Let me say right up front - this is a really long post. (Even for me!) But, honestly, once you get me started on the subject of homekeeping I find it hard to keep things short and simple. Of course when has homekeeping really ever been either?
You would think, given how much I read and write about homekeeping, my home would be under complete and immaculate control. Not so much, I'm afraid. Maybe that's why I consider and reconsider and research and muse over homekeeping so much. Maybe it's because - dare I say it - it keeps me from the actual keeping part of the equation. You know, the part where I actually clean? ;)
So upfront apologies for such a lengthy post. I tried to remember the wise words my journalism professor said to me years ago: "More is said with less." (Followed by edit, edit, edit!) Yes, of course, that's all true, but he never kept up with (and after) three busy little boys as well as a husband, a home, a homeschool, and a blog! I meant to cut this down, but I simply ran out of time, so it is here in full.
And with all that preamble, I've only added to the length of this post!
I really do think a homekeeping notebook can make a huge difference in the way we run our homes. I have used one in the past - in various forms, and to varying degrees of success - but lately I've fallen out of practice. But, with my husband recovering, and a busier fall schedule upon us I have found myself wishing for a tool that would assist me in getting it all done.
Or at least most of it done.
You know, I'd be satisfied with some of it done, for starters. :)
Now, I don't think what I am about to say is anything new or revolutionary or even original. But I know I love taking a peek into other moms' planners - and I thought you might like to take a peek into mine. :)
My homekeeping notebook, let me stress, is still very much a work in progress, but I thought I'd share what I've done so far. Much of what I am describing here is still under construction ...
I chose a white 3-ring binder. I'm not sure if it's a 2- or 3-inch size ~ it's pretty wide. It may even be too wide, but I figure once I get everything in there I can always switch to a smaller binder if need be. I have a feeling I'll fill it all up, though.
My binder has a see-through front pocket. My original idea was to make a collage of images from favorite magazines, but for now I just slipped in a pretty piece of scrapbooking paper. I like to use all pastel tabs and pockets and such. (I live in a house full of boys; I take my girliness where I can.)
Here's a view of it from the front. (I coudn't get a good shot from above.)
Kept in the inside binder pocket are some loose papers that I need to look at regularly ~ the CCD schedules, the weekly marketing list, several sheets of extra lined paper. These items could technically be filed somewhere within the binder, but I like having them right at my fingertips. I also keep a running list of things to get done in there. This is just several sheets of yellow lined paper stapled together. I like to use yellow paper so it really stands out. (IN sight and hopefully IN mind!)
Just underneath this pocket I keep a list of very important numbers (including emergency #'s). I wrote these on a little sticky index card and taped it down. A laminated pocket would work well here. Ooh, which reminds me - I read a tip in a magazine about keeping colored index cards as daily to-do lists. (A different color for each day.) A pocket like that would be a great place to hold such a group of cards. If you were using that system, I mean - which I'm not - but I might. ;)
(Note: One thing I have not set up yet is an inspirational cover page with a lovely prayer or image set against pretty paper.)
Here are the sections I do have set up:
1. Monthly Calendar Planning
Right now I have calendars for October 2006 through December 2007. I love planning ahead, so as soon as the next year becomes available (usually by July) I buy the insert and add it in. My favorite monthly calendar is made by Day-Timer. I like its 2-page spread and wide, lined blocks - lots of space for writing notes. You can order them online, but I buy them at Office Depot.
Now the thing about my monthly calendar here is, it is not the place where I write down all our appointments and things. For that kind of planning I use a thin, month-at-a-glance, spiral-bound mobile calendar which very easily slips into my tote bag or purse. It's made by At-a-Glance but is difficult to find. (In fact, I can't find it online. But my ever-dependable Office Depot carries it!) As much as I'd like to tote my homekeeping notebook around with me, it's really impractical to do so. And yet, I do need a calendar with me most of the time, so this two-calendar system really works out well.
The monthly calendar pages I keep in my homemaking notebook are for home, faith and family type planning - homekeeping tasks, feast days, craft projects, books to read, meals to serve - that kind of thing. Things I probably wouldn't need on my appointment calendar, but still would want to have scheduled in a similarly organized fashion.
For example, at O Night Divine, Mary Ellen displays a lovely and thorough feast day schedule for the Advent and Christmas seasons. I plan to transcribe these dates directly into my calendar section. From there I can jot down special foods to eat, books to read, special Masses to attend, dates to start Novenas, etc.
Also noted in here are action items like "Order turkey." "Iron table linens." and "Polish silverware." (These being tasks to complete in November, before Thanksgiving Day.)
(Note: Any special days, feast days or holidays are written all in caps. Action items are written in regular printing. This helps me distinguish quickly what is what.)
If I ever get really organized about all this, I will eventually color-code it in some way. Possibly liturgical, possibly by task type (i.e. yellow for homekeeping, orange for holiday, purple for liturgical, etc.). I'll need to peruse the highlighter selection at my office supply store for a ridiculously long time to figure this out. (Truly, I can lose myself in those aisles of paper and pens.)
(When I get November all filled in, I will post what it looks like. I think a scan will work better than a photo).
Just like Flylady suggests, I made up routines for our day and week, but I also made up one for the month and the year. Right now they are just a bunch of lists - I need to organize them a bit better.
The days I broke down into four time zones: early morning (4-8), late morning (8-12), afternoon (12-4) and evening (4-8). I have a checklist of tasks for each of those time zones. This does not in any way imply I get all those things done in that time zone (let alone in the course of the day) but I'm working on it. And even tasks that don't get completed at least had a fighting chance - because they were written down.
