It’s getting close to back-to-school time in this part of the world. Another couple of weeks and the summer lull will be over. You’re going wake up on the Tuesday after Labour Day and realize you have three more people to get out the door in the morning. Don’t leave the preparation to the last minute.
One of the handiest tools in our home is a communication/organization centre. It’s a two-part system, a message board and a calendar (see images below). We keep both in the kitchen, which is a hub in our home.
For the message centre, we use the LUNS board from IKEA. This is a magnetic chalk board, with two trays below the blackboard, a storage space under that and a couple of hooks on the bottom. The board is attached to the kitchen door through which we generally leave and enter the house. The dry-erase calendar is magnetic on the back and is stuck to our refrigerator.
The message centre holds reminders for items that aren’t attached to a date or that need to be completed quickly. For example, the top item on our board is dry cleaning that needs to be picked up this week. The slip from the dry cleaners is attached with a magnet. As we head out, we check the board. If we’re going in the direction of the cleaner, we grab the slip and pick up the cleaning.
The board has slots that can be used to hold things like bills until it’s time to pay them. We also leave things like coupons and entertainment books in there. so that they are readily accessible when we go out.
There are a couple of hooks on the bottom that holds keys. As we come through the door, the keys are hung on the hook and they’re the last thing we grab on our way out.
The calendar serves to track what is going on in the month. Both my wife and I use separate PDA-based calendars. At the start of each month, we transfer information to the dry-erase calendar. That way, we have a quick, at-a-glance view of what we have scheduled. We also note repeating reminders such as garbage and recycling pick up.
Setting up your system
Set up a zone with a family calendar and a bulletin board. Have family members pin invitations, schedules or school events to the bulletin board. Enter each family member’s information on the calendar. If you assign different colours to each family member, it makes it easy to see which activity belongs to who.
Review your paper clutter. Decide what to keep and what to toss. Sort your papers into categories that work for you. For example: to do, to pay, pending, and to file. Other categories might be: the names of children and partner, ongoing activities, current schools and contact information.
Now that you have categories, decide what organizing product might assist you best in keeping these papers in order. Look around the space, measure the area for size, and think about your personal organizing style. Do you prefer to see paper or not? If so, think of open box-like items to use for each category. If not, look for a desktop file suited to the décor of the space with hanging files to label with each category. Be sure to choose a product you love and this will help you stay organized.
Have routines for your family communication center. Hold a family meeting regularly to update your calendar. Take turns as secretary to add information. With paper processing, designate a time to work with each of the categories. This will likely take an hour a week, especially if you choose a time you are high energy to get the job done.
A family communication center makes a difference in keeping information accessible. Find the right space, categories, tools and time to make it work. The organization you teach now will serve you and your family a lifetime.