the fine print on planners, to-do lists and more

the fine print on planners, to-do lists and more


I loved reading all of your comments yesterday here and on Facebook about the important life topic of planners, journals, pens and Altoid tins. It’s so good to know I’m not the only one who makes a detour to the office supply aisle just to gaze at notebooks.

Before I move onto another topic, I wanted to go into more detail about the system I mentioned in my earlier post about how I use both technology and old school pen and paper to keep things organized.


A few years ago, I discovered Cozi, and it has become my online calendar of choice. It’s very similar to iCal or Google in terms of how you enter events into the calendar, make them recurring and share calendars across computers and devices. I love that I can color code events by family member and that our kids can log in to Cozi on their iPods to check the family calendar.

The main reason I decided to use Cozi over another calendar is that I wanted to be able to print our monthly family calendar and insert it into my planner. The key feature I was looking for in a printable calendar was cute. Because it’s all about the cute.

When you print out the Cozi calendar from the month view, the calendar grid is in color and the colors change to match the season. For example, it’s green in spring, brown in fall and blue in winter. It includes a photo of our family in the top corner. Cozi also uses a pleasant font, instead of the standard Arial or Helvetica. In other words. Cute.


Being able to print out the monthly calendar is super important to me because it saves me from re-entering all of those details into my planner. With school schedules, sports practices, games, youth group, work meetings, volunteer commitments and church functions, our monthly calendar is absolutely packed. It’s honestly too much to try to write using pen and ink, especially since so many of the events repeat every week.

However, I do still love having a place to write my daily to-do lists. On paper. With a pen.

This is where I have started using the iheartorganizing weekly planner. I like it because it’s a pdf download that I can insert into my binder. By doing it this way, I can add my printed monthly calendar, as well as other important documents in between the pages of my planner. I couldn’t do that with a spiral bound planner.

The iheart planner is cute, colorful and formatted in a way that is perfect for my daily lists and weekly goals. It gives me plenty of room to write my daily list of tasks I need to accomplish, and includes a place to write my goals for the week.
A few years ago, I invested in an Arc system binder that is sold at Staples, and this is where I keep my iheart planner. The Arc system is pricier than a normal binder, and it requires a special hole punch to insert new pages. But the beauty of it is that it isn’t as bulky as a three-ring binder, so I can carry it everywhere. I’ve been using it for my planner for several years, so I finally feel like it was worth the investment.


In addition to my daily binder, I also have all of my printables that I have created to help keep track of chores, house cleaning duties, meal plans and whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. I just print these off as needed, but it’s nice to have them designed and ready to go. You can take a look at a bunch of my printables here. And here’s a link to the daily checklists we use in the summer.


So, why on earth would I need a bullet journal in addition to all of these other forms of planning and lists? I have been using the bullet journal for information I want to reference. It includes a lot of ideas that I want to write down in a central location so I can find them all later!

For example, I’ve started using my journal to log web site passwords. I have a list of books I want to read. I have a page of craft project ideas. I have notes I want to remember about healthy eating. I use it to track my weight and habits I’m trying to establish. I jot down one sentence “bullet journal” entries.

I could also keep all of these notes in Evernote or on my phone, but I do love writing things on paper.


I have to admit that my new obsession with bullet journaling has me rethinking my system. For a while, I have had this idea swirling around in the back of my head about how I could create a planner with premade doodles on each page to color. My brain also has been obsessing over a printable version of the bullet journal idea, so stay tuned…


Until then, I would love to hear what works for you. Do you use an online calendar and which one? Do you prefer pen and paper? Have you found a planner that you love? Do you use printables? A bullet journal? Do tell!

Pin It
on bullet journaling, great pens and altoid tins

on bullet journaling, great pens and altoid tins


For the two or three of you who have been reading my blog since I started it 100 years ago, you might remember that the whole impetus to start blogging was my obsession with finding the perfect planner. I spent several years searching stores for a planner that would be designed in such a way to meet my OCD desire to track all of my to-do lists, goals, and plans on a daily basis. Out of frustration, I ended up creating my own “everydayMOM planner,” and that is actually the reason I started this blog many moons ago.

After several years of updating and selling my planner, I decided to move on to a digital form of tracking my life. And finally, I’ve reached a system that combines tracking all of our family events on an electronic shareable calendar, while using paper and pen to keep track of my day-to-day lists.

This week, my mind was blown when I learned there is an entire universe of people out there who are even more obsessed than I with finding the perfect planner. In fact, they have created a cult following over a completely old school form of planner. It’s called bullet journaling, and learning about it has become my new favorite past time. It is both so complicated and yet so simple that you will find little pieces of your brain splattered on the walls when you first try to understand what it’s all about. Do a quick search of #bulletjournal on Instagram, and you’ll see what I mean.

To make a super long explanation short, the bullet journal is a diy journal that you create from scratch every day in a special notebook. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous to use pen and paper to draw out your own calendar spreads for the day, month and year. On the other hand, it’s so fun and satisfying to think of creating custom pages that perfectly meet your needs.

