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Get Organized! Reviews of Planners I’ve Tried + My Top 10 Tips

I received some of these planning materials for free in exchange for my honest opinions. These links are not affiliate links and all opinions are my own.

I’ll admit it. Despite my superb organizational skills in the business world, I fail in this arena personally.

Am I the only one? Getting Organized by AngelaBickford.com

Keeping up with my house and family responsibilities has always been my downfall. When I was a teacher, I could send a stranger into my classroom and direct them to very specific items flawlessly. People I’ve worked for in the past have praised my organizational skills as one of my highest, most valued qualities.

But at home? Well, let’s just say that I’m kind of a Monica when it comes to ‘stuff’. (Yes, that was a “Friends” reference. If you didn’t get it, please don’t tell me – I may have to virtually unfriend you.)

Wishful Thinking - from the Getting Organized post on AngelaBickford.com

When my husband and I were dating, he was at my very tidy apartment one day and asked for a piece of gum. I told him where to find it – in a drawer not 6 feet from the trashcan. When he opened the drawer, he found loads of gum wrappers. He was shocked. It made him question everything he knew about me (not really – I’m just saying that for dramatic effect).

All that being said, I’ve been working on living 2014 with Purpose (my #OneWord365 challenge). Part of that is to be more organized in my personal life, not just my work life (i.e. not just for others).

Get Organized! A post with planner reviews & tips from AngelaBickford.com

I’ve downloaded pretty much every free planner out there, but never used them. I’ve purchased a few too, and never used them. My husband and I have tried using the iPhone – not enough room for notes or comments to each other; not enough wiggle room to fit it to our needs. I tried a dry erase board, but didn’t like that I couldn’t see what I’d done in the past or reference back. My computer files are meticulously organized for the most part, but trying to send someone in to get something I need doesn’t work.

Our old system - good, but not good enough. Get Organized! by AngelaBickford.com

So… I finally took the leap and decided that I needed a system. A paper system. GASP! (Yes, I heard you gasp.) The thing is, I remember things better when I physically write them. It’s also been very handy to have a reference binder that my husband can also utilize. We know where everything is. We communicate via this binder. It’s become our family bible of sorts (don’t worry, THE Bible hasn’t been replaced).

It turns out, I needed two binders… one for me and one for my family. Breaking it up into two binders helped me feel less overwhelmed. My hubby didn’t need my stuff on a daily basis, but he still knows where to find the most important things should he need them.

Here’s what’s in mine:

  1. Section 1: Personal – this is where I keep my goals and quiet time stuff.
  2. Section 2: Blogging – this is my blog calendar and all things related to my blog, including social media, guest posts, affiliate info, reviews, etc.
  3. Section 3: Business – this is where I keep anything related to my freelancing that is NOT related to my blog, including my speaking, writing, editing, and design info. I still keep files on my computer – this section is mainly for a budget, account info, task sheets, etc.
  4. Section 4: Job – I created a separate section for my new job at Hand to Hold simply because it was a staff position and not a freelance one. So, I’ll keep all my non-electronic info in here for reference.

Here’s what’s in the family one:

  1. Section 1: Family – I keep our health info, babysitter info, holiday budget and party planning info, and important resources here.
  2. Section 2: Homemaking – I use this section to track my cleaning routine (more on this later), our finances, and our accounts. This has been a huge resource to keep hubby and I on the same page.
  3. Section 3: School – my kids are only two, but they do school. We have a section for keeping track of their schedule, including all their therapy visits. I also have a developmental section that I keep track of their progress so I know when they’re hitting milestones and how I can help them. This is super important to me since they were born so early and have catching up to do. I also have a special sensory section since we do a lot of sensory play.
  4. Section 4: Planning – this is our calendar. Since the kids came home, I’ve assigned colors to each family member, and I use them on the calendar. Each person has a color, and black is used when it’s a general or all-family item. Makes it more fun that way, too! I even have to-do list pages to go with each month so that I can prioritize my family commitments.
  5. Section 5: Meal Planning – this is where we keep a pocket folder with our recipes that we like to try (we use eMeals a lot) and also where we keep all our couponing info, tips, and resources for planning our shopping trips.

Now, my planners are a bit wonky. I say that because I never have found the perfect one for me. So, I went through all the ones I had in my files and picked a page here and a page there. The best ones I found and utilized the most? Creative Kristi’s Homemaking Planner, Moms Toolbelt’s Home Planner, and Great Peace Academy’s Blogging Planner. All are paid planners, but I found them to fit my needs the best. There are some great free ones out there too, and you can pretty much search ‘free blogging planner’ or ‘free family planner’ on Pinterest to find options that work for you.

Here’s why I chose what I did though – and why you might want to also. I’m not going to focus so much on my blogging planner, because we’ve already established that I am awesome at organizing my work. One thing I will say though, is that I chose the ones I did (the cover pages and some filler pages for my planner from Moms Toolbelt and the bulk of the blogging planner from Great Peace Academy) because they were pretty AND comprehensive. Both of which I wanted for MY planner.

