A family calendar is the best way to coordinate all the comings and goings of every single member of your family, and to make sure you aren't, as a whole, spread too thin, and get enough family together time.
That's why this week's challenge is to keep and actually get in the habit of using, on a daily basis, such a calendar.
This is the perfect time of year to begin this challenge because the New Year is almost upon us, and you may need a new calendaring system for the coming year anyway.
So, while you're in the store buying a new calendar (or making something you're personalizing for yourself) keep the following steps in mind to get the most out of this useful tool.
Are you new here? This week's challenge, all about keeping a family calendar, is one of the challenges in the 52 Weeks To An Organized Home Series. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren't already a regular reader).
Before I give you the steps for this week's challenge I want to explain why I even have this task on my list of 52 things to do to get your home organized. Because, after all, strictly speaking having a calendar doesn't in any way, shape or form directly organize your home.
However, such a calendar definitely does indirectly help you get your home organized. Plus using one can lead to a better, more fulfilling home life. Let me explain what I mean:
Depending on the uses you make of your family calendar you might have other benefits from using it too, that aren't listed above. For example, some people even use it to assign chores and schedule routine things like cleaning, laundry, and exercise into their schedule.
In addition, others use it to help with making a grocery list, or errands list, where the last person to use something up needs to write in the space on the calendar so it can be restocked during the next trip to the store.
The first step is to actually get a calendar to use for keeping track of all your family's activities. There are several consideration to make when you get a calendar that the whole family will be using.
Let me start by saying, however, that although below I've listed things I think are ideal about certain calendars, there are many ways to create and keep one of these family schedule managers, and there is no one "right" way to do it. Whatever works for your family is perfectly acceptable.
This is the perfect time of year to get your calendar if you like one that begins in January, since it is currently the beginning of a new year (or soon will be).
The other popular start for calendars is at the beginning of the school year. These school year calendars typically start in August instead of January, and also run for 12 months.
Choose whichever start time period works best for your family, since this is really just personal preference.
My family uses a school year calendar since some of my kids are in school, and my husband is a professor. That means this time period makes the most sense for our family. If you think a school year calendar makes sense for you too, but you want to start your family calendar now, choose an 18 month calendar that starts in January this time, and then a regular school year calendar the next time you get one.
You can go two ways with a family calendar, getting one with either a monthly view or weekly view.
Personally, I think that the weekly view is the best because it gives you an overview of the week, and can help you with scheduling but not overscheduling yourself, and also allows room to write everyone's stuff down.
I wouldn't go down to a daily view calendar for the family calendar because then you can't see the week as a whole, and that can be like not seeing the forest for the trees when it comes to scheduling and planning.
On the other hand, having more than a month at a glance won't give you enough room to write in all the details you've got for each family member, and for family activities. Frankly, if you've got lots of kids, or are really busy then a monthly view may be too small too. You make the call about what works best for your family's situation.
Where you keep the calendar is also important in deciding what kind you should get.
I personally like to keep a small calendar in my purse, so that I can check appointments and schedule them while I'm out and about, but that is not my family calendar. That is my personal calendar that I sync with the family version.
The family calendar shouldn't be too small, and it should be located in a central location where all the family congregate regularly. In most houses that will be the kitchen.
Therefore, the three best kinds of family calendars are large wall calendars, magenetic refrigerator calendars, or a countertop calendar that everyone can reference.
There is no right or wrong type to use. It just depends what kind of space you can devote to the calendar, and where.
There are a million places online and in stores to buy a calendar that will suit all your needs just fine. One of my favorite kinds of calendar though, just because they look so pretty, are from momAgenda. They design their calendars with families in mind, many of which have places to write schedules for yourself and kids, and are very stylish but still quite fun.
Order momAgenda All In One Folio (Blue Or Pink Available)
Order momAgenda Desktop Calendar (Several Colors Available)
Order momAgenda Personal Portfolio (Available In Gray or Green)
Order momAgenda 2013 Calendar Pad
This leads me to a what some people consider a philosophical discussion -- paper versus online or electronic calendars.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both kinds of calendars. I am at bit old school, and partial to the paper versions myself. My reason is that I like to look at the calendar with my kids, point out things to them, let them help me add events, and schedule out things on there with their input. That is easier for me to do with paper.
On the other hand, if everyone in your family has access to technology an online calendar, that everyone can share and add dates too, such as a Google calendar, may work just fine for your family. I would still urge you to consider having a paper version that everyone can glance at while eating their breakfast in the morning though, just because I think that is most convenient.
Although you can continue to keep your own individual calendars, if you wish, you need to combine all the information from these calendars onto your one family calendar. Don't forget the kids' school calendars, either.
The first time you really do this, you may be suprised how overbooked you really are, as a family, since you've never seen it all on one calendar before.
If people continue to keep individual calendars you'll need to schedule a regular time to "sync" the calendars up, so nothing gets scheduled but not put on the family master calendar. My family likes to do this when we discuss our plans for the coming week at dinner on the weekend, for example.
Your family calendar can only help you get organized if you use it and update it regularly.
You should update and reference it, for example, each day as you review mail and other paperwork you've received that day, at your home mail organizer center.
Try to get in the habit of referencing it every morning around breakfast time, and again at dinner each evening. Discuss upcoming events with everyone in the family, or ask how activities already scheduled and finished actually went.
Along with the organizing that can happen with these discussions, they can also be good conversation starters to really hear how your family's day was.
Try to schedule some fun things on the calendar too, not just work or chores stuff. That makes it more fun to look at, to see what fun thing is coming up next, especially for kids. My kids get a big kick out of seeing what's for dinner, and that is exciting to them, so it doesn't have to be anything too elaborate.
Once you've got your calendar going, I really think you'll see an overall improvement in your days and your home, because you will know where your family's time is going and can better structure it for work and fun.
I would love to know how this week's challenge about keeping a family calendar is going for you. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you've organized this area of your home life below in the comments.
I also love before and after pictures of your calendaring system, since there are so many wonderful ways it can be done, and I would love to see some of yours. Submit your pictures (up to four per submission) and get featured in the Creative Storage Solutions Hall Of Fame. You've worked hard to get organized, so now here's your chance to show off!
I've already got some submissions from other readers (like the picture to the left), so please check them out for more ideas and some inspiration.
We're working on our homes slowly, one area at a time, so don't get too distracted from the family calendar challenge that we're doing this week. Plus, technically, this is the last challenge of the year, so is there really going to be a challenge next week?
Well, of course there is! Even if you've mastered every one of the 52 challenges already (and come on now, who really has?), you've got to maintain your organization, get rid of that little bit of clutter, or improve your methods further. That means we can work through these challenges over and over again.
Because of the way the calendar fell this year, we're actually going to have a bonus challenge before we begin the series over again. In fact, we'll talk more about New Year's Goals and Resolutions next week.
Then, the first full week of 2013 we'll begin the challenge again, and we'll start with an area that needs lots of constant work and attention, because it is the busiest room of the house. Your kitchen. We'll focus on various aspects of organizing your kitchen for quite a few weeks, in fact, since it's such an important area.
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