One of my first answers to the question, "How do you do it all?" is ROUTINES. I find it so much easier to get things done when it is incorporated into my routine. So today I wanted to share my monthly routines- things that I do at the end of each month to prepare for the upcoming month- that help keep things running smoothly.
Because my daughters go to visit their dad every other weekend, I usually try to set aside some time on the last weekend I have alone before the end of the month to go through these tasks. It really helps me feel more confident and organized approaching each month to go through this routine!
1. Pay the bills
Towards the end of each month, I go through my list of bills- the ones that aren't already set up for automatic payment- and pay them. Right now the HOA fees for my condo and my daughters' preschool tuition both require a physical check (all of my other bills are automatically paid online) so I take care of those at the same time at the end of each month. Combining tasks that need to be done around the same time helps me remember to do them- since the two tasks are linked in my mind, I only have to remember to do one combined task instead of two separate ones! I also make sure there are no unpaid medical expenses etc that I need to pay at the end of each month.
2. Balance the checkbook
OK so I don't actually balance an actual checkbook (which my parents still do by hand- if you're able to keep up with that, more power to you- I know some people have done it for years and they have spotted mistakes that their bank made that way). But I do go through and write out my monthly expenses and income for certain categories that I need to track: I keep track of monthly expenses and income for my online business, make sure I've written down anything I have purchased for my classroom, and write down all the educational and medical expenses I paid for my daughters to send to their dad (he is responsible for reimbursing a portion of those each month). I track all of it in my planner each month and it really helps when tax season comes around!
3. Merge all of the calendars
Although I always go through and write down major events from my personal calendar, family events, work calendar, and my daughters' school calendar in my planner, things always change and new things come up. Each month I sit down and make sure I have everything written down on my monthly calendar in my planner. This really helps me make sure we haven't accidentally double-booked or forgotten something. Often in the shuffling around of schedules I forget that I had scheduled a doctor's appointment, or that there was an extra staff meeting. Putting it all together in one place helps me get a good picture of the month and anticipate any scheduling conflicts so I can take care of them.
After I've had a chance to wrap my head around everything myself, I also sit down with my daughters and we make our family calendar (read more about that in this post) for the upcoming month. Since I've already had a chance to go through everything, I can talk to the girls about the things that will affect their lives to put on the family calendar for them (this is really helpful if you, like me, have one or more children who struggle with the unexpected).
4. Clean something
OK, so everyone has their one chore that they hate, right? Some can't stand doing laundry, others dread doing dishes, and some despise cooking. For me it's cleaning. The other stuff I really don't mind, but I will come up with every possible excuse under the sun to avoid cleaning. Honestly. But I have been able to make it a part of my monthly "get ready routine" to pick one thing to clean a little more than the usual upkeep each month- sometimes that's cleaning the stovetop, or the bathtub, or maybe putting away the piles that I've accumulated on my bedroom floor. This way I at least know I am not a complete slob.
5. Throw away old artwork
There are always a couple of piles of pictures the girls have drawn at preschool that accumulates over the month, and it drives me crazy. Both of them love to draw, so they usually have a LOT of artwork to bring home. Of course we keep and display the best ones, but a lot of them are just drawings that clearly took no more than 30 seconds for them to scribble. Sometimes they will let me take it straight to the recycle bin (after the obligatory oo's and ah's) but usually they don't want to part with it. So I let it sit there for a while. If they come back to get it, ask to hang it up somewhere, or add more to the picture, then we keep it. Otherwise, it all gets thrown out at the end of the month. So far they haven't said anything about it. I'm sure one day this is going to come back to haunt me.
That about covers all of the tasks that I do each and every month to get organized for the month ahead. What is on your monthly to-do list? I'd love to hear what else you would include in the comments below! :)