Inside the Guide

 Posted by on December 2, 2008  Add comments  Tagged with: , ,
Dec 022008

When Bee was about six months old, I was extremely frustrated. At that time, we owned an auto repair/sales business, as well as many rental properties, and I was frazzled and exhausted by the demands of caring for a baby, while managing a household and a business office at the same time.

In those days, I was a “piler” of papers. In most aspects of my life, I was very organized, but paper was still a real problem for me. I didn’t have an effective filing system, and I found that my most frequently used papers were always getting buried under a pile of junk, so I could never find them when I needed them.

One day, while browsing the bookshelves at Goodwill, I found a book from 1983, called Bonnie’s Household Organizer: The Essential Guide for Getting Control of Your Home. Being the organizing nerd that I am, I bought it for a mere 88 cents. I was immediately attracted to Bonnie’s idea of making a binder to organize all of your calendars, schedules and important papers. She called it a “planning notebook,” and I decided that I needed to make one.

I called my notebook the Home Management Guide, because my goal in making it was to have a detailed reference to guide me through my work week as the manager of our home. Over the last six years, the HMG has evolved from a simple binder full of papers, to one of the most valuable household tools my family has. When I was on bed rest for 6 weeks during my second pregnancy, my husband had to step in and take over the management of our household. My detailed, organized binder made this difficult transition much easier for him, because it contained everything he needed – the cleaning schedule, the master grocery list, my recipes for homemade cleaning solutions, the preschool calendar…everything. My husband loves the HMG, and he often tells other people about how organized our life is because of it. Bee loves to look through her section. She particularly likes to read the sleep chart to see how much sleep she’s supposed to be getting 🙂

My binder started as a 1-inch, plain white binder, but now it looks like this:

I’ve used many different sizes and types of binders. My current binder was found in a garage sale free box (it was full of health newsletters, which I tossed in the recycling bin). It’s a white, 3-inch, D-ring binder, with clear front & back pockets, and a sheet lifter. Of all the binders I’ve used, this one is my favorite. The d-rings make opening and closing a large binder much easier, and the sheet lifter helps the pages turn smoothly.

Inside my binder, I have a zippered pouch where I keep my stick-on index tabs, dry erase markers, post-it notes, and a calculator.

I keep most of my pages in clear plastic sheet protectors, and I like to use family pictures, quotes and favorite scriptures on my title and section header pages. I found that after I personalized my binder, it became fun, and I used it more regularly. The first page of my binder is a title page:

On it, I have one of my favorite quotes from Harriet Beecher Stowe:

“Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life’s undress rehearsal, its back room, its dressing room.”

Section One – Prayer and Bible Study:
On this section cover, I have one of my favorite Scriptures, Ephesians 6:14-18:

This section is first in my binder because I try to put God first in my life. It’s an ongoing struggle to find time for God while coping with the demands of home and family, but I continue to work at it daily.

Here’s what I have in this section:

-My 365-Day Bible reading plan. I keep this in sheet protectors, and as I read each day’s assignment, I check it off with a dry erase marker. When I finish at year-end, I just erase all of the markings and start over.

-My prayer journal. I use a punched spiral notebook, but you can also use looseleaf paper. I like to write prayers down, and when God answers them, I write his answer and the date next to them. It really helps me see how God works in my life. You can also have a section for making notes about your Bible reading, but I suggest marking right in your Bible instead. It took me a long time to get used to the idea of writing in a book that I have such great reverence for, but a friend reminded me that the Bible is alive and personal, and it’s OK to write in it! I like to use a Bible highlighter and study pen, which I keep in my zipper pouch. I got them at Family Christian Stores, and I like them because they don’t bleed through the delicate pages.

-A list of the names and attributes of God. I enjoy reading and meditating on these during prayer time.

-Prayers and other writings that I find inspirational. I tend to save little bits and pieces that make me feel good, but before the HMG, I could never find them. It’s nice to have them all in one place, so I can actually read them!

Section Two – Work Schedules:

The scripture on this section cover is 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10. I also have some quotes pertaining to the value of work, because I love quotes, and always have. One of my favorites in this section is “You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” I don’t know who said that, but they’re so right! I’m a procrastinator, and I can’t tell you how much valuable energy I waste thinking about what I need to do, instead of just doing it!

The Schedules section is possibly the most difficult section of the binder to establish, because it takes a great deal of thought and planning. However, this section is one of the most important, because it’s what helps you keep control of your day. If you’re home with young children, you know that control can be lost pretty fast!

