Household checklists are they single best tool for keeping control of a busy home. Household management binders, folders, or something similar will save your sanity especially when life is changing fastest.
If you are considering outsourcing any of your house work, they become even more critical
Create Household Checklist Binders
These binders become the central repository for everyone in your home to track all the complexities that can fall through the cracks otherwise. Have core ones for most of the stuff you need to track in your life: Family, Kids, Home and Food. You can either keep your calendar online, read more about setting up an online calendar, but set up a paper one as well, if you prefer. Keep them in your family nerve center, usually the kitchen, where they are central and accessible to everyone.
Why Take the Time
Using a binder for staying on top of things is very practical for a number of reasons.
- Find Things and Complete Things on Time
If everything has a place, a single perfect place where everyone can refer to it without losing it, you are more likely to be able to lay your hands on it when you need to.
If you remember to get things done, or scheduled on time, you will spend far less time dealing with mistakes, waste and emergencies.
- It takes less time to be proactive than reactive.
Running around at the last-minute getting gifts, setting up maintenance appointments, etc., wastes a lot of time. Imagine going to the store once for the month’s gifts, cards, decorations and other necessities and having them ready for the upcoming event, not running across town 3 times in a week for birthday presents (who hasn’t done that?).
- If you are tactile, it is easier and more satisfying to work on paper.
I am an IT project manager and spend more time on a computer than anything else and I still find it easier to think and plan with a pencil and notepad than any other way.
- Share it with the kids.
Kids may love technology, but teaching is often more effective with markers and paper. When it comes to chore lists and appointments, Have them print and color the pages themselves and then use them.
- Share with outsourcers.
Not all nannies, housekeepers and handymen are equally familiar with technology, but they can all handle paper. Just keep the language simple or use a pictorial, in case their reading skills are limited. Don’t embarrass anyone by making them explain they don’t read well. Having these household checklists can help you ensure effective communication.
- Use fun colors, stickers and any other number of visual tools to help you organize and remember.
- Set it up exactly the way you want it to.
There are many tools out there for organizing, but they don’t all track things the way you would like. Your system needs to work with your organizational style. For example, I have never found a gift list that I like, I always have to make my own.
What Tools Do You Need
If you want to create an organizational binder, there are a few great tools to help you do it.
Choosing the right binder is an important start.
- Keep them specific.
Unless you are single, have separate ones for family, food and home at least. Make sure they are right for your audience. You want the one that your housekeeper uses to have only things they should see. Even if you have a shelf with 6 or 8, it is fine as long as everyone is clear on what goes where, so nothing gets mixed up
- Keep them small.
Stick to a 1 or 1 1/2 inch binder because it doesn’t become too heavy or confusing. Children should be able to help with theirs, they can at least put their invitations, notifications and brochures in it. They should be thick enough to accommodate an insert for flyers and brochures though. You will need it.
- Make them durable.
If you are going to use them regularly, they can’t be flimsy or floppy. Hard cover binders stay tidy look nicer on a shelf and stand straighter.
- Make them attractive
If you are going to enjoy using them, make them personal and attractive. Choose colors and patterns that appeal to you and that suit the area where you plan to store them. Buy different colored binders, so that you don’t need to read labels to find the right one. If you want them color coordinated, buy a package.
Use both vertical and horizontal dividers. This allows you to break a section up more visually. Make sure the tabs are big enough to write on, especially if you don’t have a label maker. Breaking out the printer can slow you down or cause procrastination. Most importantly, make sure they are sturdy.
Have a lot of pockets. if you overload them, they don’t work. Use them for anything that is not handy to hole punch, like brochures or cards and documents. A combination of binder pockets and page protectors is the most efficient. Most of my binders have a back section of just page protectors with key documents and information that you reference regularly.
Pencil Case & Tools
Always keep a pencil-case nearby for your accessories. The ones that you use regularly when referring to or updating your binders. You are never going to keep them current if you are always searching for a pen.
I love pencil cases, I like it when they reflect both the binder they go with and the people who use them. But, I am practical too, so I favor the ones that I can grab something from without too much trouble and where things don’t fall to the bottom. So my favorite are standup ones like the Hokus or the soft sided box style HomeCube. But there are so many options that you can find the one to suit you.
Once you have your pencil-case, you just need to fill it. These are the tools that I use to maintain mine. I don’t get fancy; I like to keep it simple. You can add to yours with colored pens, markers and such, if you wish.
How to Set It All Up
Gather the documents and printables that will go into this binder. At this stage it does not matter whether the documents are complete. If you are missing important information, note it on brightly colored post-it and add it to the proper pile. Organize your papers into piles and arrange them in the order that will be easiest to remember and reference later.
Determine how many sections you will need. Do you want to put all the camp schedules and communications together and then divide by child, or child first and then by subject? If your kids are old enough to maintain it, give them each their own binder or section and make them responsible. Do you want to organize by season, physical location in the house or by outsourcer? If your outsourcers will use the binder, then organize it that way. Preferably, the least organized people in the system should have the fewest items, 1 binder per child and 1 binder per outsourcer. If your partner struggles, keep their stuff in one place as well. The simpler the better.
Put each divider and pockets with the corresponding group of documents and label the divider appropriately. Add each section to the binder as completed. If a section is not completely organized, that’s okay; include what you have so far. Put a blank piece of paper in the front of the binder and make a list of everything that is missing or incomplete. You can peck away at the list over time.
Print a cover page and label your binder appropriately. Find a practical place for the binder and keep the pencil-case is nearby. Discuss it with your family to make sure that everyone knows how and why to use it. Discuss a plan for keeping it current. Talk to children about bringing communications home and putting them with the binder.
Add documents and updates to the binder as you find them and as they come in the house. You do not need to sit down and do this all at once. Whenever you start a new project like this, it is more helpful to work on it for 15-30 minutes a few times a week until you get all caught up. This both helps you start a new habit and prevents you from becoming overwhelmed. At the end of the first or second month, the binder will be complete and you will be in the habit of updating it regularly. Don’t hesitate to delegate some sections; it works best if everyone binder helps with it.
Check out our printable household checklists for your binders here:
…And soon we will be releasing our family printables for tracking appointments, activities, vacations and more.
… Also our sample table of contents for each binder & section.