I've been overhauling my home management binder for several reasons. One, the end of the year is coming fast. (Oh man, it'll be December before we know it!) And secondly, I'm going to be having another little baby soon, so I am trying to get everything prepped and ready.
You may be wondering what the purpose of a home management binder is. Well, I first put together a home management binder about ten years ago. I was a new wife and mama, I had no idea how to manage a home, and I desperately needed direction and discipline in this area. Enter FlyLady. She was a life (or home) saver. Thanks to her great tips and guidance, I was able to pull together my home. I don't say it lightly when I say she was definitely a God-send. I bet my husband even wanted to hug her tight and thank her profusely!
Even though it's been a while since I've subscribed to her newsletters and such, the lessons I learned from her those years ago have stuck with me, and, as our family grows, I become even more grateful for the wisdom Flylady imparted to me. So, let me say, if you feel like you are lost in the chaos and don't know where to start, go to her website. Like.. now.
One of the things Flylady recommends is to put together a Home Management Binder. She calls it a "control journal." She has articles on her site that help you put one together step by step, which beginners might find quite helpful.
As I've talked to other women about these nifty household tools, I've found that it's not just the scatter-brained, disorganized women who find them helpful. Even highly organized women love them!
The purpose of a Household Binder depends on the family. I am a homemaker who homeschools her children, so my binder reflects that. Once upon a time I used to manage the finances, but now I do not, so my binder also reflects that (meaning I used to have a financial section, but now I do not).
As we move through the pages in my binder, you will get an idea of what it's purpose is for our family.
I like pretty things, so I have chosen to use pretty printables, washi tape, and other things I purchased from the craft store to "beautify" my binder and the pages within. Maybe the prettiness isn't a factor for you, but it is for me. I will say upfront that I found most of these printables free online using Pinterest. Some printables I made myself using PicMonkey and Word. A few things I bought from Michael's on clearance. I apologize to the creators of these printables- I saved them directly to my computer and cannot remember exactly who made what to give the proper credit.
Allow me to ramble a bit about the basic tools I used to put this together before I move forward.
- Binder (obviously)
- Page protectors
- Post-it Tabs
- Card stock paper
- Regular printer paper
- Tape (I used decorative Washi tape I found on sale.)
- Permanent marker(s)
Instead of buying dividers, I made my own using page protectors and Post-it tabs (I found these at Target). I affixed the Post-it tabs to the back side of the page protector, and then put Washi tape on it. I wrote the subject on the Washi tape. If I want to change the subject, I can just remove the Washi tape and put on a new piece. The Washi tape also adds lively color and pattern, which I'm all about.
You can find subject/divider pages on Pinterest to print out and put in the page protectors, but I either made my own or used practical pages (like the Year-at-a-Glance page) in my divider page protector.
My binder begins with a planning section. This holds my Year-at-a-Glance page, a page noting Holidays, and then my Morning and Evening routines.
If you're highly organized, you may feel like writing down your morning and evening routine is a little silly, but I can be easily distracted [I used to be HIGHLY distracted, which is why I began using this tool years ago], so it's helpful for me to have something to refer to. Plus, as a mama to many, I have mornings when I wake up and am not even sure where to start. A morning routine is not only helpful for mama, but for the kids as well. You may choose to keep your children's morning routine in your binder, but I have my children's morning routine written in white paint pen (so it's not erasable, but they can use a piece of chalk to check off things if they want) on a small, two-sided chalk board for them to refer to. (The morning routine is on one side, the evening routine is on the other.) Having a predictable start is important, especially when you have a large family. For the most part, I don't have to refer to the morning routine often as I now naturally move through most of it, but I do like to check it because it has helpful reminders like, "Do I need to thaw meat for supper? Do I need to get out the crock pot?" and, "Do cloth diapers need to be washed today?" (Because, let's face it, sometimes I just don't think about that sort of stuff.) I made the Morning and Evening Routine pages myself, but you can find many on Pinterest.
At this time, I do not have a menu planning section in my binder since I do most of my menu planning through Pinterest and simply put it on my fridge, but I do have a sheet of meal and snack recommendations, in case I get stuck. (This printable comes from Mrs January.)
