The Epic Job of Organising A Family

I’ll say right up: this is quite a long post…because organising a family is a huge job.  I’m going to start at the beginning of last year.  You see, 2011 was the most disorganised year of our family life.  My entire year was thrown when I was caught in the 2011 Queensland Floods while trying to move from one flooded place to another. I had to rush the kids into school and never quite got it together after that; played catch up for the rest of the year.

I knew there had to be changes in the organisational department for 2012, so I thought long and hard about what systems I’ve used before, what works for our family of six, and what doesn’t.

In the past, I’ve tried many tools to organise family life with varying degrees of success; written diary, wall calendar, family calendar,  iPhone — oh and my memory — are some of the systems I’ve used. Yeah, the memory didn’t work out too well.   I’ve come to realise two things:

1. I can’t rely on just one method to organise my family, but need to use a combination of methods that work together.

2. I need a system that will work for ME…but one that the family can utilise and understand.

I asked this very question on the Be A Fun Mum facebook page and many of you use a combination of methods to organise your family too. Below is a graph of what systems are used most.

organising a family

 Organising My Family

The biggest priority for me when organising my family is the ability to see ahead in the future, so I opted for a annual planner rather than a family wall calendar.  I also use my iPhone for my own schedule and to store details including addresses and phone numbers, and it’s easy to sinc this with my husband’s schedule.

The Wall Planner is next to the kitchen.

organising a family -- wall planner

Key Colour Coding

The next issue was to find a way to put our family of six on the planner.  I use a colour coded system that would work for any written calendar or diary. I (or anyone else) can easily see what the children are doing each day, where the holidays are and the days my son is at Kindy. It’s all there in one glance.

This may seems like a lot of fuss, but once the majority of repetitive and fixed events are on the planner (which accounts for about 70% of our annual schedule), there’s not a lot left to do!


Different colour permanent marker for each of the kids

Black permanent marker (for fixed events)

Whiteboard marker (for transient and tentative events)

Small dot stickers (different colours for other important events like when I work out of the home)

Organising a Family

I use a designated colour for each child, and use letters in their colour to mark the days they have particular events at school, like L for Library Day. So on the day that both Cossie and Scotty have Library Day, there is a pink and green L on that day.  I also use their colour for events that are particular to them. For example, if Cossie has a birthday party on a Saturday, I will write that in pink on the annual planner, and then also write the details of where the party is on my iPhone.

organising a family -- annual planner

I use a permanent marker for all the regular events like school holidays, birthdays and regular events, and a whiteboard marker that I can wipe off for transient or tentative events.

organising a family

Morning To-Do Lists

For the first month of school, we use morning To-Do Lists for the kids. After about a month, the kids don’t need morning charts anymore. You can down this Morning Chart PDF here.

Morning_Tasks Chore Chart

For my youngest daughter (6) with special needs, I insert clip art pictures into a document and print it out for her to use as a morning guide.

organising a family -- chore chart

Saying No to Micro Managing

With my older children (8 and 10) the onus is on them to be organised for school, for example, remembering their books on library days and instruments for music days. I like to know what they are doing and am happy to be there to remind and encourage them. However, when it comes to going early for music or sport, my policy is if they want to be involved in those activities, they need to organise themselves.  I’m happy to support their endeavours, but I’ve learned I can’t micro manage everyone in our family. If I try, I become a massive control freak and basically go mental trying to remember everything.

I’ve also learned that my older kids are very capable of organising themselves. For my younger children (4 and 6) I still remind them of what they have on the next day.

My older girls each have their own wall calendar they use and remind me if they need to go to school early for an activity.

organising a family

Our annual planner acts as a broad guide to our family life that I manage but everyone can refer to, and the iPhone stores particulars (like addresses and phone number) that I always carry with me.  This is the best system I’ve used yet for our family.

Have you found a system that works for your family?

Other Links

School Mornings: I Don’t Want to Be A Nag

Back to School Posts

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  • Reply
    January 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I love the yearly planner… My husband and I use our Google calendars (and keep them sync-ed!) but we need something a bit more, well, visual as well….
    Thanks for the post!

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      Yeah, it’s great for us too, as we plan our annual holidays too. And it also gives me something to look forward to!

  • Reply
    Angela Henderson
    January 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Great read; Kelly. Makes me think I need to get on top of things this year.

