For about a month this year it looked as if we were going to purchase a home built between 1891 and 1895, according to the town’s fire insurance maps from those two years. It was an absolutely beautiful home, with wild potential and charming classic beauty, but the deal fell through due to the logistics of very necessary asbestos abatement.
However, I am incredibly happy we’ll be missing out on the 80’s kitchen that had been callously injected into the home. I spent the majority of the month we were contingent on that property researching period kitchens, in the hopes of executing a historically-sympathetic renovation of the room and pantry.
I leafed through flyers of home layouts to get a sense of how the spaces were used, as well as read books on ideal/efficient kitchen layouts, and home management. The emphasis on home management was often extremely overbearing, pushing the philosophy that the work of the housewife was not only a vital science, but a fundamental business that dictated the success of the household. Of course the ways of managing a home took years to perfect, but often times there were tips and tricks interwoven in the explanation of duties.
Keeping records was frequently suggested as a method of easing one’s life. The average brain cannot remember contractor addresses, recipes, spendings and deposits, as well as do any appropriate math for account balancing and ordering. It was suggested the woman in charge of the household have her own desk space, with ample room to store her bookkeeping, management books, and recorded information. Todays equivalent it seems would be the household binder. I do wonder if it was born out of a natural evolution from keeping multiple books for different subjects, and wanting them all to be in one book, neatly contained.
Personally, I discovered household binders fresh out of college. I happily printed off all the things that were suggested on the blog I had found (I am so sorry, but I cannot find the blog post now! 😦 ), punched the pages with holes, and never opened the thing. That time in my life, I was too preoccupied with planning a wedding, moving in with my husband, and being newlyweds. I was too preoccupied with appearing successful, or living my life the way society wanted me to, to pay much attention to the details of the home I lived in. I was too focused on the bigger picture, and end-goals, that my household binder sat gathering dust. When we downsized our belongings after my brain injury, I recycled the contents and donated the binder itself.
After reading the praises the authors of Victorian and Georgian household guides had for record keeping, I decided to try it again, for myself. This time around, my binder is extremely helpful. I’m much more organized, feel more organized, and am far far far less scatter-brained. Important reference material is on-hand where I need it. Flipping through the pages is satisfying. Also, I just deeply enjoy using it and find it pleasing to look at.
So if you’re keen, and you’d like to make one for yourself, you’ll need the following supplies:
- a warm beverage
- some chill toons
- a binder (I’d replace mine with this one by Martha Stewart)
- a hole punch (I borrowed mine from my mother! Thank you, Mom! This seems like a similar idea.)
- some sheet protectors (eh?), or tab-dividers of choice (These are plain and white. If ever I was to use tabbed dividers, it would be these)
- baseball card sleeves (like these at Staples)
- a pen, or marker, for labeling and writing of words
- a printer with ink. Gotta have the ink, it’s very important.
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Before you even get started on what you want to fill your binder with, I’d suggest you take a look at yourself; think about what your actual needs are in that moment. It’d be better to start small and add more as you get comfortable with your binder and planning, especially if you’ve never done anything like that before, than to get overwhelmed and scrap it.
My biggest needs at the time of making my household management binder were: a place to record kitchen happenings and plans, a place to keep my weekly schedule ideals, a place for my menu planning worksheets, and a place to record our spending by hand. Since then I’ve added a cleaning section, a section for my coupons and gift cards, a place for pet information, our contacts list, and a place for blog work.
If you’re drowning in school papers, maybe you need a school section for your kids’ papers and schedules. Maybe you need a garden section to integrate your garden planning and seed orders, plant dates, harvest dates, and so-on. Maybe you have a newborn and need to track poos, sleeps and feeds. Or, maybe you’re buying a house for a first time and need a section to house all the paperwork associated with that because, gosh darn it, it’s stressful and hard to remember everything!
Whatever your needs, take the time to reflect on them. Identify your immediate ones, and make room for them in your planning. I’d suggest starting with the following sections, then perhaps adding a hobby/lifestyle section that applies to you.
- Meal Planning
First, find dividers you like. If you prefer tab-dividers, pick some of those up. I’m not a huge fan of them and prefer a more streamline look to my binders. If you also prefer the sleeve-style I have, find/design your dividers and print them off. I tried my hardest to find something to recommend you to use, but everything I ran across (that was free) was quite busy and outdated looking. Midnight Oil Media Shop has an “Ultimate Home Management Planner Printable” bundle available that I quite enjoy the colors of. I just made my own on Canva and that worked out well enough.
Put your dividers in your binder and start filling it up as you go!
Next, print yourself a calendar. I did a google search for “2021 free calendar” and found this gem. If you’re feeling more crafty, make one yourself! Next year I’m definitely going to make my own, something less frilly, but I didn’t have the time this year to do that.
Meal planning is all over the internet, so it’s easy to find something for free to print. Or, something to use as inspiration to design one yourself! If you’re just starting out with meal planning, only make a weekly planner. If you’ve got some experience under your belt, also print a monthly planner (obviously this can just be a calendar!). Again, I made mine on Canva. The Gunny Sack has some cute, simple options.
Place coupons and gift cards into baseball card sleeves. These things are so stinkin’ handy. I use them for gift cards, coupons and business cards. Brilliant stuff!
In terms of pre-planning, the finance section takes the most work. But any effort put in now will be well worth it, and save you time in the future. Future you will thank past you, I know I always thank my past self for setting this section up well and using it. That said, there’s two things you need for success: a monthly budget and an expense tracker.
I actually budget digitally using Everydollar still, but printing a budget off is a valid plan. This one is great because every-other line is colored. An expense tracker could be as simple as notebook paper inserted in your binder, or you could get fancy. This expense tracker is extremely functional.
Put it together and what do you got? Bippity boppity home management binder!
Using Your Binder
I carry this thing with me all over the house, haha. It probably looks a little silly, but I use it all the time. If this is your first rodeo with planning and organization on this level, have patience with yourself. It takes some time for your brain to remember it doesn’t have to remember EVERYTHING anymore, and instead that it needs to remember to reference the binder for it’s covered topics.
Once in the morning and once at night are the minimum amount of times I’m in this thing. I’d make it a habit to check it after you get up and around for the day, before you check your phone. Also, after your evening meal is cleaned up for adding spending and reviewing tomorrow’s plan.
Go slow and be patient with yourself! It certainly takes time to adjust if you’ve been relying on your brain to remember everything. But getting all this knowledge out of your mind, and out of the numbers of places all the information would otherwise be stored, makes things easier. All your reference material will be in one place, easy to get to.
Good luck, and happy planning!