Your home should be a haven – a place where you and your family can escape the “daily grind”. Whether you have a big family or you live alone, there are lots of things to be done so that your home is clean, friendly, and inviting. Cleaning, seasonal decorating, and grocery shopping can all be done “on the fly”, but if you make yourself a list and stick to it, you’ll save time and money. Most people also need to keep track of things like doctor’s appointments, volunteer activities, and their children’s schedules.
Keeping track of all of those things is easier if you develop a “household notebook” of some sort. You can actually use a physical notebook or utilize programs like Outlook and Excel to keep track of things. You can even keep this information on your palm pilot! There is really no right way or wrong way to organize this information; do what works for you!
If you want to use a paper-based system, you’ll need a sturdy three-ring binder, tabbed pages so you can make sections, and a hole punch. Page protectors are a big help, too. You might want some “pocket” pages to keep papers that aren’t punched, and a zipper pocket for pens and pencils. If a three-ring binder seems too large to handle, try an organizer with rings. Some people like to print notebook pages off their computer, but you don’t necessarily need to do so – lined paper works for most pages, and you can make a calendar on plain paper and a ruler.
To start off with, you’ll need calendar pages for two years. For the first (present) year, print or make monthly pages with enough room to write in appointments. Many people also like to create daily pages as well, so that you can schedule things by the hour. For the second year, just make a page that lists each month.
To use your calendar, write in all the things you must remember on a certain date: doctor’s appointments, volunteer activities, pet vaccinations, birthdays, anniversaries, and so on. For things which recur each year, such as birthdays and vaccinations, go ahead and write them in on the second-year page, under the appropriate month. To make the calendar system work, you simply must review it every evening for the next day. You must also review it once a week, to make plans for the week. Suppose you’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and you also need to run by the drugstore, cleaners and grocery store. Since you’re going to town on Tuesday anyways, make time to do your other errands that afternoon. Yes, it ties up an entire afternoon, but it keeps you going to town only once that week instead of four times! This saves both time and gas money!
You can also use your calendar to pencil in due dates for bills, warranty expirations, delivery dates for items you order online, dates you sent off for refunds, when library books are due, and so on.
Secondly, you need a tabbed section for food. One page can be a running grocery list, or if you prefer, a list of staples that you can highlight or check off needed items. Another page can be a freezer inventory, and a third page can be a weekly or monthly meal plan.
A fourth page can be used as a “price book” – a system where you compare regular prices for items you use regularly. For instance, you might list peanut butter – Store A, $1.49, Store B, $2.03, Store C, $1.25. If you’re not picky about brand, use unit prices instead (but be sure to record what brand you’re analyzing at each store). To make this system work, you must be willing to visit several different stores to get the best prices, but you’ll know what to purchase at each store.
Make a budget section where you can write out how much you spend on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis for different expenses. Make a list of your fixed expenses (mortgage, insurance), your variable expenses (phone bill, light bill), and your optional expenses (groceries, eating out). Groceries are an optional expense to a large degree – if you eat less meat and buy store-brand items, your bill goes down. If you want steak four nights a week and lobster the other three nights and never buy anything unless it’s the most expensive brand, then you have taken the option of a higher grocery bill (but you don’t HAVE to do so, in the way that you HAVE to pay a set amount on your mortgage!)
The next section is for household cleaning. Some people go all-out with this section, writing down every last little thing to the nth degree. Others just make a list of general chores to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly basis (such as spring cleaning or getting leaves out of your gutters). Still others like to list routines – get up, shower, make coffee, get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, and so on. Even if you don’t need a list to get through your day, you should make one anyway – you never know when something might happen and your spouse or a helper may need to do your chores for a while. You might injure yourself, get sick, or even be called away to help an ailing family member. Having a list of chores will put your mind at ease and make it far easier for someone to step into that role.
Another section can be used for recording important information: Policy numbers for insurance, dates and dollar amounts of major purchases, serial numbers, health information, pet medical records, etc. Do not write down things like credit card or social security numbers, because if you take your notebook with you and it gets lost or stolen, this information could be used to commit identity theft. You may also want to make a list of very important telephone numbers for easy reference. If something is too big or detailed to keep in the binder itself, write down exactly where it can be found. For example, if you’ve got detailed shot records for your five cats, that’s probably 25+ pieces of paper! Make a note of when vaccinations are due again, and note “Records are in file folder marked Pets, bottom drawer of file cabinet”.
Many people use their household notebooks for long-range planning. Holiday mayhem can be greatly reduced by creating a page to record gift ideas and purchases, dates for getting decorations put up, holiday party planning, and cooking plans. A notebook section is essential if you are sending a child off to college, doing major home improvements, or planning an event.
If you have children, your notebook is an excellent place to keep a list of non-negotiable household rules and pre-set rewards and punishments. If you tend to be arbitrary, your notebook can help you break that habit. You can also keep track of important dates and events for your child’s school and keep a running list of things to ask at the parent-teacher conference. If you homeschool, your notebook is an excellent place to keep track of grades, projects, books read, and other items you need for documentation and to prepare a transcript.
You may also want a section of your household notebook to be devoted to spiritual concerns: inspirational writings, a prayer journal, Bible study pages, sermon notes, and passages of Scripture. Many people like to keep a list of things they’ve prayed for over time, and then when God answers the prayer, write down when and how. When you’re having a “down” day, reviewing this section can be a real boost!
As you can see, your household notebook can contain all the information you need – right at your fingertips! The best thing is that you don’t have to rely on memory any more, it’s all written down for you. You can customize a household notebook for any purpose – adding new sections, deleting old information, making it all work for you and what you need. Don’t get bogged down with trying to make your notebook a certain way… after all, it’s YOUR book!