Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Weekly Family Flow

Hey Angel!

How is Autumn going so far for you? The light has changed here, it's so weird how that happens nearly overnight. It feels like Fall now, though we're still getting spectacular weather. I have to admit, as much as I loathe June around these parts (so cold and rainy, many people call it June-uary), September more than makes up for it. Gorgeous.

I am such a dumb-dumb, I didn't get a chance to pick up the copy of Home Comforts that I had requested at the library, and my hold expired, so now I have to request it again. I cannot wait to get my hands on that book!

In the meantime, I've been working on a rough schedule for our family routine including my own diverse to-dos, now that we're back at school. I thought I would share my process, in case it can help a reader or two and/or encourage discussion!

Instead of "routine" or "schedule", I thought I would call it a "flow" -- I loved when you used that word in our last Skype conversation. Life with littles is so unpredictable in so many ways, it helps to have fluid expectations.

So... I began by writing out a list of all the things I need to and would like to accomplish in any given week, in terms of house-keeping and family organization. Nothing fancy like dusting baseboards, just a basic list of what should be doable. I should also make a disclaimer here that my standards are not Martha's. Ahem.

I had done a lot of thinking about this list, and decided it should be separated into the 4 major categories of my life:

  • Kids
  • Home
  • Work
  • Personal

I then filled out the list in each category.

Jenny: Weekly Family Flow

Kids includes school, playdates, soccer, and things I want to add to our weekly schedule like practicing French, piano lessons, and regular age-appropriate chores for the boys.

Home includes my basic chores like laundry, cleaning the kitchen, scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming, along with paying bills, purging, keeping our storage room organized, etc.

Work includes the various to-dos required for this blog, my Etsy shop and custom business -- so much of which is done by scrambling and stressing out, even though it's stuff I love to do.

The last category is Personal and includes things like answering emails, exercise, date night, Skype with family and friends, etc.

Jenny: Weekly Family Flow Jenny: Weekly Family Flow

When my list was written out, I took out a red marker and underlined all the "problem items", i.e. those items that always get forgotten or shoved out of the way when other mandatory stuff takes priority. I figured if I make a point to schedule time for them, it's less likely they will be forgotten.

The last step was to determine my challenges, so I can be thoughtful in writing out my weekly flow/schedule. The point of this exercise is to improve my organization and my self-esteem when it comes to family- and house-keeping, not to shove my problems under the rug. So, very concretely, I pin-pointed the causes of stress and time-wasting in my daily life.

Jenny: Weekly Family Flow

My main challenges are: meal planning and cooking (I am SO uninspired and unmotivated!), being on-time (I tend to be very unrealistic about how long things take, especially with kids in tow), answering correspondence (sorry to any of you who've had to wait for an email response from me!) and keeping clutter in check in our small-ish apartment.

I wrote these challenges at the bottom of my list, so they are obvious and part of what needs to be included in the flow.

Whew. Still with me?

Okay, moving on. The next step was to write out my weekly family flow.

I began by filling out the "hard" scheduled stuff. This includes school and preschool drop-off and pick-ups, soccer practice, my laundry days (we share the washer/dryer with our downstairs neighbor and alternate days), and our evening routine which is pretty set in stone in order for the kids to be in bed by 7-ish.

To tackle my challenge with being on-time, I added realistic departure times in brackets for all the drop-offs, pick-ups and practices. I am proud to report we have not YET been late this school year so far!!

Jenny: Weekly Family Flow

Once all the "hard" scheduled stuff was written in, I used an orange marker to block out all the flexible chunks of time in my weekly schedule. This is where the flow comes in!

At this point, I looked at my list and started assigning certain list items to certain flexible time slots.

The first thing to go on there was chores: laundry on Monday, Wednesday, Friday; putting away laundry on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom (two of my problem areas because the kids get into trouble when I can't be in the same room) on Friday when the husband is off work; grocery store and errands on Tuesday; pay bills on Thursday; etc.

