How to Build a Notebook: Part 1
3 ring binder large enough to meet your family’s needs. I use a 1½” binder
Pocket pages (you can either make or purchase these)
If you are a scrapbooking kind of person, you might enjoy creating a cover for your notebook. I just created something in MS Publisher that reflected our family. I chose to use a clear view binder so I could insert my own cover and spine design. Here’s what our notebook cover looks like:
The first thing you will need to do is decide what you want your notebook to do for you. What is it that you will be tracking: School news? Health information? Cleaning schedules? Weekly or monthly menus? Address lists?
Next, you will need to determine what categories you will use for your dividers. My notebook has:
Sign me/ important
Phone and addresses
Family / School
Menus / recipes / pantry and freezer inventories
Church and other organizations
Flylady / Organized Home info
Many notebook creators have a finance divider as well. I used to have one, too. But, I have decided to create a finance notebook instead. That way, all our financial information isn’t out where anyone can find it. It is kept in a safe place, away from casual glances.
I also have created a Christmas notebook that keeps all my holiday information in one spot. I have my Christmas card address list and ornament inventory stored in the notebook. I also have favorite holiday recipes grouped in one spot so they are easy to find from year-to-year. I have other stuff in the Christmas notebook, as well. I’m hoping to help walk you through that process later this year – before the Christmas rush. But, if you want, you can include a Christmas / Holiday section in your notebook.
Your assignment: Get a sheet of paper and list all the things you want to track and divide them into categories.
The Very First Page
We have young children who require supervision when we go out on a date night or for other events. I wanted a one-stop information place for those who come and watch our kids. So, the very first page of our household note book is titled, “You Are Here” and contains some important information. I have listed here things like:
- Our home’s physical address
- Our home phone number
- Directions to our home from the closest main road
- Emergency contact numbers including our cell phone and a neighbor’s phone
Following this page is an Emergency Contact List.
And then, I have a phone message log for an easy-to-find place to keep a record of phone calls we missed while we were out.
Then, I have a copy of our “Family Guidelines.” Having it in this spot makes it easy for a babysitter to find. Also, if I should need to, um, refresh one of my children’s minds about our guidelines, they are easily accessible. Thanks to my friend, Jill, who came up with a list of guidelines that she was willing to share with me. I just tweaked them a bit to reflect our family.
These are PDF templates that you may download and use.
Sign Me: Household Notebook Part 3
Have you lost that field trip permission slip again? If your home is like ours, once it is discovered that very important paper is lost, everything and everyone stops. The next second chaos ensues as backpacks start flying across the room, furniture is up-ended, children dash around wildly looking for that yellow slip and mom frantically sorts through every pile of papers in the house.
Imagine, if you will, a place can be found for every important paper that crosses the threshold of your home. That is why my notebook section called, “Sign Me,” exists. As soon as book orders or permission slips enter our home, I have trained my children to hand them to me and I place them in the pocket divider immediately. Most of the time, when our kids first get home from school, life is just too hectic for me to read all the papers handed to me. After the kids have been tucked into bed for the evening and I have had a chance to catch my breath, I will carefully read all the notes and papers sent home.
After reading, I have some specific steps I take.
- I write important dates on the calendar (we’ll get to that soon).
- I write things to do on the master to-do list (we’ll get to this as well).
- I sign what needs to be signed – if I’m OK with the activity. If not, I write out a brief note as to why my child will not be participating.
- I place the things that need to go back to school in my children’s backpacks.
- I make a note to tell the kids in the morning where the permission slips, book orders, etc can be found.
- Things like book orders I place back into the pocket after noting on the calendar when they are due back at school. The next day, I will set aside time to go through the orders with my children.
This system seems to work well for our family. There are a few weak spots, however. My system is dependant on my children telling me about the notes and them physically handing them to me. At this point in our lives, I’m comfortable with that. In my mind I am helping them develop personal responsibility. And, I’ll admit, I go through their backpacks after they hit the hay just to be sure.
The Calendar – Household Notebook Part 4
If it isn’t on the calendar it isn’t happening in my life. I have many things to remember with a busy family in church, school, activities and civic groups. I ashamedly admit I have forgotten birthday parties and meetings in the past. But, now, I try to stay on top of all that happens with our family in the calendar section of our family notebook.
Let me walk you through how I have my calendar section arranged:
Pocket folder for notes
Full-year calendar on one page
Master birthday/anniversary list
Flylady has some great tips on how to use a calendar. This is a brief synopsis: Click here for the entire article.
Family Events: At the first of the year, write in all family birthdays and anniversaries.
