Friday, April 2, 2010

Organization, My Way

Like most people I know, I’ve had dozens of organizational systems through the years. Some things work, and some things don't. I’ve always had a calendar of sorts, and back when I just had one child I had a great system of performing one cleaning job each weekday (e.g., dust on Mondays, vacuum on Tuesdays, etc.). That was all nice and easy when we had a 500 square feet apartment, six pieces of furniture, one small child, and what seemed like endless hours to each day.

More children and a couple thousand more square feet and inevitably I turned to FlyLady to help me manage cleaning and clutter. I diligently did FlyLady’s routine for a while but after a year or so, I unsubscribed from her group—but not before I’d made habits of many of her steps (e.g., shine the sink, get out of my pajamas, de-clutter a little every day).

My organizational system of cleaning is now called, “clean something every day.” Every day dishes get washed, counters get wiped down, clutter gets picked up, beds get made, and laundry gets done. That doesn’t mean all the dishes or counters or clutter, but something gets done every day. The best motivation for a really clean house is company.

Beyond cleaning organization, there is household and homeschooling organization. I am attracted to forms of all sorts. I love the forms on Donna Young's site. I love the forms from The Organized Home. With everything from calendars to home management to preparing for Christmas to homeschool forms, both of these sites are amazing! I absolutely love to print off great quantities of these sheets at the beginning of each year and use them…. Ok, actually, lose them in a big pile of Stuff. I love Cindy Rushton’s notebooking system, and for a year (OK, maybe six months), I was a proud Binder Queen with all kinds of tabs and folders and forms in my nice, thick binder. But then the binder got too bulky, and well, I lost interest in being a Binder Queen. Plus I couldn’t carry a big binder in my little brown purse. Or my springy pink-striped purse. (Yay! It's almost spring and I can get out my pink purse!)

And so here, now, after 21 years of marriage, 17 years of parenthood, and 10 years of homeschooling, is what my organizational system boils down to:
* a wall calendar
* a small calendar in my purse
* my computer
* the sticky-note feature of my computer
* two spiral-bound notebooks and a folder
* weekly menu
* three bags
* the home budget feature (much modified) of Excel
* Home School Reporting

That’s pretty much it.

* The calendar is just a simple one. I don’t even agonize anymore over which artistic/literary calendar to buy (Renoir? Monet? Shakespeare?). I am no longer obliged to keep old calendars around for crafts or perhaps for framing. Sweet release. The calendar, being what it is, hangs on the wall where everyone can see it. So when they say to me, “What are we doing this week?” I simply point to the calendar.
* The purse calendar is essential, and it's also essential to transfer items from that calendar to the wall calendar, and vice versa. Also, Dr. H. and I have a shared google calendar, but I really don't look at it much.
* Pretty much everything is on the computer, in files. Nice, fairly organized files. No clutter. No stacks of papers lost beneath other stacks of papers. I love my computer. And...
* The sticky note feature on my computer maintains my to-do, reminder, and idea lists (see photo above). There’s nothing easier than writing myself a little note while I’m on the computer, where I do much of my thinking and nearly all my corresponding. Best of all, sticky notes don’t get lost or buried beneath other papers. And perhaps some gratification is lost in deleting items accomplished rather than crossing off, but even deletion has its moment of satisfaction.
* One spiral-bound notebook is solely for grocery lists. Everyone in this house is trained to write down whatever s/he needs or whatever we have used up. I also plan meals for the week each Sunday. The meal ideas themselves are on my On the Menu page at the top of my blog, and I also find great meals from Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie and Tasty Tuesdays at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, another vital component of my household. The On the Menu page contains an ever-growing list of meal ideas and recipes. The other notebook is for our finances. (We’re Dave Ramsey followers, so we keep rather meticulous records of our spending.)
* I have a library bag, an American Heritage Girls bag, and a Monday Fun (co-op) bag. Everything connected with those three groups (that isn’t filed away), goes in and stays in those bags. The bags are distinctly different looking, so that I don’t accidentally pick up the library bag when I’m going to American Heritage Girls. That would not be a good thing. The bags stay packed with their proper stuff, so if I’m looking for a book I used at the last Monday Fun, I know to look in the bag.
* We make a budget each month, and although it’s usually the same, reviewing and refining it each month helps me. I’ve found the home budget feature on Excel to be easy to use and modify.
* Homeschooling organization is really it’s own post, but here is one that keeps the paperwork down to a bare minimum for me: Homeschool Reporting Online. I can quickly and easily keep track of attendance, subjects, and create an ongoing portfolio for each child. I could also generate lessons plans, etc., if I so desired, but as of yet I haven’t desired so.

I must admit: I am terribly, terribly tempted on a regular basis to print out all kinds of organizational forms. I love the looks of them, the potential for.... what? Yes, in my life, the potential is for stacks of papers on the counter, lost forms, and frustration. And so for now, I'm sticking with what works, even if it doesn't fit in a nicely decorated and personalized binder.

Check out Kelly's Korner for more organizing tips!


  1. I love hearing about other people's organizing systems. I dream about finding the "perfect" system, but I don't think it's out there....I guess the answer is to find one that mostly works and tweek when needed. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Well, you left out my oft-used organizational technique: the ubiquitous laundry basket of paperwork that was cluttering my desk and kitchen table right up to the time someone gave me a few hours warning they were coming over! It really gets ugly when there are more than one of these...

  3. You sound like a kindred spirit in the organization department. My computer keeps me organized too (and now my ipod!)

  4. "the best remedy for a really clean house is company." truly? when i have a really clean house i am not usually looking to remedy that situation. however, it is sometimes true that having company over can remedy the clean-house situation, especially if the company has several small children. (this happened to us last week.)

    everybody loves an editor, right? :-)

    i, too, write myself notes on the computer- but i use minimized word docs. i must figure out whether i can do this sticky-note thing on my laptop.

    i also do most of my school planning/organizing on the computer, much of it on excel. that is where i create the daily and weekly checklists on which our homeschool thrives. they get printed out and put on clipboards. the weeklies also get saved on the computer as a sort of record of what we've done (or intended to do :-). i used to keep a nice log on the computer in a nice font with nice notes and all, but... yeah, key words "used to". it's still better than all those partially-filled-out spiral notebooks from all those other years.

  5. Great post and many of the same ways I do it....Enjoying a Saturday of blog hopping and reading all the Easter posts. Hope you will stop by for a visit.
    On Sunday night I will be drawing for

    Happy Easter

  6. Great post and many of the same ways I do it....Enjoying a Saturday of blog hopping and reading all the Easter posts. Hope you will stop by for a visit.
    On Sunday night I will be drawing for

    Happy Easter

  7. I had to laugh as I read this because I saw myself in so many scenarios! I have tried all kinds of things, and it seems we both have a very similar organizational style. Thanks for sharing!

  8. How do you do the sticky note thingys on your computer? I once put reat post-it notes on the monitor but it bugged my husband so he took them off.

  9. .I guess the answer is to find one that mostly works and tweek when needed. Thanks for sharing!
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  10. I'm just glad you're a Mac family!

  11. Hello, Joelle here from THL. This is a very helpful post on organization. Thanks.

  12. Thanks to you I just realized my computer has a sticky note feature! Your organization sounds like mine. I always desire to use those forms or binders but after a couple of weeks just revert back to my simple organization! I love the different bag idea. And I used to stress about how nice our wall calendar was...this year we are using one from Chick-fil-A so we can have the coupons! :)


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