Our Family's Halloween
In November: a basket of blessings, a branch of light ...

Planner Party Host Post: Me!

{Woohoo, it's my turn! Better grab yourselves a cup of tea, my friends - or better yet, make that a mug - as I warned promised, this is a mighty long post!}

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Good Morning!

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Well, I'm so glad you've all been enjoying the Planner Party! The enthusiasm has been infectious and encouraging! Big thanks to all who have participated in the Party so far - all the posts and pictures and questions and comments have been truly inspiring! I am happy to know I am not the only one who is a wee bit (or a whole lot) addicted to setting up planners and systems ... and that I am not the only one using more than one system! You've all given me courage to truly bare my planner soul today ... :)

So at the very top of the post is a picture of my "planning station." It takes up a significant portion of the kitchen jetty which is situated between the kitchen proper and the breakfast nook. It can get quite messy at times, but I try to keep the clutter under control as best I can. I like the idea (and look) of clear counters, but realistically speaking, this is the best place for me to work.

What I have here is my file crate, my planning materials, a pile of magazines to read through and clip for my journal, my laptop, and some writing utensils, tape and scissors.

It's not a streamlined or perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination, but rather, as always, a work in slow progress.

Ok, so let's break all "the planning materials" down.

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Above you see my master planning binder. This is one of those things I use, and have used for years, even though I'm constantly tweaking it. I can never get it quite right, but I need it in my life! I'm using one of those Martha Stewart 3-ring binders, and though a bit expensive, it's really well made. The cover used to be plain, but this summer, on a whim, when Little Bear was obsessed with butterflies, I added stickers .... and I hate them, lol. But they are stuck on there FAST. I keep meaning to have Bill (who has way more patience than I do) help me remove them and any gunk they leave behind.

(Now, mind you - this is ONE of my planners (in that, I use it for planning), but it's not actually a planner, per se. It's a bit of a mess really, but I do try to use it as a planner.)

The binder is pretty much never just sitting there closed like that, but open on the counter to my domestic journal. (So therefore, the butterflies shouldn't really bother me ... but they do.)

Here's what it looks like when you first open it ...

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There is a nice inside pocket in which I keep a few things, including a neat month-at-a-glance calendar. There is also the weekly file folder laying there - that's from my File Crate System - holding any materials/papers I need for this week. It's not the ideal place to keep the folder - I've tried other spots - but I need it handy and this seems to work best.

I suspect we're due for another File Crate System (FCS) post, but I do want to show you all really quickly:

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I have been using colored paper clips to separate the papers inside my folder by subject: recipes, crafts, to file/act on, Earlybird's printables (homeschool work), and personal stuff.

{Again, I think we need a full-on file crate post, but I just wanted to share that little tidbit in case it might make sense for you, too!}

Now, before we get into the meat of the binder, here is a look at that monthly calendar:

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I spotted this at my local grocery store, and I stood there in the stationary aisle for a good 10 minutes or more trying to talk myself into - or out of - purchasing it. It was relatively inexpensive (I think about $7) so I could hardly resist. And of course, in the end, I didn't.

It is called the 18-Month Simplicity Planner.

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Great, lightweight paper, large spread for each month with lined boxes. I like that it's a thin, light, booklet-style calendar - very easy to grab and take with me if I'm heading somewhere and need to consult our family calendar and/or want to work on the calendar itself.

Basically, I really loved the look/feel of this planner and decided I could not BE without it even if I couldn't figure out why I actually needed it. (As you'll see below I have other monthly calendars in play.)

So now here's a breakdown of the binder contents ... the latest configuration, anyway! I feel this post would become completely, ridiculously, overwhelmingly, long if I were to get into each tab and discuss what's what - and I can do that in a separate post if you wish - but for now let me just give you the headings ...

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Tabs across the top:

1. Domestic Journal

2. Seasonal Plans

3. The Holidays

4. Months at a Glance

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Tabs down the side:

1. Monthly calendars with seasonal dividers

2. Home & Family

3. Meal Planning

4. Correspondence & Contacts

5. Blogging, etc.

6. Budgetkeeping

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Here is what my planner looks like on any given day. As always, it is open to my current journal page. I use a page finder (cut from pretty scrapbooking paper with a post-it tab on top) and on that page finder I stick my daily chore checklist. I make one up for each week. I turn a lined post-it note sideways and write all my daily tasks down the side - the days of the week across the top - and check those things off each day. I started this to help me remember if I'd given Earlybird his meds and then added on to the checklist.

