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Scattered Squirrel

Scattered Squirrel: May 2012

May 25, 2012

What Works for You: Home Office Part 1

Over the last few years, Home and Family Management have become a passion of mine.  Whether it's organizing a space to work better for us, decorating a room (which I really haven't done much of yet) planning yummy meals or fun activities, I love it all.  It keeps me busy, fuels my creativity, and just generally makes me happy.  And so, I thought perhaps I would share some of that enjoyment with you, in the form of a mini series (maybe it will be more like a not-so-mini series, I don't know yet) I'm calling "What Works for You".

So, where should we start?  Well, I gave it some thought, and then thought about it some more; changed my mind a million and one times, and finally decided to start with the foundation of my own Home and Family Management System:

The Home Office

They are as unique as the people who use them; each one is tailored to meet the specific requirement of its user/s.  If you wander through BlogLand, search Pinterest, or peruse sites such as Style at Home or Better Homes and Gardens, you will see millions of different home offices.  From larger rooms dedicated solely to home office work, through the cloffice (closet office), right on down to a simple tote and file box, they are as vast and varied as the people who create them.  I find it absolutely amazing to see the creativity that is poured into finding solutions for creating a fabulous and functional office space.  As much as I love seeing the finished product, I think I love reading the thought process behind the set up even more.  It is so incredible that something that sounds so uniform can end up being so diverse.

In our old home, there really wasn't a place to dedicate to a home office.  It seemed like the spaces where there was room for one weren't practical, and where it was practical, there was no room.  It took a lot of trial and error, research, (which is a fancy way of saying I spent hours scouring the web looking for ideas ignoring the more pressing things, like Mt Foldmore) and we finally ended up with an ok system.  (See Here for how I organized craft and office stuff and Here (the little bookshelf in the living room, became the extra office storage area))  The process of finally getting to the point where we had a system that worked (for the most part)  taught me much about my family, the information we need access too, the tasks we need to complete, and how to make the "office" work for us, not against us, even if it means thinking outside the box, going outside the norm, or throwing away the rules of organizing.  The point is to get a system that will work FOR you,  if it's working, does any of the rest really matter?

As I mentioned above, home offices come in all shapes, sizes, and functions.  For some, a home office is where they work all day, for others it's just a corner of the kitchen to hold often used files and bill paying info.  I'm going to share with you the process I used to figure out how to get ours set up, and I'm going to include some of the things I noticed or want to change about our current set up.  It started with seeking answers to a few important questions, and going from there.

Define Your Needs

Function must come first when it comes to an office.  This is an action space, it's where you do stuff.  (very technical term I know)  So, following a logical route, the first question to ask yourself is:

What do you NEED to do in your home office?

This is just brain storming; don't think it through too much, just jot down all the things you need to do in your home office.  To give you an idea here is what I came up with.  Tweaking comes later.

  • keep track of kid's activities
  • meal planning
  • activity planning
  • blogging
  • computer work
  • scheduling
  • bill paying
  • budgeting
  • crafting
  • house project planning
  • correspondence (online and off)
  • mail control
  • house maintenance planning
  • filing
  • paper control
  • document storage
  • excess supply storage
Just a simple list.  Some are tasks, some are things I thought I needed my home office to do or have.  So go ahead and take a few minutes to think about what you need to do in your office, and what you need your office to do for you.  Both are equally important.   Once the list is done, it's time to evaluate, specifically the action items.

Think about where you typically do those things?

Why is this important?  Well, once you have the where, you also need to think about the why.  Why do you use the location you do?  Do you enjoy that space?  Does it make sense to you?  It doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense to anyone else, this is about YOU!  Is it because you don't have another space to do it in?  If you enjoy the space, look into ways of fitting your home office in there, if it's practical.  I'll share some ideas on this in a future post.

How much time will you spend on these activities?

So, we've figured out the "what" and we've figured out the "where", now let's look at something that is sometimes overlooked.  How much time you invest in home "office" work, and how often you use the office space.  If you know you're going to spending alot of time in your office, then you need to take that into consideration when setting up the space.  Same goes for the opposite.  If you're not going to use it often, or for long periods, save yourself some time and money, and set up a small dedicated space for "office" stuff.  A friend of mine only uses her home office to store documents.  When she set up her office space in her new home, she found a few pretty vases to hold pens, scissors etc.. invested in a couple of pretty file storage boxes, and a great rolling laptop tray for in the family room.  The file boxes get tucked into a cabinet in her dining room, and the vases sit above it.   In and Out boxes hang in her kitchen, and the whole system works really well for her and her family.

