Thursday, January 27, 2011

Keeping it together

I've always had a passion for office and school supplies. When I was in school, my palms would get sweaty at the thought of school supply shopping — all the binders, pens, calendars, and page protectors. I still get giddy over school-supply season, mainly because of the great deals. My kids don't go through a ton of supplies yet, but you can't beat the prices: name brand products at a huge discount. My local Target store had Crayola crayons for $0.25. I bought several packs, and they've worked great as an addition to a birthday gift or just a fresh supply to our crayon box. My favorite office/school supply is the 3-ring binder. Couple a binder with a few page protectors and dividers with pockets, and you get an amazing resource!

There is no written job description or performance plan for being a mom and homemaker. No one told me that being a mom requires a broad skill set: Arbitration, project management, time management, sanitation expert, supply-chain management, entrepreneur, event planner, educator, and the list goes on. At times, I can feel disorganized; and the binders help me wrangle all my projects, shopping lists, tasks, budgets, and ideas.

Keep in mind that my home isn't perfect. The process isn't perfect.

And I'm OK with that.

It is always a work in progress, and I love that! There is always room for reflection and improvement.

I've never considered myself to be a scrapbooker. In a way, my binders are like scrapbooks. Instead of capturing past memories, they are organizing current events in my life. When a project is completed, it becomes a reference document for future projects. I can see what worked and, most importantly, what did not work.

When I'm not interested in preparing for a new project or packing up my family for a trip, my friends and family ask, "Have you started your binder yet?" I know most of them are teasing me. Ultimately, it makes me realize that I'm not motivated because I have not started a binder for the task. Even a folder with prongs will do... just something to get the creative juices flowing.

Here are just a few of my favorite uses:

Recipes. Instead of keeping all those magazines of recipe ideas, just cut them out and slip them into the pocket of the binder. If it's a "keeper" recipe, put it in a page protector and store it in the rings. Plus, the page protector keeps the recipe clean from the inevitable spill. Maybe I'm just a really messy cook, but I've saved so many papers from the meeting its doom — a sauce.

Vacation Planning. Yes, I am a crazy vacation planner. I still blame this on my Dad. I was the annoying "Are we there yet?" child, so he gave me a map and made me his navigator. The rest is history. Since marrying my husband 9 years ago, I am beginning to let go of all my crazy schedules for vacation. Admitting you have a problem is a first step to recover, right? My older brother nearly passed out recently, when I told that I'd just "wing it" on the dinner plans for a beach trip. Albeit, I didn't completely "wing" the dinner plans, but I was able to enjoy the little moments better.

Since my parents have moved away, we frequently make trips to see them. The travel plans are typically the same, so I just reuse the same binder for each trip. I make notes from each trip about what rest stop was better or what gas station NEVER to visit again. It makes each trip that much easier the next time because I have the same packing list from the last trip. Plus, I like to collect coupons from the local restaurants and can keep them all in one place.

Big purchases (car or home). When car shopping, I've found that if I bring a small 3-ring binder, the sales people tend to not give me a sales pitch. Some will try. But I just show them their own online ad, and then they comply. I make a separate divider for each model and then include printouts or notes of each. I'm showing them that I've done my price shopping, and I don't need the "run around." This is, of course, because I have gone in unprepared and bought a car that I should not have (we're still paying for it). Alas, I digress.

For buying a home, you know there are many different tasks, inspections, plot drawings, and deliveries to be scheduled. The binder just keeps me focused and sane. I still keep the binder and contents for our home purchase over 6 years ago. I can't tell you how many times I have had to refer back to it.

Coupons. I've found that everyone has a unique way to organize their coupons. I use a combination of sheet protectors (for my current shopping list, store flyers, and restaurant coupons), dividers (for categories), and baseball card protectors (for the individual coupons).

Home improvement projects. Keeping up with ideas, colors, finishes, phone numbers, and estimates can be pretty crazy. When I've put them all into a binder, it gives me a sense of control over a few things and prevents me from overbuying when we visit the home-improvement store.

Lesson plans. This is an area I am still trying to improve. I've been jotting down notes, ideas, and plans for our first "official" homeschool year next year — kindergarten. However, I feel like I've been waffling. I think I just need to compile a list of the various ideas and cirriculum, so I can get a better handle on it.

Work. As a ballet teacher and children's church volunteer, I have to keep a binder for each. My lesson plans for all my ballet classes can get crazy unless I make a concerted effort to create a development plan for each class. When my mind is swimming with ideas for a class that week, I just refer back to my binder and look at my plan to narrow down my options. For children's church, we are always working on the next play or production. The binder helps me keep track of the details.

Home Journal. This has to be my new favorite use. I can't take credit for it. It's another one of those common-sense tips I've gleaned from The Fly Lady. It's a central location for my daily tasks, menu plans, important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, car inspection dates, renewals, bill due dates, etc), and important numbers.

What tips do you have for staying organized in your home or job?

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