My planner, affectionately dubbed my "brain" by my oldest son since it holds all my thoughts, is sooooooo crucial in my life and my thriftiness that I think that would be the best place to start this blog. I save a fortune by avoiding late fees, only buying (or otherwise acquiring things we actually need), remembering to get everything I need, not losing important papers by keeping them all in this one, neatly organized space. I also eliminate a ton of clutter, since no papers have any business being anywhere other than my brain, so it saves a lot of sanity! My organization system actually consists of several binders, so in essence, they are all part of my brain, but today I'll focus on the core binder--my daily planner--since that is the most important one. I also have a binder for recipes, one for my garden, one for homeschooling lesson plans, and will be starting a family spirituality one soon, but those are topics for another day.
The binder itself is just a plain, old green 1, maybe 1 1/2, inch binder I found somewhere. It may have been something leftover from my college days, an old job, or I may have gotten it with random other stuff from Freecycle at some point. I honestly don't remember...and I really don't care. It does the job and that's what's important. Same thing with the dividers that separate the sections--they work so that's all that matter. If I couldn't find actual dividers lying around, I would have cut manila folders in half, used cardstock, or even a few chopped up cereal boxes to divide the sections. It doesn't have to be cute (although even the cereal box idea could be cute with the right embellishments!), it just has to work.
The first section of the binder is my calendar. I printed month-at-a-glance calendars off the internet for the next 6 months or so, then I keep blank papers with a date written on top to serve as daily pages for about three months or so. The month page goes right in front of the daily pages for that month. I rarely use the month-at-a-glance part, since all the good stuff is on the daily pages, but it still nice to have when scheduling things, since I can see what specific times are available very quickly that way, instead of flipping between pages. Behind the calendar pages, I have my oldest son's (the only child that actually goes to school!) school calender, so I can easily cross-reference it with my other pages as needed. On the daily pages, under the date, I write all the information I need for that day. On the left side, I include anything that just needs to be done sometime that day. This includes due dates for library books, anything that would go on a daily to-do list, deadlines, or anything else like that. On the right side of the page, I write anything that needs to be done at a specific time, whether it be an appointment for anyone in the family, a class, a playdate, or even a favorite television show that can't be missed (that last one is extremely rare in our family, but it could happen). The to-do list itself consists of four parts in my book: daily housework, such as dishes or laundry; special tasks such as cleaning tasks that happen weekly or less often or a special project of any kind (and now writing blog posts will be showing up in that area!); what I'm feeding people for dinner that day; and, since we homeschool, our school to-do list for that day.
The second section is labeled "Goals" and includes things like a running to-do list, and information about projects I'd like to do sooner or later (like a page that lists projects I'd like to do someday). The running to-do list includes anything that belongs on a daily to-do list at some point, but isn't going to happen soon enough to land it on a daily to-do list yet. Right now, it includes things like doing our taxes, making bread, mixing up little bottles of homemade taco seasoning and cajun seasoning, making mass quantities of meatballs for freezing, filing a box of papers I discovered when we moved, and a bunch of random cleaning or organizing projects that I'll get around to...someday.
The third section is called "Special Data", but really, "Random Crap" would be a better title for it. This is the most individual section of such a binder, since what sort of "special data" one person needs may vary a lot from what someone else would need. Mine includes a brainstorming page for the book I'm working on about how to raise kids for free, things that I need to acquire when I can find the funds for them or can find them on Freecycle, songs that I'd like to download into my MP3 player when I find it (it is believed to be in one of the boxes in the garage that still aren't unpacked!), invention ideas (my husband's idea, but it still gets used!), gift ideas for various family members, books I'd like to read, upcoming book releases to watch out for at the library or to ask for as gifts in some cases, favorite authors to watch for new releases from, holiday ideas (I'm thinking of expanding this one into its own section), motivating thoughts and quotes (this page is actually blank. lol Maybe I should pull this one out, since it doesn't seem to be something I use!), birthdays and anniversaries, recipes for "bad guy go away" and "monster spray" essential oil blends to calm children that don't want to go to sleep in their own rooms at night, a church member directory, information about our vehicles, some account information (not the kind that would be devastating if the binder was lost or stolen though), a map of the neighborhood, and a brainstorming page for lawn/garden ideas so I don't have to take my garden binder with me everywhere.
The next section is "Food." This includes a master meal list of all the meals I make, organized by type of entree (vegetarian, poultry, fish, ground meat, venison); a chart of seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables in my area; information about WIC including the brochure of what foods are allowed and what benefits I still have available for the month; and a few copies of a master grocery list that includes everything I might want to buy, organized by location in our usual grocery store, so I can just check off things as I need them. If I just had a few recipes I wanted to try, I'd include them in here as well, but since I always have a huge stack of them (I'm almost as addicted to recipes as I am books!), they go in my recipe binder instead. Eventually, I'd like to find a clear zippered pouch that could go in this section to hold coupons as well. Right now, my coupons are clipped together in the front pocket of my binder.
The next section is "Housekeeping Helps." This section tends to be the most static in my book. Basically, I went through each room of my house, thought of absolutely every cleaning task I might ever need to do and figured out how often I needed to do it. Then I made a page for "daily chores", "weekly chores", "monthly chores", and "semi-annual" chores. I can refer back to this section any time I need to in order to help make my daily to-do lists. This section is also a good place to keep things like thrifty cleaner recipes or cleaning tips.
The final section is "Homeschooling Ideas." Obviously, not everyone is even going to need this section, but since it is a lot cheaper to homeschool kids than send them to school (REALLY!), as well as being better for the kid in the vast majority of cases, I hope more people will start to need it as this blog goes on. In this section, I have things like report cards I've put together (to show relatives how they a progressing...or to get free tokens at Chuck E. Cheese), blank report cards, a list of webpages to go to in order to find nifty worksheets, placement tests for any curriculum that I'm considering, book lists, flyers about area homeschool events, and a wish list of things I'd like to get for the kids' for their education.
I also keep a few things in the front and back pockets of the binder, although I really have to watch these parts or they become a real kipple magnet! As I already mentioned, I keep coupons in the front pocket, but I also keep any forms I need to fill out and return somewhere (without holes punched in them) in there, in order of when they need to be done. In the back pocket, I currently keep my mailing label pages, but once I get ones gone in the parts I want to punch holes in, I'll be holey punching those and putting them in the "Special Data" section to get them out of the way.
That's it. That's my main brain. It keeps me pretty organized, since I only have to handle any papers that come into the house once, in order to file the information somewhere, then I can permanently dispose of the paper itself. I don't know how often this thing has saved my sanity in the roughly six months I've been using it!