Organizing While You Fight for Your Life

Organizing While You Fight for Your Life | Organize 365

A few weeks ago, I talked about organizing your home when you have children with special needs.

A reader asked me to write about how to organize if you are the adult with special needs, a long term illness or battling for your life. Each of those situations requires a different strategy. So, this is the first post in response to that question.

How do you stay organized or get organized when you are fighting for your life?

You don’t.

I have watched a few women battle through cancer. It’s a tough road. All had children. Two had spouses.

I would love to hear in the comments from women who have lived this life. Here are my observations as a friend.

#1 In the beginning, the patient worries about the state of their home.

With so many people coming and going, the clutter is frustrating. If you have the gift of time to donate, helping your friend get the main living areas organized is a blessing.

#2 Quickly, the attention turns to treatments, medications, bills and schedules.

The Kids: It is SO important to WRITE out your kids’ schedules, important phone numbers, favorite foods and favorite places to play. When you are feeling terrible, a friend can read your lists and give you needed rest.

The Patient: So, I haven’t “been there,” and I don’t presume to know, but here is what I have learned with my kids. Medications, treatment plans and side effects change SO often. You need a designated basket or box to compile all of your notes. I prefer a laundry basket.

If you are feeling bad – just dump the latest papers in the top of the bin and let them sit. If you have a spouse, family member or close friend you trust, ask that person to help you go through your basket weekly and keep you organized.

#3 Organizing the basket.

Having a big basket like a laundry basket is perfect, because it is portable and big enough to add prescription bottles, books and even a chemo bag!

1. Make a filing system:

  • Diagnosis paperwork
  • Medical bills
  • Insurance statements
  • Prescriptions
  • Appointments

2. To-Do Weekly

  • Add all appointments to a digital group calendar
  • Pay or submit medical bills
  • Fill prescriptions.
  • File the new papers into the file.
  • Schedule who will be with the kids and what’s for dinner for the week.

#4 Organizing a legacy.

You are in a FIGHT, so FIGHT!! If you have any extra strength and time… leave a legacy.

Now is the time to put down in words how you feel about your husband, parents, kids and friends. Everyone does this differently. For years, I was a scrapbook consultant and helped people make albums that told their family story.

Use the time your friends are with you to have them make scrapbooks and you write the stories. Or, you just tell the stories and let them write them down.

Too much? Take a box of photos and just write on the back little thoughts like:

“You were such a Tom boy!”

“Mama’s handsome boy.”

“I love your smile.”

“You look just like your dad.”

“You worked so hard on that school project. I am so proud of you.”

#5 Accept the help.

I know you “can do it yourself,” but let people help you.

The more you can let people help you, the better they will feel – crazy huh? But you know what – the more you can focus on you and REST, the more you can FIGHT!

Yes, you need to be organized so you can DELEGATE to those who love you and want to help. Getting help with cleaning, meals and kids are the first thoughts. But I bet you have a friend who is great with scrapbooks and would love to help you. And another one you would trust with your paperwork to take the stress off you and your husband. She may not pay the bills, but she can keep them filed and update your Google calendar for you.

I hope these ideas are helpful  I have NOT been there so I don’t know. If you have – PLEASE leave share your tips below!!


  1. Michelle says

    I’ve just started my trip down chronic illness. Your post is very timely for me. Lots if good ideas I’m going to implement. I don’t have too many friend where I live. My closest friends all live in other states. How I miss them but I love you scrapbook idea & will be making some for them soon.

    • says

      Oh Michelle – I am so sorry. As you learn I would love to share any tips you glean with my readers. Praying for a miracle for you!

  2. says

    My mom (all of us kids are adults now) is going through this right now; she has finally accepted help, accepted that her house is not going to be clean to her standards and is allowing her friends to come over anyway. This was a difficult transition for her though, and she still starts things out saying she doesn’t know if she wants so-and-so to come by because…..
    Then she thinks about it and realizes that they are coming to see her, not the house. I think sometimes its an independence thing too; she wants to make sure things are done her way. One thing I’ve learned from all this is that growing old is tough, and complicated by illness; but can be helped by the love and persistence of family and friends.

    • says

      Aging is an amazing process isn’t it? That is why I started this series. I have a bunch of “not fun but needed” organization posts to write. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012 at age 35. My kids were 8, 5, and 18 months old at the time. I had the HARDEST time accepting help. I thought I should just be able to “power through” like I’ve always done with everything else. I could not. The BEST thing my friends ever did for me (other than prayer) was get someone to come clean my house while I was at treatment and bring meals for my family the weeks I had chemo. They didn’t ask because they knew I’d say no, they just did it. I am SO THANKFUL for that, it was one less thing my already scattered brain and my stretched thin husband had to think about. I finished radiation a month ago, and I feel like I am just now coming out of the “haze” and able to start to take back over all the household duties. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is learn to let it all go for a while.