As you can see, my domestic journal page holds both notes and clippings. It's a "brain dump," much like Mary Ellen described in her post. I just keep it open on my counter so I can write things down quickly as they come up. And I add interesting or inspirational things I find in magazines or newsapers. Nature notes go here, seasonal thoughts and cute things the kids do or say ... pretty much anything goes, even if it will later get recorded somewhere else. It's just a place for me to get it out and then it's not niggling at me. 

What I try to do with this journal (and with all my planners, actually) is to sit down with it on a regular schedule so as to make the best use of the system. So right now I am keeping this journal in a monthly fashion ...

Today being November 1st, I pulled all of October's notepages out of the binder and moved them to my "Yearbook" binder (where the whole year's worth of journaling can be found). Ideally, I will sit down first (not later, because "later" never seems to happen) and comb back over my notes and index information I'll want to return to. The index is a simple sheet that lists the journal year and date alongside the info I might need again. Sometimes there are things in there I need to immediately move on - like a new account and password I created, or an appointment to schedule asap. 

I'd like to make this a weekly task actually, but right now monthly is the best I can do. This also keeps the journal from getting too thick and taking up a lot of space in my binder.

Now, something I've been experimenting with lately is inserting a weekly planning section right in the middle of my daily journal. Because I really have this thing about keeping things all in one place, and right in front of me at all times ...

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To differentiate from the domestic journal paper, I'm using a set of smaller-size loose-leaf (8x10). The yellow sheet on top is an overview of the week ... and I've already revamped it since posting that pic! I once tried stapling this weekly sheet (an earlier version) to the front of my weekly folder but I couldn't figure out how to keep it in my line of sight.

Behind that yellow sheet is a series of pages pertaining to further weekly planning. I am experimenting with this at the moment, so nothing is too set in stone and the pages themselves are just loose-leaf with notes - nothing really worth showing at this point. But I do have individual pages for:

This week's nature/seasonal theme.

This week's family faith at home.

This week's older boys' lesson plans.

This week's younger boys' crafts/activities.

This week's grocery list.

I've tried and tried to compose "worksheets" that allow planning for all of these things on one page ... but I can't get the design right and I find I need more space for my messy notes and ideas. So I'm not sure if it's a design issue or a space issue ... or, you know, a crazy-picky-planner-person issue ... but for now, this is where I'm doing my weekly planning.

Such as it is.

Next is my clipboard on which I keep our weekend plans: 

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We call this list our "P.O.W." (plan of the weekend) and at the end of each week, I prepare a new page. I look at next week and see what needs getting/making/setting up (special projects, events, recipes) and I look back at last week's POW to see what still needs doing. The little sticky note holds notes about the coming week. (Like, feasts and holidays, etc.) Our weekends are for catching up on all those tasks that can't get done during the week, but there is always plenty of carry-over each week.

I keep this on the kitchen counter all weekend so we can all refer to it. I add initials next to tasks so we can see who is responsible for what. Bill and I go over the POW every Saturday morning over coffee (and Sunday after Mass). I use it when working on my weekly to-do's and as I said, again when I'm preparing a new POW.

Now here's where I get a little silly.

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So remember that Stop N Shop aisle where I found the month-at-a-glance calendar? Yes, well, they also had this very pretty Mom's Manager engagement calendar ... and I gave this a really good look-over, put it back on the shelf ... and then kept coming back to it. It was $15 so not exactly something I had in my grocery budget, but still, I was sooo tempted ...

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The thing of it was (is), it's a great little planner! Nice layout, nice durable covers ... showing the weeks-at-a-glance, along with the months ...

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Each month has a nice inspiration page - ideas, recipes, etc. I liked the size of this planner - something easier to tote around than my Day Designer (see below). Even though I work at my "jetty" most of the day, I also like to take my planner upstairs with me when Little Bear is napping and when I'm heading to bed so I can work in my planner in the evening or early morning before the baby wakes. This planner is such a nice size and weight and it's so easy to tote around ... to pop in my purse if I'm heading the hairdresser's or a doctor's appointment, etc. Or even just waiting to pick up Crackerjack from class!

Overall, a very NICE planner ... one I wish I could just fall completely in love with and make work on every level and then I could just forget about all other planners. Life would be so simple!

But here's the other commercially made planner I'm using ... and I would not so easily grab the Day Designer to tote with me, because it's fairly bulky. Here's my DD, open to the daily spread (two days in the future) ...

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I really do like this planner, and I DO need a daily space to plan - there are things to keep track of that are very much pertinent to the day itself (not the week or the season ...). Things that would perhaps get lost in a weekly planner: a call to place, a book to return, a prescription to request, a tv show to record, a check to drop off ... 

(Side note: I'm always trying to figure out how to incorporate a daily planning page into my daily domestic journal because that would seem to make sense ... but so far, no dice.)

