Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
Raise your hand if you want to be more organized at home. Keep it up there. Now raise your other hand if you don’t know where to start. Or if you’ve started countless times, only to fall back into old ruts. Wow! So many hands! Now raise a foot if… just kidding! (Although I wonder how many people were getting ready to pick up that foot!)
The point is that so many of us want to bring more order into our homes and families. We’re tired of searching for important papers, forgetting to take care of critical household maintenance and struggling to keep everything clean and in some kind of order. I had heard getting organized with family planners, but what I found was either expensive or too complex for my family.
After much trial and error, I created a tool that worked for me. It’s simple, it’s inexpensive and it works.So here are ten steps to creating a home management planner that really makes a difference.
10. Start with the binder
Your home management planner will be an open-every-day tool, so it has to start with a sturdy, long lasting binder. This is not the time to try to be frugal with a dollar store binder… it just won’t last. Plan on one 3″ binder plus one smaller one for housecleaning and chores to allow everything for an average family to fit well.
9. Make sure your printer is ready
While you’re setting up your binder, you’ll have to print multiple pages, so make sure your home printer is loaded and ready. One question first: does it go through expensive ink like crazy? You might want to buy a new, more ink-efficient printer if you can. It will probably pay off in less that two cartridge refills.
8. Get colorful
To make your planner easier to use, gather a variety of markers, highlighters, and pens. Color-coding calendar entries, chore assignments and special information will make it simple to quickly identify each family member or category. You can go fancy and head to the art supply store for these, or just raid the desk drawers at home.
7. Divide and conquer
If all you did was create a great big binder filled with chore charts and vital records and such, it would be as useless as that overstuffed desk drawer most of us already have. You need to use dividers to create a few clearly defined sections. Although your needs may vary, most people need sections for:
- Family records (copies of birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificates)
- Medical contacts and special needs
- Auto records
- School information
You might also need sections for pets, gardens, teams, church/mosque/temple and other aspects of your family’s life. In your smaller binder, keep your cleaning and regular home maintenance sheets, along with contact lists for repair people, cleaning services, and such.
6. Do a walk through, make your lists
There are printable home maintenance and cleaning charts online, but for me they were either too complicated or included things I just didn’t have in my house (and left out the things I do have!) So instead of trying to make someone else’s printable work for me, I just created my own simple charts.
I started by walking through my house with a notebook and pen. For each room, I made a list of the things that need to be cleaned regularly, and the things that need seasonal or annual repairs or maintenance. I also made notes about cleaning supplies or tools needed for each room. Then I typed them up on the computer. One cleaning page for each room, one maintenance page for each room. And a shopping list of supplies I need to keep on hand.
In under an hour, I had the whole house, yard and pool area done. Print them and set them aside.
5. Create or copy your other papers
Gather everything you want to put into your binder(s). Some standard items are:
- Copies of basic vital records for your immediate family (store the originals in a safe location)
- A page for each auto, including the model, license, VIN number, insurance information and any major repairs.
- Contact lists
- Basic medical information for each family member, including doctors or other health care providers
- Insurance records, including a home inventory
- Mortgage or lease information and contacts
- Pet records including vaccines, rabies and dog registration numbers, vet names
Again, the items you need will vary by family. But the idea is to have a quick reference for all your important information in one place. Plus a home care checklist binder that can be easily moved from room to room as you need it.
4. Go to the calendar
The calendar in your home management planner serves two purposes. One, it gives you a single location to record upcoming events for the whole family. But it’s also a record and reference for bills, repeating events like birthdays, anniversaries and regular maintenance items like furnace check ups, filter changes and pool servicing. I like to use a page a week format so I can fit everything in and still read it, but you may prefer monthly or bi-weekly formats.
Start from January 1st, and write in everything you know. Copy dates for medical appointments, car servicing, and school holidays. Note paydays (I use a “$” for that) and when each major bill is due. Write in holidays you observe. It’s time consuming to start, but oh how much time and stress it saves later on!
3. Protect the pages
Page protectors are your friend, especially with a planner. Buy quality protectors and slide at least your calendar, cleaning schedules, contact lists and copies of vital records into them. It will not only protect the sheets and save you from having to reprint, it will allow you to use wipe-off markers to use daily cleaning schedules, make notes about calendar items, etc.
2. Give it a home
This and the next item are the two most important steps for creating a home management planner. First, you need to decide where to keep it. It should be handy, out in the open and easy to grab if you had to leave the house in a hurry during an emergency. Storing it in a cabinet on the second floor will do you no good.
1. Use it!
And finally, you need to use it. Take it out each evening and see what’s happening tomorrow. Use the cleaning charts to take the stress out of chores. Update contact information and other records so they’re complete and accurate when you need them.
It takes awhile to assemble a home management binder system. But once the set up is done, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!