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!

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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!!

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Summer check lists

Summer check lists

It’s the first day of summer break! We’ve been counting down to this day for months!

And yet, I will admit, I’ve also secretly been a little nervous about starting our summer fun. After sending our three kids back to school this past year, the transition to having all four of them home everyday is a little overwhelming. They now range in age from 3 to 12, so it’s not as easy as it used to be to find daily activities that make everyone happy. I also have to figure out how I will rearrange my work schedule to still keep up with my hours around trips to the pool and fun outings.

So I’m kicking off this summer the way I always do… with a bunch of lists! I’m so crazy about my summer list making, that my awesome writer friend, Lara, even included me in an article she wrote about being prepared for summer. Talk about being organized! Her article was published here, here, here and here.

I’m planning to sit down with the kids today and make our list of goals for the summer: All of the places we want to go, friends we want to see and fun things we want to accomplish.

But before we do that, I revamped our system of keeping our home somewhat livable. With six people living under one roof, everyone needs to work together to keep this place from looking like a zoo. You already know that I have been working hard this past year to get our house organized, purged of unnecessary STUFF and somewhat clean on a regular basis.

I’ve already involved my kids in that process by creating their “daily checklist.” This is just a simple list they can use to walk around the house, room by room, and pick up any messes they made. It works great because I no longer have to nag them to “pick up your shoes” or “put away the paper and markers.” I simply say, “Have you done your checklist?” I added a few things to the list for summer, like a laundry day for each child and reading a book each day.

The big thing I’ve been wanting to improve on the daily checklist is to make it cuter and also to give them each a clipboard so they can keep the checklist in one spot. Since my organization obsession began, I have become an addict of the $1 section at Target. Last week, I found these super cute clipboards there for only $1, and I knew I was ready to cutify the checklist.

Instead of having a laminated chore chart or something that hangs on the fridge, I simply print out a new checklist each week. I’ve tried tons of other approaches in the past, and I’ve written about many of them, but this is what’s working for me at the moment.

Oh, and you might be wondering why even the 3-year-old has such a long daily checklist. Well, she can’t actually read what’s on the list, but she would be going crazy if she didn’t have her own clipboard and her own list to carry around the house. She gets to check things off at random from the list! We can even make up simple chores we want her to do and tell her they are on her list. Haha!

Each child has two more lists on his or her clipboard. The second list is our weekly chores that we typically do during the school year on Saturday mornings. Believe it or not, we have never given our kids allowance or paid them for their chores. We believe that part of the privilege of getting to be part of a family and live in a cozy house is that everyone works together to take care of it. However, my kids have been begging for a way to make some money, so this summer I’m going to see how it goes to pay them for these chores.

I tried to make each chore complicated enough to be worth $1. When they were younger, I could get away with paying them 5 cents to wipe down the sink. Now, (as an example) I’m offering $1 to clean the sink, toilet and the mirror and also empty the trashcan! They can be a little demanding, so we’ll see how this goes! I tried doing this last week with a spring cleaning chore list and I got a few complaints that some of the chores didn’t pay enough to make it worth their time. I was ready with my awesome mom comeback: “That’s OK. You can do it for free!” 🙂

The third list is our summer Bible reading plan. All three of our big kids are now old enough to sit down and read their Bibles on their own. I wanted to give everyone the same reading list so we can talk about what we are reading. They have been memorizing parts of Ephesians at school this year, so I decided that would be a great place to start!

So, that’s my plan for keeping the house under control this summer. When they ask me what we are going to do for fun this week, at least I can buy myself a little time by saying, “Have you done your checklist yet?”

I still need to come up with several more lists to help me feel good about kicking off summer break: my work schedule, the fun places we want to go and any other goals we want to accomplish the next three months.

I would love to hear from you. Do you do anything special to stay organized over the summer? Or do you prefer to let things roll? What about involving your kids in chores?



So many people have asked me for a printable of my checklists that I am making them available here. I originally created these in Pages for the Mac, but I have uploaded them here in Microsoft Word. I used the font Coolvetica.

Daily checklist for girls in Word

Daily checklist for girls in PDF

Daily checklist for boys in Word

Daily checklist for boys in PDF


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