The concept of bullet journaling seems to appeal to people who love:

  • writing on paper
  • hand lettering
  • writing with colored pens
  • doodling
  • making to-do lists
  • journaling

I would say that pretty much describes ME!

While I don’t really see the need to hand draw my own planner in a notebook, I DO love the idea of keeping a custom journal in which I can add pages for whatever comes to mind. I started my own version that includes pages like:

  • books I want to read or have read
  • craft projects I want to try
  • a habit tracker
  • notes about what healthy foods I should eat
  • and “bullet journaling,” which is simply jotting down little notes to remember what happened that day.

Each day, I seem to think of more and more things I want to add to my bullet journal, and I look forward to having a few minutes in the afternoon to add new pages. This has been a fun new obsession!


In the process of learning about starting a bullet journal, I convinced myself it would be essential to buy some new pens if I even wanted to consider giving it a try. Many of you know that my pen collection is… um… substantial. However, it is 98 percent Sharpies, and I really felt I should branch out into the world of the gel pen if I wanted to be properly equipped to take on the bullet journal.

That’s when I discovered the Pilot G-Tec-C Gel Rolling Ball pens. At the risk of being overly dramatic, can I just say #lifechanging! The thing I love about these pens is the .4 mm ultra fine tip. I’m pretty sure this is the finest, fine tip that you can buy in an over-the-counter pen. (Perhaps you can get a prescription for something finer.)  I love these pens, and they make me want to write stuff in my #bulletjournal.


Finally, can we just talk about the cuteness of Altoid tins? I have literally never had an Altoid mint or an Altoid tin in my life. But recently, I was spying on the most adorable little earbud case made by the mom of my daughter’s friend. She had taken an Altoid tin and covered it in something cute, maybe Washi tape or fabric… I can’t even remember.

I was at Costco the other day and saw that they sell Altoid “smalls.” These are just smaller, cuter versions of the regular Altoid tins. Of course, I had to buy some for future craft projects, and since it was Costco, they came in a pack of 12. If you want to entertain yourself for a few hours, just do a search on Pinterest for Altoid tin projects. I can barely wait until I’ve eaten all of my tiny mints so I can get started!

Until then, I’ve added “Altoid tin earbud holder” to my #bulletjournal, and I wrote it with my .4mm ultra fine tip pens. That alone was quite satisfying.

How about you? Have you learned about anything new this week? Did you know about bullet journaling? Do you have a favorite pen? Do you love Altoids or their tins? I would love to know!

Pin It
Monthly meal plan

Monthly meal plan

I’m one of those people who loves to set goals. So, every Jan. 1, I sit down and write out my goals for the year. A few weeks later, like most people, I have already started going back to my old habits and losing track of whatever goals I set.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I realized I needed to set shorter goals and celebrate more once I had achieved them. There were several areas where I already failed in January, but I am taking a look at what went wrong and pressing the restart button for February. However, there was one area in which I had a big success: meal planning!

I’ve always been an off-and-on meal planner, and I’ve written about many of my meal planning attempts here on this blog. This time, I decided I would plan out all of my meals for an entire month. I printed them out on a piece of card stock and taped them on a cabinet next to the stove. For me, making my plan look CUTE helps me with whatever I’m trying to accomplish!

I actually stuck to this meal plan almost 100 percent. There were a few times when we had to be out for dinner and ate at a restaurant, or we were invited to someone’s house for dinner. But I think we ate about 27 of the 30 meals I had planned!

Here are the reasons this really worked for us:

My husband and kids could see the meal plan each day. For my kids, they actually started looking forward to some of the meals that were coming up. They stopped asking, “What’s for dinner?” and just looked at the chart. If I wasn’t home, my husband could look at the chart, and he knew what to make for dinner. If he wasn’t sure how to make that day’s meal (my descriptions aren’t always the best), he could skip ahead one or two days and make something else on the plan.

I saved money on grocery shopping. With my monthly meal plan, I was able to go to the store at the beginning of the month and stock up on most of the meat and staples I would need for the entire month. I still had to go back to the store every week for milk, bread and produce, but I spent less at the grocery store because of my plan.

I’m hoping this will cut down on planning time in the future. Now that I have January planned out, I should be able to repeat some of those recipes in future months.

I did make a few mistakes. I jotted down meals as they came to my mind, without realizing that sometimes I was planning very similar meals two or three days in a row. I have three growing tweens/teens (plus a more picky preschooler), and quite honestly, they are so hungry that they didn’t seem to mind! I tried to do a better job in February though.


Click here to download a blank meal plan.

This month, I created categories for each day of the week. We often eat breakfast for dinner on Sunday because we don’t feel like cooking. Monday is Mexican. Tuesday is slow cooker. Wednesday is chicken. Thursday is Italian. Friday is all-American. and Saturday is Easy. I also spent a lot of time looking for new recipes. I printed them all out and put them in my Big Organizational Binder. I also created a Pinterest board for meal planning with all of this month’s recipes to help me in the future.

