Content Updated on October 14, 2007
What Should We Call It?
Sometimes it’s called a household organizer, a household binder, a household notebook, a household information book, a home file book, a home organizer, a home notebook, the family organizer, a control journal (popularized by the FlyLady), a household management book, and a ton of other names.
In my home, we call it “The Book.” (You could call yours Fred if you want.)
What Is a Household Notebook?
A home organizer is just like a personal organizer that you carry around with your but acts as a central information center for all members of your home. It simply a place to keep track of all the important household events, schedules, contact information, maps, take-out menus, project notes, to-do lists, emergency instructions, and any other information that everyone in the home should know about.
Why Should I Use a Household Organizer?
A household organizer helps everyone in your home to find out what they need to know quickly and easily. It just makes life easier.
- In an emergency, your kids can flip the the emergency section to see where the gas shut off valve or circuit breaker box is.
- When the babysitter comes, flip to the babysitter section, so she’ll know what each kid likes and dislikes, allergy information, how much medicine to give to the baby if needed, family rules, discipline steps, routines, etc.
- When going grocery shopping, have your meal menus all in once place for figuring out what you need to add to your shopping list.
- If you’re ordering takeout instead, flip to the take-out menu section.
- If your birthday is coming up, your spouse can see it on your calendar and the gift wish list will help him/her remember what you wanted.
- If you’re scheduling an appointment, you can make sure that it doesn’t conflict with the kids’ extracurricular activities or your vacation.
- Trying to remember which movie you loaned to your neighbor? Flip to the lending log page.
- When you’re packing for a trip, you can use your packing checklist to make sure that you don’t forget anything.
- When you’re working on a project, you can keep all your notes about it in one place.
Should I Buy a Household Notebook or Make One?
Buying ready-to-use notebooks helps you save time, but I have found that when you buy such organizers in a store, they’re bound together in such a way that you can’t add or remove pages, and you can’t move anything around.
Making a household notebook from scratch can take lots of time. You have to design the pages, test them with your family, figure out what works best for you, gather all the materials, assemble everything, etc.
But there is a middle path. Find pre-designed, pages, buy them already printed or print them out (on 3-hole punched paper), stick them in a three-ring binder, add dividers, and *poof* it’s ready to go.
What Size Should It Be?
Some people like tiny planners they can carry with them throughout the day. Such planners were perfect for me when I was single, but now that I’m married with kids, there’s just not enough room in those little planners to keep track of everything for all of us. And if I leave with that planner, then nobody else at home can use it, so they end up writing everything on little slips of paper or calling me to ask when that appointment was or what Suzie’s phone number is.
You can still carry a small personal planner (or electronic PDA) to keep track of your own day, but when it comes to a household notebook, you need something big enough for everyone to use, and it must stay in your house.
I prefer using standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets in a 3 ring binder (the kind with lots of pockets for pencils and such).
Shouldn’t I Use a Organizing Software Instead?
Organizing software (i.e. a program that lets you set up your organizer on your computer) is perfect for people who are always on their computer and have an electronic PDA that they can frequently sync to their computer software.
The problem with software is that you need electricity and electronics to run it. If your software crashes, your hardware breaks, your electricity goes out, or your batteries die, then you’re stuck without the ability to access your information. Plus, if somebody is already using the computer for something else (like a game or work), you have to wait for them to finish before you can get on the computer to check your schedule or look up a phone number (and that could take hours). Even if you aren’t waiting for somebody to get off the computer, you still need to wait for your computer to boot up and your software to load just to open the program.
A paper organizer doesn’t need electricity, never crashes, and probably won’t be used to play games or do work, so you won’t have to wait to use it (most of the time). Plus, paper is easy to recycle, can be made from recycled and eco-friendly materials, and comes from renewable resources (unlike the plastic used in computers). It can also be torn out of the book and stuck on your refrigerator or carried with you (which is hard to do with a computer), and adding or removing an appointment is as easy as using your pencil and eraser.
Of course, organizing software does have it’s advantages. I use mine for saving contact information. Then when it’s time to update the address / phone directory section of my organizer, I can just print out new directory pages from the software. When somebody changes their address or phone number, I can quickly write down the change on my paper printout (not on little pieces of paper) and update the software the next time I use it. You can also use organizing software to pop up reminders when you’re on the computer (reminders like, “time to get off the computer”). The software calendar can also be a good way to save a database of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that you want to add to your paper organizer. And your contact and important date databases can be backed up to a server (such as Google or Yahoo’s contacts and calendars), so if your house ever burns down (sad thought), you won’t have to gather all that contact information or important dates again.
How Do I Get Started?
Once you have a household notebook, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one, so start yours now.
Go to Making a Household Notebook / Planner / Organizer Book to learn how.