Tools to Get Organized, Family Style

Photo: Bombardier

Many people think I’m incredibly well organized because I can easily manage (certain) projects and recite dates, locations, deadlines, etc. for my family’s activities. Though I have a few receptacles for the kids’ papers (graded essays and class policies, for example), the truth is that I’d be almost completely lost without my computer: my Gmail account has 19,000+ messages for quick reference, the Internet gives me access to school schedules, and Excel spreadsheets have helped me look like I know what I’m doing.

Here are some easy-to-follow, tech-oriented tips on keeping things together whether there are toddlers or teenagers running amok at your house.

Money Management for Kids and Their Parents

You know, I used to think that those $200,000+ estimates of how much it costs to raise a kid were seriously inflated with private-school tuition and parental excesses. But now that my children are 15 and 12 (and requiring nearly constant intake of food, stuff for school, and other resources), I see those projections may have been conservative. To encourage wise money management, here’s a family budget spreadsheet to help explain to the kids why funding even small requests daily can add to big dollars pretty quickly. (See Where does the money go?" post explaining the spreadsheet.)



I’ve also used Excel to keep track of mailing addresses for Christmas cards (after I kept misplacing my address book), figure out costs, payments, balances, for a whitewater trip I organized last year, and manage the bank account for a women’s group at my church.

Remembering What Foods Your Kids Have Tried and Liked

I’ve been told that getting kids to try new foods is really important to getting them to actually eat a variety of foods. Liz Gumbinner at Cool Mom Picks is actually tracking what her kids have tried, what they like, and what they don't like using a new foods chart. I am sure this approach will yield benefits for kids and parents in everything from menu planning to expansion of food preferences. Here's a quick mention of Liz's progess in getting kids to try new foods.



Organizing Events

Putting together a to-do list for an event may seem basic, but if you’re organizing a school-wide activity for the PTA, for example, there are likely lots of stakeholders (people who want things to go well) and just a few volunteers involved. Ashley O'Neill of Savvy Source has created an event to-do spreadsheet that shows how to

  1. break the project into manageable pieces
  2. assign tasks
  3. make notes about each to-do item (what's been done, any problems encountered, lessons learned, etc.)

A plus to this approach is that you can be sure that you've handled everything that needs to be done, and give status updates quickly and confidently.




Whether you bribe your kids to do their homework or not, you may have considered some sort of incentive to prevent procrastination, stop whining, and encourage effort. Danny Evans of Dad Gone Mad created a cool, colorful spreadsheet (Homework Chart) to let kids record progress toward rewards. Here's a discussion of his idea for lowering household stress associated with homework.



Do you have ways of keeping organized and getting things done with a family? Share them in the comments.

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Tools to Get Organized, Family Style


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Myscha Theriault's picture

Good one, Julie. One thing we're working on here (notice I say working because we're not there yet and I have no idea when we will be) is a manual or two for the house. One would be for house sitters and people that need to come in and help us out during emergencies. Locations of things, lawn sprinkler procedures, etc.The other would be for us with things like check sheets for home maintenance tasks, emergency info, etc. We'd have a digital version too, but for quick reference during power outages and whetever, we'd like to have one. I will definitely check out your spreadsheets. Right now we are using a wall calender and a day planner. Have been looking for software but haven't found it yet. Definitely a project in process.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Trek Hound.

Guest's picture

This is one area that I use to struggle with in the past. Nice examples to give people ideas.


Guest's picture

The best way we've found to keep track of activities is Google Calendar. Love it!