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Tools for the Parent, Organized and Otherwise, from $0-$200

By Katy Killilea

A fresh, new year often brings a smidge or more of motivation to get a grip on the mayhem of family life. What works for one parent certainly won’t work for all, but here’s what’s working for me.


Scrap paper & Sharpies
We use the backs of school papers and mail for notes and lists. Any 8″ x 11″ sheet gets cut into quarters, and a stack of these is kept near the pen jar. This may be ecologically sound, but I do it more out of admiration for all of the pretty paper the kindergarten teacher uses. Add a variety of Sharpies into the mix and you’ve got a high-impact note-writing system. ($0, scrap paper; $1, Sharpie)Magnetic Clip

Magnetic clamps
These clamps are powerful magnets with powerful jaws. Perfect for holding a grocery list, the stack of envelopes you need to mail, and sometimes a stray Webkinz. Their simple shape and plain, uncolored metal make them visually unobtrusive. ($3 for two)

Metal strips
We keep a running grocery list clamped (see above) to a metal strip smartly installed—not my idea—on the inside of a cabinet door. This means the list is handy, but private, allowing for a veil of mystery regarding one’s plan to buy penne instead of farfalle. ($4)
Iphone Calendar
iPhone (apple.com)
I had been using mine solely as a phone, a calculator, for e-mail and for Pacman. But this year I’ve begun to use my iPhone’s calendar. This resulted mostly from peer pressure. But it’s fairly divine to know with certainty, when the receptionist asks, that Thursday at 10:15 will be a wonderful time to return for that root canal. ($200)

Datebook made from actual paper
A paper datebook is essential: for back-up, as a security blanket, for doodling during PTO meetings, and because there are so many irresistible ones. The best is the Personal & Family Organizer by Busy Body Book. A week in BBB land is minimally but ingeniously divided into a grid that corrals a family’s goings-on. But it does more. It helps you think. And it has all of the features you could wish for: internal pockets, water-resistant covers, and each week has dedicated empty space to use at your whim. Heaven. ($17.95)

Busy Body BookIf I were shopping for a datebook and feeling more pink faux crocodile than minimalist, I’d head for MomAgenda. These have well-thought-out organizing features, with a little bit of frill and quite a bit of girliness, some polka dots, and some toile. ($40)

Motivational Tools
Sometimes the best intentions need a little oomph. 2009 offers lots of specialized stationery options.

Buttoned Up’s line of products is insane—things I’d never have imagined needing, but that make sense: a book just for recording passwords, a binder to hold gift cards and keep track of the balance on each, a pad of forms for delegating chores to family members, and a notebook for recording your fitness routine and eating patterns in minute detail. Any of these will give a boost to an even slightly motivated person in need of a change. ($4 and up.)

Buttoned Up FitnessMateo Ilasco ClipsI Will Do One Thing Today

Piles of papers are easily tamed with binder clips, but are more fun to tame with Mateo Ilasco’s Action Organizing Clips, These clips come with numerals (pictured) or with lovely-looking but forceful demands like, “Pay” and “File.” ($13/set)

At first this pad seemed like a joke to me, but now I see it as the most useful tool of all: Prettybitter’s “I Will Do One Thing Today” sticky-notes. You now have permission to: Pick one thing. Do it. Check it off of your list. Take the rest of the day off.

What are you doing to stay organized? Please share your ideas with the Kidoinfo community by posting your comments.

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