I really love these free blank monthly calendars I found on Pinterest. I printed out quite a few so I could go ahead and write in several months. I love that they are portrait and not landscape, so it's easy to glance at them without twisting my head or turning my binder. Sure, it means smaller boxes, but it's just an overview since I also have weekly calendar print outs (also found on Pinterest). [I wish I could tell you who made the Monthly Calendar, but their name or website is not printed on the page! ]
My weekly calendar printables (free from Scattered Squirrel) are fairly simple. I like the simple nature of them because they don't require a lot of ink to print and because it doesn't feel cluttered. Plus, I am free to add my own decor (Washi tape, in this case). This particular weekly calendar is a two-page calendar. I took the extra time and effort to print them back and front, not only to save paper but because... that's just the way it should be in a planner, right? These have plenty of space to write on and even areas for a To Do list, Goals, Calls, Emails, and Notes. There are also 8 dots on each day which you could use however you want, but I suspect they are meant to symbolize glasses of water. Great way to make sure you are staying hydrated!
I chose not to have daily planner pages because it requires a lot of printer ink and a ton of paper, and I found these weekly pages to be more than sufficient for our family. They look a little blank right now, but that's because I just recently printed them and have yet to really fill them in with all our comings and goings! I not only use these weekly planners to record birthdays, events, and playdates, but also to jot down notes of what we may have done that day. For example, Keagan had a fever Monday, so I jotted that down. Nice to keep track of those things!
My next section is called "Tidy & Clean", and it's a pretty small section right now. Back when I first created a Flylady control journal, it was a very detailed section because I was totally new to this whole "home maintenance" thing and typically only cleaned when I was in panic mode (meaning, someone was about to come over, so quick, shove everything where no one will see it!). You may want to have detailed plans on how to clean each section of the home, especially if your children are also using your binder. Or, you may want to hang detailed plans in each room. (My friend Becky has a detailed, step-by-step list hanging in the bathroom to guide her children along.)
My cleaning section is currently very simple, but I just redid it so I will add more to it over time. I have my cleaning schedule (also a free printable) which makes note of what we do daily, what special tasks we do on specific days of the week (for example, Friday is trash day and it's also the day we do the majority of the "deep cleaning", like wash sheets, dust, etc), and what cleaning duties need to be done monthly, quarterly, and annually.
The only other page I have in this section is a sheet that I drew up to explain my cloth diaper washing routine. If you cloth diaper then you know there's a very specific way of going about it! I'll explain why I have it written in my binder later!
Another section in my binder is Contacts. And no, you can't see it because I'm pretty sure my friends and family don't want you to have their phone numbers and addresses. In the page protector of the divider I have an Important Number printable featuring our closest friends, neighbors, and family members. After that is a print out of our church family's phone numbers, addresses, emails, and birthdays (thanks to my friend Shae who made this document). I have yet to add other people's information, but I will get around to it!
Now, on to one of my favorite sections- Education. In this section I have our Homeschool Mission Statements, Statement of Faith, and Homeschool Goals. Actually, I have the printable, but I have yet to fill it out! (I just printed a fresh one yesterday, so I haven't gotten around to it.)
I also have a page that houses encouraging notes and papers to jot encouraging notes on. I found some really great business-card-sized printables on Pinterest that read, "If kids were flowers, I'd pick you!", "You are a hoot, my love," and "I am so very proud of you!" as well as other sweet and uplifting things. My children are always writing me sweet notes, and I figure this is one way in which I can return the blessing. It helps to have these on hand, but it also nice to write a note to them as well. I made this note pocket by cutting a medium sized envelope in half, gluing it to the page, and securing it further with Washi tape.
Also in my education section is a subsection. I came across some thicker papers (with holes already punched) in my paper stash, so I used these as subdividers. I folded Washi tape to create a little tab. This subsection houses my notes on homeschooling books, methods, and such. If I have an idea for our homeschool, I will jot it here. You'll find notes from Charlotte Mason's writings as well as many quotes from Educating the WholeHearted Child (Clarkson) in this area.
While I considered doing so, I do not keep our lesson plans in this section. Since each child has their own section in my binder (for my own purposes, not necessarily for them to use), I decided to keep my lesson plan pages there. I usually keep them in this section, but now that we have more children, it makes sense for them each to have their own section (where previously they were all on one lesson plan).
This is another one of my favorite sections: My I Love Jesus section. It houses my prayer journal and "Jesus journal", personal bible study notes, and notes from Christian books and devotionals I am working through. (I have made subsections for these in the same way I mentioned earlier.)
I used to keep my bible notes and such in a separate notebook, but I have found it very helpful to have it all in one place. I also use Evernote to journal (It's an app you can snag for free for iPhone, iPad, and even your computer. It's probably available for Android too.) since it's nice to have my notes wherever I go (since I do not take this binder everywhere!). In some cases, I will just photograph my notes and save the photo in Evernote, or I may write in Evernote and print it out to put in my binder.
It seems worth mentioning that I have a page protector filled with extra printables. Some of these are printables I decided not to use (yet), while others are just extras I can copy and print later.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a section for each child in my binder now. I would like to use these as a place to record things, keep special papers, and keep track of their lessons. Right now it just has their lesson plans in it.
I am actually NOT a strict homeschool planner. We are more of the "go with the flow" sort of people. I have some lessons I prepare and am very intentional about, but I also rely a lot on "strewing", which for our family means setting out books and things for the children to enjoy. I have baskets filled with living books and other material for them to move through at their own pace. Because it is difficult to find a lesson "planner" that goes with our style of schooling, I decided to make my own. (Maybe, when I have more time, I will upload it for you guys to download.) I used PicMonkey to design these. I made two different designs for my older children. I use these to record what they are doing, learning, observing, reading, creating, and studying. Right now they look fairly blank because we took yesterday off, but also because I typically do the majority of the recording at the end of the week.
I also wanted something to record what the toddlers are up to (Evangeline, age 3, and Molly Jo, who is about 20 months old at this point).
I made these fun and playful sheets with little characters like "Reading Rabbit", "Helpful Horse", and "Creative Cat" to record some of the things we are doing together, as well as a place that reads, "This week I...." to record things they learned, funny things they said or did, etc. Each one is a weekly overview, and there are four to a page. It's not a place where I jot down a lot of stuff, but just a basic feel for what's going on.
Even baby Shiloh has a section, even though she has yet to arrive. The only thing in her section is a "baby schedule" printable because, after our babies are born, our midwives have recommended that we record diaper changes and feedings to make sure they are going often enough and eating often enough. I figured a cute printable would be great for that! (Not sure where exactly I got this either, but it was on Pinterest!)
I have other things I use, in addition to my Home Management Binder, to make my life easier. I use these small notebooks (from Target dollar section) to jot down thoughts, quotes, and ideas. The Good Ideas notebook is specifically for blogging. I am trying to be more organized in that area! In my Take Note notebook, I write down things I am thankful for, scriptures or quotes that encouraged me, and fun ideas that pop in my head. It's kind of a catch-all.
I also use my iPhone because, well, it's with me most of the time. I make sure to put midwife appointments, playdates, and special events in my iPhone calendar and set an audible reminder (alarm) so I don't forget. It's nice to have a paper calendar at home and a digital one (on my phone), but I know that may be too much work for some people.
Sometimes I put things in my binder that I don't really need (for example, I know how to wash cloth diapers... I don't ever refer to my "how to" page). This may seem silly to do, but allow me to explain another reason to have a Home Management Binder.
As a homemaker, I make sure the household is in good working order. But..... there are times when I just can't do that and must rely on my husband or other helpers. You never know what may happen to mama, although, of course, we all pray I remain in good health. However, there are times when I do need help. Maybe it's just something simple (like I just had a home birth and need to be resting) or maybe it's something major (admitted into the hospital for a major issue). It is helpful to have something for others to refer to if I'm "out of the game." If someone comes over to help me out around the house after I have a baby and offers to wash the diapers, I can show them my written directions. If my husband wants to see what the kids have been learning, he can look at their lesson records. If my mom comes to stay with us and wants to help with dinner, she can check the meal plan on the fridge.
When there are big life changes ahead, it helps to have something that keeps your feet on the ground, keeps you moving forward. A big move. A new baby. We have both of those coming up, so I figure it's a great time to redo my binder and get it all ready for the days ahead!
Here are some other things you may want to consider putting in your Home Management Binder:
- A babysitter/ emergency sheet
- Budget and financial planner
- Detailed cleaning sheets
- To-Do lists to check off
- Phone numbers of utility companies (Gas, Water, etc)
- Car maintenance log
- Home maintenance log
- Meal plans and grocery lists
- Take out menus
- List of what's in the freezer
- Blogging planner
- Goal setting sheets
- Fitness planner
- Medical sheets (if your child takes a medicine regularly, it may be good to have a page to mark off when they took the medicine, how much, etc)
- Allergy sheets
- School records (for institutional schools, you may want to have Absence Excuse printables handy, as well as hole punch and put in any papers that are sent home from the teacher/school).
The possibilities are endless, really.
You may want to consider making each child their own binder with chore charts and such, especially kids who are often distracted and are fairly forgetful! I am sure my mom would have loved to put such a tool in my hands when I was a kiddo! I am really thinking about making one for some of my children.