I love to make plans for how I’m going to improve my lifestyle, but it’s exceedingly rare for me to follow through on those plans, and even rarer for the tactics and strategies I do adopt to pan out or be practical in the long run. One of the biggest things I’ve been skirting around since making the decision to stay at home is the “housekeeping binder”, a regular staple on the pages of Pinterest.
It seems like a fantastic idea, keeping all my household paperwork and schedules and lists together, having a master file. For the same reason we’ve all decided we need to call our mail and calendar area a command center. It sounds, well, commanding, and it make us feel like we’re really taking things seriously this time. But it’s never worked for me and I think I’ve finally figured out why.
“All-Encompassing” turns into “Dump Bucket”
When you look up printables or tips for creating your own housekeeping binder, most places will suggest having a long list of categories. Kids’ medical records are in the same binder with daily cleaning lists and all of your recipes. It sounds appealing to have everything together and at your fingertips, but it ends up muddying the waters.
For one thing, how much use is your binder going to get if it’s 500 lbs and growing? If there’s one thing I know about paperwork it’s that it reproduces when we aren’t looking. All of that paper in one place is going to guarantee you a binder which is too big to be dealt with anywhere but your desk. And what good does that do when what you need it for is your daily list? If you’re like me you’ll pull out the one sheet you need to use, those loose sheets will end up scattered as you keep doing that over and over again, and eventually you’ll stop going to your binder at all.
For another thing, it goes directly against two tried and tested organization principles: Store like items together, and keep items close to their point of use.
- Your mail belongs in the place where you pay your bills, probably your desk.
- Your recipes belong within arms reach of your stove, probably a cabinet.
- Your medical records belong in long term filing, because of their low-use nature and how vital it is to not misplace them.
So why would you ever lump all three together in one book? Unless you do your bills hunched inside the spice cabinet and “file” things behind the canned goods, you shouldn’t.
You need an assistant, not more homework
My morning routine is pretty spoiled lately, I tell myself I’m getting my laziness out of the way now before the baby comes. I have what I call “David time” where I make my husband breakfast, pack his lunch, spend time with him, and see him out the door. Then I shower, get dressed, laze around, gestate. And finally, at freaking 10:30, I sit down at the computer and put together my daily list.
Once I get there, though, I’m on the clock. I need to get certain tasks done on a certain timeline, and my to-do list lays them out ahead of me in order. My errands list doesn’t get its own page, my chores don’t get their own page. It’s a straight list of everything I need done that day from then until bedtime.
The list takes me fifteen minutes to do, and then when I get up to get started the whole damn thing comes with me. I am forgetful. I have an abysmal school record to prove it. Just writing it down isn’t enough, especially if I’m then going to close the binder and put it back in it’s labelled spot in the command center. This is a huge part of the system I’ve been using, my Auxiliary Brain.
It’s a little notebook, the size of my hand, that I got at Dollar Tree. I keep only practical, day-to-day stuff in there. First and foremost it has my daily to-do lists, which I always make sure to keep under seven items (a tip I picked up from DoItOnADime). Then, when I need to make a brief list to accomplish any of those tasks, I’ll add it in there as well. I did this when reorganizing my closets by jotting down a rough idea of what was on each shelf and what I wanted to have on each shelf.
If there’s an appointment or phone number I need to remember, I’ll put it in there, but I give myself only fifteen minutes after writing it down to move that information to my phone calendar. The purpose of this notebook is exclusively to answer the question “what am I supposed to be doing?” and to give me a space to brainstorm in a controlled way. The two things that my scattered mind have the most trouble with.
I never have to go through and cull old items, or flip through pages to find just that right reference, and I don’t have to wear out my printer getting the damn thing color coordinated and pretty. It’s never homework. It’s just a little assistant, my own personal Jarvis. I tell it things and it keeps the information for me on a temporary basis. (Although if we’re being totally accurate, my phone is more of a Jarvis since it has google on it.)