Monday, January 23, 2012

Home Management Notebook

If you follow any organizing or homekeeping type blogs, you've probably heard of a Home Management Notebook (or Homemaking Journal or Family Binder) there are a dozen names for them. So, this won't really be a new idea to you, but I'm going to share mine with you, because it's such a huge part of how I plan to meet my goals for the New Year. 
I have always loved planners.  They're so cute. They're for organized people, which I desperately want to be  I can really waste some time looking at them online and in Office Supply Stores! I've bought a handful of them over the years, and I always intend to use them, but it lasts a couple weeks, maybe and then I put them aside.  They're not designed for me. I don't have bunches of daily appointments I'm a mom, and before that I was a student.  I had class schedules that were pretty unvarying, and a set work schedule. I have always been a list maker, but I don't have much interest in handwriting a bunch of phone numbers and addresses in the back of my planner every time I get a new one, so that was a huge waste of space. I would always look at the daily planning sheets and think of ways I could change it to make it usable for me, but I never actually thought I could do that. With the Home Management Notebook, I can! The great thing about these Journals is that I can tailor them completely to suit what I need. In most ways, I think my HMN is pretty similar to most you will see out there; but it differs in a couple of important ways.

I recently read a statistic that basically said every one minute you spend on organization will save you 10 minutes down the road.  I believe it!! If I take the time to sit down in the morning and make a list of things that need to be done that day, most of them will get crossed off.  If I just take things as they come, nothing gets done! So I took an inventory of all the hats I wear. I was not being truly efficient in all of those roles! Sometimes I find myself staring into space wondering where to start. Which is the most important? Should I start "A" or "B" first? Which will take longer? It's kind of discouraging when I lose track of time, or when I completely forget about the phone call Nathan asked me to make until he walks in the door at night. Mental clutter. I'm trying to store everything that needs to be done, what time, details in my brain, and then on top of that there are the things that I really would like to do. No wonder my husband teases me about being so forgetful. I really would forget my head if it weren't attached, sometimes!So, the number one reason for making this Home Management Notebook was ... to make me a better, more efficient home manager.  That's my job, after all! The best way to do that is to keep everything all in one spot so that I always know exactly where to find what I need.
The first difference in my HMN is that it is only part of a larger system. I'll go more into that later.
Probably the main difference between my HMN and others that I've looked at is size.  I've seen them from 1" to 2" binders. The problem I see with that, is they're too bulky to carry around.  I want to be able to have mine on hand at all times so that when something comes to mind, I can write it down before I forget ... because I will forget! Or if someone calls me on the phone, I can take notes -- even if I'm not at home. Or if I'm chatting with one of my girlfriends at church and we want to set up a coffee date, or a playdate, or ... whatever, I can check my schedule and/or write stuff down right then. So, instead of a conventional 1" or 2" binder, I opted for 5.5" by 8.5" binder with 1" rings.
This posed a bit of a problem, since about all the printables available either for free, or to purchase online are 8.5"X11".  So I made my own.  Basically, I found a look that I liked on Life ... Your Way and imitated it. Actually, I downloaded all of the forms from there that I felt pertained to me and used them as models. I copied them pretty closely, but with a few minor alterations and in a smaller size.Then I took other forms that I liked and did the same, modifying the fonts and such so that they matched. It might not be a big deal for some, but I wanted a theme in my binder, not just random forms.  Anyway, they will be up here on my blog for free download very soon.
It's important for everyone to come up with their own categories that will work for their specific needs, but here is what I came up with. This is a general overview, later I'll put links with pictures.
The very first page in my HMN is my Mission Statement.  I keep it here as a visual reminder every time I open my notebook -- several times a day -- of the best version of myself, and who I am trying to become.  The whole reason for having the notebook in the first place!
Calendar: Here I keep a simple monthly calendar with Holidays. It has a column on the far right side for important dates coming up in the next month and an area for notes at the bottom. I also keep my daily dockets in this section. And a list of birthdays and anniversaries by month.
Routines: this is invaluable to me. Instead of a set schedule for every day, I need felxibility, but I can't keep the clutter of the daily mundane in my head, or little things will get over looked.  A lot of my ideas for this section came from the FlyLady. A few others came from Pinterest :).
Menus: Here I keep my master meal plans, monthly meal plans, and daily meal plans with shopping list.
Planning: My master to do list, you know, as well as lists of projects I want to complete. I have them categorized by crafting, home improvement & decorating, and personal growth goals (this includes spiritual growth).  I also have a list titled Christmas in July.  I'll have a post on that later.
Shopping: this is just where I store extra copies of my simple, two column shopping lists.
Notes: Agan, very simple, but I want to have everything in one place. I'm sick of bits of paper here and there and never being able to find the one I need!
Cleaning: This is my cleaning routine.  Again, I will have a post later on how this works for me. I took several ideas for this section from FlyLady as well.
Maintenance: Here's where I keep a written record of maintenance done to the van, and to the house.  So when something comes up, I know exactly where to find out what we've had done, when,  how much it cost, and who did it.
Inventories: I'm keeping an inventory of my pantry and freezer so I never run out of staples, and so that I don't buy duplicates. A quick check to these lists when I'm making my shopping lists will keep me from wasting money, or from frustration when I go to make a mean, only to discover I don't have what I thought I did. Also in this section I will eventually have a complete inventory of clothing that I have for the boys, so if I run across some good sales or a great yard sale, I'll be able to purchase exactly what I need rather than guessing and trying to remember -- more mental clutter!
Garden: Right now this is empty, but I hope to fill it with plans for a vegetable garden, frost dates in spring and fall, and flowers and shrubs that worked and those that didn't.
Blogging: Blogging by the seat of my pants didn't work.  It's more mental clutter and I would constantly come up with ideas for blog posts, then forget what they were before I had a chance to write them. Here I keep a comprehensive list of ideas. I'll share my form with you later.
Account Info: This one I went back and forth on for quite a while, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep it in something I carry everywhere, but I need it with me in case I'm out.  I you struggle with remembering all my user names and passwords for websites that I use? I'm afraid to ever change them for fear I'll forget what they are and I tend to use the same 2 or 3 for everything.  More mental clutter trying to remember all that stuff all the time!  I keep another copy in my Bill Pay Binder just in case my HMN is ever lost or stolen, I can quickly change all my passwords and not worry so much about hackers and identity thieves.
Financial: I'm tracking my spending for a while so I can figure out exactly where the money I'm spending is going. We've done this before and it is really effective.  I have a really good budget on which I highly recommend, but sometimes I end up wondering how I went over in "that category" or forget that iIbought this or that.  I also think we might have need for a few additional categories in our budget. This is a means to an end and temporary or intermittent, but I think it's important to keep it available if we ever need it.
Contacts: I bought a few pages of business card holders for day planners. They fit perfectly in here so that when we find a contractor we like I can just stick his business card in there and I know who to call if I have a problem! I thought about keeping my Christmas card list here, but I think I'll opt for a shorter list of people I send mail to often.  I keep important phone numbers in my cell, so I have absolutely no need for phone numbers, but I usually find myself texting someone at the P.O. when I need to send a letter or a package, and it sure would be useful not to have to do that all the time. 
Also, I have a clear zippered pouch in the back for coupons.  I don't do a whole lot of couponing, b/c most coupons are for things I don't buy.  But I do save coupons for things like toothbrushes and razors, so that when there's a sale I can stock up.  That's something I don't feel like I should ever pay full price for.  I also get the coupon booklets from Earth Fare, and there are usually a few things in there I'll buy.  So I keep them in the notebook and have them available at all times.

