Simple, basic and even low-tech, the high-powered information manager serves as "command central."
Organized people use a personal planner: a small book that contains information, calendars and schedules to help them stay organized. Organized households need a planner, too: a Household Notebook. Containing calendars, schedules, checklists and information of all kinds, a Household Notebook serves as “command central” for the entire family. It’s the place to go, when you need to know.
While each family’s organizer will be unique, most are simple three-ring notebooks with several divider sections. Because they’re infinitely expandable, household notebooks become as distinctive as the family that uses them. A family with school-aged children involved in dance, music and sports will include organizer sections for rehearsal and practice schedules, summer activity ideas and DVDs to-rent lists. A two-career couple with preschool children may add baby-sitter and day-care dividers and an emergency telephone list to their household notebook. Empty-nesters will rely on packing checklists for vacations, home repair records and gift idea lists for far-flung children and grandchildren.
By compiling and storing family information in a central location, life at home benefits. No more searching for scraps of paper or mislaid permission slips. Information is always right where it belongs: in the Household Notebook.
To create your family’s Household Notebook, start with a three-ring binder, some clear plastic page protectors, paper and tabbed dividers.
Add dividers. Using tabbed dividers from the office supply store, set up dividers according to your family’s needs. Each family grows their own family organizer; expect divider categories to change along with your family. Some suggested dividers are listed on the following pages, but your family is unique, so the dividers you choose will reflect that. Be sure to place a few clear page protectors behind each divider section.
Add paper. Start with a calendar, and add pages or forms to record information. At OrganizedHome.Com, you’ll find free printable calendars, forms, and checklists to jumpstart your Household Notebook. Computer users may use desktop publishing programs to create information forms; others can use simple lined paper to create pages for their notebook. Finally, add clear plastic page protectors to each section. Found at office supply and variety stores, they make it easy to track checklists, display schedules, and view product manuals.
Ready to begin? Once the dividers and page protectors are in place and you’ve added calendars and basic forms, you’re ready to begin. Gather all scattered slips and scraps of paper: pizza menus and business cards, school handouts and church bulletins, class schedules and scout camp brochures. Enter information in the Notebook, writing phone numbers on the correct phone directory pages, punching and filing club calendars, slipping magazine articles into page protectors.
Be creative! Add dividers that express your household’s priorities and needs. Planning home-improvement projects? Add an “HGTV” divider, and store snips and swatches in page protectors. Use Master To-Do and Daily To-Do lists in any divider to keep track of ongoing projects and goals, while blank lined pages hold information not covered by a specific form.
Keep your Household Notebook near the family’s main telephone and family calendar to guide family activities and decisions. A cupcake request from the Cub Scout den mother? Note it on the calendar, and add “cake mix” to the shopping list. Planning a Friday-night date with your spouse? Open the folder to the baby-sitter’s information page and review emergency information with the baby-sitter before you leave.
Every Notebook will reflect the unique family that builds it, but these suggested dividers will cover most information needs:
Emergency information. Keep emergency information in the first section of the Household Notebook. Include a list of emergency phone numbers (including your home address, to assist rescue personnel; baby-sitter’s checklists with contact information; phone listings for health care providers and information about emergency procedures).
Calendar and planning. Calendar and planning notes are the heart of a Household Notebook, so set up a Calendar and Planning divider. What belongs here? A monthly calendar, a page protector with your checklists, and a section for to-do lists lives in Calendar and Planning. Use a three-hole punch to add work schedules, school calendars and events lists for church and civic activities. Goal: to have a one-stop location for all planning information for each day, week and month.
Telephone divider and address book. Calling all telephone numbers! The Telephone Directory is the most useful, most-consulted section of any Household Notebook. The Telephone Directory is a single place to put class rosters, take-out telephone numbers, club directories and lists of emergency telephone numbers. Include an address book in your Notebook, to keep track of family and friends. Don’t stop with mere names, addresses and telephone numbers. Add personal information like babies’ names, birthdays and e-mail addresses to stay in touch with family and friends.