What do you need to accomplish those tasks?

This is where we start getting into the nitty gritty.  Think about all the supplies you need to do each job.  I made two lists for this one.  I went through my first list and wrote down everything I needed for each item.  Then I took that list and weeded out the repeats.  This helped figure out, not just what I needed, but what I needed most, or most frequently.  Don't forget the little things too, like staples, tape, etc... This list will be different for everyone, and each person will have their own way of making it.

So now you have an idea of what you use your "office" for, where you most often work, and what you need to do the work.  Next week, I'll share how I use the answers to those questions to help plan a functional home "office".

Do you spend a lot of time in your home office space?  Do you have a whole room dedicated to the office, or just a corner?

I wish you all a fabulous day!

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May 22, 2012

The Good Ones Never Get Old!

I didn't post one of these last month, because I didn't read anything new.  Not a new author, not a new book by an old favorite . . . nothing new.  Which, at the time, seemed to mean nothing to write about, but oh, I was sooo wrong.  You see, I'm a repeat reader.  I love re-reading books when the mood strikes.  And boy, do my moods ever play a strong role in what I read.  

Lately, with all the changes, I've been feeling really stressed, a little down in the dumps adjusting to Travis being away, and just in need of something to take me out of myself, and preferably something that will make me laugh.  Good thing I have my go to author for just such times.  Her books are witty and full of laugh out loud humor.  Her characters are believable, likable, hate-able, lovable, they've grown and changed as the series has progressed.  Story lines are good, there a few things you can depend on, like the alarming rate at which the main character's cars are destroyed, there will be doughnuts, Tastykakes, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket fried chicken..(Don't read if you have sweet tooth).. if you've read the books, you've probably already guessed that I'm talking about Janet Evanovich, specifically the Plum Series, starring Stephanie Plum.

Paperback of Explosive Eighteen on sale May 15
Newest Book in The Plum Series

They never fail to make me laugh, or at the very least smile.  The main character is bounty hunter who's not so great at her job, but not so bad.  The stories are told through her point of view, and they're told in such a realistic way that you can easily see yourself in Stephanie's shoes.  The cast of characters includes her sometimes partner, ex-prostitute Lula, who cracks me right up.  Her slightly zany grandmother who is a hoot.  Then there are the two men in her life, bad boy bounty hunter, and Stephanie's mentor, Ranger, and cop Joseph Morelli.  Each character is well developed, and they get better and better as the series progressed.  There are other recurring characters too, who add depth and richness to Stephanie's story.  The strength of the characters is one of things that makes this series so great.  Picking up one of the books, is liking visiting with friends.  

I swear I've read the whole series, ALL 18 numbers books, and the 4 "between the numbers" novellas so many times I know most of them off by heart.  It's gotten to the point where I pick which one to read based on what kind of story I'm looking for, because the tone of each one is slightly different.  If you haven't had a chance yet to check out Janet Evanovich's books, you really should.  If you're looking for a light hearted, humorous, mystery to read, this series is the one for you!  I haven't had a chance to check out any of Janet's other books yet, but if they are anything like this series, I can't wait!

I hope this post finds you all having a wonderful day!  Have you read any good books lately?  Do you have a go to book or author?  

P.S.  The first book, "One for the Money" was just released on DVD, staring Kathrine Heigl as Stephanie Plum.  I haven't seen the movie yet.  The reviews I've read were mixed.  The book was great, so if you've seen the movie and thought it was a dud, try the book!

***Please Note:  This is just a personal opinion.  I'm just sharing because I enjoy the books, not because I was asked too. ***

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May 16, 2012

Home Management Binder: Home Maintenance

After all the upheaval of the last week, it's great to be slowly sinking back into a semblance of normal!  I'm super excited to get back to working on the revamp of my HMB, and even more excited to be sharing it with you.

