that comes in every day?

Kathi: Okay. Let me blow something up really quickly here. I think before we sort, we have to get rid of about 90 percent of our paper.

Jim: Amen.

Jean: Yeah. (Laughter)

Kathi: Because what I think so many of us are trying to do is organize stuff we’re never going to use. I know I can find myself in that. You know, how many Bed Bath & Beyond coupons does one person (Laughter) use?

Jean: Oh, no! (Laughter) No! No!

Jim: You are hitting the nerve.

Jean: Oh.

Kathi: Oh, no.

Jean: I’m sorry.

Jim: They must send us a coupon every other day.

Jean: No, I am sorry. (Laughter)

Jim: I chuck those things. She digs (Laughter) ‘em out of the trash. She digs ‘em out of the trash. I chuck ‘em every other day, those big cardboard [coupons].

Jean: They never expire, Kathi.

Jim: Oh.

Kathi: It depends on which Bed Bath & Beyond yougo to.

Jim: But they’re not cumulative. (Laughter) I mean, if you missed today’s, guess what? Three days from now you got another one.

Jean: This is some intervention. (Laughter) Kathi, help me with it. One time I had a friend e-mail, asking all of us, did we have any extra Bed Bath & Beyond coupons.

Jim: Yeah.

Jean: That was probably 12 years ago and since that day, I make sure I have at least 20 at any given time (Laughter), okay.

Jim: We’ve got drawers full.

Kathi: So I think it’s really important to get all of your papers into one place and then go through every nook and cranny. Find every loose paper, every pile. Get it into one place and get rid of as much paper as you possibly can.

John: How?

Kathi: You know, well, first of all, if you’re saying, well, we could use that coupon if we ever happen to be out of town and it’s a Tuesday, because those circumstances are never going to come up in life. You need to throw whatever that piece of paper is away.

If you are doing a lot of things like those punch cards and things like that and you want to keep those organized, I just keep a little coupon filer in my car with that kind of stuff. And take it with me when I go shopping. But you have to develop a system where you have to get your paper to where you’re using it. That’s the big thing. So, really what you want to be able to do with paper is find what you need when you need it, right?

Jim: Well, what’s the old adage about “touch it once?”

Kathi: Right.

Jim: Talk to me about that. I use that at work.

Kathi: Yeah.

Jim: I try to use that at home, but those Bed Bath & Beyond coupons (Laughing), I seem to touch ‘em 15, 20 times.

Kathi: Yeah, they multiply; I get it. So, one of the things I think is really important, you’ve heard this 100 times, but I think it’s so important to go home and make this happen, is wherever you go through your mail, have a recycling bag. And try to get rid of as much mail as you possibly can. Because you know when you put a piece of paper down, it’s like a wildfire. It starts with one and then all of its friends come to party. And then you can’t find the one thing you need.

So, get rid of as much of the incoming stuff as you possibly can. And then two, get all your papers into one place where you can process it. And that’s where I use what I call the “Life Organizational File.” And this is a file. It’s just a box that has file folders in it. And it has 12 month folders. So, January through December. And then, 31 day files, one for each day of the month.

So, say for example, you’re coming up on March. Towards the end of February what I would do is, I would go through my March folder. And I put everything in there that needs to happen in March. So, say I have a birthday invitation that I need to go that birthday and it has the instructions for March 15th. I put it in the March folder.

Say there are bills that need to be paid in March. I put ‘em in the March folder. A few days before the first of March, I will go through that folder and put all of those papers in the 1 through 31 of that month.

Jim: So, a little more granular organization.

Kathi: Exactly. So, day to day I open up that file and I look through it and say, okay, what needs to be accomplished today? Now I have a brain like a 5-year-old when it comes to doing responsibilities and things every day. So, here are two things I do. I get those tear-off a day calendars with a comic strip that I really enjoy and I put those into each folder throughout the month, so I have something to read. I have something to look forward to. I also drop in five random $5 Starbucks cards (Chuckling).

Jim: This is good.

Jean: That’s good.

Kathi: Yeah. It’s my own little reward system. So every day I go and I look, no Starbucks today. But you know, as I process the paperwork, but probably the next day there’s gonna be a Starbucks. And there’s gonna be a Starbucks some time that week. And so, I’ve actually had my kids drop those in. I’ll do it, because it makes it more fun for me and it makes it something I will check off. So, processing every piece of paper through that life file system means I’m not gonna miss stuff and I don’t have the emotional weight of papers all over the house.

