Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Using a Calendar to Improve Your Homemaking

Guests who enter our home often remark on the Giant White Board on our kitchen wall, which I call "my brain outside my body." I live by the calendar on this white board, and I rely on all the little Post-It Notes I leave for myself, the many lists, instructions, and fliers.

I'd be lost without the brain outside my body.

I find the excellent and purposeful use of a calendar a valuable tool in the life of a homemaker and homeschooling teacher, so I want to share a few ways I use my calendar in case they are helpful to anyone else.


During high-school and college, I never pulled an all-nighter. I never understood why some people needed to do that: each professor gives the syllabus on the first day of class, and doesn't everyone go home and enter in all their class assignment due dates on their calendars? Not only did I do that, but I made notations, so that if a major paper was due in eight weeks, I'd make notes on my calendar of when I needed my thesis formed in my mind, when I needed five pages drafted, ten pages, fifteen pages, the final draft, and leaving enough days at the end to "let the paper rest" and then revise it.

I readily admit, I'm not a spontaneous person. As a teenager and then young adult on my own, I couldn't accept a same-day invitation from a pal to go see a movie, for example, because it wasn't on my calendar for that day. Even if I had nothing planned, nothing was what I planned to do, not going to that movie. You know how I got over that little bit of crazy? I planned to be spontaneous once daily. Then, when I received that invitation, I would accept it because it fulfilled my plan to be spontaneous once.

But I wasn't spontaneous two times. There was never a plan for that!

My habit of allowing some spontaneity has increased over the years, but I still don't like it. Even if it's the middle of the day and we make a new plan to do something (go see that movie), I write it down on today's calendar entry right then and there.

If it's not on the calendar, it's not real.

Anyway, I don't advise adopting my crazy but I do know that having a calendar really helps me.

Remember: Use calendars but don't adopt the crazy.

Two Calendars

I use two calendars:

  • my electronic calendar (visible to me on my computer), and 
  • a big family calendar showing just this week (posted on the kitchen wall, visible to husband and all children).

Electronic Calendar

I use an electronic calendar that happens to be Gmail, but I think any of the electronic calendars or calendar-sharing apps would make these practices possible.

On my Gmail calendar, I have many separate calendars, each one a different color.
  • My calendar
  • My husband's calendar
  • Note: My children don't have email accounts of personal calendars yet, but one day they will, and they will also overlay on my electronic calendar.
  • National holidays
  • Church feast days
  • Meal Planning
  • Gardening and Landscaping
  • Birthdays and anniversaries of our loved ones
  • School events

My Calendar

I plan for everything possible on my calendar. I don't pull all-nighters.

If Father's Day is approaching, I scan the two weeks prior for a one-hour block to sit down and lead the children in making cards for their daddy and all their grandfathers. I block that on the calendar so the task doesn't get away from me.

I will block off a day of rest, for example, "BLOCK THIS DAY TO REST AROUND THE HOUSE AFTER A REALLY BUSY WEEK."

Before going on a trip, the day before we leave is blocked off for packing suitcases, and the day before that is blocked off for catching up on all laundry. Literally: it is written on the calendar "do laundry" and nothing else is put in that space of time.

Every activity takes time, so blocking it off on the calendar recognizes the reality of the work you'll be doing.

My Husband's Calendar

I have co-administrator rights to create things on his calendar. If I know he is the one who is going to be taking a particular child to an event, I enter the event on his calendar, so it shows up in his color.

Meal Planning Calendar

I write down the meals I am planning and schedule them on the calendar for meal times. This is most useful in retrospect so I can plan for the future. What did I make for each of the last five Thanksgivings? That is very easy to look up! I don't have to agonize each year about what to make for special feast days because I have a record of what I made.

In the Notes section of the Meal Planning entry for that day, I include webpage addresses for any online recipes I used. If a particular dish was not successful, I make a note of that too ("don't make this again").

Church Feast Days

I enter into the Notes section any links to an explanation of the saint or feast, traditional menus for that day, associated prayers, and typical ways to celebrate. I will also link to my own blog to see what we did in past years to celebrate, so I can repeat it.

Gardening and Landscaping

If I took the time to figure out once when is the right time to prune the roses, I don't want to figure that out again. I don't have time in my life for that. So, I put an entry on that month of the calendar, "Prune roses in February," and I set it to repeat each year. I might include in the Notes section a webpage with instructions on pruning.

Tips about Electronic Calendar Features

Chris and I always enter an address in a calendar entry. This is particularly helpful if the other parent steps in and takes the child somewhere (e.g., to swim class). It is so easy to open the calendar entry and see that the address is already there.

I use the repeat feature often, setting an event to repeat annually or whatever is needed.

The advance notification feature is fantastic. For those loved ones for whom we buy a birthday gift, I have my calendar email me two weeks in advance of the birthday with a reminder. For those events for which I want to hire a babysitter, I have my calendar email me three or four weeks in advance to schedule someone then.

I use the notes feature to record details: For example, I organize the church volunteers to make about 1,500 Easter cards for the homebound each year. After a few years, I've really figured out the system of how to do this and what supplies I need to bring. But come Easter, I won't remember what I did last year . . . but that is okay because I wrote detailed notes to myself on my calendar entry last year! I will go into last year's calendar entry, read what I did, and follow those instructions this year.

Family Calendar (the white board)

I keep a one-week calendar on the wall in the kitchen for the family to reference. My reading-age children are accustomed to checking the calendar each morning, scanning for any changes, additions, and deletions.

Each night, I erase today's events, change the date to one week from now, and update the events. For years, I updated the white board calendar only once weekly, but events sneaked up on me. If it were Sunday night and I updated the week's calendar, I might be surprised by what was going on Monday. Therefore, I switched to updating the calendar every night.

Helpful tips about the family calendar:

I write in huge letters SCHOOL on every morning (or afternoon) we are doing school: this makes it real to my children and to me. No letting the morning slip away and, oops, another day has gone by without schooling. My starting to write SCHOOL on school mornings was actually a game-changer in our homeschool and is worthy of writing its own blog post some day.

It includes my menu plan for each night, written at the bottom of every day.

If I write down an appointment time, I notate next to it my ETD (having calculated it by looking on a map) so there are no surprises making me late.

If I'm going somewhere, like CCE, I write down anything special for that day (e.g., I'm volunteering in the nursery, I need to bring a check for so-and-so, and I have to pick up the book I lent from another so-and-so).

I write To Do items on Post-It Notes which I stick beneath that day's entry (e.g., "Order Stamps" and "Plan school" are under Tuesday's entry). If I don't finish a task, it is easier to move the Post-It Note than to erase pen and re-write it.

In Conclusion

Even with all this planning, my life feels to me like I'm riding the white water rapids, clinging for my life. This degree of intention and organization is the solid raft in which I'm riding that is keeping me safe and dry instead of utterly tossed overboard!

1 comment:

  1. Ok, so yeah, I thought I was organized, but apparently, I never was. (All nighters much?) But it's ok, I love learning from you. You will have to teach me how to make different calendars on Google. Right now I just use the one for appointments and dates. My family calender is just the free calendar from St. Ann. I would love a big space for white board; maybe in the next house.