The basic weekly schedule is filled out on a photocopied week-at-a-glance page (made by Day-Runner). I have a whole pad of these, but I always photocopy them because I don't like the harsh yellow and blue color scheme. ;)
As you can see below, I've only just started filling it in. Across the top row I have noted what each day's chores are (i.e. bedrooms and laundry on Monday, neaten and desk work on Friday ...).
I have the same kind of blank month-at-a-glance page. This helps me determine what weekends are best for which tasks (paying the bills, lesson planning, bulk shopping, etc.)
Finally I have a year-at-a-glance (homemade) template, on which I note annual events like birthdays and vacations, and annual tasks like filing taxes and sending in the ed. plan.
3. Faith at Home
Here is where I will expand on the calendar planning. So far I have a page for each month with all the feasts written down and notes taken from liturgical research (both online and off). I use a file folder system to hold any articles or clippings or printouts regarding all this; I am a hoarder of information and so all those papers are better off outside of the binder. BUT I do note what all that information is in this section.
For example: Recently Alice posted a wonderful craft turning wooden spoons into saints! I would love to do this with the kids on All Saints Day. I printed out Alice's post, and filed it in my 10/30-11/5 folder. Then I noted the idea on my November page in here.
(Note: I also include the planning of secular holidays and birthdays and other family events in here. Our year is so full, and every day is an opportunity to weave our faith into our life.)
(Another note: I have a personal faith and prayer journal that I keep separate from my homekeeping binder.)
In this section I keep a photocopy of our proposed education plans for the boys (the official ones we sent in to the Superintendent back in July), along with the Super's approval letter. Then I have a page for each month's overview of subject goals and themes as well as any outside activities we hope to do. It's really just a way of touching base with our goals and and tweaking those goals to fit with reality (i.e. actual skill level, current interests, neat things that come up).
For example, I just learned my homeschool support group has a trip to The Nutcracker scheduled in December. I added that to my December page along with a note to do a mini-unit on Tchaikovsky that month. (I printed out the email about this trip and filed it in next week's folder since that is when I need to mail in my check; after I mail that check I will file the email in the December folder for future reference.)
This section will hold a lot. First a page or two of important family and household information (medical, veterinary, social security numbers, etc.). I am also working on an emergency section (which I'll print out on bright orange paper so I can find it easily) where I'll list phone numbers to call and steps to take for various emergencies. (I got this idea from FlyLady.)
Next comes the budgetkeeping section - a green folded paper has our monthly budget "model" - the basic information like monthly income and regular expenses. I also keep pertinent financial info. on that sheet (inside the fold). After that there is a page for each month - on which to record what goes out and what comes in - regular bills, projected expenses. On the back of the sheet I record what I spend each week.
Also in this section are (or will be once I get them written out!) detailed cleaning instructions for each room/area in the house. I also like an idea that I read somewhere - probably Martha Stewart - to write out each room's cleaning instructions on an index card, laminate all the cards and then attach them with a binder ring to your cleaning caddy.
Other items in here - a master list of ALL household chores - from the daily nitty-gritty (empty the trash) to the semi-annual biggies (turn the mattresses). I thought of adding a separate gardening tab, but I really don't garden enough to warrant that. Instead I would like to add a few pages devoted to goals and tasks and perhaps a layout of our property for planning purposes.
Finally, I'd like to add a list of cleaning supplies we use (for regular tasks as well as big jobs) along with a few homemade cleaning recipes like the one I found recently at Lindsey's blog.
6. Meal Planning
Here I have a master grocery list and a weeky meal planning chart. I'd like to plan for 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Now keep in mind, I have not actually used these sheets in some time. But way back when I did they were a wonderful tool for saving money and eating healthier.
I also have in here a list of regular meals to choose from (I'd love to eventually have 4 weeks worth of meals to choose from; right now I have about 1 1/2.) I have a page for notes and random food projects and goals - baking goals, cooking with kids, stocked pantry ideas, freezer cookbooks I like, etc.
I have yet to figure out where or how to keep my recipes filed. I have a large ziploc bag filled with family recipe cards and gift bags filled (yes, gift bags) with articles torn from magazines. Not the most user-friendly system, I assure you.
Up front is an index - a running list of projects imagined and realized. Behind are planning pages for each project. So for example, I run a charity bake sale in January. I have that listed on the index page and then there is a project page devoted to that event where I list all the particulars (phone numbers, supplies list, volunteers, etc.). This happens to be a scheduled event so any materials that are generated (emails, etc.) go right in that January week's folder.
8. Address Book ~ Just what you'd expect, from A to Z!
(For now) The only thing in here is a blue pocket folder holding library printouts of books I'd like to request (those that are not tied to a certain date).
Finally, at the back of the binder I have a clear letter size envelope (velcro closure) and a manilla upright envelope. Inside these go greeting cards and receipts, respectively.
Now the trick to the homekeeping notebook, I believe, lies in actually using it ~ finding and making the time (regularly, consistently) to use this organizational tool. I have been known to spend lots of time and money on setting up a whole new binder situation, only to abandon it completely within a week.
So my next project is tweaking the schedule and building in time for the planning (and filing and noting). This will be generally on weekends, but a quick check on a weeknight is probably a good idea too. All this information does me no good if I don't think to look at it and apply it to our life!
I hope maybe I fueled the homekeeping notebook discussion a bit by posting about mine as it stands so far. I would love to see what other home-schooling, home-working, home-blogging moms are doing with theirs!
(Hint, hint, everyone!)
In the meantime, Happy Homemaking!