Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[Necessity ÷ (Time x Tasks x 7)] + Initiative = Organization

I like to live by lists; but after another major relocation (3 in under 3 years!), I've been remiss in making & keeping up with lists.

I own a few books on organization, and I follow a few blogs that provide ample inspiration to get my act together.
Genetically speaking, I'm Wally's daughter, so it's safe to say that God has fully equipped me to be thoroughly organized.

But alas!
I've had to regain the discipline necessary to take initiative in this crucial aspect of homemaking/homeschooling.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and my desire for order and sanity has made it necessary for me to (finally) get everyone into their right places throughout the day so we may again begin to measure progress.
Therefore, I have re-invented the proverbial wheel, so to speak, by bringing together some older and some not-so-old methods of corralling my family & tackling household jobs.

Something that takes the lion's share of our day is the idea of eating. It entails meal planning, list making, grocery shopping, slicing, chopping, grating, baking, roasting, grilling, sauteéing, clean-up, loading/unloading the dishwasher, washing dishes by hand, setting the table, clearing the table, wiping the counters, sweeping the floor...
All of these jobs - along with many other chores - require workers, obviously. With seven people in our home, it would seem daunting; but years ago, I adopted the adage, "Many hands make light work."

I hope this isn't disappointing, but it seemed logical to me. It's a bit difficult to read here, but it has each one's name in a specific color, making it easy to locate each one's turn for fixing a meal, washing, or drying dishes.

I'm an old-fashioned paper-and-pen kind of gal (although we probably own more apple computer products than most American families).
I don't like the thought of having my life stored on a device that could crash or become obsolete. 
So, each year, I start with what my generation once considered an administrative staple: 
3-hole-punched, lined paper & the best pen ever manufactured - a blue Bic cristal.

All of my lists are kept in a cute 3-ring binder, purchased at Target.

Told ya it was cute! It reminds me of a particular fabric that I should have bought but didn't.

And if you're ever blessed with the opportunity to go to the Vera Bradley Factory Warehouse Sale in Ft. Wayne, IN, you, too, can score some adorable little binder clips like this one! It holds things like the scary list of DOs & DON'Ts from the E-Z Tag store, and other small paper items that don't really go into the rings.

Getting back to the matter at hand, this year I started by simply making lists of all that needs to be done. Once this was accomplished, I wrote names next to each task and made a note of which might be the best days of the week for each to be done.

Deciding which chart method to use was a bit tricky for me, as I tend to be indecisive if given too many options.
Years ago, I discovered Teri Maxwell's Managers of Their Homes. Despite the encouraging testimonies given by moms with much more responsibility than I've ever had, who successfully used Teri's method in their own homes, I waited like a scared cat for two years before finally taking the plunge into accounting for every single minute of every single day for every single member of our family (minus Craig, who goes to work).
On that first day, several years ago, of implementing M.O.T.H., my children actually thanked me.
("Yay, Lord! You gave me children who love lists, too!")

I've decided against the actual color-coded time-slot charts this year, in favor of simply writing each one's routine on a "Daily Schedule" list taken from this resource that I bought very early in our homeschool experience (before it was available on CD-Rom in colorful packaging).

I used marker for each child's name for easy ID, and pencil for each time slot, in case any adjustments need to be made.

Each room of the house has a "master list" of what needs to be done daily/weekly, with a person's name underneath the day of the week for each task. These master lists are kept in my home organization binder for a quick overview, but each individual chore chart is kept on a separate sheet, on the reverse side of the page protector holding the daily schedule.

When I start brainstorming ideas for my lists each year, I usually visit Donna Young's site. It's the mother lode of home-organization resources. If Donna Young were my neighbor, she'd hate me, per Proverbs 25:17, as my foot would OFTEN be in her house! 
(Actually, she's probably a very sweet, patient woman who delights in pesky neighbors who assume she has all the answers & bring pies to her doorstep with selfish motives.)

OK, back to meal planning. This seems to be the biggest monster a lot of moms face. Fortunately, we love to eat, so we're motivated not to fall too far away from a meal-planning regimen.

I have several spiral notebooks that have served as my sloppy, unattractive, but easy and convenient mode of making menu lists over the years. These notebooks are like scrapbooks, in that their pages hold scores from games we've played with each other and with guests, guest lists and menus from holidays and other occasions, song lyrics, and other random things that I deemed worthy of inclusion in the menu notebook.

I've tried to use days-of-the-week menu charts in the past, but I tend to follow my cravings rather than a schedule for meals. It helps to know, in general, what's available; then I decide either the day before, or even that same morning, what to have for dinner. This works for me just fine, and no one is complaining.

This is our current menu notebook, along with a "system" I tried to implement a couple of years ago. It hasn't worked for me due to my whimsical personality, but it was still a good idea. The list on the printout is similar to the lists in the notebook, with one exception. There are seven dinners (with fewer lunches/breakfasts, which are easy to throw together with leftovers, etc.), and the reverse side includes a shopping list for each meal.

This is the shopping list for one menu list. I haven't used these because when I set them aside for a while, I plan meals according to my craving. Then when I try to return to one of these pre-printed lists, I find that we've recently eaten a few items on the list. Not wanting to repeat, I set it aside, and the cycle continues. By the way, I have several of these lists. My original plan was to be able to forget about menu planning for a couple of months at a time. Try it. It may work for you.

Here's how my life really looks. :-) This is the same basic list system mentioned above, but in my own handwriting inside the spiral notebook. I like to think that posterity will appreciate my having done this - as long as posterity tends toward the grandmother's habit, rather than the grandfather's computer-dependent system.

The result of well-laid plans?

Happy children who take joy in checking items off the list!


  1. A woman after my own heart.

    Your list-loving, notebook-coveting, never-organized-quite-enough friend,

  2. Debbie, you raise the bar, for sure! The very fact that you consider yourself "never-organized-quite-enough" proves your high standard. Thanks for being an inspiration!

    Glad I can make you covet... I mean admire my notebooks, though. ;-)