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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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Visiting the Past, Sunscreen & Written Lists

Our local Renaissance Festival was this past Saturday, so my husband and I headed out to ZooMontana to partake in the festivities. It’s always fun to watch everyone wandering around in period dress, take in a jousting match, watch the sideshows and do a little shopping at the vendor booths. I’m not one who would really want to live in that time period – I’m quite happy with indoor plumbing and near-daily showers, thanks – but I love the celebration and romanticism that comes with a ren faire. And one of these days I’m going to splurge for something chain maille…

Anticipating this event, I actually bought sunscreen for the first time in years. Last year I burned, and this year I have nice tattoos that I wanted to protect. So I spent far too much time researching natural sunscreens and ended up with naturally bug repellent sunscreen on my legs, and a natural odorless sunscreen on my arms. I put makeup on, since my powder makeup is a physical sunblock like zinc oxide, and off we went.

When we got home, I had a nice, deep tan on my exposed skin…except for the back of my neck. Which was bright, deep red.

Oops.

We had some shopping to do, so I took the opportunity to get myself a big hat with a brim wide enough to shade both the back of my neck and my nose the next time I find myself at an outdoor summer event (so…next Saturday morning). I’ll also be able to use it for yard work, so a good investment. Kind of a fun look too, if I do say so myself.

Yes, one would think I could just remember to put sunscreen on the back of my neck, but I never have, not once. And I always end up burning it. But I also always wear hats on the weekend (because I’m far too lazy to do hair/makeup), so this is just a matter of remembering to grab the right hat. Challenge accepted!

In other news, I’ve been making use of the Action Memos feature on my cell, and handwriting things like my daily to-do lists, writing schedule, and whatever else I need to keep track of. I still use digital calendars for repeating reminders and appointments, but there really is something about writing things out by hand that makes such a difference, mentally speaking. It’s weird, but for me, it’s working.

Which makes me want one of these “reMarkable” devices even more…but they’re on pre-order only right now, and not due to start shipping until next fall. I got burned for…a larger sum than I want to admit to last summer on a crowd-funding thing, so I’m really not keen on pre-ordering anything at the moment until I know someone else has already gotten one (or more, preferably). Naturally the price will go up once they start shipping, and I probably won’t be able to afford one then, so we’ll have to just wait and see.

Still, I think it’s very cool technology this company is developing, and a great way to combine the best of analog and digital especially when it comes to going paperless both at home and at the office.

And about the time I get one, someone will hit us with an EMP and we’ll all have to go back to paper anyways, right?

Viva la Renaissance! 😉