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Throughout my 30+ years of homemaking, I have tried every planning system known to man. I have found that there is no perfect system and the best practice is to use what works for the season that I am currently in.

For the fall of 2023, this is my system. I was inspired by a YouTuber I follow for this basic system, then made adjustments for my needs and preferences. That is my advice to you as well. Take what I present here (or not) and make it work for you and your unique homemaking situation.

At the end of this post you will find links to download my planning sheets as well as a video explaining my process.

Supplies Needed: (links for the sheets are at the end of this post)

simple spiral notebook

monthly calendar

week at a glance sheet

weekly menu & grocery list sheet

colored pens, pencil and highlighter

Optional: clear pocket folders or a binder to keep it all together

Step 1: Brain Dump

On Sunday afternoon I do a brain dump in a simple spiral notebook. I make two columns, one for personal & home stuff and one for podcast stuff, writing down everything I can think of that I would like to accomplish that week. Note, I do not include scheduled appointments here. I'll get to that in a minute. For now, I'm just making lists of tasks to accomplish.

Step 2: Calendar

The most important aspect of calendaring is to put appointments and events on your calendar ASAP. Whether you keep a digital or paper calendar, discipline in entering appointments and deadlines is key! I keep a digital calendar which I can access from any of my devices. This is where I record things first because I can do it in the moment on my phone. For example, at the end of a hair appointment, I set up my next appointment with my stylist. Once we agree on a date, I immediately enter it on my calendar, before I leave the building. The same goes for doctor, dentist, and other appointments. Scheduled maintenance at home, concerts, travel, date nights, Sunday visit with my all goes immediately into my digital calendar. If the event is rescheduled, I change it in my calendar ASAP. If you prefer to keep a paper rather than digital calendar, I suggest you keep a small version of one with you at all times to record things right away.

If I have been keeping my calendar updated, the next step for my weekly planning is fairly straightforward. If it is the first week of the month, I will be filling out a fresh monthly paper calendar to keep on hand for quick reference throughout the week. I take all the entries of my digital calendar for that month and record them, in pencil, on my single-sheet paper calendar for that month. This step is optional, but I find it helps me visualize my week and month better when I can see it in paper form. I do this in pencil because several things may change in the course of the month and I don't want to have to redo the whole thing half-way through the month.

If it is not the first week of the month, I simply do a quick check against my digital calendar to make sure everything is accurate on my single-sheet paper calendar.

Step 3: Week at A Glance Sheet

Next I take a blank "My Week" sheet and add everything for that week from my paper calendar. (If you are skipping the monthly paper calendar here, just transfer from wherever you record things)

I use colored pens for entries on "My Week" sheet. Blue for personal, green for homemaking, pink for podcast. Once all the calendar data is in place I can look at my week and decide where I want to schedule to-do items from the brain dump I did in step one. My goal here is not to fill up every inch of the page but rather structure my week to allow for flexibility and accomplishing my goals for the week.

I also use my brain dump to fill in calls or emails under the "contact" heading on the right side of the "My Week" page.

The "To-Do" list on the right side of the "My Week" page can hold a few of the brain dump items not assigned to a particular day. But I also leave a lot of that space blank on Sunday so I can add to it throughout the week as other to-do's come up (either to be done that week or migrated to next week).

These weekly sheets are evergreen; that is, there are no dates on them so they can be used at any time of the year. I do find it helpful to jot down the weekly date (Mon-Sun) at the top and the dates next to each day of the week.

When I'm finished filling this out, I keep it and that month's sheet in an oversized clear plastic pocket folder. These are made for use in elementary classrooms so they are indestructible. I can throw it in my purse or bag. I can spill coffee on it and it easily wipes clean. Because they are clear, I can see the weekly page on one side and the calendar page on the other side. They also have a grommet in the top which is helpful for hanging in a convenient place for quick reference throughout the day.

Step 4: Meal Plan & Grocery List

Once I have my week all laid out in front of me, complete with appointments, events, to-do's and goals, I can plan meals that will fit with this schedule. We have some specific dietary requirements and I have learned that planning breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day of the week on Sunday takes so much stress out of the equation during the week. I do the work ONCE of taxing my brain for planning every single meal rather than having to do it 21 times over the next week.