The section I'm working on this week is going to be the Home Maintenance section, I'm thinking I might call this section Home Care.  That title seems to fit better on a divider label.  Getting the house all ready for showing, and doing the first round of packing is what really spearheaded the desire to change up the old HMB, especially this section.  Often times I found myself wondering "when was the last time I did this?"  or "I could have sworn I did this recently, how did it get so dirty in such a short time?"  The not knowing when I last did those oddball tasks that are more seasonal or annual was really bugging me.

I've been toying with a system for this, one that will work with my scattered brain, and allow me to keep track and stay on top of these relatively little things.  (I say relative, because really, they don't take THAT much time to do.  If you do them often enough, they take no time at all.)

So, I'm going to start off my Home Care Section with a planner for all those tasks.  I wanted to find an easy to use system that would allow me to record and track the home maintenance tasks that only crop up every couple months or so, and after much back and forth to the drawing board, I think I finally came up with one that works for me - my Indoor Home Maintenance yearly check list.  What a mouthful!!!

printable checklist home maintenance

I started by creating boundaries for myself, or I could have made this into a much bigger job than it needed to be.  Firstly, I limited the area to the indoors.  Our outdoor maintenance needs will be changing, but most of what I need to do inside will pretty much stay the same.  Then I listed out everything that needs to be done less than once a month.  I included things like checking the smoke alarms, flipping and rotating mattresses etc...  I noted how often I felt these things needed to be done, double checked some of our owner's manuals, and created the simple little check list you see above.  When I turn a new calendar page I can easily schedule the tasks into a non-busy week.  As you can see, most of the items on there won't take too much time to do, especially if they're done often.

And there you have it, my Indoor Home Maintenance yearly check list.  And, as always, simply click the caption below the picture to snag a copy of your own!

Sorry for the lateness of the hour, but I really wanted to get this posted today.  I hope you all had a wonderful day, a fantastic evening night, and a great morning (if you're reading this tomorrow)

How do you keep from having a "When did I last do this?" moment?  Do you have a system for keeping track of all the once in a while things that can sometimes get overlooked in our day to day lives?

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May 15, 2012

Aaaand.... We're Back!

Hello everyone!  Long time no see.  It's all my fault, and I apologize profusely.  Life got crazy last week.  I think my head is still spinning from the whirlwind activity.  Last time I was able to pop on here, was last Monday, where I shared the Kid's Section of my HMB (here)  I had grand and wonderful plans of posting more all week, but (as you may have noticed) that didn't work out so well.  Monday was really the last normal day last week, ok, Tuesday wasn't too bad, but we had internet issues ALL day that day, plus a showing at the house and all that wonderful stuff.  There's a lot of between then and now, but I won't bore you with the details.  I just wanted to hop on here tonight, and let everyone know, I haven't forgotten you!

Now that things are settling down, I'm hoping to get a few more posts up.  Due to some recent changes in our lives, the complete INSANITY of last week, I've had change a few things up, and I'm a little behind on my HMB, but it's slowly coming together, and I am eager to get back into the swing of things here.  I hope you all will hang in there while I get things back on track.  I'll be back tomorrow with the next installment of my HMB revamp, and a printable for you!  :-)

I hope that you all are having a wonderful evening.  For all you mommies out there, I hope you had a magnificent Mother's Day!

How do you stay sane when life get crazy?


May 7, 2012

Home Management Binder: Kids Section

As I mentioned back in April, (here) I'm revamping my Home Management Binder.  Because I was so sick of thinking about house stuff, I started with my Family Fun section.  In that section I have our Activities Directory, Day Trip Planner, Movie Night Check List, and Library/Book List.  I'm sure I'll add more things to it, but for now, that's a good start.

I've decided to move onto the Kid's section next.  I already have a section for the kid's in my current HMB, but it's need some changes and some updates.  To figure out what needs to be in this section, I thought about all the information I need to have for each of our boys.  Currently, they each have their own subsection, and I'm thinking that keeping it this way will work best.  Our Teen's section currently holds all of his school stuff, the student handbook, a list of his classes and teachers, important school dates, and things like that.  Liam's is full with kindergarten prep stuff.   A few weeks ago I shared the School Info sheets with you (you can find them here) so I have that taken care of.   Next was just figuring what other information needed to be in these areas.

This is the breakdown:

  • School Info Sheets
  • Important School Date Lists
  • Friends Phone and Address Lists
  • Online Accounts List
  • School Handbooks and other information sheets
And once we move and get settled, I'll probably add stuff for their activities, like swimming lessons and so on.  But this is a good start.   I created a few printables to help keep all information together and easy to find.