  4. Nancy says

    I had cancer 3 years ago. I used a notebook to keep track of the different doctors and treatments, with a section for each. Addresses and phone numbers for all the doctors and clinics were in there, too. I also wrote down some of my test results. I brought the notebook to all my appointments; it was my way of staying in control of my health to some extent.

    Regarding the house, I let things go because I didn’t have the energy. Friends brought some meals, and one friend offered to come and clean my house. I said YES! It was a HUGE help, just seeing how much energy she had, and having everything clean and straightened. It really gave me a boost mentally and made it easier to keep things in order.

    Regarding my son, I let friends help out there, too. He went on field trips w/ other families while I was recovering. I sent him to a one day school program (we were homeschooling) even though he didn’t want to go. He ended up loving it, and I was able to rest, so I loved it, too.

    • says

      I love the one notebook idea. I bet that was helpful when you tried to remember what the doctors said! I am so glad you are better!

  5. Breanna says

    I’m just finishing my cancer treatments and I think you had some great ideas. I was diagnosed at 33, kids 7,4,& 10months. The best way we stayed organized was through an online family calendar. All appts, kids activities etc were there and we gave all our friends and family access. This way they could add themselves to our schedule to help us out with our 3 girls and sign up to bring us a meal. That online calendar was an amazing!

    • says

      Breanna I am so happy you are at the end of your treatment! I forgot about the online calendars. Yes, I did that too with a friend. Thanks for the reminder and get better!

  6. says

    I found you via pinterest because I was intrigued by this title. I LOVE this post! I am not in this situation, but what I love about it is that you share actually helpful tips while being really compassionate and focused on the REAL priority here. How awesome. Following you on Pinterest and now I’m subscribing to your blog!

  7. Sattin says

    This post is thoughtful and insightful. I had to take chemo treatments last year and wish I had read a post like this then. Thankfully, I had no kids, but a loving husband and family to support me. Though, few came to my house it was easy to let things go, but my hubby tried to keep the house straightened for me when I didn’t have the energy to. I definitely like the idea of having a basket to throw papers in and the idea of putting all doctors numbers in a single notebook. Thanks for writing it.

  8. keri says

    My friend pinned this and the title caught my eye. I was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. ( I have 4 children -two at home and 2 at college.) I used a 3 ring binder to store all the medical information with sections for insurance, appointments, bills, and medications. I could at least dump it all in one spot. I kept buying binders when it got full until I realized, I needed to organize a filling cabinet drawer. Simple sections for each year helped me to deal with the amount of paperwork and I figure one day I can go back and organize it better. Caring bridge was a great way for me to update multiple people at once – and the bonus is I can print it.

    • says

      Oh I totally forgot about Caring bridge! Thanks for the reminder.

      Yes, the binders do fill up fast don’t they! I was emailing with another mom about the same issue with her child’s special needs papers. Here is what I told her and you can adapt it to medical needs:

      I would keep ONE binder you have with you all the time – with the most recent: IEP, diagnosis, letter from doctors, court decision, report cards, etc.

      Then you might want to go to colored hanging files in plastic bankers boxes.

      That way you can file school papers in yellow folders and red for medical, purple for court, etc. When you need the information you can go to the file color and then the specific file.

      Also these boxes are stackable, plastic incase of a flood and your can wheel them right into court 🙂

  9. Debbie says

    Thank you for timely information. I was diagnosis in 2007, had surgery and chemo. I met my 5 year milestone in January of 2014. Then just by chance, I requested a routine test “just for peace of mind” in September 2014, and found out my cancer is back and has spread to my bones. My greatest challenge is to live in the present, no dwelling on the “if I would have just done….” or the future “how long will I be here?” Having experienced chemo and having chemo brain, I choose to become as organized I can be before I have to do chemo again. The loss of power and ability to be the caretaker to being the care receiver was a difficult transition. I had to learn how to let go and let people help me. Thank God for my loving husband. Who would have thought the second time around, I’m would be in control and will be prepared for what life has in store for me. Thank you to all of the organizers and organizing podcasts and websites. You have helped me beyond belief. You have help me control what I can, be prepared and then focus on the fight.

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