I’ll say right up: this is quite a long post…because organising a family is a huge job. I’m going to start at the beginning of last year. You see, 2011 was the most disorganised year of our family life. My entire year was thrown when I was caught in the Queensland Floods while trying to move from one flooded place to another. I had to rush the kids into school and never quite got it together after that; played catch up for the rest of the year.
I knew there had to be changes in the organisational department for 2012, so I thought long and hard about what systems I’ve used before, what works for our family of six, and what doesn’t.
In the past, I’ve tried many tools to organise family life with varying degrees of success; written diary, wall calendar, family calendar, iPhone — oh and my memory — are some of the systems I’ve used. Yeah, the memory didn’t work out too well. I’ve come to realise two things:
1. I can’t rely on just one method to organise my family, but need to use a combination of methods that work together.
2. I need a system that will work for ME…but one that the family can utilise and understand.
I asked this very question on the Be A Fun Mum facebook page and many of you use a combination of methods to organise your family too. Below is a graph of what systems are used most.
Organising My Family
The biggest priority for me when organising my family is the ability to see ahead in the future, so I opted for a annual planner rather than a family wall calendar. I also use my iPhone for my own schedule and to store details including addresses and phone numbers, and it’s easy to sinc this with my husband’s schedule.
The Wall Planner is next to the kitchen.
Key Colour Coding
The next issue was to find a way to put our family of six on the planner. I use a colour coded system that would work for any written calendar or diary. I (or anyone else) can easily see what the children are doing each day, where the holidays are and the days my son is at Kindy. It’s all there in one glance.
This may seems like a lot of fuss, but once the majority of repetitive and fixed events are on the planner (which accounts for about 70% of our annual schedule), there’s not a lot left to do!
Different colour permanent marker for each of the kids
Black permanent marker (for fixed events)
Whiteboard marker (for transient and tentative events)
Small dot stickers (different colours for other important events like when I work out of the home)
I use a designated colour for each child, and use letters in their colour to mark the days they have particular events at school, like L for Library Day. So on the day that both Cossie and Scotty have Library Day, there is a pink and green L on that day. I also use their colour for events that are particular to them. For example, if Cossie has a birthday party on a Saturday, I will write that in pink on the annual planner, and then also write the details of where the party is on my iPhone.
I use a permanent marker for all the regular events like school holidays, birthdays and regular events, and a whiteboard marker that I can wipe off for transient or tentative events.
Morning To-Do Lists
For the first month of school, we use morning To-Do Lists for the kids. After about a month, the kids don’t need morning charts anymore. You can down this Morning Chart PDF here.
For my youngest daughter (6) with special needs, I insert clip art pictures into a document and print it out for her to use as a morning guide.
Saying No to Micro Managing
With my older children (8 and 10) the onus is on them to be organised for school, for example, remembering their books on library days and instruments for music days. I like to know what they are doing and am happy to be there to remind and encourage them. However, when it comes to going early for music or sport, my policy is if they want to be involved in those activities, they need to organise themselves. I’m happy to support their endeavours, but I’ve learned I can’t micro manage everyone in our family. If I try, I become a massive control freak and basically go mental trying to remember everything.
I’ve also learned that my older kids are very capable of organising themselves. For my younger children (4 and 6) I still remind them of what they have on the next day.
My older girls each have their own wall calendar they use and remind me if they need to go to school early for an activity.
Our annual planner acts as a broad guide to our family life that I manage but everyone can refer to, and the iPhone stores particulars (like addresses and phone number) that I always carry with me. This is the best system I’ve used yet for our family.