Jim: Hm.

Kathi: I have them in one place. Because I think part of the reason we don’t want to come home some nights is because of the papers. We see these piles everywhere. And you know that there’s a bill over there. You know that there’s something that your mother-in-law’s waiting for over there. You know that your kids’ permission slip is over here. And you know there are crises waiting for you.

Jim: Hm.

Kathi: And that’s why that life organizational file will keep you from having to experience those crises.

Jim: Can I talk to you just briefly in terms of the tension this can create. You know, we do a lot of women’s events. We do men’s events. And this area of organization seems to rise right to the top. You know, certainly finances in marriages are a difficulty. Other issues are a difficulty. But ironically, the organization seems to be tension in the relationship. So, what we’ve talked about today hopefully, will bring some healing to that issue and some practical help to get couples to relax and be able to get through this stuff. But talk about the tension point. What can a husband do to make it better? What can a wife do to make it better when you have a person who’s a thrower and a keeper, a saver and a weeper?” (Laughter)

Kathi: Yeah, (Laughter) right.

Jim: Whatever the words are but talk about the relational dynamic between husband and wife in this regard when there is a lot of tension around it.

Kathi: Well, and isn’t it funny, we marry our opposites in this.

Jim: So often it’s true.

Kathi: So often it is so true. And so, the areas that my husband is organized in are the ones I struggle in and vice versa. And so, we’ve had to communicate and say, here are my fear points. Here are my pain points when it comes to organization.

One thing that we both hate to do is pay bills. We just absolutely hate it. And so, we had to say, okay, what is keeping us from doing this? And I think that there [were] money issues andfear and things like that. Finally what we did and this is gonna sound crazy to those people who are super organized and sit down and, you know, balance their checkbook to the penny. But we finally had to set up another reward system. And we call it “Finances and Food.” And it’s our one night of the week that we go out to dinner and it’s our reward for sitting down and doing finances. And the thing that used to cause us a lot of tension now is something that we actually look forward to, ‘cause it’s a date night and it’s fun.

But we had to really communicate about that and say, this is a struggle for us. We have to admit that neither of us are great at this and we want to become good stewards of our money and we want to honor God with our finances. So, we’re gonna treat ourselves like little kids in a little bit in a small way and just say, we’re going to reward ourselves. And I think that when we can go around and say, you’re really good at this. I’m gonna trust you with this area.

Jim: Hm.

Kathi: I’m really good at this. I’m going to take over this area. And you let me know if you need support from me, if you need something. And what we came to realize for finances, Roger just wanted somebody to sit there with him and help him make decisions. That was the big thing. He was going off and doing it by himself and feeling like I was gonna be frustrated with the decisions he made.

Jim: So, he was getting stuck.

Kathi: Yes, exactly.

Jim: That’s frustrating.

Kathi: And so, he just physically needed me to be there so we could have the conversation. And when it comes to something that, you know, cleaning out the garage, I will be in charge of my areas. He will be in charge of his. But we can support each other and say, do you want me to take that to Goodwill? Do you want me to throw that out?

And we have to realize that nobody is every going to match us perfectly in this. But we have to lead all these conversations with grace. And if we can approach this and say, you know what? I know you’re not perfect. I’m not perfect in this, but we’re going to try to work together and lay out some steps. So, I think if you can agree on a system and say, we’re gonna work this together as a team, instead of both trying to do it on our own and being frustrated with each other or nobody doing it and being really frustrated with each other. I think that gives you a winning combination.

Jim: Oh, it’s so true and you know, here at Focus we’ve seen correspondence where people actually, you know, they’re headin’ to divorce because they haven’t been able to work this out. It says something about the relationship in a far deeper way, that it surfaces. The symptoms of it can show themselves in this area of lack of organization and it just pushes the couples to fight, fight, fight, fight.

