How to Organize Your Household Care
From the best apps to helpful tricks, here's a guide for a Household CEO.
Being a CEO isn't easy. Let alone a Household CEO. The nanny, babysitter, tutor, house cleaner and dog walker keep your life in order -- but someone needs to keep them straight as well. Who's coming when? What time are they arriving? How will they be paid? What do you need to prep, buy or do before they arrive? It's enough to makes your head spin.
To survive, you either need an assistant or a really good organization system. Here are some options:
If You Like Digital:
Sync your Google Calendars: Don't just share your calendar with your partner; get your nanny, tutors and kids on it, too, suggests Stacy Crew, author of "The Organized Mom". This way, everyone knows what's happening when. Add locations to the appointments, so you get directions if you click on it. Instead of putting your kid's activities on the main calendar, make color-coded calendars for your little ones, with things like play dates and doctor's appointments.
Sign up for an online family management site: Much more than simply a calendar, these sites can organize every aspect of your life -- and they're easily shareable with caregivers. Cozi helps you keep track of your family calendar, to-do lists, grocery lists and menus. HatchedIt lets parents can share and organize their calendar and to-do lists with their nannies using iPhone or Android.
Share your to-do list: Paula Rizzo, who blogs about organization at The List Producer, loves Astrid. "It's a to-do list app that's social -- so it allows you to share lists with other people," says Rizzo. For instance, if you want your nanny to run a few errands for you, share a list. Add comments and see when the other person checks things off the list.
If You Need Paper:
Create a household manual: "If you've got a lot of different caregivers coming and going, create a physical binder that holds everything someone might needs to know," says Crew. For kids, include contact info for schools and activities, specifics on eating and sleeping habits, favorite toys and tricks or techniques specific to your children (like to get them to sleep). Make separate binders for pets or seniors. "This way, if a new caregiver has to take over on the fly, they'll know the specifics immediately."
Need help getting started? Check out File.starter from Buttoned Up, which comes with ten labeled, color-coded, file folders. For pets, the Pet.doc notebook helps you record your pet's family history, medical basics, medical history, insurance, training and care.
Ask for invoices: You pay the occasional dog sitter cash, but your nanny is paid through a payroll service. It's hard to keep track of who you paid and how much. "Ask every one of your caregivers to invoice you," suggests Carew. Or create time sheets, keep them in a fixed location and ask caregivers to fill them out weekly. Then set up a payment system -- either with your checkbook or as online bill payment. (Note: if you pay someone over $1,800 a year, you need to set up a tax payroll account).
Get report cards: Ask the caregiver to complete a written update at the end of the day based on food and activities. "Whether it's for your child, pet or senior, it's nice to know that they were looked after well," says Crew. A daily update could have prompts for the caregiver to complete, such as "What I Ate for Lunch," "My favorite part of the day" or "The toughest part of my day."
Want to save paper? If you and the caregiver both download Care.com's free app, Karoo, you can keep track of all daily activities and exchange pictures, in a secure location.
If You Want Both Digital and Paper:
Digitize written notes: If you straddle the digital and paper world, try Evernote Smart Notebook from Moleskine. You can digitize and search handwritten notes using your phone's camera, then email or share them with your caregiver.
Likewise, Ringya, a new free mobile app, allows you to snap a photo of your paper lists or email copies to the app. It transforms those lists into smart, organized groups or "Rings," making them accessible to you when you need them most.
Cari Wira Dineen is a freelance editor and writer living in Westfield, New Jersey. A mom to a two-year-old daughter, her work has appeared in Redbook, Woman's Day, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Real Simple and American Baby, among other publications and websites.