  • Reply
    Liz @Mumstrosity
    January 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    At the moment I am using a personalised diary from Mooo , it has one week per double spread and rows with each member of the family’s names, so everyone has a section for each day. It also has a spot for notes at the bottom. It works well for me to carry around, but I’d like to get a big calendar version, or even an annual planner like you have, Kelly. I draw my budget up a year in advance so I can see exactly where I’m heading, a year planner would be very handy 🙂

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      I’m so impressed that you draw up your budget for the year. Do you have that on your planner?

      • Reply
        Liz @Mumstrosity
        February 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

        I use an excel spreadsheet that I wrote up containing every day of the year, with a total for each day, and have incomes and budgeted spending filled out for the year. Every time I spend money, I add it in on the right day. Sometimes it’s just once a week I update it, and I check it against my bank statement online. It adjusts, and I get an instant projection of how much money I will have if I stick to my budget. It’s my 3rd year using it now, and it compleetley changed my life.

  • Reply
    January 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    love your wall planner kelly! great idea. Like you we also had a very disorganised family life last year but have decided 2012 to be the year of organisation and effectiveness… oh dear its almost february!! we are getting there, your post was very helpful thank you! x

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Yeah, moving to another state can do that to you. LOL. I hope things settle a bit this year xx

  • Reply
    January 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    I am in awe of your organisation skills (and that you have four children)! I am hoping one day soon I will wake up and be an organisational genius. LOL!! I use my iPhone and a calendar on the fridge. On the calendar I use a different colour pen for each member of the family but I’m not 100% disciplined with it all. I’m a work in progress. Thanks for sharing all your tips 🙂

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      HAHA! I’m really not that organised…but I’m learning to be more so too. I feel good this year; it’s been a great start in the organisational department. Go me! HA!

  • Reply
    Renee Veldman
    February 1, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Exciting to see professional parents on your calendar! I also use a combo…and still nothing works perfectly and there’s a lot in head….but we get through somehow.

  • Reply
    February 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Wow, I love your annual calendar! I use my iPhone with the specifics, a weekly printed calendar that is put on the fridge for times and which family member’s activity, and sometimes an annual calendar that hangs inside the pantry door. But I think your annual planner in a more open space would work better for our family of five. Plus, my 7yo does her own calendar to mark which uniform to wear, library, swimming, homework hand-in, etc. And my Preppy will do this too. Time to looking for an annual calendar!

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      I purchased the annual calendar from Officeworks for, $10 I think. Thanks for your comment Lisa. Great to see you here.

  • Reply
    February 1, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Love it. My favourite piece of advice here: Say no to micro-managing. Good reminder for me as our kids get older.

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      I’m going to write another post about micro-managing soon…a little more about what it actually looks like.

  • Reply
    Debbie @ Aspiring Mum
    February 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I am so with you on putting your foot down to micro-managing – you just can’t do it with a large family. I’m still tweaking our system this year (with our 3rd starting school). I use a large chalkboard next to the kitchen for our kids. I use my planner and a wall calendar for other bits & pieces (work, appointments etc). Because I am a paper girl at heart, I don’t use my phone except for calling/texting/checking emails.

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      February 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      No, you just can’t…well, and stay sane. HA! I have put off using my iPhone for ages becuse I love paper too…but I always have my phone with me so I’m trying to be more disciplined in using it this year.

  • Reply
    Ms K
    February 5, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I have a google calendar for each child, and one for the family, and we each have one. Everything goes in this calendar, everything. I print it out every 2 weeks and put it on the wall.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    January 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Your system sounds very similar to what we do however the one area that I really struggle with is my TO-DO list. I used to manage this well when I didn’t have to manage others because everything was in my diary. Now I mix it up with a SmartyPantsKids wipeable calendar and my google calendar but I just can’t do the tasks in google. They just not in my face enough. How do you do this part?

    • Reply
      Kelly Be A Fun Mum
      January 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

      For my own personal To Do list, I like the traditional pen and paper method. On the days I have a lot of to, I write a list on a piece of paper and carry it around with me.

      • Reply
        January 9, 2013 at 11:21 am

        I do the same but it doesn’t always get done so I end up with a few bits of paper… I need a way to transfer the incomplete things to the next day… so I can keep a record. That’s where the diary comes in handy I guess. I just don’t think I can manage 3 organisational tools at once. I need to think outside of the box…

        • Reply
          Kelly Be A Fun Mum
          January 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

          Yeah, it’s such a hard thing at times. I just see each day as a new day, so I just start over with my to do list.

  • Reply
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