Kathi: Because a lack of organization points out all your faults and it brings them to the surface and all your weak points. And people feel such shame around that, that it looks like it’s easy for everybody else and they can’t get their own lives together. And it brings up weaknesses in your relationship. And so, when you think about these areas, you know, the time, of course, everybody is struggling with time. Finances, these are things that really show themselves in this area and there’s a lot of pain, but there’s also a lot of hope, because if we say, “Okay, I’m gonna take 15 minutes and I’m gonna make this little portion of my home better. I’m gonna make this so that we can operate more fully in our kitchen, in our laundry area, all these areas that can bring me and so many women I know to tears and saying, we’re gonna get on top of this. And when you get on top of one area, it gives you hope for the next area and you can come back to that and say, “Okay, this is running well, I still need to keep up on this, but now I’ve got an idea of how I can make this other area run in our lives.”

Jean: Kathi, I read something in your book that honestly was revolutionary.

Kathi: Ooh.

Jim: Hm.

Jean: Laundry isn’t done until the clothes are put away. I’m telling you, that this (Laughter) is news to me.

Kathi: This is the T-shirt I should be printing.

Jim: Well, hold it.

Jean: Yes.

Jim: When is laundry done in your mind?

Jean: When it’s laying all over the love seat (Laughter) where the boys are supposed to put them away. Jim: When it’s clean and dry.

Jean: When it’s clean and dry.

Jim: Clean and dry, okay, yeah.

Kathi: Yeah.

Jean: Andjust so many women there who are buried in their laundry.

Kathi: Laundry is one of the biggest issue[s]. I would say laundry and getting dinner on the table for women are so frustrating because, one, [they] never end. I’ll never forget when I was gone for the weekend and Roger wanted to bless me, so he did all the laundry. And I came home and he put it away. I mean, he blessed me.

And then, I went to get changed to take a shower and he was like, “But I did all the laundry. Now there’s stuff in the hamper.” (Laughter) And I’m like, welcome to my world!

John: It’s never-ending.

Kathi: This is what happens every single day, because it never ever ends. And I understand how overwhelming it was, especially when we had so many kids in the house. And so, we have to work backwards, because I think one of the reasons people get frustrated with laundry is they don’t want to put it away. And the reason they don’t want to put it away is because their drawers are already so stuffed.

Jean: Yes.

Kathi: They have to push it down, shove it back. And so, we have to understand, what are we actually wearing? Because there is a layer at the bottom of each drawer that hasn’t been worn for a year and a half, that we just keep piling things, because you know your favorite shirts to put on.

Jim: Oh, that’s so true.

Kathi: You know your favorite pajamas to put on.

Jean: Yes.

Kathi: And so, you’ve got those reserve pajamas so you wear those when you haven’t done laundry for a week. I’d say eliminate that option. Get rid of those things that you are not wearing on a regular basis. But I think that training kids as early as possible to do their own laundry and we had to assign times and days. Like this is your window. Get it done here, because we don’t want the dryer going at midnight. That was important for us.But also saying, I think the biggest key is getting rid of the stuff you are no longer wearing. I think that, that will eliminate half the problems that are out there.

Jim: Kathi, we have talked about a lot of different systems to address organization in the home. Once you get there and you’ve mentioned this, as well, how do you keep on it? How do you not become overwhelmed again? What I would think, are like pulses where you get this manic moment and you get everything done. (Laughter) And boy, you’re feelin’ good about yourself and then two weeks later, disaster.

Kathi: Right.

Jim: How do you stay on it with a good spirit?

Kathi: Well, I think part of it is, when we’re eliminating so much stuff, it doesn’t cause that stuff to creep back in quite as quickly. And so, I think that you’re already helping yourself by eliminating a lot of that clutter. Instead of just organizing the clutter, you’re literally just getting rid of it.

The other thing is, is realizing that each of your rooms need time and attention on a weekly basis. You’re not gonna be able to just leave it. You have to go back to it. And so, even if once a day you’re spending 15 minutes just going from room to room, picking up the stuff and making sure that your kids are participating in this, too. This is not all up to you. There is not one person in your house that’s responsible for organization. This is the family. And so, that’s why when we talk about things like going to each room and putting things away, you do that as a team. You don’t do that alone.

And I noticed significantly when my kids were responsible for cleaning it, dishes got back into the sink a little bit quicker than when it was mom, when they figured that there was somebody else who was going to come along and take care of it. And so, when they had responsibility, they suddenly showed a little bit more responsibility.

Jim: Hm.

John: I like what you’re saying there, but Dena has been at a point for some time now where the training process, I mean, it’s been going on for so long–

Kathi: Uh-hm, right.