Schedules: As soon as you receive a schedule of events from anything that family member participates in, fill it in IMMEDIATELY!! If you can’t write them down right away, place them in the pocket folder in the calendar section and deal with as soon as you have the opportunity.
Invitations: Determine if you will be able to attend the event and write it down right away. RSVP immediately while you are holding the invitation. Then, once you have written down all the information from the invitation, you can toss it. Or, if you feel it’s needed, place the invitation in the pocket folder.
Appointments: When you schedule an appointment, look at the calendar first. Then, after you have the appointment scheduled write it down. If you have an errand day, it’s generally a good rule to plan appointments on that day.
And for our family, I have found it extremely useful to assign a different color for each person in our family and then a color for events that include all our family. That way, I can tell by a quick glance who is doing what on which days just because it’s color-coded.
The key to making a calendar work is being disciplined enough to fill it in as soon as you get the information in your hand. Once you conquer this discipline, you will be amazed at how easily the calendar will work for you.
Phone Numbers and Addresses – Household Notebook Part 5
The Phone divider is somewhat self-explanatory. I tire of looking up phone numbers and addresses so I created a phone and address directory for those I contact frequently. I have added a document to the Box.net file sharing widget on the right-hand side of my blog. You may use those if you like, or just create your own.
Additionally, I have a copy of our Christmas card mailing list in this section. I have another copy in my Christmas planner.
Recently, I have added a Family Yellow Pages to my phone divider. I include listings for child care, piano tuners, car repair, hair salons, schools, lawn care, book stores, and other favorite business places. I am able to find numbers and names quickly because I have them located in one place.
The Heart of My Household Notebook: Home Management
This is the place for all my cleaning schedules, to-do lists, seasonal checklists, my cleaning zones, daily routines, weekly plans, etc. I use this section of my notebook the most frequently.
Before I delve into this I do need to give credit where credit is due. I started out this journey because of Flylady.net. She, and her crew, have really helped me grasp how to organize my home and thoughts enough to create a home management journal. She calls it a “Control Journal.” Her website clearly outlines the steps to take to build daily and weekly routines. As a bit of a disclaimer, I don’t do everything Flylady suggests. And I think she would be okay with that. Take what works for you and run with it.
The second website that helped me the most is Organizedhome.com. This is a great resource for free printable pages, ideas, cleaning plans and more. In my quest to become have a more organized home, I found that melding some of the ideas I gleaned from Flylady and Organized Home is what worked best for me. You will need to do what works best for you and your home. It may be that “dressing to the shoes” works well for you – for me it didn’t.
The items in my Home Management Divider, in order:
Pocket for notes
Master To-Do List (this is more for the big picture stuff)
Daily To-Do List
Basic Weekly Plan
Daily Routines – Morning, afternoon, bedtime
Weekly Cleaning Calendar (I use blank calendar pages; one page for each quarter)
Zone Cleaning Checklists
A Clean Bathroom Checklist – for everyday
A Clean Kitchen Checklist – for everyday
A Clean Bedroom Checklist – for the kids to use everyday
Seasonal Cleaning Checklists
Laundry soap recipe and other homemade cleaning supplies
Articles on home management that I have downloaded or printed
I will try to upload some of my checklists and routines to my file sharing widget in the next week. There are many to do, so be patient with me.
Now, to explain each item and the process I used to get to my lists:
I have the pocket for notes so I can put things there that I want to keep but don’t have time to place in my notebook. For example, I have a great recipe for an all-purpose cleaner on a 3 X 5 card. I don’t want it in my recipe file, but I do want it where I can find it. When I have the time, I will add it to my household cleaners page and reprint that page.
The Master To-Do List is more for big projects I want to complete in the coming year. For example, I would like to convert my recipe file box to a Kitchen Notebook. So, I have “Kitchen Notebook” on my Master To-Do List. Other things I place on here are projected dates for cleaning carpets or civic activities I need to plan ahead. I keep all of my to-dos in this section so that I can list out my tasks in one spot.
The Daily To-Do List is exactly what it says. Today, my list includes: post blog article, parent-teacher conference, worship team practice, piano lesson, daily cleaning mission (from Flylady), laundry, dinner for Dawn, type and print lead sheets, bake cookies, work on MOPS Council Meeting handouts . . . the list seems endless. If I had extra time today, I might have included type 10 recipes for Kitchen Notebook. I don’t have time today, so it’s not on the list.
The Basic Weekly Plan outlines what I hope to accomplish each day of the week.
