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Reining in the schedules of six people can be a challenge. Add to that regular household maintenance appointments, to-do lists, grocery lists, idea lists–suffice it to say that it can be downright exhausting trying to desperately keep it all organized.

You know…because just wrangling four children isn’t exhausting enough.

Thankfully, my friend Anne wrote about a new organization system that she was “learning to love.” The fact that Anne found a system that works for her caught my attention because Girlfriend has seven children! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7!! That’s like my crew, plus 3 more thrown in just for fun. Oh, and she’s been home-educating her kids for more than 20 years now. Wow.

So when Anne writes about organizing a family, I listen! Uh…about a year later. See, I am a pencil and paper kind of girl, but Anne’s “new” system is electronic. I don’t do electronic organizers. I love the feel of paper in my hands. I love how it feels to write with a newly sharpened pencil in a brand-new notebook. I like writing lists for every occasion plus a few that I haven’t thought of yet.

Lists are my world.

Consequently, my beloved paper can quickly become a mile-high nemesis.

Sigh. I have to say that when I decided to do an organization post, I knew that I was going to have to show part of my paper trail. The thought makes me a little uneasy–this is way worse than showing you what I carry in my purse, or the inside of my junk drawer.  This is my paper! Thanks for understanding my neurosis.

For better or for worse–here we go!

This is one facet of my organization system. On the outside: odds & ends requiring my (fairly) immediate attention.

Appointment reminder cards, discount cards, gift certificates, receipts, and many, many post-it lists. Everything on the outside of my planner is affixed with a very sophisticated organization tool called a binder clip.

Flip open the front cover and you’ll see stuff I don’t know what to do with a lot of other very important things.

Finally (!!) you get to the actual calendar portion of the planner.Believe it or not, I’m kind of picky about my calendars. I must have a good monthly view that I can actually make notes on, and also a weekly view with enough room for appointments and a daily to-do list.

That’s a whole lot of paper balanced precariously in a binder clip.

Add to that a new seven page sports schedule and, well, my binder clip was ready to snap. Literally. I knew it was time to look into Anne’s new system.

To be quite honest, some things were starting to slip. If I had a dollar for every time I showed up for an appointment a full week early in the past year…I’d have at least $5.

That fact might have something to do with the fact that I don’t usually carry my planner with me for fear of the binder clip combusting in the middle of a doctor’s office or someplace equally inconvenient. Said fact also then contributes to the many reminder cards clipped to the front of my planner.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Now this is my organization system. All the extraneous paper is neatly contained on my smart phone.

Free online shared calendar to manage activities and get the family organized.

I downloaded the free Cozi Calendar app onto my phone, and I’m a little bit giddy about how cool and easy it is to keep all my crap important stuff organized. And since I hate to type my life into submission via a tiny phone keyboard, I am thrilled that I can update online and immediately have it hit my phone. No remembering to sync–it’s just there!

More features I am totally loving:

  • A family calendar in which each person is assigned a different color so I can see at a glance who needs to be where and when.
  • The calendar does not give me an annoying message indicating when I have a scheduling conflict. I have four kids–there is always a scheduling conflict. “Helpful” messages telling me about the conflicts just stress me out.
  • Everyone in the family can access the calendar online or on their phones. Since my boys are young, this feature only applies to the Bacon Slayer & I, but I love that he can sync and see when we need to Divide & Conquer for activities.
  • Text message/email reminders can be sent to family members for upcoming appointments. As the Bacon Slayer & I tend to get a little silly (read: obnoxious) with each other at times, we agreed not to invoke this feature. We pinky swore and everything.
  • Weekly agendas can be emailed and/or printed.
  • Shopping list(s) are easily organized by store/category. Lists can be sent via text/email to any family member. Once items are sourced, just click the items on the list, and it’s crossed off as if with a pencil on paper. Cute, helpful, and I still get the satisfaction of crossing things off my list.
  • To-Do Lists can be created for the entire family and/or for each family member on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This takes the Honey-Do List and the Chore Chart to a whole new level. Lists are also printable.
  • A Meal Planning feature can be viewed by any family member means never having to answer What’s for dinner? again.  Ingredients for meals can be added to Shopping Lists with the click of a button; which we already know can be sent via email/text in case you’re like me and sometimes get 3/4 the way through a recipe before realizing you are missing part of the ingredients.
  • I was able to create a widget on my phone for the Cozi app so that the weekly calendar is always in view, and the lists are just a touch away. This comes in handy as I add to the shopping list throughout the day.

So for now, I’m setting aside my paper & pencil and embracing the free Cozi Calendar in hopes of organizing my family while controlling the amount of paper piling up on the corner of counter. If I can save the life of just one binder clip, or not show up for another appointment a week early, then it will all be worth it.

Not-So-Fineprint: The (presumably) kind folks at Cozi have no idea who I am, nor have I been given anything in return for reviewing their product. However, if they’d like to send someone over to organize our closets, I’d be most receptive to the idea. ;)

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