John: It’s just easier sometimes for her to (Laughter) step in and do it.

Kathi: Right.

John: Talk to that mom who’s so tired of the training process.

Kathi: I understand; I get it and you think they’re not getting it, but they are getting some of it. I promise you that. And even with training, there is no child who is going to rise up in the morning and say, “How can I bless this house today?” (Laughter) I have not met that child, but we will had a set of chores, but it was Kimberly’s turn to make sure that the, we called it, “the living room was fluffed.” And they knew what “fluffed” meant and the blankets were folded back. The shoes were swept into the basket. So, it just was a placethat you could enter into and be happy.

I know some parents, what they’ve done is, they’ve taken a picture of the clean room from four different angles and said, “This is what it needs to get back to. This is what you need to work on.”

Jim: That’s a good idea.

John: I like that.

Kathi: And so, it gives them a standard to look at and say okay, because their idea of a picked-up room and my idea of a picked-up room [are] vastly different. But I think there still needs to be systems in place no matter if it’s a husband and wife living together or it’s a family ofsix. Nobody is automatically going to get up and just do what they’re supposed to do. They still need chores. They still need assignments.

So, we had three small chores for our kids to do each afternoon or evening when they got home from school. And then people thought we were horrible, horrible, but we asked for three hours on the weekend. And people thought that, that was ridiculous.

John: Hm.

Kathi: We knew what it took for our home to work. And some of that was also meal prep and things like that. But that’s what it took for our home to work. And so, it makes no sense to assign 20 minutes of chores a week if mom is laboring for eight hours. And so, we knew what it took and that’s what it took. And as we had less kids living at home, it took less time. And so, it became easier. But we need to understand that our whole family makes this system or breaks this system.

Jim: Those are great ideas. Let’s talk about this picture, because this is a common picture in so many homes, where you’re tryin’ to get to church or you’re tryin’ to get just out the door to school and work and everything else. And they’re sittin’ gigglin’ at the table, you know. The Cheerios are comin’ out somebody’s nose and that’s funny. And it’s a waste of time. Now you’re on ‘em. You gotta get your teeth brushed, get your teeth brushed. Ten minutes later, they’re still messin’ around. Now there’s a lot of parenting issues related to that.

Kathi: Right.

Jim: And I don’t want to go necessarily in that big direction, but how do you get out of the house on time in a way that reduces your stress and gets the job done?

Kathi: Well, I have a couple of ideas. One is, I’ve created a launch paid in my house. And this is how I launch out the door in the morning. So, I have things that I need there. You know, that’s where my travel mug is. That is where my keys go. All these things that I need to get out the door. So, I’m not looking for my coat. I’m not looking for my scarf. I am out the door.

And the other thing is, preparing the night before. I think that is the biggest key that I have, and it was when my kids were little. We don’t look for homework in the morning. We can’t.

John: Uh-hm, uh-hm.

Kathi: There’s no way. Now you have kids this age, Jean. What are some of the things that you do to get out the door in the morning?

Jean: Well, I used to struggle tremendously with this. I think back to when Trent was in kindergarten. The school was around the corner and we were late almost every day. And I don’t really remember why. But now I (Laughter) I do embrace that, getting as much as I can done the night before. That means knowing that they do have clean clothes to wear in the morning, making sure their backpacks are together, that they’ve put their notebooks in. They’ve put their homework in. I have the boys put their lunch boxes on the kitchen counter at night so I can get up and load that.

Kathi: Uh-hm.

Jim: Ready to go for loading.

Kathi: Well, think it’s really important for us to understand that, you know, we want our mornings to start off peacefully. We want to enjoy each other. And when you’re screaming, “You have to get out the door,” it’s not a good start to your day. It’s not a good start to your kids’ day. And so, that’s exactly it, putting those systems into place so you can go out [to face] the day and say, okay, I’m starting well. I think there is a huge benefit to getting out the door and feeling like, okay, I am at peace. And we haven’t forgotten things. I mean, how many times have we had to turn the van around? (Laughter)

I’ll never forget, because my kids used to put their shoes on in the van sometimes. You know, we’re in California. You can do that. And we’d get to school and (Chuckling) my son says, “Where are my shoes?” I’m like, “What do you mean, where are your shoes? They’re on your feet.” No. And so, you know, having that peaceful start to the day is key.

John andJim: Hm.