Last couple of things: I bought some of these nifty pen holders and mounted one to the inside back cover of my binder so that I always have a pen. (side note: I do wish I had mounted it to the inside front cover of the binder!).  No more hunting all over the house for a pen everytime I need to write something down! I treated myself to pack of these really cute pens. This is mommy's pen and no one else touches it! I also found this cute miniature clip board in the $1 section at target, and I slipped it inside the pocket on the front cover of my binder. Then I mounted it there permanently with double sided tape, so it won't fall out.  This holds the shopping list I'm using currently, and right now it is holding some oversized reciepts for work we had done on the house and car recently, until I get to filing them in my Bill Binder for future reference.
Here's how I put it all together.
Do you have a Home Management Notebook? How does it serve you?


  1. I want some more photos of this thing!

  2. Here's a little more thoughtful reply.

    1. I'm the same way with planners! I can pore over them for ages at the store, but I never use them, partly because, like you, my life doesn't fit into the type of organizer pages they generally come with.

    2. Even if I had perfect, custom categories like you do (and I love most of your categories - please share the templates soon!) I still KNOW I wouldn't carry even a small binder around with me everywhere. However, I have discovered that I do bring my iPad with me everywhere - it's small enough and useful enough to not be a hassle, and with the right apps it works really well as a catch-all (I'm slowly figuring out which apps work best for the things I need to organize). I have my Bible on there (along with my Bible dictionary, Strong's, and study notes) take notes on it at church, eliminating the need for a notebook for that; have shopping lists on it; a calendar on it; budget on it; wine tasting notes on it; and am currently using evernote for a variety of notes, but am not yet convinced it's the best option. I've been looking at Bento for iPad as a way to get more stuff organized into one app, but haven't decided to spend the money on it yet. (Partly because there are some other paid apps for lists and chores and so on that I think might be better than Bento and I don't want to pay for apps that end up overlapping too much)

    3. Cool pen holders. I'm thinking about gettting a stylus for my iPad, and I wonder if they'd work for holding it on the case. Is the mounting glue really sticky? My case is not perfectly smooth.

    1. My binder isn't perfectly smooth either, and the glue on the back is extremely sticky. I think it would stick to just about anything. I actually used a razor blade and cut it off the back cover and mounted it on the front with double stick tape, and that's working well, but it was some work getting the gum off the back cover.

  3. Since I don't follow the blog world much, I've never heard/seen this before...I LOVE it. Sounds like it would be an answer to quite a bit of my troubles. I tend to want everything in electronic format...having a smartphone and now Kindle fire has helped a lot, but they don't cover everything. I like how you put it in a smaller format -- please do post more pics soon!

  4. The pics are coming soon, Girls :) I got off a bit this week with going to AL this weekend, but I'm working on the post tonight and it should be up in the next day or so. I thought I would use the note and calendar functions on my tablet, but it just hasn't worked for me. Something about good old fashioned pen and paper is so much more satisfying to me!