And the Day Designer (which I described in more detail here) is beautiful - nice paper, soft colors, a well-thought out design. It has quite the fan following and I admit, I've been caught up in the enthusiasm a bit... but I'm wondering if it might be too much "day" for me. I sometimes feel I'm not using enough of the page. 

So in case you can't tell, I struggle between using a week-at-a-glance planner with an insert or sticky note for daily to-do's/reminders ... OR a day-at-a-glance planner with an insert or sticky note for weekly to-do's/reminders. Hmmm ...

(Do you see now how much I overthink all of this?)

Then of course there is the very pretty homemade planner I made way back in January:

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I am ashamed to say, I only used it through April, and that was, I think, mostly because I had only drawn up the weekly pages through then. (I remember feeling so confident I would get them done before I caught up to them, but that didn't happen.) I would like to think if I'd had those pages done ahead I would have continued on with this homemade planner ...

Here is the October cover page (how I love this vintage paper!):

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And here's how I was using it as a weekly planner ...

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The first page had an overview of the week (much like the one written on the yellow sheets above), and then the next pages featured an agenda for the coming week:

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All hand-drawn on that favorite paper of mine, with (mechanical) pencil, and lots of notes and details about the week. Some quotes, some temperatures and weather notes, where we went ... and if the Patriots won. ;)

I will confess to you - I have all the materials to make this again for 2016 - and I might just do that! I have the vintage paper (a fresh set) and the monthly tabs, and I even found a stash of that awesome loose-leaf in Bookworm's bedroom closet. (Apparently I had sent him off to college last year with a supply and he brought home what he didn't use. So happy to have more of this paper!)

But ...

I also bought the scrapbook paper in the 8x8 size and I'm toying with the idea of making a smaller-size planner in the same design as above. The 8.5x11 is not too thick or heavy but it is a bit bendy, if you know what I mean. Maybe I'll add more support? Hmm.

Oh, wait! Let's got back to the File Crate for a moment, shall we?

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So another way I plan is to use a file folder for each week of the year - it holds any information I need for that week. I keep them all in a simple, plastic crate. There are hanging folders for each season (I divide the year into six seasons rather than four) and each season includes eight or nine weekly folders. I use recycled (brown) folders and write the date and weekly theme on a strip of washi tape. In the front of the bin I hang our parish liturgical calendar. I don't use this calendar in any way other than as inspiration and a reminder of where my Church is in the year.

Then, in the back of the bin I keep my homemade lesson planner.

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Try as I might, I can't seem to incorporate lesson plans into any other planner. They just need to be separate and so, after looking for a commercially-made lesson planner, I ended up making my own. As you can see, I covered a (plain, recycled) spiral-bound notebook with some alphabet scrapbook paper and to secure it, I used some of that same washi tape (mentioned above) around the edges of the notebook.

The metal clamp holds my place in the planner ...

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 I can do a separate post all about this particular planner which has several pages in the beginning for general information and an annual overview, and then there is a page like the one shown above for each week. The weeks allow me to jot down a "plan" for each of my three younger boys for each day of the week, and then on the back of this page I write down resources used and any other notes about the activities and lessons that week.

Although ...

I do have a lesson planning page as well as a craft/activity planning page in that weekly section we discussed back up at the top (or near the top) of this post. I have not yet determined if it makes better sense to have a separate lesson planner as shown here or write plans on a sheet that gets kept in the overall weekly planner.

(Does anyone else find that you can spend too much time dithering over what to use to plan that your plans themselves suffer a bit?)

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Well, I am pretty sure I could go on, but I think it is in the best of our collective interests to wrap up at this point! I hope some of what I said was helpful or interesting ... even if it just justified your own planner craziness or showed you just how unhinged I get when it comes to planners. I've been on a planner mission for so many years I have to accept the possibility it might be me that's the problem, and not the planners themselves. Perhaps I'm too picky or flighty, take your pick.

It's a pretty harmless addiction to have in the scheme of things I think. And as long as I'm keeping up with most of my family's needs (and my own) I feel I'm on the right path. Tweaking till I get it perfect is just in my nature ... whether "perfect" is attainable remains to be seen!

So friends, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Did any of this ring a bell with any of you? Do you have any questions or need clarification? I tried to be as clear as possible but as I've been working on this post for several days, I feel like it started to unravel a bit. Let me know what you think and let's continue our discussion! I have some more guest posts coming up and I'd love to have you join us if you'd like. If you have a planner post (with pics please) please email me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to hearing from you even if you just want to say, hey. I know this was a lot to digest, so I apologize for going on so long, but I know - thanks to this series - many of you are planner junkies like myself. Anyways, I hope this was fun!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!

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