Jim: Well, Kathi Lipp, the author of The Get Yourself Organized Project: 21 Steps to Less Mess and Stress. Kathi, it’s been great the last couple of days to talk about this. Thank you for giving your time and bein’ here with us and helping so many of us better understand the organizational matrix.

Kathi: Oh, well, thanks for having me and thanks for sharing your wife. (Laughter) It was good to be evenly teamed this time.

Jim: Yeah, it was good and Jean, thank you. Thanks for bein’ here. It was great to have you alongside.

Jean: Well, it’s been great being here and I just happened to be in the midst of working on projects, so I am very, very, very excited and encouraged, Kathi to begin implementing many of these things. And maybe we’ll come back in six months and I’ll let you know (Laughter) how I’m doing.

John: How Jim is doing.

Jim: That’s brave. (Laughter) Good to have you.


John: Well, we’ve come back a few years later to find out how Jim is doing and how the Daly household has managed clutter and trust that you enjoyed this fun conversation for the past couple of days. Get a CD or a download of this broadcast and a copy of Kathi’s book, The Get Yourself Organized Project at

Jim: And remember, our hope is that every day you, the listener will be encouraged by what you hear and that will hopefully, meet you at your point of need, whether that’s through a laugh or some practical tips like we’ve heard today or the reminder of God’s presence in your life.

Let me share a comment we recently received from a listener. He said, “I’ve struggled with fully accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior. Although I’d say the words, my decision hadn’t really taken root in my heart and made a difference in the way I lived. But the “Focus on the Family” radio program has helped lead me to recommit my life to God. Although I am still often plagued with doubts and fears, remembering how the Lord guided me to “Focus on the Family” gives me great reassurance that He is still with me and guiding me.”

Wow, what a great story and I hope that you feel empowered by that comment, too. Thank you for the eternal investments you are making through your generosity to help people through Focus. And right now, as we go through the summer months here at Focus, it’s always a bit of a stretch. Everybody’s busy, camping and doin’ different things. It’s tough in the summer to meet the budget and I would ask those of you who support Focus to consider giving a gift during the summer months.

And if you don’t support us, would you consider helping us now? There [are] so many good things going on that we don’t want to have to pull back from anything. So, please make a donation today.

John: And we’ve made that easy. You can contribute online at or by calling 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459. And today when you make a generous contribution of any amount, we’ll send a complimentary copy of Kathi’s book, The Get Yourself Organized Project.

Well, coming up next time, Dannah Gresh offers insights about how you can understand God’s plan for your love life.


Mrs. Dannah Gresh: But the bottom line is this. What I think God is saying is, don’t let the attraction become greater than the commitment and the self-giving love that I created you to live in.

End of Excerpt

John: I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

The Get Yourself Organized Project

Receive Kathi Lipp's book The Get Yourself Organized Project for your donation of any amount!

Recent Episodes

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Understanding Your Spouse’s Emotions (Part 1 of 2)

Drs. David and Jan Stoop discuss the concept of emotional intelligence – the ability to understand your emotions, as well as your spouse’s. The Stoops explain how bettering that understanding can help you improve and strengthen your marriage. (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Celebrating the Journey to Becoming a Dad

After a successful football career in the NFL, Benjamin Waston has turned his attention to celebrating fatherhood by encouraging first-time dads to be the man their wife and children need them to be. Benjamin speaks into the crisis of fatherlessness and the necessity for men to step up and take responsibility. A father’s role is a cornerstone in the family, and men must be ready to be physically and emotionally present. Benjamin walks through practical steps that dads can follow during the pregnancy all the way to raising newborns. Parenting kids is a full time commitment and can be chaotic at times, but Benjamin reminds us that all children are a gift from God.

You May Also Like

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Avoiding Shame-Based Parenting

Psychologist Dr. Kelly Flanagan discusses the origins of shame, the search for self-worth in all the wrong places, and the importance of extending grace to ourselves. He also explains how parents can help their kids find their own sense of self-worth, belonging and purpose.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Becoming a Clutter-Free Family

Joshua Becker discusses the benefits a family can experience if they reduce the amount of “stuff” they have and simplify their lives. He addresses parents in particular, explaining how they can set healthy boundaries on how much stuff their kids have, and establish new habits regarding the possession of toys, clothes, artwork, gifts and more.