(By Dayna Smith for The Washington Post)

I am not, by nature, an organized person. I never have been. My parents could attest to that — my mother and I rarely fought, but the one time we had it out was when she organized my room until it looked like something out of a magazine. I liked my lovely mess.

Now that I’m a parent of two, work and have a husband with a busy work schedule, I try (oh how I try) to organize myself/our lives/our house. I know that if I had a system, if I always knew where things were, if I didn’t have baskets of folded laundry waiting to be put away, well, you know. Everything would seem simpler. I’d be on time. I’d be focused. I’d have time to play a game with my kids every night.

And so I reached out to Rachel Strisik, a professional organizer, who is, by nature, oh-so-organized. The mother of twins is more organized than I will ever be. But I knew she would have some good tips that might help us streamline our lives to the point where I could breathe.

And so here we are: Five things to focus on in 2014 that will make a huge difference in your life.

“The trick is to not try everything all at once as getting organized isn’t a one-time event but a process,” Strisik says (and I sigh with relief when I read that). “Pick just one tip at a time and get the whole family involved.”

1. Get everyone on the same page. Create a family command center by picking an area of your home that everyone is in often, such as in the kitchen or entryway. Get a large easy-to-read calendar and assign everyone a color so they know when they have an activity. Let children know which color belongs to them and what color means a family activity. This way, the whole family can take a quick glance to see if they have any plans or commitments. You can also add an in and out paper station in this space for kids to drop off and pick up permission slips, signed tests and other papers.

2. Do something good for others, together. You can clear out some clutter and teach your kids to give back by having a family donation day. A few times a year (during season changes is a great time) have a clothing purge. Collect items that have been outgrown, are damaged or haven’t been worn in a long time. Toss damaged items (why would anyone want those?) See if anything can be kept for a smaller child or may be needed in the future, and then donate the rest.

3. Toss the toys. The holidays have come to an end and we bet you have some new toys. This means it’s time to get rid of some of the old stuff. Just like with the clothes, work with your children to determine what toys they’ve outgrown, what is broken or what they just don’t like to play with anymore. Donate what is in good condition and toss the rest. Older kids can do this with video games, books and electronics. And don’t forget to do it with your own toys.

4. Implement a one in/one out rule. This tip is one that you can do constantly throughout the year, Strisik says. “It doesn’t take a lot of work, but in the long run will help keep the entire family organized.” For every new toy, piece of clothing, kitchen item, book and more that comes in, donate or toss one thing in the same category.

5. Make clean-up time a family activity. Each evening, get the whole family involved in clean-up. Create a soundtrack to play throughout the house that everyone loves and spend that time cleaning up everything from toys to dishes, Strisik suggests. Spend just a few minutes each night and you will prevent a growing mess. And set a timer: It gives everyone an ending point so it doesn’t feel like such a huge chore.