How to Organize Your Life With Work + Kids
Wondering how to organize your life and stay on top of everyone's calendar so nothing gets missed or forgotten? These 4 simple strategies will help keep your busy family schedules and “to-do” lists running smoothly.
Raise your hand if you have missed an appointment in the last year? How about forgotten about a change to a kid's sport practice time? Or have you gone to the grocery store with what you think is a complete list only to get home and realize you needed 10 other things?
Believe me, I have had allllllll of those things happen to me (many times). So a couple of years ago as my life as a business owner and mom of twin girls just kept getting busier and busier, I needed to lighten my mental load. I decided I had to find tools to help me and my family keep track of everything.
So if you have ever wondered, “How can I organize my entire life?” or “What is the best way to organize yourself?” this is the post for you. You aren't broken if you can't remember everything or keep it mentally organized. With as busy as life can get with work, kids, appointments, birthdays, holidays, etc. we just cannot accurately keep all of that information in our heads! You need TOOLS to help you.
These tips will help you organize your life and keep everyone in your family on point so you can free up your mental space for much better things…like relaxing with your family!
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How to Organize Your Life: A Guide for Busy Families
Set up a family command center
A family command center is so helpful when it comes to setting up a daily routine, staying organized and forming good habits. It also is one of the most helpful ways to have less clutter from mail, school paperwork, etc.
Our family command center is hanging right off our kitchen in the hallway area between the garage and our mudroom! It is the spot where we “check-in” and “check out” every time we leave the house. All of our mail and paperwork gets sorted at our command center, which helps us keep our counter clear, reduce our paper clutter and stay mostly paperless. It's also where we hang our car keys so we always know where they are.
It's easy to set up a family command center. But then you need to actually use it every single day. When you make it a habit, it takes no time at all to stay on top of the bills, receipts and all the other paper that comes into your house.
Here's a photo from our old house where you can clearly see our Pottery Barn Daily System in black. We have had this system since 2006 y'all! We've used it to stay organized and sort our paper since well before we even had kids. You can read more about how we use our family command center to keep our paper clutter under control in this post.
Decide on a calendar(s) to keep your work and family schedules synced
On thing you absolutely MUST DO when you are looking to organize your life is use a calendar. Some people prefer digital calendars over paper calendars. Others also like to have a large one hanging on a wall. We kind of do all three, lol. No matter what your preference is, you need to note EVERYTHING that you have to do on your calendar. When I occasionally forget to note something on our calendars, it is almost certain to fall through the cracks.
I may be one of the few people that keep a digital calendar and a paper calendar. I include all appointments, kids’ activities, birthdays, etc. on both calendars. The reason I maintain a paper calendar in addition to a digital calendar is because I like to write out daily to-do lists in my paper planner with pen and paper. Call me old-fashioned.
Over the years, I have used many different paper planners. This is the super inexpensive weekly planner I am using this year and it's probably my favorite planner I have ever used. But what you like in a planner could be totally different from me, so you can check out my post, Best Planners for Your Personality. In it, I cover all the different planners I used over a period of 8 years, their features, and who they are best for! Choosing the right planner for you is a big step in following through with actually using it.
We also use MC Squares Reusable White Boards and they are seriously a game-changer. They stick to any shiny surface (cabinets, mirrors, refrigerators, etc) and come in a huge variety of options. I talked about them on Instagram and y'all went crazy for them also. I love these for to-do lists, shopping lists, meal planning, chore charts…really the options for this genius product are endless. They use wet or dry-erase markers (one comes with the bundle!) and are easy to clean. When any piece of paper with scheduling info on it (field trip permission slips, birthday invitations, swim meet details, etc.) comes home, we write the date on our dry erase calendar and then get rid of the paper immediately.
In terms of my digital calendar, I used the free Google calendar for all of my work stuff for as long as I can remember. It's super easy to use and there are lots of features you may not be aware of. Guess what? You can add attachments to your appointments! If you have a document that you have to have with you at an appointment, attach that bad boy so that you can quickly and easily access it. Did someone send you directions to a birthday party? Attach it to the appointment on your calendar and you won’t get lost if you forget the printed directions at home. You can also share your calendar with others, so if your spouse maintains a separate calendar, you can easily view each other’s if needed.
