Before becoming a mom, I considered myself a fairly organized person. I filed my important paperwork (meaning I jammed it all into a tattered folder), paid my bills on time, and kept a firm grasp on my schedule. Then my son entered the picture, and whatever semblance of put-togetherness I possessed flew right out the window. I suddenly had a lot more going on in my home (and my brain) and I found myself in a constant state of anxiety, sure I'd forgotten some crucial piece of information. Instead of counting sheep at night, I was taking mental inventory of due dates, appointments, and special events, searching for a dropped ball.
Determined to find a system that would keep my family organized, I turned to the internet and watched videos of moms thumbing through leather-bound portfolios as they evangelized the merits of tabbed dividers and a fancy label maker. Unfortunately, it turns out I'm one of those "write it down immediately or it's gone forever" types, and unless that sucker was strapped to my body at all times, even the most beautiful planner wasn't going to cut it.
What I needed was a solution that allowed me to quickly create and access organizational tools without a drastic change to my behavior. What I needed was to tap into the power of file-sharing apps. Rather than relying on pen and paper or a physical filing system, these services enable me to build and edit the resources I need from my phone, tablet, or computer — items that are never far from my fingertips — and automatically sync those resources across my devices. Today, I manage my entire household from these connected technologies, and after a little setup, it couldn't be easier. Here are the steps to follow.
Share a family calendar
"I'm so sorry, but I forgot to tell you about [insert work or social event here]" is not an uncommon phrase among busy, sleep-deprived parents. My husband and I eliminated a lot of schedule-related communication breakdowns when we built a shared online calendar. I keep everything color-coded by person and add popup notifications for things like our son's checkups with the doctor, which are generally scheduled several months in advance and promptly forgotten about until my phone dings with a polite reminder. As a directionally challenged person, I also attach an address to every appointment, so I can quickly hit the road.
Keep lists handy
No matter how many times I look through the fridge and cupboards before leaving the house, my mind goes blank when I enter a grocery store. Without a list, I whip through the aisles and throw things in my cart like a Supermarket Sweep contestant. Inevitably, I will return home with a ton of items we didn't need (like a pound of butter, on three consecutive outings) and without a crucial component of that evening's dinner. My note-taking app now contains an evergreen shopping list that I can update as we run low on items instead of starting from scratch, and it keeps me at the ready when my husband sends one of his classic "Hey, I'm at the store. Do we need anything?" texts.
I also keep a comprehensive, categorized packing list at my disposal. I might not always need everything on the list, but it certainly helps to take the edge off when I'm simultaneously filling suitcases and trying to keep my toddler from swirling his hand around the cat's water bowl.
Build reusable spreadsheets
Oh, how I love a spreadsheet! If I can arrange something into neat columns and rows, you bet I'm gonna do it. I built a spreadsheet to keep track of our household bills, including due dates, amounts owed, and dates paid. My freezer inventory spreadsheet keeps me from overstocking at the grocery store, and it pairs nicely with the spreadsheet I use to plan our meals for the week. Our overall food waste has gone way down, much to the chagrin of the raccoons that live in my neighborhood.
Manage your photos
I literally took at least one photo of my son every day during the first year of his life. While I've backed off a bit, I'm still the designated family paparazzo. Transferring images and videos to a file-sharing system frees up a ton of space on my devices and allows me to organize my collections by person, place, or event.