Organizing: Family Planner Book.



I have had a few requests recently for guidance and even guest posts on simplifying and organizing the home. When these questions and requests roll in I tend to give a little snort – a stifled laugh – thinking, "If you only knew…".

I am not what you might call a pillar of organization. But sometimes organization comes out of the contrast of our normal tendencies. Everything moves towards chaos (including my kitchen, closet, and wallet), right? It is a universal law that we are moving against every day that we strive to maintain order. And to move in an organized direction I need all the help I can get.

Today I have six more bags of thrift store donations by my front door (that bit of organization dates back to this post, in case you are new here). Less stuff equates to less chaos. But there is some stuff that we all inevitably live with. And the paper bits seem to be among the biggest offenders to maintaining or creating order. Receipts. Bills. Meal plans. Grocery lists.

Enter the Family Planner Book. Call it your Binder, your Control Journal, or Family Organization Book. Make it frilly and fancy or boring black. How ever you put it together it does the simple task of corralling your vital/messy paperwork in one neat little package.

A Family Planner Book is custom made – by you – for you. Ours is divided into eight sections that fit our needs including Daily Rhythm, Chores, Meals, Homeschooling, Phone, New House, Calendar, and Other. What goes in your book depends on your family needs. As homeschoolers these were the categories we had needs for. You might want one for Travel, Budget, Garden, School, Work, or Emergency Information.

The point of the binder is to give you one place to go with and for all of the day-to-day business of running your family. When are your library books due? Where is your insurance card? What is the phone number of the yarn shop (this one is important, I tell you.) I made my binder two years ago and never looked back. I reworked my book last night so I thought it was photo-worthy enough to share with you today.

Want to make your own? You won't regret it. I promise. You can easily do it in an evening. Here's what you need:


Three-ring binder: every thrift store and many basements have many of these.

Colored Tabs: I found these at a thrift store but any office supply shop has them.

Clear page protectors: Smooth is better than matte if you plan to check things off of lists with a dry-erase marker.

Three-ring binder pockets: for receipts, cards, etc.

Decide on the sections you want to include. Do this by looking at your fridge, desk, and junk drawer. What needs a proper home? Below are some details on what is found within some of our sections.

Rhythm: As parents and homeschoolers and small business owners, having a rhythm to our day is vital to being productive and relaxed at the same time. Our Rhythm section outlines how our day and our week lays out so we all know what to expect. It also provides a reminder to make time for ourselves. Movie night, yoga, meditation, or date night are the types of things to get on your weekly rhythm.

Chores: To keep my house (relatively) clean I have chosen one to two rooms a day that I (ideally) clean. If I miss a day (which I do every week) it's no big deal. That room will be cleaned the following week. The children have also chosen chores they do each week and we keep a written list of these in this section.

Homeschooling: We jot down subjects the kids want to learn about, library book return dates, classes and activities and field trip ideas here.

Phone: Three phone lists: family, business, and kids.

New House: We're dreaming some big dreams right now. This section will ultimately become a binder of its own but for now a single pocket is plenty for inspiration and ideas.

Calendar: Our master calendar where we jot down all classes, play dates, and appointments.

Attach your tabs to the page protectors and pockets and start filling your binder. You'll be amazed at how wonderful it feels to always know where to find that important document and having less paper magneted to your refrigerator door. Happy organizing!

19 thoughts on “Organizing: Family Planner Book.

  1. Jenn says:

    My household organizer is a work in progress that I’ve just started this month. I’m so glad to see that you have one too! I was starting to feel like I was following in the footsteps only of the strict homeschool mamas and not the free spirits. I’d rather be at least a little free spirited. 🙂

  2. Susan says:

    Great idea – thanks! I am also feeling very overrun by paperwork, especially those pesky little miscellaneous items like grocery lists and random business cards.

  3. Alexandra says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I’ve stumbled across your blog three days ago and I just couldn’t let go of it. I think I read it all 😛 It’s amazing to have the possibility to peak into your life and yout thoughts. I found loads of beautiful and practical ideas. Oh and about the family planner – you nailed it- I desperately need some organizing in my life. And just so you can get an ideea of how far your thoughts reach – I live in Eastern Europe.
    Love, Alexandra

  4. Jenn says:

    Is there anyway we could see a blow up picture of your day? Is that weird? =) I just started homeschooling and I am trying to figure out a good daily rhythm. I know it is going to be trial and error but it is nice to see how others are doing it along with the list of other things that need to be done.

  5. Rachel Wolf says:

    Here is the basic break-down:
    Early Block: intention and gratitude, a look at the day, checklist (kids get dressed, make beds, etc.), wash laundry, cook/eat/clean.
    Morning Block: homeschooling time (very relaxed, basically the time we hang and do activities together inside) ~ reading, writing stories, projects, games/puzzles, math, library.

    Mid-Day: hang laundry, fast five (tidy house together for 5 minutes), housekeeping chores, quiet time
    Afternoon: Outside play: walk dog, hike, bike, walk, forage, sled, ski, swim, explore – then inside for projects and solo play

    Dinner Time: cook/eat/clean, fold and put away laundry, family fast five, family play time
    Bedtime: evening checklist (getting ready for bed), bath (optional!), bedroom tidy for kids, lots of books

    Hope that helps! I didnt include times because our wake/sleep rhythms are so varied but the important blocks (Morning and Afternoon) are three hours each. Our day starts at seven, ends at 7:30/8:00 depending on child age.


  6. Pamela R says:

    My strength does not lie in scrubbing things! In fact, I’ve never found it particularly fun nor rewarding. But, with some exciting things happening for our family in 2011, we decided to figure out something that would really work for us. I found this:

    With some modifications, we are working through our house and will have everything scrubbed, sorted and all set to go by Spring so that we can go outside and enjoy the Spring and Summer.

    This seems like a good plan for us, since we have weekly cleaning (days of the week) and chores (all this in my binder), but I’m never willing to give up enough time in our family’s day to really scrub all the corners on a weekly basis.

    It’s also not at all overwhelming, which is key in my relationship with cleaning! 🙂

  7. Mama Jen says:

    thank you Rachel and each of your wonderful readers who inspire me. I keep your blog as my homepage because it inspires me and keeps me positive and hopeful! peace to each of you.

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