We also use a digital calendar for managing our family calendar. After trying lots of different things, we fell in love with the Cozi App. Using Cozi is one of the absolute best time management tips for your family that I have. Cozi enables us to track appointments for every single person in our family, including our kids and even our dog. Yes, Riggins is on our Cozi calendar for vet appointments, when he needs his heartworm medicine, etc. Here are some important things to know about Cozi …
We used the free version of Cozi for well over a year. But I finally upgraded to Gold because it's super inexpensive and allows us to search AND use the monthly view, which is totally worth it.
Cozi integrates with my Google work calendar so if I add an appointment for work on Google, it automatically shows up in Cozi for me and just shows that I am “busy.” That way, if Joe goes to schedule something for one of our kids or Riggins and it has to happen on a day he is on shift, he will be able to see if I am available or not without having to call or text me. SUPER HANDY.
If you truly want to organize your life, then you are going to have to maintain and update your calendar every single day of the week. At the end of each day, review your calendar and move any incomplete items forward. If you are keeping multiple calendars in sync, make sure they are all updated at the end of each day.
That is it! It really isn't complicated. Buy the calendar, create the system, follow up. You will be so glad you started your year out like this, and once you commit to it and get into the practice, it will come naturally like it does for us!
Use Smart Home Devices to Help You
I am a big, big, big fan of using our Amazon smart home devices to help us in every way they possibly can. I won't go into tons of detail here because I've written an entire post about the mind-blowing Alexa hacks we use every day.
If you are like us, for a while all Alexa did was play everyone's favorite songs, answer funny questions, and tell us the weather. But now that I fully understand all the amazing things these devices can do to make life easier, we use our Alexa devices every day in several ways that SERIOUSLY make life easier. It feels like magic.
But what if I told you Alexa can help you organize your life by removing some things from your to-do list?! It's true. I often tell Alexa to remind me to do certain things like “pack a paper lunch for the field trip tomorrow morning at 6:45 am.” BOOM. At 6:45 am she announces the reminder, which is exactly when I start making my girls' lunches.
And setting up routines in our Alexa App have helped lighten my mental load so much! A few of my favorite routines that I have set up with our Alexa devices are:
- Set our house alarm, make sure our garage doors are closed and turn off all of our lights when we say “Alexa goodnight.”
- Turn on all of our lamps (plugged into these smart plugs which are the only kind we use) right before sunset.
- Make an announcement reminding my girls they should “be downstairs by now” at 7:00 am on school mornings to keep them from losing track of time.
Use Digital Lists for Your Grocery List (or Any List)
We also use Cozi for all of our shopping lists, which is LIFE-CHANGING. Yes, I am that passionate about it. We keep ongoing lists for groceries, Amazon, Home Depot and Target. Oh, and did I mention that our Alexa devices work with Cozi? Yep. Keeping our lists updated with Alexa is just one of the countless Alexa hacks we use and love!
So whenever we need something, we say, “Alexa, add deodorant to my Target list.” Then bippity boppity boo, it appears on our Target shopping list in Cozi. The best part of this system is that it doesn't matter who winds up doing the grocery shopping–the list of groceries we need is always totally up to date! The list is always completely updated so we aren't saying things like, “I wish you had told me you were going to Target. I needed x, y, z.”
I'm telling you, these simple changes will help you organize your life SO MUCH after you get them set up. Though it may sound like a lot of stuff to figure out up front, the time you will save in the long-run is well worth it!
Other posts you may enjoy:
- Mind-Blowing Alexa Hacks that Make Life Easier
- Learn How to Declutter Your Home: A Realistic Guide
- 5 Organizing Mistakes That Make Your House Look Messy (and How to Fix Them)
- The Best Ways to Keep Your House Clean With Dogs
- How to Conquer the Emotions of Decluttering
- How to Get Rid of Paper Clutter & Go (Mostly) Paperless
- Stay Organized with the Perfect Family Wall Calendar
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Cozi sounds like fun, I might need to give it a try!
You will love it, Ashley!