I’m back today with another post on the laws-of-science-and-cowboy-metaphor-heavy installment, “Wrangling the Entropy.” I have been trying to organize a ton of crap and needing to rely on this stuff a lot lately, so I am totally going cheerleader for it today. Ready? OK…
Tip #2 – Charts, Forms and Calendars
Today’s tip to Wrangle the Entropy has to do with one of my favorite things… visually appealing organizational tools. I like color, I like art, I like pretty things that draw the eye, but most of all I like to kiss (keep it simple, stupid). So I use all of these things to centralize and organize all of the things that I have to deal with to take care of my family business. There are lots of very expensive software programs and products out there that claim to help you organize your life, but very few of them will actually do it. Don’t waste your money. There are many inexpensive and even free (gasp!) things that you can use to keep up with your Kardashians.
Charts are extremely helpful, especially for the little kids. With this kind of visual reminder, you will encourage them to be more independent and prepare for the events of the day. Use a magnetic dry erase board in their room with a 7-day format (you can buy them pre-printed or make a grid yourself). You can find pictures online and print them out on your home printer onto magnetic sheets (available at office supply stores) and use those to let them know what is happening on each day, even before they are able to read! For example, use a picture of a school bus on the days that they have school, or take a digital picture of their teacher and turn that into a magnet. A picture of a tooth or a stethoscope (or a syringe, depending on how much you want to scare them) can let them know they have an appointment coming up, and a cake or balloons can alert them to a celebration. Depending on the kid and their level of independence and ability to follow directions (yes, I’m talking about Kid C getting lost in the hallway between her bedroom and the bathroom), you may want to make a chart to remind them what to do each day when getting ready (clothes, cereal bowl, toothbrush, backpack, coat – whatever you want the routine to be).
Behavior charts are also useful for many families with young kids. These should be posted centrally so that you and the kids are reminded regularly to reward positive behavior. My sister posts hers right outside of the playroom. Use stars or stickers or whatever is handy (the price bar codes off of fruit work great too). When Kid D Was three years old I found that a sticker for each good behavior (eating what we ate without complaints, staying in bed through the night, etc.) did the trick, especially when he could trade in five stickers for a new Thomas train. Now we have about two hundred fifty of those die-cast metal trains in a drawer somewhere. I should have charged him ten stickers a piece. I am such a pushover.
Forms are also helpful for the repetitive, mundane stuff that comes up regularly. My most used forms are simple word documents that I keep on my computer desktop. The “Lunch Log” is printed out each Sunday and the kids fill it out to their liking. The rule is that they have to check the fridge and/ or pantry to make sure that we have what they are writing down. If we don’t, they are supposed the add the missing item to the grocery list. It encourages them to have a balanced lunch, help with grocery inventory, and anyone can pick it up and prepare lunches from it for the next day. This is most helpful when the kids scatter after school to their various sports and activities, and no one gets to complain that their lunch isn’t what they asked for.
Another really helpful form that I use all the time is the “Reach the Teacher.” I got the idea from a magazine years ago and I tweaked it to fit my needs. You just set it up with your contact information and update it every new school year with their new teachers, schools and grades. When you need to send a note to school, you just check the appropriate boxes and send it in. It covers all your bases and is almost doofus-proof.
Calendars can get a little more tricky. I am an Apple girl myself, so I keep my calendar on my desktop computer using the iCal program. It allows me to link up with any of my mobile devices and they are automatically updated, no matter where I make a change. I also notify Sheepdog of the things he is needed for by adding him as an invitee. I recently looked into Google Docs and you can do the same thing with their calendar program for free. I use color coding to differentiate between different kinds of events (medical, school, sports, travel, parties & play dates, etc.) so I can identify things at a glance. The one redundant thing I do each month is to recreate the family calendar on a giant white board in my office. I use the same color coding system on this and anyone can come see what is happening on any given day (they don’t have to be on my computer, which I am very protective of).
On an end note… despite all of my charts, forms and calendars, I managed to completely miss Kid B’s once-every-twelve-weeks orthodontist appointment this morning. Yes, even after a reminder email and a phone call from their office. It was on my computer (laptop, iPad and iPhone too) and hand-written by me on the big wall calendar. So, nevermind. Don’t listen to me. Apparently this stuff doesn’t work at all.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…