I also created a new shopping list on my computer. This allowed me to go through each recipe and fill in the ingredients that I need. I take a photo of my meal plan and my shopping list with my phone. This makes it really easy for me to go back to the store in the middle of the month to pick up fresh ingredients.

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 9.10.58 AM

Click here to download a blank shopping list.

Right now, our life is extraordinarily jam packed. Our four kids are involved in school basketball, travel basketball, travel baseball, gymnastics team, gymnastics class for the preschooler, an after-school cooking club and youth group. My husband is an elder at our church, and I work part-time for our church. Plus, I’m spending a lot of volunteer hours helping out with the school talent show, and I’m also a room mom.

We often have one, two, three or even four activities happening in the evenings. So meal planning is HUGE for my sanity! We don’t always eat at the same time, but everyone has access to a meal before or after activities.

I love lists and charts so I also created some organizational tools that I use for chores and other goals. I know this doesn’t work for a lot of people, but having a cute chart telling me what to do each day makes a HUGE difference for me. A few people asked me on Facebook if they could have a copy, so here are those as well.

This is my weekly cleaning chart. I found that this is difficult to stay on top of every day, so I’m working on revising it for February:

weekly cleaning

Download a weekly cleaning schedule.

This is the chore chart for my kids. We have a separate chart that lets us know whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.


Download a child’s chore chart.

On my dishwasher chart, my kids’ names are written next to the circles. This hangs above our dishwasher, so there are no arguments about whose turn it is.


Download a dishwasher chart.

This is my reading list. It’s been my goal to read 12 books a year, and I am pretty good at accomplishing that! I take a photo of the list and keep it on my phone so I can remember what I’m looking for when I go to the library.


Download a blank reading list.

If you download any of my organizational tools, will you leave me a note in the comments section? I would love to know if you are going to try to use any of these. I also would love to hear how you stay organized. Do you meal plan? Do you have daily chores for yourself? Thanks!!

Pin It
Getting cozi with my calendar

Getting cozi with my calendar

For the last couple of years, I have been in a serious calendar conundrum.

I love the convenience of an online application to keep track of our schedule and appointments. But I also love paper.

It’s true! I love to doodle, add notes and mark things off. I also love being able to hang the calendar on the fridge or bulletin board for the whole family to see. I have tried using iCal or Google calendar, which both work great online. The problem is that when I go to print out a paper version, they are so, so, sooooo UNcute!

I can’t handle a blah, boring calendar. So for the last few years, I have been creating my own calendar with my own colors and my own fonts and printing it off to carry in my binder or hang on the fridge. This isn’t the greatest system, and it has seriously been driving me crazy. No person should spend as much time as I have thinking about the inefficiency of her calendar!

The problem was amplified a few weeks ago when my husband got a new iPhone. He has been a long time PC person, and I have been an Apple user since the invention of the computer. When his company forced him to make the switch, he wasn’t happy. And I was trying to convince him that his life would be perfect and simple once he got used to it. “Just turn it on and push the button!” I kept instructing.

A few hours later, he sent me a text. “I’m sure there is some simple way I can import the family calendar.”

“Umm. No. Remember the cute color coordinated calendar that hangs on the refrigerator and the bulletin board and various locations throughout our house? That IS your mobile calendar! I can print one out for you, and you can carry it anywhere you want to go.”

Well, at that moment, I knew I needed an upgrade!

That’s when the strangest thing happened. I logged on to Facebook and at that very moment, one of my FB friends had “liked” this web site called, Cozi. I didn’t know what it was, but I liked the logo. (I have been obsessed with logos the past three months, but that is a completely different story!) I clicked on the link just to examine the logo more closely, and it turns out, it’s an online calendar. I was convinced it HAD to be better than the other options I had tried. If it had a cute logo, then it HAD to have a cute printable version!

Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s cute enough. And I have to say that I am loving its features so far! I can:

  • Access our family calendar through my desktop, phone or iPad. We have one family account so my husband can log in to see the most up-to-date info. (We don’t have to upload our calendars to “the cloud” or “share” our calendars. They are always there, up-to-date, all the time on all of our devices.
  • Select a color for each member of our family to label each person’s events. The app gives me lots of options for assigning each person his or her “color.” Even though this is a super small thing, it’s huge to a color-loving calendar snob like me!
  • Make shopping lists or to-do lists and assign them to various people. I can enter my shopping list and then my husband can access the list when he goes to the store. I like being able to check things off the list and keep old lists stored in my phone so that I can easily update the things that I buy frequently.
  • Keep track of my meal plan. I have been using eMeals since the beginning of the year to plan out my meals and shopping lists. However, I’ve found that I usually don’t like a few of the meals, and I end up modifying my weekly menu. One complaint I have so far is that I can’t access the meal planner from my mobile device.
  • Finally, the printable version of my monthly calendar is somewhat CUTE! I mean… it’s not quite as cute as it would be if I made if from scratch. But it’s cute enough!

So what about you? Do you use an online calendar system? Do you use a paper planner? Or some combination? I want to know. I really do!

Pin It