Filling out the family flow chart helped me realize that, if I am to accomplish what I want, I need to be up BY 6:30AM at the latest. I also realized we have a good 1 hour chunk of time in the late afternoon that is perfect for practicing French, learning piano and doing seasonal crafts (3 things I've been wanting to do regularly with the kids forever!).

Some of the flexible time slots will have to be refined further to include all the items I want to get done, for example my work time. But it helped me face reality to tally up my actual WORK hours: only 12.5 hours per week, IF I'm lucky and get no delays or interruptions! In my mind, I had something like a full-time work schedule. Crazy mama, I am.

Jenny: Weekly Family Flow

And there you have it.

It's still a work in progress, as there are still things to refine and figure out. I need to iron out how and when to get everything done for my little business during my limited work time. I also need to tackle the Friday schedule in coordination with the husband (since he's off work that day and we tend to be discombobulated as a team) as well as family time on the weekends.

Oh, and the meal planning. I haven't figured that one out yet.

Once things seem to fit in a good working flow, I will recreate this weekly family flow with an eye-pleasing design and clean fonts, and pin it on my bulletin board!

So, what do you think of my first steps toward getting the family organized? What would work for you, or not? How do you keep your family organized, get your work done and keep your house clean? Is scrambling simply unavoidable when you have young kids and work from home? Please share your tips, tricks and commiseration in the comments, I can't wait to read them!


  1. Too organised!!! Looks fantastic. I am a list and diary gal. Couldn't function without them. Love that 'alone time' is worthy of a double underline. Having a Family of seven i totally get how valuable this is. Generally referred to as 'Mum's Sanity Saver'!!! Xx. Karen

    1. Thanks Karen! My youngest isn't 2 quite yet, and it's hard to leave him sometimes (terrible sleeper and all) but I'm finally getting to the point where I need to get out of the house and have some alone time!! Sanity saver indeed! :-D

  2. This is a great post, Jenny. I love that you started out with your values and intentions, reviewing the things that are important to you. I think that's much more likely to lead to a sustainable system in the end and I look forward to hearing how it plays out for you in the coming months. I think that would be a really good exercise for me to do, too (I well know the phenomenon of things that are important to me that I always seem to let slide).

    Regarding meal planning, I did a post on the system I've been using for this a while back:
    Although this post is over a year old I'm still using roughly the same system. It does go out the window for a bit during particularly crazy times now and then, but I have managed to find my way back to it several times, which seems like a pretty major endorsement to me. It's very satisfying to have a system that works! Anyway, maybe that will spark some ideas for you. I got nothin' on the keeping clutter in check though. :-P

    1. Thanks Sarah! I really like how Angel went deeper with the values in her post this morning, she took it one step further! But outlining the challenging areas and the overall goals definitely helps with making a meaningful schedule.

      Love your meal-planning post! I need to go back and revisit it in a couple of days and implement some kind of system that is similar. My issue is that I'm NOT interested in experimenting with recipes. I want to make healthy food, I want it to be tasty and I want it to be easy/fast. Oh, and the kids need to like it and eat it. Hmm. Whole wheat pasta and steamed broccoli? That's about all I got...

  3. I LOVE this! I particularly like how you scheduled time for the things that you want to do more of with the boys and for yourself. I love lists, and schedules, and routines (although I like the word FLOW, that is much more my style). One thing that works for me to get the kids to school and pick them up on time is I set an alarm on my phone that goes off at the time need to get going. I've set it with enough time to find shoes, find homework, and get in the car, as well as drive. My older son and I also set up a nice routine for the afternoons (he's a routine guy). After playing outside after school, we come home, have snack, a treat, homework, then playtime or TV. But I do think that there is some amount of chaos and scrambling that are inevitable. There is just not enough time in the day for all the things we want and need to get done. Good luck and keep us posted!

    1. Thanks Deia! The alarm on the phone is a great idea. I used to do that for Ben's preschool pick-up, I should start again. I am with Oliver, I like routines.

      Oh, don't tell me there isn't enough time to get it all done!! No!!! Really? LOL. I know, I wish.


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