I’d like to introduce Nicole Avery. Nicole is the blogger behind Planning with Kids. She has also released a wonderfully comprehensive book (also titled Planning with Kids) which assists parents to plan and organise at each stage of their family’s development. Nicole recently helped me out with a great idea about minimising children’s clothing. At the heart of Nicole’s life are a husband and five children, who inspire, and benefit from, her organising and planning skills. I asked Nicole for her insights into how organising helps her live well.
What do you enjoy most about organising? Perhaps you have a favourite principle, system, or approach?
The thing I love most about organising is the way it gives me such a solid base to work from. I can’t plan family life perfectly, nor can I organise kids perfectly. But I can plan my meals and organise the kids’ clothes so they are well ordered and sorted. If I have the basics under control, then when the chaos of family life happens—as it inevitably will—I am in a much better position to cope with it, go with the flow, or minimise it.
Your Planning with Kids website and book detail lots of wonderful routines and checklists? How do you manage these? Do you have a central place to keep them?
I use Google Docs a lot as it is a great way to share files easily between family members. My husband and I track our expenditure through a shared Google Doc spreadsheet. I have a folder system within Google Docs like I do on my Mac, to make it easy to locate the right template.
I don’t keep extra hard copy printouts as most of the spreadsheets and timetables require regular updating.
As a mother of five, do you have any “economy of scale” ideas you could share with us?
I do a monthly shop online, but I still check out the catalogues for specials on items that we use a lot of. When, for example, the kids’ cereal comes on sale, I will make sure we go and get at least ten boxes or so. That can save us over $30.
We shop at a local market and it would easily save us $30 to $40 a week. I also have a great local butcher who has great prices when you buy in larger quantities.
When cooking lunchbox-type food like chicken balls or scrolls, I always make more than I need so I can store some in the freezer.
At the start of the school year when all the back-to-school specials are on, I purchase additional stocks of basic stationary items (pens, grey leads, rubbers, pencils, staplers, glue sticks) and put them away. We will always need more throughout the year, and supplies are never as cheap as they are at the start of the year.
I also have a well-stocked gift cupboard from keeping an eye out at sales for presents. I don’t buy too many of each item though as I find that never quite works. For example, at the moment I have a range of gifts—only a couple of each—including things like soaps, sewing kits, juggling balls, hair ties, and candles.
Once someone has mastered the basics of organising, do you have any tips to help them move to the next level?
Organising is an evolution for me. I also want it to be a legacy. It can be easy to take over everything and do it yourself, but that isn’t helpful to me or the kids. I make sure I spend time with the kids helping them get themselves organised and teaching them skills that allow them to manage themselves better.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I was a completely disorganised child, teen, and uni student. I really believe that you can learn to be organised. It is like anything else—it just takes a bit of hard work and practice to get it going!
Nicole Avery is the master organiser behind the popular parenting blog, Planning with Kids, where she shares tips and tricks to organising the chaos of family life. Her first book, Planning with Kids, was released in May 2011 by Wright Books. Nicole has been blogging for over four years and her blog now attracts over 100,000 unique visitors a month. She is a sought after speaker and coach on areas from blogging and social media to home organisation and planning. Nicole is also the mum to five beautiful kids aged 13 to 3 who keep her entertained away from the computer and provide constant inspiration for her blogging. She is slightly addicted to spreadsheets, Diet Coke, and running. You can find Nicole on Twitter: @planningqueen