In “Defense” Of My Home Management Binder

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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April 7, 2008 7:26 pm

Jack’s Mommy — Oooooh, spending time on the net looking for recipes and cleaning tips etc, instead of getting stuff done… see NOW you’ve stepped on my toes!! 😛 Sherry – Exactly! It was all good natured. I didn’t mean it in a truly defensive manner, the title was sort of tongue-in-cheek. I actually agree with Mrs. Darling quite a bit, in that we shouldn’t spend more time planning than we do cleaning. I really just wanted to present the other side more than anything else. I agree – the list motivates me, too. I feel compelled to keep going… Read more »

mrs darling
mrs darling
April 5, 2008 8:29 pm

Sorry I meant to say Amber!

April 5, 2008 8:47 pm

Mrs. Darling – LOL! I forgive you for the name faux-pa! I don’t think I could make an entire binder just for cleaning!! As you see, I only have enough for a section!! 😛 I really didn’t have any guidance or instructions I was following when I put the whole thing together.. I just up and decided to combine a bunch of things I needed to keep up with into one binder. I don’t know what other people have in theirs or whether they are even similar to mine. 🙂 Nicole – We don’t have need for a babysitter list… Read more »

Growing in Grace (Nicole)
Growing in Grace (Nicole)
April 5, 2008 3:02 pm

I have a binder too. I love it for holding all those pieces of paper that need to be kept–someplace. I keep a babysitter info sheet in there as well and a prayer calendar/schedule thing so I can pray for people on my list.

mrs darling
mrs darling
April 5, 2008 8:23 pm

I had to chuckle at this Amy. I totally took in the way it was intended. I do need to point out that for bills and all the warrentys on stuff , yes, indeed we have notebooks to keep the stuff. Also in my homeschool I notebook every sheet of paper Tink does in case the state steps in. I was talking in my post about managing the household cleaning primarily. Common sense tells you that some things just have to be put in binders. But there now…Ive said it all on my post. lol

Tackling the Mail, and “Stuff” « Bringing Good Home
April 5, 2008 11:37 pm

[…] only thing left to do is (today) go through that small stack and file it in the home management binder if it still needs to be paid or into the expanding file -which I pulled out of the desk and added […]

Jack's Mommy
Jack's Mommy
April 6, 2008 8:09 pm

I’m a binder person too! Our main focus in our binder is our financial management pages (we have 8 household category “registers” that get weekly deposits based on the amount needed monthly for that expense – we record all outgoing in appropriate categories)…but I do have calendards, some menu plans, and other “permanent” type of pages in there. I don’t refer to it daily… we use it 2-3 times a week (or less) to update our finance pages and i’ll pull out pages I need (to-dos, menu plans, etc) when needed and post them on the fridge. I like how… Read more »

April 7, 2008 11:51 am

I think my binder is awesome. I work on it at night while doing something else, like watching t.v. or something. (I always like to multi-task) It never has gotten in the way of cleaning. I don’t think you need to “defend” your home binder. Just because some people are able to get up and get to it without having anything written down doesn’t mean that we all can. And it doesn’t mean they are better homemakers either. We listmakers are a special breed! LOL Seeing that list motivates me! Checking things off the page feels like a job well… Read more »

Organizing The Dining Room « Bringing Good Home
April 5, 2008 11:42 pm

[…] the microwave because I wasn’t using it and replaced it with the calendar from the fridge. My home management binder, phone book, and hole punch are to the left of the […]

April 5, 2008 8:21 am

Thank you for posting this-I am a binder gal too. It not only keeps me organized, but helps me be more efficient in this time I have.
I especially like keeping track of special projects-gift lists, parties, etc so that I do not have to reinvent the wheel every time!
I definitely do not think that it is for everyone, but it works for me and my family for sure.

April 5, 2008 8:31 am

Amy –

Yes, that’s another great example – thanks! I have a bday party for the girls coming up, and ordinarily I make a lot of plans for bday parties. We make and do as much of it ourselves as we can. And I write everything down on paper. That’s another thing that I’ll be able to keep in the binder so that it doesn’t get lost and I don’t waste time looking for it!

Thanks for throwing in your two cents. 🙂

Your Mommie
Your Mommie
April 5, 2008 7:34 am

just a note to the public in general: wold you believe that she had not just a list for her wedding but a script?!? Everyone with a job was given a specific agenda for where they should be and what they should be doing at a specific time in the ceremony! Even the officiant!! I love that girl!!! 😀

April 5, 2008 8:02 am

Yeah – and nobody read it, either!!! 😛

May 12, 2008 9:28 am

Amber, we LOVE our HMB (home maintanance binder). we have similar sections to yours, with cleaning divided up by daily, weekly an dmonthly chores and each assigned to a day/week/month. dh works evenings and i am in school during the days, and we have a sitter a few afternoons a week. the cleaning schedule is WONDERFUL because dh can do a few things in the morning, the sitter can do a couple in the afternoon and then i know what needs to be finished up in the evening. nothing like cleaning the toilet only to find out dh did it… Read more »

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