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Making a Home Management Binder You Will Really Use

Making a Home Management Binder You Will Really Use

Often I am better at making up systems and charts and lists than I am at actually using them. I will sometimes see someone else’s system, see its merits, and then try to recreate for myself. A couple of weeks later, it has failed to meet my needs and it is cast aside. The hours spent making the system are wasted, and I walk by, sending a guilty glance its way.

So how can you avoid spending hours creating a new system, only to see it cast aside in a few weeks?

Your home management binder should be a very useful tool for you; therefore, start with information you use all the time and put it in one easy-to-access place. Here are some examples:

  • Phone numbers that you or the family uses frequently (I actually print out our entire list from Outlook.)
  • Sports schedules
  • Club or co-op schedules
  • Directions to places you go frequently (but can’t easily recall)
  • Babysitter instructions
  • Copy of the month’s calendar
  • Addresses and directions to any activities in case a different parent or grandparent is taking the children to activities
  • Birthday list for your extended family
  • Extra copies of your grocery shopping list (keep an active one on the refrigerator so that others can add needed items to the list)
  • Frequently used recipes—laminated or filed in plastic sheet protectors to keep them neat while cooking

Once you have started putting all this frequently needed information/items in there, you may want to use some nice tabs to keep the binder organized. Your tabs might include these: addresses, chore charts, shopping forms, calendars, reference sheets.

To make it even more useful, add a zippered pocket to the front in which you can keep a pencil, pen, and some sticky notes. If you have some stamps and a couple of envelopes, add those too. Since we pay most of our bills electronically, I am not usually in possession of these when I need them, so having a couple on hand is nice.

Next, think of ways to make your home management binder pull extra duty for you. My older homeschoolers have checklists for their schoolwork, which I created with the TOS Schoolhouse Planner. I can print out a dozen or so at a time and keep them in the binder for them to retrieve as needed. When they get low in quantity, I just print out more. This works better than handing the children several sheets at once, because inevitably, they will get wrinkled and misplaced.

Finally, think about it as an emergency binder. If something stressful happens you will be glad to have the following information in your binder:

  • Approved sitters and their phone numbers—This is important. If any of your babysitters need help finding something or need to ask you a basic question and cannot reach you, it is likely that another approved sitter would know the answer.
  • Directions to your house from major streets/highways
  • Your home address and phone number
  • Emergency medical release forms for each child
  • Instructions for each child: bedtime, medications, food allergies, preferences
  • Name, phone number, and address of nearby neighbors

I also have my family work broken down into days:

Laundry Day
Errand /Town Day
Office Day
Kitchen Day

For each of these days I have taken the time to type up a complete list of all the possible duties for that day. I do not expect to accomplish all of the tasks on the entire list, but I go through the list briefly in the morning and pray about my day. Then I identify the top three things I need to do that day. If I complete those, then I tackle three more. In this way, those occasional chores are not forgotten, and often I finish several things on the list before the children are out of bed. This offers a sense of direction to my day, even though each day does not look exactly like the others.

Whatever your chore system, it is a good idea to have it documented in your management binder so that you always have it on hand. We keep ours in the kitchen by the phone.

Finally, I suggest that you make a pretty cover for your binder. You can use Word to do the layout and add a favorite Scripture verse and some clip art. Here are some of the lists I keep in my binder:

Errand Day

The Day Before Errand Day:

Balance the checkbook.
Check with other family members about errands that need to be run.
Plan menu and make shopping lists.
Put lists in your purse.
Pack the diaper bag.
If you have items to take to town, put them in the vehicle.
If you have stops to make after the grocery store, then put an ice chest in for your cold items.
Plan your route, in order to be as efficient as possible.
Plan for food, depending on the route.
Lay out town clothes and shoes for everyone.
Plan car activities for everyone.
Thaw meat for slow cooker.

On Errand Day:

Load slow cooker
Sam’s Club
Life Bridge
Friends’ houses
Post Office
Used curriculum store

Paperwork Day

Update calendar
Filing school paperwork
Book orders from the library
Clean out purse
Grocery lists
Meal planning
Lesson plans
Email purging
Notes and letters of encouragement
Insurance phone calls
Make appointments
Update and print calendars
Plan stops for errand day
Schedule appointment with each child to discuss schoolwork
Clean desk area
Gather library books and put in car
Update file folders

Gardening Day

Adult/Teen Assignments:

Mow lawn
Trim bushes
Weed flowerbeds        
Weed garden
Water garden
Garage—straighten and sweep
Lawn mower maintenance

Children’s Assignments:

Porch, deck, walls
Vehicles—trash, stuff, vacuum
Toy and trash pick-up
Refill bird feeder

Laundry Day

All laundry washed, dried, folded, put away
Clean laundry area; check supplies
Organize/purge drawers
Straighten clothing closets
Repair clothing; sew on patches
Identify clothes that need to be replaced

Kitchen Day

Meal in slow cooker
Clean/Purge refrigerator
Remove counter clutter and wipe counter
Clean kitchen windows
Scrub kitchen sink and faucet crevices
Wipe appliances
Clean top of stove
Clean stove hood
Clean oven
Clean under oven
Bulk cooking (brown meat, soups, granola)
Bread baking
Organize and clean one drawer
Organize and clean one cupboard
Organize and clean one pantry shelf
Clean top of refrigerator
Clean under and behind refrigerator
Mop floor

Just remember: You do not need to spend lots of time creating a whole new family management binder— instead, simply gather all your most-referenced papers in one place and keep extra copies of consumables. Once you have the basics, if you want to spend some time making it pretty—go ahead! Women crave beauty and order, and your home management binder can be both!

Malia Russell is the blessed wife to Duncan, thankful mother to five children (newborn to 21), and an author, conference speaker and director of and

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at  or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: July 30, 2013