With basic address book functions tucked away, custom-tailor the Notebook for your household’s needs. Your Notebook may include dividers for these activities:
Family is where the heart is and deserves its own divider. This section tracks the information needs of family members and family life:
-Personal information page for each family member
-Clothing sizes tracker
-Master occasions list (birthdays, anniversaries)
-Gift suggestion list
-Birthday party ideas
-List of DVDs to rent
-List of books to read
Families with school-aged children will want to add a school divider to hold:
-School schedules and holiday list
-School information page
-School reading lists
-Summer programs information
Bring it all back home! The Home Management divider holds information central to house and home. Cleaning, entertaining, decorating and household storage information find a home here:
-Household cleaning schedule
-Seasonal chore checklists
-Children’s chore checklists
-Home decorating ideas
-Car maintenance schedule
-Stain removal guide
-Home storage inventory
In the kitchen, the Household Notebook helps plan meals, create menus and track inventory in the pantry and in the freezer. Use this section to hold:
-Weekly menu planners
-Grocery shopping lists
-Price book form
-Freezer inventory forms
-Pantry inventory forms
-List of recipes to try
A section for tracking dollars and cents makes sense. Keep track of household finances here:
-Bills to pay
-Credit card list
-Online service/online account information
-Safety deposit box inventory
Organize family health care with a Health and Fitness divider. Have a medical emergency? Grab the Household Notebook on the way to the Emergency Room. Visit to the pediatrician? Use this section to record illnesses, medication and medical history. Types of information to file in the Health and Fitness section include:
-Blood pressure record
-First-aid kit checklist
-Medical information sheet for each family member
-Medical authorization form
-Prescription drug record
-Pet health records
Time for fun! The Travel, Hobbies and Activities divider covers the extracurricular activities that make life worthwhile. Hobby, church, club, sports, volunteer, vacation and travel ideas are included here. Your Household Notebook may have several dividers for this purpose. Are you part of a musical chorale? Give it a divider. Do the children play serious soccer? Divide it up!
What belongs in these sections? Any and every piece of paper pertaining to that activity. Prayer chain lists. Sports information sheets. Lists for travel and camping. These sections will vary from family to family, but here are some ideas:
-Travel packing checklist
-Vacation idea list
-House-sitter information sheet
-PTA newsletters and rosters
-Church prayer circle list
-Scouting or PTA materials
-Craft materials inventory
-Sewing pattern list
-Books to read
-Videos to watch
Make the holiday season bright with the planning power of a Household Notebook. Our sister site, OrganizedChristmas.Com, offers free printable forms for holiday planning or make your own pages to keep tabs on holiday events. Throughout the year, keep track of important days, gift-giving and holiday décor with pages to record:
-Family birthday calendar
-Birthday party planner
-Holiday gift list
-Seasonal greeting cards list
-Holiday menu planner
-Decorations to make list
-“Gifts to make” list
-Gift closet inventory for stored gifts
-Ornament memories journal
What’s the best way to keep track of hectic family schedules? A family calendar. Choose a large write-on calendar on which you’ll track appointments, outings, kids’ activities, family dinners, and carpool assignments. Use colored pens in a different color for each family member to color-code your entries.
If you can see the family’s commitments at a glance, it will guide household planning. The week of soccer playoffs with every night’s dinner spent away from home at the soccer field isn’t the right time to tackle a new home-improvement project. A bonus: seeing family calendar dates in living color helps you say “No!” to new obligations, when they back up against existing plans.
The best place to post your family calendar is in a family information center: a designated space in your home to review checklists, take phone messages, add items to a to-do list, and check calendars.
A family information center focuses on information handling and retrieval, so it should be located near a telephone, in a place that permits seating.
Hang the family calendar from the wall and place the Household Notebook near the telephone. Arrange pens and pencils in a pretty mug or wall holder, and add a pad of paper for phone messages.
Alternatively, use a commercial “information center” whiteboard to take phone messages. Colored markers allow color-coding, while the whiteboard eraser makes it easy to change an entry.
Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited