Organizing: How To

I have several acquaintances who have said they “could never keep it all together like you do” or have expressed interest in what my organization systems are. So here goes, a short tutorial in how I juggle a demanding job, a household and three teenage schedules.


1) Keep it simple. One calendar, one book of lists.

2) Handle it once. Mail is sorted and dealt with daily. Junk to recycle bin, kid’s mail at their place at the table, bills are paid when they come in, birthday cards posted on the refrigerator. Field trip permission slip? Same thing. Date goes on the calendar, signed slip and money if needed goes in an envelope and back to the kid THAT day. I don’t get magazine subscriptions as I don’t have time to read them.

3) Days off paid employment are for setting up for the work week. i.e. I do my laundry on my days off, which do not always fall on a weekend. I have just 5-6 work outfits, this way there is always something clean to wear to work. Also, weekly I inventory the food in the house, make up a menu for the coming week. I do this with an eye on the calendar for which nights are going to be a tight time crunch between the end of my work day and the kid’s evening’s activities. Monday, there is usually nothing on the schedule, so I can plan more time to cook. Tuesdays and Thursdays often have short dinner windows, so I will fix ahead (on a day off) a casserole or dish like lasagna that one of the kids can put in the oven and warm as I am finishing my work day.

4) Do what works. I’m a visual learner, need visual cues. If I leave the library books where I see them, I will remember to take them back. If the calendar is on the refrigerator, where I see it every meal, I remember to check it for “what’s next.”


I tried to put all this on my phone, as I usually have it with me. But it didn’t work. (see rule # 4) So I went back to paper.

1) notebook of lists (to do: by week, grocery, menus)

The Book of Lists
Here is the “To Do” list for last week:
Here is the list for the coming week:

Note: Menu for the Week at the bottom

And the ongoing shopping list:

Tool #2 is the calendar. I use an online calendar called Cozi Calendar and I print off weekly and monthly versions. These go on the fridge. I also print a monthly version that goes to work.
The Weekly Calendar
The Monthly Calendar
Tool #3 is “The Book.” This is merely a three-ring binder, with different sections labeled:
~ House ideas (photos or paper related to home or yard projects)
~School (contact information for teachers, extracurricular activity info) ~Directions (Mapquest directions to places I take the kid’s infrequently: other friend’s homes, the band instrument repair shop, etc.)
~Coupons & Refunds (I don’t do the grocery coupon thing, but if a local retailer sends me a 15% off coupon for some future date, I will hang onto it, just in case one of the kids needs something.)
~Recipes (things I want to try soon. If the recipe lingers there for 6 months and I still haven’t tried it, I guess I didn’t want to try it that bad.)
That’s it.
I’m always keeping my eyes open for a better, simpler way to do things. Please let me know what works for you.

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