Monday: Kelly’s Mission (Flylady), check calendar
Tuesday: Kelly’s Mission, go through fridge, make grocery list, plan menus, check calendar, laundry, zone detailed cleaning list
Wednesday: Kelly’s Mission, check calendar, zone detailed cleaning list
Thursday: Kelly’s Mission, errand day
Friday: Kelly’s Mission, check calendar, clean purse, clean car, file, balance checkbook, blessing hour
Saturday: Family day – whenever possible.
Sunday: Day to rest, church
Now that I am substitute teaching, I am finding that my Basic Weekly Plan must be flexible. So, if I sub on Tuesdays, I shift all of Tuesday’s tasks to Thursday. Some weeks, I end up doing things on Saturdays. Some weeks, things don’t get done. I have come to the place where I am at peace with not doing something. I will get to it in time.
Daily Routines are those things that I want to accomplish each day. For example, my morning routine includes getting ready for the day, swish and swiping (that’s a Flylady thing), checking my calendar, phone calls, make lists, etc. My afternoon routine includes fixing supper, helping with homework, quick pick-up around the house. My evening routine includes making sure the kitchen is clean, dishwasher is running, checking the calendar, winding down for bed.
More to come . . . keep watching
I took a cue from FlyLady and divided my home into cleaning zones. The zones she has didn’t work well for me, so I adjusted them to fit my needs. I have five zones:
1. Entrance, Front Porch, Dining Room
2. Kitchen, Bathrooms
3. Kids’ Bedrooms, Playroom
4. Master Bedroom, Office
5. Living Room, Guest Room
I then assigned a week for each cleaning zone. I realize that, generally, most months have four full weeks and I have five zones. The end of the month / first of the next month, I determine which parts of Zones 1 and 5 need the most attention and clean those areas. I make sure to hit the other areas as needed throughout the month.
Then, I have assigned Tuesday and Wednesday as my deep cleaning days. On those days I clean from top to bottom in the assigned area. My checklists are on the file widget in PDF form. By completing a one-month cycle, I have basically deep-cleaned my home. I work for no more than one hour each day. When time is up, I quit.
It has been amazing to me how quickly I am able to clean. It took a few months to get my home to the point where it was easy to clean, but now it seems like it almost cleans itself. One thing that has really helped is to tackle those hot spots – places where clutter collects – every day. I take 15 minutes at the end of each day and clean those spots up. Then, I don’t have piles and piles of things to sort through on my cleaning days.
More Deep-Cleaning Tasks
I rotate some other deep-cleaning tasks throughout the year. I have some jobs that I complete every three months; others that I do every six months or less. I basically divide the list up and assign the duties to specific months on my master to-do list. Here’s a list of the extra tasks:
Every three months:
Vacuum behind fridge
Polish baseboards and trim
Descale coffee maker
Launder throw rugs
Wash light fixtures (run through dishwasher, if possible)
Every six months:
Vacuum condenser coil (fridge)
Wash comforter, bed skirt
Wash kitchen cabinets, inside and out
Deep clean stove hood (includes cleaning fan filter)
Professionally clean drapes
Menus, Recipes and Food Inventories
The next section of my notebook is focused on what we eat. I have menus planners, recipes I have collected (but not placed in my recipe box) and inventory lists for my pantry and freezer. In the future, I hope to pull all my kitchen stuff into a notebook in and of itself, but for now it’s in my household notebook.
I plan my menus around the weekly grocery store circulars. For us, they are published on Wednesdays. That’s also the day I clean out the fridge. I try to work in things that are on sale that week and save some money. I also like using the Coupon Mom website for even more savings (it’s free, by the way). I incorporate leftovers (L/O) frequently for lunches. When I cook larger portions of meat, like a turkey breast or roast, I plan for that to feed us for three meals or more. For example, I can use a roast turkey breast for sliced turkey, turkey noodle soup and turkey fajitas. A $15 turkey breast has now been spread across three meals for about $5 per meal – and there are usually plenty of leftovers. I have uploaded a blank menu planner in the Widget box.
After a friend challenged me to feed my family for a week using only the food I already had on hand, I realized how much food is lurking in the dark corners of my freezer and pantry. From that point on, I decided to start using a system to track that food inventory. First of all, it prevents me from purchasing food I already have on hand (how many boxes of lasagna noodles can one family consume at a time?) and it helps me use what I already have on hand when I plan my menus. I found the inventory trackers at organizedhome.com to be the most useful. Why re-invent the wheel? You can find them here. Just scroll down the page a bit and print to your heart’s content. Basically, you write down an item and make one slash mark for each one of those items. When you use one of those items, you cross through one of the slash marks to distinguish that it is no longer available for use.