Word of warning: If you’re newly getting organized though, they can be a bit overwhelming because they are so comprehensive and have so many options – the Mom’s Toolbelt planner has 5 different style options for each page – and it can make it a bit overwhelming to find what you need in the sea of download links.

Now, the family one? Well, if I was going to convince my hubby to be onboard with using it, then by golly, it couldn’t be all girly or have so much going on that he couldn’t focus on the important stuff – the content. That’s why I chose to use Creative Kristi’s planners for most of my family planner.

Creative Kristi

Here’s what you’ll get:

  1. Monthly Calendar pages
  2. Year at a Glance Calendar
  3. Important Numbers page
  4. Address Book pages
  5. Special Days Calendar page
  6. Weekly Planner pages
  7. Four cover options!
  8. Monthly Cleaning List page
  9. Weekly Cleaning List page
  10. Bill Pay page
  11. Home Inventory page
  12. Recipes page
  13. Weekly Menu page

The great thing – it’s digital – and DIRT CHEAP. She even offers a homeschool planner, a blogging planner, a basic (think calendar and essentials only) planner, AND mix and match package options! Planners start at $3, but you can get them all for only $10!

Now, I want to share my planner with you and give you a peek inside, but doing so is kind of giving away Kristi’s hard work. So, I am limiting it to my favorite section and pages – the cleaning section! I cannot tell you how awesome this has been for me. She even filled in some to get us started! The only change I’ll make next month is to resort to our family colored pens to identify WHO is doing WHAT chore. Duh!

monthly cleaning list - created by Creative Kristi and used to stay organized!

 

weekly cleaning list - created by Creative Kristi and used to stay organized!

Notice something? It’s basic. Almost plain. And it’s PERFECT for my hubby. I love, love, love the simplicity of this planner. Yet, Kristi still makes it cute with her choice of font and colors and not-to-cluttered graphics. Get yours here – it’s worth looking into!

Now, onto the promised list of my 10 tips for getting and staying organized:

  1. Don’t try to tackle every area of your life at once. Start with your business or your blog or your homeschooling or your household – but not all at once. If you don’t even keep a calendar, that might be the best place to start!
  2. Find the planner that works for you. What works for me may not work for you. Do YOUR thing. Even if that means mixing and matching or trying one thing and then switching mid-year.
  3. Color code. Color code. Color code. I cannot emphasize this enough. Pick a color for each member of the family – it works and it’s worth it.
  4. Don’t give up if you slack off for a bit. It’ll be there when you’re ready to pick it back up.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get messy. I’m the worst when it comes to making mistakes. If you’re like me, you probably want to rip out a page and start over. Get over it. It’s meant to be written all over! Or, buy white out.
  6. Divide it into sections and add tabs within the sections if necessary. It’ll be easier to find what you need and less overwhelming when you are looking for something.
  7. Keep it in the same spot each day – that way everyone knows where to find it.
  8. If you must have a file on the computer or simply can’t fit each thing you want into the binder, then at least reference where the items are on a page IN the binder. That way, everyone knows where things are.
  9. Get a good, solid binder to keep your planner in – or consider binding the printed pages at a local office supply store. And, please, please use double-sided printing.
  10.  Don’t spill coffee on it. Or Dr. Pepper. Or eat popcorn or melty chocolate while you’re using your planner. Not that I’ve ever done that…

Hopefully, you found this to be an honest reflection of how I live, plan, and also fail. Now, go forth and organize!

Have an organizing tip or planner you just love? Share it in the comments below – I’m always looking for more! 🙂

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Comments

  1. Great ideas! I also find that what works for me was to take care of whatever I had in my hand at that moment and not put it down for later. If I picked up mail on my way home, I open it while standing near the trash can and pitch and sort as needed, then file away immediately. If the kids bring home paperwork, I review and sign it or whatever I need to do and then right away put it back in their backpack. Otherwise, I’m looking at the same thing 2-3 times before anything ever gets done. Talk about a time waster!

  2. This was an awesome post!! I liked it all, but this had me cracking up — “Well, let’s just say that I’m kind of a Monica when it comes to ‘stuff’. (Yes, that was a “Friends” reference. If you didn’t get it, please don’t tell me – I may have to virtually unfriend you.)” Now I feel a great need to get all organized … It’s no wonder I feel like my mind is going crazy — it’s not made to organize my life. Looks like some paper and colored codes is what I needed all along!

  3. I feel the same way! My work office is completely organized and pretty, It helps that someone else cleans it every night and that my toddlers are only occasional guests. But my home office–that I clean myself and share with my husband–is not as nice.

    I follow Creative Kristi too, so it was nice to see a real review of her printables and systems. I’m motivated to set up my home binder now too! And to clean my home office, maybe…

  4. You said a mouthful with tip #1 “Don’t try to tackle every area of your life at once. Start with your business or your blog or your homeschooling or your household – but not all at once. If you don’t even keep a calendar, that might be the best place to start!”

    In the past I’ve always tried organizing everything at once. I figured bits and pieces of each area would move forward until one glorious day I was crowned the organization queen. Well, I was more like the court jester. Taking one area of your life at a time is always best!

    Loved this post!

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