First up, Important School Dates.  Now, up until last year, I just use to keep the first school notice in place of this list.  But last year, our Teen's school didn't send home a list of all the non-school days like previous schools did.  Instead, I had to go through his agenda, month by month, and copy them all down.  So, I created this list to help keep track of them.  At the beginning of each month, I transfer the info onto our family calendar so that we all know what is going on.

free printable home magement kids section

See, just a basic form to fill in dates.

So, that takes care of keeping track of non-school days, and other important school events.  But what do kids do when they're not in school?  Well, sometimes, they hang out with friends.  To keep track of their friends, their phone numbers, their addresses, their parents names (I'm sooooo horrible with names)  I decided to create a directory page, where we could keep all that info.  This is what I came up with:

free printable home management kid section

Some you might note, that there are two spots for cell numbers.  This is because we have a Teen, and many of his friends have their own cell phones.  Even when our Teen gets his own, I still want this information.  And yes, there is a section for the parents names as well, because I always find myself forgetting names, and I feel awful about that.  There's a also space for the birthday info, and the ever important "Things to Note"  This where I make note of any food allergies their friends have so I can be sure to avoid serving those foods for snacks.  I also keep note of anything I've noticed their friends didn't like.  Our Teen has a friend who doesn't like cake, so for birthdays, I make sure to include a second option with the cake, or we do things like build your own sundaes.

And last but most certainly not least.  An online tracker.  We have pretty strict rules regarding internet use:  We need to know what site our children are using, their user names for those site, AND passwords.  As our Teen is getting older, we'll have to change and adapt, but until this point, that's what we've required.  We don't access any of his accounts, it's just for precaution, and for those "just in case" moments.

On the same sheet I also included a spot to write down our internet or online rules.  This eliminates those "You never told me that" arguments.  They don't happen often, but when they do, I can just refer the kids (only our Teen at this point) to the book, and they can see the rules they have to obey while online.

free printable home management kids

And that concludes the Kid's section, for the moment.  I'm sure that there is something I will think of later on, but that's the beauty of binders, it's so easy to add items and take items away as your needs change.  

What about you?  Is there certain info you like to keep on hand for your kids?  Do you have rules and guidelines for how they use online time?  Is there something I should have thought have of but missed?

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful evening, and I hope to see you tomorrow.   For now I'm off to make Liam some tea and oatmeal.  The strange things that wacky kid of mine asks for for a bed time snack. :-)

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May 4, 2012

Concluding the Family Fun, and Free Printables!

Our family has been through many changes in the last few years.  One of the biggest of those changes was our oldest boy entering the teen years.  Whether I'm ready for it or not he's growing up right before my eyes, and (if I do say so myself) he's turning into a wonderful young man.  But with this growing and changing comes some family adjusting.  Yesterday I posted about day trips . . . it's actually kind of bittersweet because, as much as we love doing them, it's going to start getting more and more tricky to schedule them in.

You see, our Teen wants to work!  And Travis and I are NOT going to discourage that at all.  In fact we've told him we will help in anyway we can.  I think it's important, not just so he has a taste of working life, but so he has some independence.  Maturity wise, he's ready.  It just means that as a family, we have to adjust to the new rhythm that this will bring to our lives.  

Family dinners might not happen every night (how weird is that going to be) Weekends might not always be the best time for taking off.  Vacations will have to be carefully planned in advance.  And that's all ok.  It's part of life.  But it certainly hammers home the saying:

 "We don't remember days, we remember moments"
                  --Cesare Pavese

Moments matter.  ALOT!  One of the things our family really likes to do, is Family Movie Night.   I love the cozy feeling of everyone settling in to watch something.  That it brings us together.  And best of all, with services like Netflix, Shaw on Demand, and Sony's PlayStation Network, throwing together an impromptu movie night is a piece of cake!  To help with this I whipped up a printable for the Family Fun section of my HMB.  