Besides preventing decision fatigue at every meal time, planning all the meals on Sunday has several other benefits. It allows me to be more consistent with preparing good breakfasts and lunches for myself and my husband, keeping us on track with our health goals. Also I am able to build in time for thawing meat, starting the crockpot early and preparing a marinade if I know it's coming several days ahead of time. In fact, I make notes in the margin of my Weekly Meal Plan sheet for these do-ahead tasks, and I highlight them in neon pink just to make sure I don't miss it.

On the opposite side of this Weekly Meal Plan sheet is my Weekly Grocery List. It's divided up into sections of the store (diary, meat, pantry, produce, etc) and includes a section for Costco/Sams as well as online shopping. While I am making my meal plan, I gather the recipes I need for the week. If it's one I found online, I print out a copy. If it's from a cookbook, I make sure to reference the book and page number next to the meal on my meal plan sheet so that I can easily find it when it's time to cook. I look at all the recipes (and think through the ones that are just in my head) for what I will need and check my fridge and pantry. I add to the grocery list whatever is needed for that week and anything else we are running low on. Once completed, I can take that sheet with me grocery shopping or sit down with it at my device to put in my curbside order.

I take all of those recipes that I gathered for the week and I store them in another clear pocket folder along with my weekly meal plan. This helps me avoid dinnertime mental fatigue of having to locate the recipe or the frustration of needing to reference an online recipe but my device battery is dead. Once I have made the meal, I return the printed recipe to my recipe binder. If it was unsuccessful, I toss it. If we loved it, I make sure to record any changes I made to the recipe then I put it in my recipe binder.

If I make mistakes on my meal plan or if I need to move meals around as plans shift during the week, I like to use white out tape to keep my menu looking tidy. There's a lot of information on there and it can get messy and confusing very quickly if I start scribbling and crossing things out.

Step 5: Work the Plan

Your system is only successful if you use it. To quote a recent Art of Home guest, Tiffany Harris, "Don't let the systems boss you. You boss the systems. Let them work for you." Once you figure out what works and what doesn't, make adjustments, then work the plan. Create a rhythm of discipline around a system that works for you.

My Week Printable
Download • 27KB

Weekly Meal Plan & Grocery List
Download PDF • 59KB

Monthly Calendar Aug 2023-Jan 2024
Download PDF • 234KB

Monthly Calendar Feb 2024-May 2024
Download PDF • 152KB

Clear Pocket Folders I Use

Video of My Weekly Planning Process Fall 2023

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My wedding anniversary falls at the end of summer. We live in South Texas so blistering sun and sweltering heat are usually in our anniversary weather forecast. When our 30th anniversary rolled around we decided to postpone our celebration until October and pull a camper up to the mountains of Northern New Mexico during the height of the fall color and cool temperatures.

The mission of the trip was simple: 7 days of rest, relaxation and celebration of 30 years of marriage. But just like our marriage the trip was filled with opportunities to embrace gratitude and patience or to succumb to frustration and fighting. The actually journey to New Mexico was plagued by a laughable number of mishaps, but we eventually made it to our planned destination. The lush green hills were dotted with golden aspen trees showing off their brilliant fall color. It was truly awe-inspiring. Yet on the horizon loomed ominous black clouds threatening the peaceful tranquility of the mountain valley we were going to call home for a week.

We had intentionally postponed our anniversary celebration because of terrible Texas heat only to be faced with gray, cold, wet weather predicted for a full week in our mountain retreat location. My husband and I enjoy each other's company, but 7 days inside a camper might be a little too much togetherness. We seemed to sail relatively easily through the many travel mishaps to get there. I mean seriously, all we could do was laugh and press on. And I think the promise of 7 days at our beautiful destination with sunshine and mountain air was a reward that kept us moving forward. So you can imagine my disappointment when the reality we met there did not at all match my expectation. I found that my cheerful attitude was all used up and I was short-tempered and sour.

What Did You Expect?

As part of our Homemaker Portraits I always ask the guest about expectations. Without fail the guest will say that the expectations she had going into married life and homemaking did not match up with reality, sometimes for good, sometimes not so much.