Using a weekly menu and keeping track of my food inventories have really helped our family save on the monthly grocery budget. And, too, it takes out the last minute oh-my-goodness-it’s-dinnertime- what-are-we-going-to-have panic and temptation to run through the drive-through.
Organizations & Volunteering
I have learned I must keep track of all the different activities my family takes part. As my children get older, the list seems to get bigger – so organization is a must.
I have separate “pockets” for each organization in which I place notes, phone numbers, letters, calendars, etc. On Fridays, I make sure the family calendar is up-to-date (the one in the calendar section of my notebook) and check the organization’s calendar for up-coming events. If our church is having a pot luck dinner in two weeks, I plan what I will be bringing and add those items to the next week’s grocery list. If the Girl Scouts are going on a field trip and need specific supplies, I make sure I have those on hand and place needed items on the shopping list.
I also keep any kind of paperwork for our activities, like copies of signed permission slips, in this section of my notebook. I also keep running to-do lists here. For example, I need to get a filing system going for our worship team at church. Instead of adding that to my household to-do list, I have it here.
If I have an event to plan, like a training meeting for MOPS leaders, I keep all my notes, plans, contacts, and invites in this section. I often use sticky notes as I plan out details, so I keep them in the pocket divider for MOPS.
You may discover, if your family is on the go most of the time, that using a separate notebook for your family activities might be necessary. Just remember to transfer all the calendar information over to your household calendar. And I have found it helpful to use a different color ink for each family member as well as a unique color for events the whole family will attend.
The beauty of keeping all your activities in one section is you will be able to easily find all those important dates and papers. It does require personal discipline to ensure each item is placed in your notebook.
From time to time, I run across and idea I would like to use in the future, but I’m not always certain when I might be able to do so. I used to print of pages and pages of ideas I came across while visiting different websites and forums and then promptly lost them in a sea of other papers that needed to be filed away. My solution is to keep new ideas in my Household Notebook.
Here I keep ideas for Christmas crafts for kids’ parties, several different ideas to use with Resurrection Eggs, Girls’ Night Out thoughts, spa night party ideas, baby shower games and family activities ideas. Then, five months later, when I need that idea I can easily find it in my notebook.
I also enjoy writing just for fun. Thoughts and ideas will come to me at the least convenient times, though. If I don’t write my thoughts down right away, I tend to forget them. So, I have a set of index cards on a ring in my bag for these times. I will quickly jot down my thoughts. When I get home, I will place the index card in the pocket of my Ideas Section in the Household Notebook. When I have opportunity to write, I find my index cards, select a topic and write.
I can imagine a myriad of ways an idea section could be used:
- party menu planning
- holiday celebrations
- birthday cake ideas
- remodeling projects
- summer plans
- new ways to organize something
- useful magazine clippings
- work projects
- landscaping thoughts
- gardening plots
The key is to make it work for you and be unique to you. We are creative beings; an idea section is a tool to keep all those creative thoughts in one place.
We move. Frequently. Too frequently. And, unfortunately, our family has a novel’s worth of medical history. I learned a few years ago that it is easier to have everything typed out and ready to go when we visit a new physician. Generally, when we sign in, I hand the receptionist a copy of the history to add to our file. It’s just easier than hand-writing everything out. I still check the boxes on the intake form and sign on the dotted lines, but instead of explaining each incident, I can refer to the copy I have given to the office. It makes my life much easier.
Also, because I have our information in one spot, I don’t have to try and remember when it was that I had that surgery or illness. It’s right there in my notebook. I keep a copy of all our immunizations here as well. It makes it a little easier in the ER to tell them that yes, the tetanus booster was given just two years ago and I have the documentation to prove it.
The health section is also a great place to track weight loss, food intake, exercise plans and goals. A friend of mine keeps a copy of her points system in her notebook so she can easily find it. Basically, anything having to do with health and fitness can go here.
Did we remember to set the light timers before we left? What about the iron? Did someone unplug it? Did I remember to pack our toothbrushes? I really dislike those feelings of uncertainty that come once we’re about 50 miles down the road. FlyLady has developed a great resource for organized traveling. It is her Packing Control Journal. She covers everything from what are your travel plans to toothbrushes. I basically just printed off her journal and added it to my notebook.
I found another resource at OrganizedHome.com. They have a great “Before We Leave Checklist.” It covers quite a bit and has space to write in the things that are unique to your home. Both of these tools help diminish those uncertain feelings that hit once you are too far down the road to turn back, as well as those late night trips to Wal-Mart in an unfamiliar town.
By the way, the Organized Home website has a ton of free printables available, including more forms for picnic planning, camping checklists and packing checklists. Find them here.