It's really a simple printable, most of it's space to keep tracks of the movies we would like to see, also a quick list of the things we usually have for movie night, and space to write down ideas for special treat and snack requests.  And here it is:

free printable family movie fun

Another way to continue capturing those moments, is to share an interest.  In our house, that's a love of books!  Literature of all shapes and sizes.  My teen seems to share my love of sci-fi/fantasy, and Liam seems to enjoy all the books his big brother used to love.  New home town, means new library to check out, because we've exhausted the one here.  (Small libraries are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but the more the books the better for this girl!)  So, I whipped up another printable.  There were three purposes to this one: a reminder to bring the old books back, a place to keep track of any programs the library runs that we attend, or would like to, and of course, our reading wish list.  The wish list is the important one.  It will enable me to take out the right books for our Teen (if he doesn't have a chance to get there himself) and I won't be forgetting what book/author it was that I was meaning to check out.  

free printable reading home management

This one is the last printable for the Family Fun section.  I'll be back on Monday with a recap, and a plan of attack for the rest of the HMB.  I do so hope you enjoy the printables!

As always, just click the caption to get a copy of your own.  I understand the preview function isn't working right now, for reasons I cannot fathom, but if you click download, the files will download. 

So, does anyone else have a Family Fun section in their HMB?  Thinking about putting one in?  

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!!!  

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May 3, 2012

Planning Those Day Trips and a Free Printable for you!!!

Well, another set of days off have come and gone.  Travis got home Monday night, and left again Wednesday morning.  This is only the second time he's been home, and already we're getting weary of it.  One day is not enough to cram everything into.  I'm eager to move and be settled, ah, but first our house must sell.  We hit a couple snafus with the listing, but they're fixed now, for the most part.  We just need to get people in and get someone to make an offer.  I'm ready to go.  All I need is a bunch more boxes and I can have the house packed and ready to go in a week if I need to.  (Can you tell I'm eager to go?)  While we continue to play the waiting game, I'm working at getting myself more organized.  This is serving a few purposes; first, I LOVE to organize!  It's not just a necessity, it's a passion, it's stress relief, it's FUN!  Secondly, it's keeping me busy, giving me a focus for the restlessness I'm feeling.  It also means I get to have fun playing around on the computer creating printables, which is something I absolutely LOVE to do.  And lastly, it means that I don't have to worry about this after we move, which means I can focus more on catching up on family time!

As I mentioned last week, (here) I'm revamping my Home Management System.  As with most organizational systems it takes a little time, and some tweaking to get the one that is just right for you.  As family or home needs change, you need to reevaluate your systems and change them accordingly.  I've opted to start this process with the addition of a new section to my HMB called the Family Fun section.  Last week I shared the first part of that section with the Activities Directory.  I also mentioned that our family loves to take day trips.  Get out of town, discover something new, revisit a place we found and loved, the reasons go on and on and on.   With our new home town's location being so close to so many wonderful things, I can't wait to get out there and start discovering. 

Day trips are wonderful, they allow you to have a mini vacation, even if it's just for the day.  You can forget your worries, your stress, leave it all behind and get away for a few hours.  Though  day trips for us usually means leaving after breakfast and getting home before bed time, they still take a little planning.  After winging it for a long time, making up lists on random pieces of paper, I've finally put together a Day Trip Planner.  

I've created a check list for the items that we like to have on hand, to do lists, budget (always important to know what you're going to be spending, otherwise you could spend a lot in a day) and a menu planner,(because you can save a ton of money if you pack a picnic and your own snacks)  and the best part of all, is I was able to get them all onto one page, so now I have one place to keep track of it all, instead of a bunch of lists on multiple pieces of paper.

free printable checklist home management binder

With the menu planner, what I will often do is plan out everything I'm making or bringing along first, then at the end of each section I make a note of what we'll purchase while out.  It might be something like an ice cream, or slushy, or perhaps we've decided to picnic for lunch but go out for dinner... I make a note of it on the menu planner, then I can work it into the budget.  

And, as I said last week.  While revamping my HMB I'm sharing ALL the printables with you, so as usual, just click the caption to get your copy.  Recently I've received a few emails from people who were unable to download some of the printables, I've been looking into the problem, and as yet, have come up with no solutions.  However, if you have any troubles, please just send me an email and I'll be happy to send you the file/files you would like.  And I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Is anyone else working on their Home Management Binders/Systems?  Are there any printables that you think you might need or want?  Drop me a line and let me know, maybe I can put some together during the next few weeks and pop them up on here for you!  

I hope you all are having a wonderful day!  I'll be back tomorrow with more Family Fun stuff!!

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