I was raised in a home with little structure. I did not know how to plan ahead for meals, prepare a budget, clean a home, shop, pay bills, or balance a checkbook; much less keep a very busy family on track. I was raised in the 70s and 80s when latchkey kids were a real thing, and I was one of them. My afternoons were spent alone, watching General Hospital, talking on the phone with friends, and doing whatever chores I was required to do.

If we had company coming over, we all rushed through the house with paper grocery sacks. We would fill these up with whatever we found around the house and shove them all into closets. My father did the lion’s share of teaching me how to cook. I would call him at work, and he would walk me through the basics of how to cook meals over the phone. My mother worked full-time and really was worn out by the time she got home. I do not recall ever seeing her clean, cook, or even get out a calendar.

I was not equipped for motherhood or adult life, and with a growing family, I had to get a grip. I started reading every book on home management I could find. I read books on parenting, home education, and health. I pored over the books that taught me child development and training methods.

Over the years, I have gone from being completely out of control to mostly in control of my time and schedule. The best tool I can share is to keep a written calendar. If you have a small family, you may get away with a small calendar, but if you have many children or outside commitments, embrace a large calendar. There, you can mark your general chore plan for the day, keep all appointments, to-do’s, goals, and budgetary items. Some people color code their calendars, but I found that to be a time-consuming, unnecessary step.

Once you have established a solid working calendar, if you have family members with smart phones, I highly recommend you use a digital app that is shared among all family members. The one I use allows you to set up text reminders for appointments. This is the most useful function. I also add in there things I must do daily that I tend to forget without a reminder. Reminders for vitamins, chore routines (like 8 PM house cleanup), and the addresses of destinations for appointments are all kept there.

To help facilitate family unity and clear communication, and also encourage fun relationships among family members, we have a whole family text chat set up. This is where we share family news and scheduling questions, make group decisions when it’s appropriate, and also share a fair number of news stories and memes. Our group text includes nine of us. It gets hectic and funny but also has a number of serious discussions like news about my ailing parents or travel plans. Set the tone that the chat is never used to hash out anger issues or to scold anyone. It’s meant to be a place that facilitates positive communication, not tear one another down.

Once you have a good, well-utilized paper calendar, set a time each week where you update it with all known data, share important details with everyone, and make any new arrangements. You can also use this time to add things to the grocery list, make a meal plan, keep your budget updated, and reach out to friends and loved ones regarding promised plans, etc. I do this on the same night each week, and I try to check with family members about anything I need to add to my list at that time. If supplies, clothes, or specific ingredients for meals are needed, here’s the time to share it and get it planned. Sync up your digital calendar at that time as well.

For home organization, we have used the concept of zones for many years. I have areas of the house set up for a weekly deep clean. Monday is upstairs; Tuesday is the main floor; Wednesday is yard work, and so on. On a daily basis, the children have the same chores every day, often for years at a time. Laundry, trash, dishes, and basic kitchen clean-up must be done daily. Because we’re not trading chores all the time, I do not need to keep up with who is on what chore. Everyone knows who is responsible for what on a permanent basis. This has simplified both parenting and chores. It also helps a child become an expert on their areas before moving to others. By their early teen years, they can handle cleaning and cooking and meal planning. They can do all parts of laundry. They can use lawn equipment. As needs arise, children will accompany parents on fixing things around the house, or special deep-clean or organization projects.

I will also hire help on occasion to assist me in things like a big organization project or house cleaning. Working and ministry, as well as homeschooling, watching my grandchildren, and other responsibilities can often leave the house looking a little shabbier than I like. So having a professional come on occasion helps get everything back in order and makes maintaining everything easier.

Above all else, plan time to study God’s Word, pray, and ask the Lord to help you order your day. I have been in the Word daily when I am super busy and when things are slow, and I can tell you that spending that time has never caused me to be unable to complete the tasks required for the day. In fact, through prayer and careful consideration of my roles first thing in the morning, I often come up with a more efficient way to complete the tasks at hand and gather strength for the day.

Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.