Expectations are tricky things. We were created with a sense of expectation which God intended for good. Unfortunately, sin causes us to misplace our expectations. The Bible tells us to "wait expectantly" upon the Lord because He is the only One who can fulfill all of our needs, wants and desires. Psalm 37:4 says to "delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."

You see, the thing about expectations is that we put them in the wrong places in hopes of happiness. We hang all our dreams on a person, job, house, vacation or life event. If those things in any way don't measure up, we are sorely disappointed and often become bitter and jaded.

Throughout my homemaking journey I have been given endless opportunities to practice the art of properly placed expectations. These exercises come in all shapes, sizes and circumstances. Just when I feel like I have conquered one area of misplaced hope, another crops up.

Homemakers, we cannot ultimately place our hope upon our husbands, children, homes, ministries, jobs, health or anything else in creation. Even the best of these things will disappoint us or can be taken from us. Houses and belongings can be swept away in a moment. Jobs can be lost overnight. Children grow up and move away. And even the most godly husband will eventually pass away. The finiteness and futility of this life are a gift from a good and loving God. Unmet expectations are a signpost pointing us to Him. He is inviting us to place all of our hope in Him alone.

Expectations take many forms, but at the root of every single one is our need to be loved, known, and secure. When we look to meet that need anywhere other than in God, we are looking in vain and we will cause a lot of damage along the way.

I was quickly headed down the path of bickering with my husband and letting my attitude cast even more dark clouds over our anniversary trip. But God graciously reminded me to let go of my plan and expectations and put my hope in the proper place. That act of obedience changed everything. It freed me up to think differently about our situation and opened a door to a creative solution that my husband and I came up with together. We simply packed up the camper and pulled it a few hours north to the mountains of Colorado where the weather was gloriously sunny and a whole different, unexpected joyful adventure awaited us!

Wherever you have misplaced your hope, I pray that God keeps teaching you this lesson about expectations. That is what sanctification is all about. God loves you so much, He is not content to leave any hidden corner of your being untouched by the cleansing blood of Christ and refining power of His Spirit. Put your hope in Him, homemaker, He is MORE than able to satisfy every longing heart.

More On Expectations

"Young Peasant Girls Resting in the Fields near Pontoise" (1882) by Camille Pissarro

If you have listened to the podcast for any length of time, you likely have recognized a pattern in our questions. We typically move through the same general topics and we end our discussion talking about community amongst women and how we can learn from one another. You also have heard me say many many times that my hope for The Art of Home listeners is that they will be inspired by the podcast to seek out relationships with other women in their church or community who are in different stages of life so they can learn from and support each other.

Several listeners have taken up that challenge by conducting homemaker portrait interviews of the women around them. I think this is an excellent idea to build meaningful bridges with women who are in different stages or different circumstances. Entering into another woman's story will grow empathy, compassion and grace in our hearts and will combat our tendency towards tribalism and judgement. You can use the questions we ask on the podcast, or come up with your own questions. How you go about this and with whom is entirely up to you. But here are a few suggestions and guidelines to consider: Are You Listening, or Waiting to Talk? We have all been guilty of asking someone a question, then zoning out thinking about what we want to say next instead of really listening to the person's answer with the intent to understand and ask follow up questions. Be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). One-on-One or Round Table Consider the value of one-on-one conversation and a group discussion. If you or your friend are not comfortable with the intimacy and vulnerability of a one-on-one interview, consider gathering a small group of women to share and discuss answers to a few of these questions. Make it a Habit Whether you meet one-on-one or in a group, you could use the main sections of questions as your theme for a monthly meeting time. Set up a schedule to meet once a month and discuss the questions by section. So, your first meeting you would talk about "Beginnings and Learning Curves". Both, or all if doing a roundtable, can share their answers from this section. This will help you empathize with the other, learn more about them as a person, and learn things that will impact your own story of home. Use it for Prayer and Action As you grow in your knowledge of another's story of home, use that knowledge to take action. Pray for one another. Help one another in practical ways. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

seasoned homemaker questions only
Download PDF • 47KB

In the Trenches Homemaker Questions_10_15 years
Download PDF • 43KB

Newbie Homemaker Questions
Download PDF • 36KB

Single Homemaker Portrait Interview Questions
Download PDF • 51KB

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