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Organizing Your Family - Where to Start?

Lisa - October 5, 2022

Organizing your family can be stressful. There are a lot of things to consider, from keeping rooms clean, to helping kids with homework, to figuring out what to make for dinner. Here’s an idea for how to sort through these aspects and tackle them one by one.

To start, determine what exactly your family needs by making a list of the problems you’re trying to solve. Don’t worry about solutions yet, just outline what’s going on right now that you want to change. For example, “Jessica keeps doing her homework late,” “The lawn has been neglected for too long,” or “We have almost missed dentist appointments the last three times.” If you’re doing this on paper, make sure to leave plenty of space between each problem so you have room to work on solutions in a moment.

Doing it together: You can do this by yourself, but bringing other family members into the conversation can make it even better. They may think of problems to solve that you didn’t, or have different perspectives on the ones you list. Listen patiently and try to stay positive as you discuss these problems.

After you’ve created this list of what to work on, you can look for patterns and pinpoint the tools you need to create solutions. If it’s difficult to remember events, maybe your family needs a calendar to record what’s going on and a reminder system to help you be ready for them. If children struggle to do homework on time, they may need a place to write down assignments and due dates, or they may need greater motivation to do their work right away. A neglected chore may need to be assigned more clearly to a particular family member, whether on some kind of chore chart or in verbal conversation. Alternatively, the family may be too busy for a certain task, requiring some schedule adjusting or seeking outside help.

Chores screenshot 2

As you brainstorm, write these ideas below each problem. Some could be simple to resolve, while others might need multiple parts to form a real solution. Try to think of as many ideas as you can to help you find what could work best. Here’s an example:

Dishes pile up in the sink after dinner time

* Make sure someone is assigned to empty the dishwasher every afternoon, clean the dinner dishes, and start the dishwasher for the night. Put these chores into an app with reminders. (Like Family Tools!)
* Have everyone rinse their own dishes when they finish dinner and put them in the dishwasher.
* Each night after dinner, have each family member do something to clean up the kitchen. Write a list of the ways they can help (including wash dishes) and put it on the fridge.
* Use disposable dishes at dinner time.

Doing it Together: Family members may have input on why some of the issues are happening. For instance, your son might point out that you’ve almost missed dentist appointments repeatedly because they’ve been scheduled for right after school, and it’s easy to lose track of time in the flurry of kids coming home and backpacks being emptied. Your spouse might explain that the lawn has been neglected because it’s easiest to do on weekends, and the family keeps having events on Saturdays that interfere.

Finally, decide what solutions you’re going to use. These can kind of be categorized as physical aids, digital tools, and outside help.

Physical aids are tangible; information is in plain sight for both kids and adults, with no need for a device or software. If you keep only one copy, then everyone will see changes as soon as they look at it. The trickiest part is sharing them with the whole family, but also having them available when you need them. For example, everyone can access the grocery list until you take it along to the store. Family members can have their own small calendars, but have to manually keep them up-to-date with the main family calendar at home. Physical aids also have the downsides of being hard to change and providing limited space to write; it’s hard to add another to-do when the page is already full.

Chores screenshot 2

Digital tools are widely varied, and accessible to anyone with a computer or mobile device. There are apps for calendars, lists, reminders, homework tracking, and meal planning, as well as apps like Family Tools that bring those solutions into one place. (Even among family apps, there are different focuses and functionalities; see our comparison articles to help you know which is best for your family.) All digital tools carry the benefit of being shared across devices; everyone can check it no matter where they are, and changes are shared instantly. There are also essentially no spatial limits, such as how many events can be added to the calendar.

Outside help is a little more specific to the situation. It can include hiring a tutor to help with homework or paying a crew to take care of the yard. Maybe a neighbor has ideas for simpler meals, a grandparent can help watch kids, or a friend can recommend better ways to clean. Asking for help takes a little humility, and sometimes paying for service, but it’s best not to underestimate the people around you as you discuss solutions.

As you go about implementing these solutions, remember to take it slowly. Decide what problem needs to be solved first and start by just working on that one thing. Be patient with each family member as they adjust to the new expectation, and communicate periodically to make sure the problem really is being solved. Once the first thing is going better, you can start on another. By using this gradual pattern, your family will make real progress in getting organized, which will lead to less stress for all.

Better organization is a big project. Let us help you break it into pieces and get things done.