Here’s what I have in my Schedules section:

-My daily task list. These are the tasks that I absolutely must get done each day to keep the house from falling apart. For reference, they are:

□ Defrost food for supper/crockpot
□ Straighten up
□ Unload/Reload dishwasher (after meals)
□ Wipe down sink, stove, counters (after meals)
□ Sort/Recycle mail
□ Food/water for Pumpkin (the cat)
□ Sweep/vacuum kitchen floor
□ One load of laundry (wash/dry/fold/put away)
□ Wipe down bathroom sinks and counters
□ Refill cold drinking water
□ Take out compost

-My weekly work schedule. This is a week-at-a-glance schedule, which details the tasks that I need to complete on each day of the week.

-My weekday schedule, broken down in time increments. Aside from meal and nap times, we don’t have a set schedule on weekends.

-My weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual task lists.

Section Three – Cleaning:

In this section, I keep helpful articles about cleaning methods, as well as my recipes for homemade cleaning products. This is also where I keep the detailed cleaning lists for all of the zones in my home. To make these lists, I divided my home up into zones, starting with our garage entry, because that’s where we always enter the house. There are 6 zones:

1) Garage entry and kitchen
2) Living room & front entrance (includes front porch)
3) Children’s rooms & hall bathroom
4) Master bedroom and bathroom
5) Basement
6) Garage

After I established the zones, I made detailed lists of all tasks necessary to clean them very thoroughly, just as you would during “Spring Cleaning.” To do this, I relied heavily on the Real Simple “Elements of Clean” chart (see above).

Section Four – Food:
The Food section of the HMG can help you get recipes and menu planning under control:

In my Food section, I keep the following:

-My Menus by the Month list. This is a list of 30 meals, including side dishes, that are tried and true family favorites. When I’m lacking ideas for something to make, or don’t have anything particular that I need to use up, I look to this list for inspiration. When I make an item, I write the date next to it, to prevent repetition and insure variety.
-The USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan
-A copy of the current Food Guide pyramid
-A chart of appropriate portion sizes for different age groups
-Helpful magazine articles about cooking and nutrition

I don’t keep a menu planning worksheet here, because I’m not a long-range menu planner. I plan our menu each morning, based on what I need to use up.

Section 5 – Finances:
In my Finances section, I have a current personal financial statement. In our 7-year journey toward debt freedom, we made an updated financial statement every six months. A financial statement helps you monitor your progress, because it itemizes your assets and debts, and allows you to calculate your net worth. Watching your debt drop, and your net worth increase is very motivating!

I also have the following:
-Our monthly budget
-A calendar showing when all of our bills are due
-Helpful articles about money management

I also have the plan we made to achieve debt freedom. This is inspiring to me, because it’s a reminder of our lofty goal, and how we achieved it by working together. Our plan was very simple. On a piece of ledger paper, we listed all of our debts, from the highest interest rate to the lowest. For us, paying off our debt involved selling a lot of stuff (see The First Step), so we decided what to sell, and when. Every time we sold something, we applied the money to the debt with the highest interest rate. When we paid that one off, we started working on the debt with the next highest interest rate. We kept this up until every debt was paid. It took 7 years, but it was worth it!

Section Six – Parenting and Children:
For me, this section has 3 parts (you may need more or less, depending on how many children you have):

1) Parenting

This is where I keep articles about parenting topics, such as first aid, picky eating, raising financially responsible children, fun games and crafts, sleep requirements, etc. I also keep “Parental Consent for Medical Treatment” forms and “Babysitter Information” sheets here.

2) Bee’s section

3) The Cakester’s section

In these two sections I keep information that is specific to each child, such as:

1) Immunization records
2) Copies of birth certificates and social security cards
3) Growth charts
4) Medical information

I made my first, very basic version of the HMG right after Bee was born, because I was tired of frantically searching through drawers and file folders for the Tylenol dosing instructions every time she had a fever. Seriously. That’s what started it all.

Section 7 – School and Activities:
In this section, I have the following:

-A copy of the school schedule. This includes class and lunch period times, as well as regular and early dismissal times.
-A copy of my login information for the school dining system. I need this so that I can check the balance of Bee’s lunch account, and send more money when needed.
-Bee’s class schedule
-Information about school fundraisers, such as Boxtops for Education and Labels for Education. I save my qualifying labels and paste them on a collection sheet provided by the school.
-The monthly newsletters sent home by Bee’s teacher
-A 3-hole punched copy of the school’s Student-Family Handbook
-All of the papers I received at Kingergarten Round-Up

In my HMG, I also have other personal sections, such as gardening, and health and wellness, but I feel that these 7 sections are the most universal, and are likely to apply to the majority of mothers with young children. Of course, your HMG should reflect you, so you should customize and personalize it to best fit your needs. Have fun with it!