Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Home/Family/Work Binder

As I've mentioned before, I often have quite a few balls in the air, managing my home and family, running a daycare and homeschooling three kids. In order to keep my act together, I make lots of "to do" lists. Seriously... I am The Queen of To Do lists. My family likes to say that if it's not on one of Mom's lists, it doesn't get done. Sad but true.

My "master" To Do lists are in a big binder (more on that below) I started my first binder back when my kids were wee babies. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and had been introduced to Flylady by a friend. I liked her simple routines for keeping my home in order without much effort. I didn't follow her system to a T, but one of the practices I did adopt was what she calls the Control Journal. In short, this is a binder where you keep daily lists and other notes to keep your home and family running smoothly.

As I transitioned from the blissful life of a stay-at-home mom to the chaotic life of a work-at-home mom, I definitely floundered. Like, A LOT. In trying to adapt to my added responsibilities, I lost sight of my basic routines. BIG mistake. Not having routines in place made me feel like I was driving around a strange country without a map. I felt like I was constantly struggling, constantly behind, constantly failing. I realized that I needed more order, better time management, a better "system" in place for running my life. I needed a map! I remembered my old Control Journal. I decided it was time to create a new binder to suit my now busier life. So I did, and it made a big difference for me. Did it instantly fix all my problems? Well, no... it's been a slow process of learning to prioritize, take care of myself, and make my routines work for what life was handing me. I'm still learning. But my binder is a really important tool in my journey... it keeps me focused, keeps me grounded and keeps me organized.

I have revamped the binder a few times, to suit my needs (and will be revamping it again when I enter the next phase in my life this fall) but here is it's current incarnation:

I started with a basic binder, and got some dividers and pocket dividers for it. My binder has 5 sections:

1. Daily Routines (my morning and evening routines, and master "To Do" lists for each day of the week.

2. Bills, etc (a pocket for bills that need to be paid, as well as a list of each month's bills and when they're due. 

3. Home Projects (an ongoing list of home projects/repairs that need doing)

4. Menus and Shopping (a pocket to keep my shopping list pad and meal planning pad, a pocket for coupons and meal planning ideas)

5. Cleaning lists (this is a list of routine cleaning that needs to be done. I use something like the "zone" system from Flylady, adapted to suit my own needs)

Plus, a large pocket in back for stamps and return address labels. 

Here is a little glimpse into how some of it is set up:

The first page: Morning and Evening Routines. This is a direct swipe from Flylady! These lists are the little tasks I need to get done first thing every morning and last thing every night. It might seem silly to have to write some of this stuff down (I don't really need to be reminded to feed the family breakfast, for example... they'd never let me forget!) but in establishing good routines and habits, it's helpful to have everything there in front of you. Plus, there is a certain satisfaction in looking at your list and knowing that you accomplished things, no matter how small.

Still in the "Daily Routines" section, I have a page of "To Do" lists for each day of the week. This is important, as the tasks I do each day depend on the day of the week. In additon to the "master" list of stuff I do every Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday (etc) I also use post-it notes for any other tasks that need to be taken care of that day. I keep all the "Master Lists" in clear sheet protectors, so I can use a dry erase marker to cross things off as I do them. (This is another idea lifted directly from Flylady!)
Next section is the Bill section. This is how I keep track of bills that need to be paid and when they are due. As bills come in the mail, I tuck them into a pocket in this section. Around the middle to end of each month, I make a list of the bills that are due for the next month, with due dates and amounts due. This is especially helpful for keeping track of all the paperless bills we have now. As I pay each bill, I cross it off with a highlighter. I keep these sheets in the binder, and it helps me to plan our budget, having all that info at my fingertips. 

My other essential item, my calendar, deserves a quick mention in the post, too, I think. I would seriously be non-functional in my day-to-day life without these two items. I find that I really need visual guidance to stay on track, and these tools do that for me.

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