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On Household Admin

A couple weeks ago, we had an unusually heavy “household admin” week in our household. Mainly because I bought my husband a shiny new smartphone to use for some tracking he can do to save some money on insurance. Sucks, but every little bit helps, especially given how much insurance costs.

That triggered a slew of organizational updates on my part. He offered to do the grocery shopping Saturday since my day was *jam-packed*, and asked if we could share the grocery list on my cell to his so he’d have it to shop with. The app I was using isn’t all that easy to share, so I went out and found one that is, installed it on both of our phones, and started re-populating my normal lists (enough that he could shop easily). The new app even has the option of item photos, so I’m pretty happy with the upgrade, and now we can both add/cross items off the lists. If you want to check it out, the app I settled on is aptly named Our Groceries. I did pay the $5 to unlock my side of it, which gets rid of ads and allows photo-adding. The unlocker isn’t required to view photos on the list, just to add them.

I also re-subscribed to the Cozi calendar we’d tried sharing awhile back, and I’d gotten lax on using (I’ve been using ToDoist instead and will keep using for my general daily “to-do” lists). Transferred all my calendar items over there, and made sure the birthday reminders were still working, so now we can put that on his new phone as well, and he can have a copy of the household calendar and use it to schedule his own appointments. He already gets reminders via email, but now he can get them as phone notifications if he wants (that’s how I get mine). I know, this is old hat to most people, but some of us just have to take a little more time and ease into such things.

In any case, while I was revamping things and getting everything all moved and set up, I was thinking about how much time it takes to do just basic household admin tasks…like making a grocery list, updating a calendar, balancing the budget.

Technology like the apps we’re using makes it far more efficient, for sure – once I have a master grocery list set, it takes 10 minutes or so to go through and add what I need to that week’s store lists (as opposed to writing one long-hand from scratch every week…which never works for me because I *always* forget things – having a master list jogs my memory). The calendar app will set up automatic reminders so we don’t actually have to check the calendar once we schedule appointments, but we do still have to enter the appointments and set reminders.

I don’t really know of any budgeting software that balances itself properly. Even the ones I’ve used that will import from your bank need to be checked/confirmed, because they’re not always spot-on, in my experience. It takes me about twenty minutes to balance the budget weekly, which isn’t too bad, but add to that actually paying the bills, shopping list maintenance and calendar/appointment maintenance, and it’s a good solid hour per week I spend doing “admin” tasks for the household. And I only do the minimum – there’s a lot more I could be doing if I felt like spending the time.

Then there’s the mail. Five minutes or less to toss junk mail in the recycling bin, but what about all the other stuff? Shredding, filing, action items…I could probably spend another hour (or more) every week just dealing with mail items. And I don’t, generally speaking, which means it piles up in our mail center until it hits critical mass and we absolutely have to do something about it.

Needless to say, I was thinking about how older well-to-do families used to employ a secretary/household manager to take care of such things in earlier times. Maybe they still do (anyone out there?). But I wonder if someone could make a job out of that. Offering their administrative services in hour-long chunks to people who just need someone to update the calendar, make appointments, pay bills and balance the budget, shred/file mail, and make a shopping list based on a master list and what is/isn’t in the pantry/fridge. It’s not a huge time savings, but when you work all day and have other things to do…every little bit is more time to do what you want to, rather than what you have to.

Control freak that I am, I’m not sure I could hand those things over even though I don’t particularly want to do them myself (I can’t even bring myself to hire a house-cleaner for deep cleaning every other week, which would be a really smart thing to do and probably good for our allergies). But it’s kind of fun to dream about doing so.

Would you ever hire a household manager to take care of admin tasks? Or are you the kind of person who keeps up with them well enough on your own?


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