Monday, December 1, 2008

Week IV Day I -- The basics -- a calendar

Hope Everyone Had a Great Thanksgiving!

The Keeper at Home's Calendar: During December, many of us will be setting up our home planning notebooks or calendars for the next year. I have tried many home management calendar/notebook systems throughout the years. I used to carry a huge notebook filled with notes from church, medical information for the family, my meal planning notes, my project planning notes, decorating ideas, a list of books I wanted to read, and all kinds of information. Now, I have finally settled on simply carrying a small calendar notebook, which I am easily able to take with me. At this stage of my life, I do not carry all of my house keeping information with me. For example, I make up a grocery list and menu separately from my calendar and carry those with me only when I go to the store.

Each of the many methods for keeping the management papers of a household has its merits and its drawbacks, so you will need to think through what works for you. It's good to evaluate this once in a while. For example, what works for you in one stage of housekeeping may change slightly when you move into another stage. Developing a system that works for you in the coming year will add a lot to your efficiency and satisfaction in keeping your home, so it's important to give this some thought. The system doesn't have to be perfect; you can always tweak it somewhere down the line. But, it should give you a good, fresh start on the New Year.

Whatever system you decide on, the key is to use it. How many times have I jotted something down on a calendar and then never looked back at it? Or, how many times have I set up an elaborate system over the years, but then still tried to "wing it" through my days? No calendar works unless you refer to it on a daily basis. Even the smallest and simplest of calendars will keep you headed in the right direction if you consult it often.

People who enjoy using Blackberry-type systems will find it easy to carry a lot of household information with them and even carry it from room to room. If you enjoy this type of organizational method, you can set it up to be your household management calendar and notebook. Some of us, on the other hand, relate more to paper and pen. So, decide which appeals to you.

Note: While you may want to do as I do and keep the bulk of your household information separate files or notebooks at your desk, do not attempt to work from more than one calendar. Management experts say that keeping one calendar for this and one calendar for that is not only inefficient, it guarantees you will miss some important items in your planning. Even if you work outside of the home or run a home business, it's best not to keep two separate calendars for that. You'll find that you scheduled an appointment to get your teeth cleaned on the same time that you have an important to get your teeth cleaned. Using more than one calendar only complicates things. A simple system is best.

Here's a possible exception: during the most active years of child rearing, you might want to keep a family calendar in addition to your personal one. Jot down major events for all family members on the calendar so that all family members can see what is going on in a week. If Dad will be out of town on a certain day, write that down. If one of your children is going to be in a school play, write that down as well. Use this calendar to keep track of practices, meetings, church events, etc. so that you and others in the family can always have the big picture of what the family is doing. Train your children to help you keep this up-to-date by telling you of any events in their lives that need to be on the calendar. Look at this calendar often when keeping your personal calendar, so that both are in harmony.

Sometimes, I will clip a temporary packet into my calendar or carry it with me. For example, if I am in the middle of a decorating project, I find it happy to have paint chips and fabric swatch's on hand so that if I see something that works and that I need at a great price, I can grab it. Some people like to have this information with them at all times, but I find it bulky to carry unless I am actively making home improvements.

For those who don't mind carrying a notebook full of information, the items you may choose to take with you on a regular basis can be as personal and creative as you want them to be. One enterprising woman that I read about clipped a tiny bit from a seam somewhere in each of her garments. She pasted these on a card and carried the card with her so that she could match clothing bargains to her wardrobe.

Whatever calendar/notebook system you carry, jot down any pertinent medical information in it. Examples would be doses of medication, allergies to medicines or foods, dates of last shots or physicals, etc. This doesn't have to be a huge section -- just enough to give your physician something to go on if you must take yourself or a child to the doctor in a hurry.

It's always good to tuck a few blank cards and a couple of stamps in your notebook. You can use a paper clip to attach them to a small calendar or carry them in a pouch of a bigger notebook. Whenever you have a few minutes -- say you;re waiting in a doctor's office, you can send that long overdue note to Aunt Maude and drop it in the mail on your way home. Or, you can use the cards to hand in person, as well. Suppose you arrive at an event and find out that someone present has a birthday or needs encouragement in some way. Voila -- you have a card that you can pull out and personalize at a moment's notice.

Are you faced with tasks or projects that don't seem very pleasant? Break them down into small steps and spread these steps out on your calendar so that the small steps will be completed by a final deadline. Or, each week, schedule time to catch up on tasks that have been hanging over your heard or projects that you started, but did not finish.

As we discussed in an earlier post, don't forget to include your desk time as an appointment on your calendar. When will you pay bills? Make out menus? Go through your active file and take care of items in it? file away things into your permanent file or else throw them away? Handle correspondence? This sounds like a lot, but you can accomplish it in short periods of time if you work consistently each week. An easy rule of thumb is an hour of desk time on Monday morning for planning and getting yourself organized and an hour on Wednesday for paying bills, etc.

Ask your husband if he will have planning times with you. Sunday evenings are a good time to do this, but pick any time that works for the two of you. You can compare your schedules, discuss priorities, and make sure you are working in harmony. Depending on what stage of marriage you are in, you may need to do this once a week or only once a month. Let your husband help you set priorities if you feel overwhelmed.

If you have several active children in the home, have planning times as a family. To the degree that it is appropriate, let your children have some input. Train them how to work as a family team to fulfill family goals. Help them establish age-appropriate calendars of their own, so that they can learn how to manage schoolwork, chores, etc. Just a few minutes talking about these things after a weekly family devotional or fun time will go a long way toward training your children to manage time and to work within a family framework.

Here's an idea which I used to do and am planning to do again: Keep a spiral notebook in your kitchen with two to four week's worth of meal plans and recipes in it. Make these family favorites that you cook often. Leave one meal free every week or at whatever interval you desire, so that you can cook something new to add variety to your family's meals. Keep a running pantry/fridge list of what you need to keep on hand in order to make these family favorites. Use this list to check off items you need at the grocery store.

This accomplishes several things:

1) It makes meal planning faster, since you already have a scheme worked out. (You could have two schemes A and B if you need more variety.
2) It ensures that your pantry/fridge inventory stays basically the same so that you can better keep these areas organized.
3) It both allows and encourages you to try a new recipe now and again so that you are continually improving your cooking skills and you are providing pleasing variety for your family.

Of course, there will be times when you may vary this schedule of meals greatly -- such as during this holiday time. However, if you do this on a consistent basis, it really does help you keep your time and your Kitchener organized and efficient.

Do not carry the information in your cooking notebook with you everywhere -- only carry your grocery list and coupons.

I learned this method from Denise Schofield's "Confessions of an Organized Housewife".

Here are some examples of the home keeper's family calendar/notebook to spur your thinking. Remember, personalize what works for you. (Some of these have free printable pages for your notebook/calendar.)

Flylady control journal

Get Organized Home
Get Organized Home a
The Simple Mom
Better Home Notebook
Brocante Home
The Fruit of Her Hands
Tip Nut System Uses and Excel Spreadsheet
Mommy club

What about You? What system works for you? If you'd like to give us a "tour" of your home management notebook, please send me a link to your blog.



Sandy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandy said...

I finally posted about my notebook and calendar. You can find it at homeeconomicsjournal(DOT)blogspot(DOT)com

That was me trying to post a comment above. Sigh.