Mrs. Darling at Dishpan Dribble has invited a small amount of “controversy” in her post “Mrs. Darling’s Instruction for Home-Keeping,” and the benefits, or rather the pit-falls, of Home Management Binders. While she does have a very good point, and I’ll get to that in a minute, I felt the need to GOOD-NATUREDLY defend my very own Home Management Binder. Because you see, unlike Mrs. Darling, I just love it.

A little about my ‘Home Management Binder’ as I loosely call it, mostly for lack of anything better to call it.

As you can see, it’s nothing fancy – only the artwork of Little Prince which I haven’t bothered to try to clean off yet. Priorities, my friend, priorities.

At the very front I have a yearly calendar (which I use mainly to mark scheduled vacations and holidays for school since we go year round,) and monthly calendars for this month and next month so that I can write down when bills need to be paid, appointments, etc.

Next I have a section for my home. The main component for this section is my re-usable daily task sheets, with daily, weekly and monthly tasks. I tend to be a bit scatterbrained, easily distracted, and yes a bit obsessed with perfection. No, my home is not perfect. But without focus and goals I can find myself spending and entire day only on one room.

For example, the living room can be de-cluttered, vacuumed, vacuumed under every piece of moveable furniture, de-cobwebbed, the couches can be vacuumed, the cushion covers washed, the wood arms and slats cleaned and polished, the tv screen cleaned, the back and under the tv and electronics dusted, the tv stand cleaned, the books on the bookshelf straightened and re-organized, the bookcase dusted and cleaned with wood cleaner, the movie rack straightened and dusted, the fishbowl cleaned, the windows washed, the curtains washed, the piano can be polished, the picture frames dusted, the walls wiped down, the baseboards cleaned… see my point? Throw in preparing meals and schooling and Big Daddy would come home to a pile of dirty dishes and laundry and various other undone tasks. To help, I sat down one evening after the kids went to bed and made a list of everything I could think of in each room, prioritized them and arranged them by frequency, and divided them per day. The next night I plugged my lists into Excel spreadsheets, and since I slipped them inside sheet protectors I can re-use them with a dry-erase marker, meaning that I don’t have to reprint them unless I decide to change them. The goal here is not inflexible legalism, but rather focusing on the tasks for the day and leaving the other tasks for the other days so that I’m not overwhelmed by the constant stream of endless tasks. ‘Worry’ today about what needs to be done today, ‘worry’ about tomorrow when it gets here.

Next I have sections for myself and for my husband. Mainly consisting of things we each receive in the mail that require action, both sections also have a page protector to serve as a pocket for things I don’t want to punch holes in, like the property tax papers for my husband’s business.

The next section is an important one- the section for bills that need to be paid. When I open the mail, bills get marked on the calendar at the front and then filed into the bill section until it’s paid. When it’s paid (usually over the phone or internet) I mark on the bill with the date and reference number and then file it in the expandable file. Since I’m trying to switch to paperless billing, I’ll be creating a simple spreadsheet in excel to record that information. When I do that will go in this section also.

The expandable file is kept with the binder, and will be used to collect everything financially related over the entire year. When it’s time for taxes – it will all be in one place. And that will be something for the record books, to be sure! Though I’ve been using my binder for over six months, the expandable file is a recent addition. I’ve moved everything from the last three months over from the binder to the expandable folder so we’re off to a good start for taxes.

The remaining sections are a bit less-interesting: Kids, Special Projects (I used this section a lot when I was helping out with the ladies’ brunch but I don’t have anything going on at the moment), School, and the last one is blank with room to grow. I might file prescription info for the kids until they’ve finished taking them, or information for school curriculum I wish to purchase, etc. By far these last sections are used less than the first sections.

So that’s it. Nothing fancy. I already had the old binder, the sheet protectors, the dividers and pink card stock here at the house. I didn’t spend an extra penny on it since my main goal was function over frills and so far it has served me well.

It’s still a work in progress, too. I’ve worked on it a little at a time, refining, changing, adding. I have plans to add phone and address lists, and maybe a few other things. But I work on it as I get time. I have some days where I don’t use it, but the days when I do I usually get more done.

Now, I can appreciate the fact that Home Management Binders aren’t for everyone. Shucks, you might be organized enough without it. Or maybe you’re not the organized type and hate sticking to lists and guidelines. But if you’re not organized at all and you’re hoping that making a binder is going to fix everything for you, well, I’m sorry to tell you that it won’t. It’s not a magic wand.

My binder has served as a functional way to focus my efforts. But there has been a mountain of effort behind that. I have learned that I simply will not get enough done around my home if I don’t:

  • Get up early! Yes, it’s sad, but true. Alas, for I like sleeping in late. (Proverbs 6:6-11)
  • Get busy, and stay busy frequently throughout the day. (Deuteronomy 5:13)
  • Foster good habits, such as folding the clothes straight out of the dryer, unloading the washer as soon as it’s done, and cleaning up immediately after dinner. (Proverbs 14:23)
  • Establish a routine. It doesn’t have to be detailed. However, if you get up, eat breakfast, start school and have naptime at approximately the same time each day, the day will have a certain natural flow to it.
  • Most importantly, I must meet with God first! I used to be a bible-study-at-night kind of person. Now I find that if I spend time in the morning studying God’s word, praying with him, and seeking his will from the start of my day, then the rest of my day with flow more smoothly and I’ll be able to keep a true perspective on my goals for the day.

All these things together still do not make for a spotless or perfect home. I have three small children for cryin’ out loud! But it will help things run smoothly– and a well-managed, smooth running, fully functioning home is the number one thing that makes the biggest difference in our attitudes and relationships with each other. After 10 years of marriage I have finally learned that this is the 2nd most important thing I can do for my marriage. (Number one should be obvious.) 😉

Having said all that… I absolutely DO agree with Mrs. Darling’s diagnosis that spending too much time on making the binder and not enough actually doing the cleaning will completely defeat the purpose of the binder in the first place! The binder should not control me, consume me, or define me. It should strictly be a useful tool.

I also agree with her diagnosis that the best thing you can do for a clean home is just to get up and clean. Hasn’t that been my battle cry for 2008? “Just do it!” I was just telling my Princess yesterday that there will be many things in life that we have to do but don’t want to do. I hate dishes but they have to be done. If we learn to just do what needs to be done, life will be a little bit easier for us.

So I just do it. But I do it with the help of my binder. I have always been a list maker. I love lists. I probably always will.

So whatcha think? Are you a binder person or no? Weigh in and speak up. I’m interested to know!

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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!