I love using technology for anything related to organization. Anything important needs to be accessible on my iPhone, or it does not exist! As my family has grown and our lives have become more complex, I maximize technology to keep ourselves together. Here are my top three tools for family organization.
Have you heard of Google Keep? If not, it’s ok. It’s one of their most under-utilized products. Google Keep is basically Pinterest for lists and documents in your life. You can create a list and then share them with others when can view/edit. Both the web browser and app interfaces are clean and easy to navigate.
You can use Google Keep for lists and anything you want to keep handy. Here are some examples:
- Shopping lists
- Weekly menus
- To-do lists
- Anything coming up we want to remember – weddings, community events, etc.
Cloud Storage System
Before I even get started here, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of strong passwords. There are several products to use. Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are the more popular choices. They are all essentially the same and work great for family organization though. Some of the documents we keep in our shared folders contain sensitive information. If you use this method for your family, make sure you have passwords on your account and any sensitive documents.
For years, I have used cloud-based storage to manage important documents. It started with a shared monthly budget document and has grown tremendously. While it’s important to keep the original paper copies too, it’s just so much easier to have them electronically for quick reference. I don’t know about you, but I dread having to dig through files to find one line on one form! Here are some examples of documents to upload electronically.
Tax Documents (Don’t forget password protection!)
Every year, create a new folder for tax documents. Unlike normal people, I have ridiculous taxes every year because we just keep moving. Seriously, every year my husband and I have filed jointly, we have bought and/or sold old a house and moved. This amounts to a lot of tax documents! Saving all the documents electronically has saved so much time and energy. Most forms can be downloaded as PDFs nowadays, anyway:
- Student loan interest forms
- Mortgage interest forms
- Bank statements
Passwords (Use passwords to protect the passwords)
Consider making an Excel file that lists every online account with a description, URL, and log-in information. That way, you (and anyone else you share your life with) always know how to access anything in your life in case of emergency. This is especially helpful for married couples who may still have individual accounts from their single days.
I know you are probably thinking it is crazy to keep all of this information in one place. It is definitely a little risky, but it is better than keeping it all in a notebook somewhere. And, again, there are passwords!
In Excel, you can set up password protection to view a document, and password protection to edit a document. That’s 2 passwords before you can even view the spreadsheet.
PDFs of moving documents (Remember to use passwords!)
Any documents you have signed for mortgages, home sales, home purchases, or other related items can go in folders. Most real estate transactions use electronic signature software like Docusign, and the documents are easily available for download or printing. Same thing with online transactions for moving trucks and supplies. Just put all the invoices in a folder. I can’t even tell you the number of moving truck receipts we have…
Monthly budgets (Seriously, use passwords!)
This is where my love of shared storage got its start! Like many folks, my husband and I keep a monthly budget document in an Excel spreadsheet. Each month has a worksheet in the master workbook. I won’t go into the details of how we budget or what it looks like, but trust me, it is exceptionally detailed. My husband is great like that!
I love this because at any given time, I can open the document and check on the budget. Hypothetically, if I’m at Target debating a cute new blazer for my work wardrobe, I can see how much money is left in the clothing budget for the month.
Debt pay-off schedules
We are in the process of aggressively paying off my student loans. We have created pay-off schedules, including interest calculations, and keep them in our shared folders.
Again, I love that I can access everything at any time and updates are live. If you move a lot like me, sometimes remembering where all the originals are kept is a feat.
Google Calendar for the family
For the past eight years, my husband and I have had the same employer as the other. As part of our return to Iowa, this is the first time in our relationship we have had different employers! When we did work together, we were on the same network, and we could easily share important events on our work calendars. I always color-coded anything personal as blue. If it was something sensitive, I could mark it as a private appointment. Now, we need a new system.
We decided to share everything on our personal Google calendars. Just like our work calendars, they sync with our iPhones and we can keep everything in our family’s life in one place. And, either of us can add/delete/access it at any time.
I have a color-coding system here too. B is orange. M is pink. I’m purple. If it’s for the whole family, peach.
So far, this is working out great! I love being able to keep things separate from my work calendar, but still be able to access both calendars together on my phone.