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Before Christmas I wrote a post about questions you should ask yourself before buying a new planner for the upcoming year. Well, that upcoming year has arrived and it is now time to prepare our new planners to help us stay organized in 2009. Below I’d like to offer a comprehensive list of creative ways you can use your planners this year, whether you have a pocket planner, a desktop planner, a calendar, a notebook, or even a software program.

planner

Explore your planner’s potential for helping you get organized this year

  1. Record to-do lists
  2. Keep track of meal plans
  3. Schedule shopping trips
  4. Keep shopping lists
  5. Remind yourself of upcoming sales or deals
  6. Schedule houseplant care (watering, fertilizing, repotting, etc.)
  7. Schedule garden maintenance (planting, weeding, harvesting, etc.)
  8. Schedule home maintenance
  9. Schedule laundry
  10. Remind yourself of garbage pick-up days
  11. Schedule package deliveries
  12. Schedule pet care (appointments, litter box or cage cleaning, etc.)
  13. Schedule vehicle maintenance (oil change, tire rotation, etc.)
  14. Record regular meetings
  15. Record events you need to attend (weddings, parties, conferences, etc.)
  16. Record extra curricular activity schedules for you and your children (sports, music, clubs, etc.)
  17. Record upcoming travel plans (weekend getaways, vacations, family reunions, etc.)
  18. Keep handy standard packing lists
  19. Schedule regular computer hard drive backups
  20. Keep track of pending rebates or cash back
  21. Keep track of your budget
  22. Keep track of your paychecks
  23. Schedule bill payments
  24. Record medical appointments
  25. Remind yourself to make future medical appointments
  26. Keep track of television shows you want to watch or record
  27. Keep track of sports events you wish to watch or attend
  28. Keep a record of birthdays you need to remember
  29. Keep an ongoing list of gift ideas for birthdays and holidays
  30. Schedule exercise routines

Reader Reflection

How do you use your planner to help you stay organized?

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2009 is just around the corner, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about buying next year’s planner. I got mine a few weeks ago, but it certainly is not too late to choose a new one now. Planners are all about helping you organize your life, plan ahead, schedule events, and basically stay sane amidst chaos. But before springing for your next planner, there are a few things to consider to ensure you choose the style that is best for you.

calendar

1. Evaluate this past year’s planner

You want your planner to actually benefit you, not just sit on your desk collecting dust. So take a look at your trusty 2008 planner and ask yourself how useful it was. Did you use it for what you hoped to use it for? Was it ultimately beneficial in helping your organize your life? If so, then you might consider just sticking with the exact same style because you are used to it. That’s what I did, because I’ve found a planner that perfectly suits my needs. But if you didn’t find your 2008 planner particularly useful, then you might want to consider switching styles.

2. Choose a basic planner format

Whether you are switching styles because last year’s planner just didn’t cut it, or you are switching for a fresh change, the first decision you’ll need to make is what kind of format to go with. You could choose the basic wall calendar, a slightly more detailed monthly planner, a hefty weekly planner, or even a daily planner. What you decide on ultimately depends on your lifestyle, how busy you are, and how much you actually like to write things down.

If you have a daily planner, but you only end up writing in it every four or five days or so, then perhaps a weekly planner is better for you. In the same way, if you are trying to cram all your events and appointments onto a small wall calendar, then maybe you should switch to a more comprehensive monthly planner.

What do I use? I tend to write most things down, from my appointments to my meal plans. I would never fit everything onto a wall calendar (ya right!) or even a monthly calendar, so I went with a weekly planner, where each day has a space to write what I need to.

3. Pick a planner size

After choosing a planner format, you can next move on to choosing a planner size. Some people love to be able to throw their planners into their purse, while others would find that size far too small. Consider what size would work best for your lifestyle. Do you need to bring your planner with you wherever you go? Do you want your planner to be really obvious on your desk?

I use an 8.5X11 size weekly planner. It sits on my desk right underneath my computer monitor so I can basically glance at it almost constantly. I don’t need to bring my planner with me everywhere, so getting one to fit in my purse wasn’t necessary. However, I certainly still can throw it in my backpack or suitcase if need be.

4. Decide which features are important to you

Now that you’ve chosen a format and size, the last thing you need to consider as far as design goes is which special features you want to be included. Consider if note-taking areas, mini-calendars, time schedule breakdowns, or full month spreads are important to you. All planners are different in these ways, so be sure to page through your potentials before buying to see if they contain the features you desire.

5. Consider going digital

In this digital age, it’s important to consider the option of a digital planner, not just because going digital eliminates clutter. If you are comfortable with electronics, then it’s worth trying a digital planner because of its flexibility. You can keep a planner on your PDA and easily take it with you whenever you want, scheduling alarms and notices to remind you of appointments or events. Plus you could also keep other organizational materials in the same PDA, like your address book, phone book, grocery list, or gift list. Also consider having a planner on your computer or even online.

Stepping outside the planner box

If keeping a traditional planner is not your cup of tea, but you still want a way to be able to organize your schedule, to-do lists, events, and appointments, then consider an organization binder or something similar. For a great example, visit Simple Mom and read her excellent series of posts about Home Management Notebooks for some creative ideas.

Reader Reflection

Do you keep a planner? What style do you have?

What’s Next?

After the new year, I’ll explore creative ways we can use our planners to their full potential, so stay tuned!

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So far each installment of Houseplant Hacks has offered advice about various ways to save space and money when it comes to your houseplant collection, but we can’t forget about saving time. Plants require care and care requires time—it’s that simple. Today I’d like to outline some useful tips to help you better manage the care of your houseplant collection so that ultimately you can use your time wisely while trying to keep your plants healthy.

1. Know your plant’s needs

It’s one thing to bring home a plant from the store that’s healthy, thriving, and possibly even blooming. But it’s quite another thing to care for that plant, keep it healthy, and encourage it to re-bloom in the future. Before you even start taking the time to care for your houseplants, you need to understand their basic needs.

Back in an early installment of Houseplant Hacks, I talked about resources you could tap into to research your plant’s care requirements beyond what the tag says on the pot. Look on the Internet, skim through a book, or ask an expert friend. The more you learn about your plant, the better you will be able to care for it.

houseplant-needs

After learning light, temperature, fertilizer, soil, and water requirements of your green friends, you will need a way to help yourself remember it—especially if you have more than just a few plants. I keep a spreadsheet of all my various houseplants’ needs, but you could also jot notes down in a notebook, keep bookmarks in your web browser, or mark the pages of a guide book. Whichever way you do it, the point is to get the information you need, remember it, and be able to apply it.

2. Keep basic records

Experienced gardeners will be the first to tell you that keeping good records of your plants will not only help you remember what you did in the past, but will also help you plan care in the future. With our busy lives, it’s easy to forget when we might have repotted our orchid last year, or how long it’s been since our African Violet bloomed.

houseplant-records

Within the spreadsheet I mentioned above, I have a special section where I keep notes of major ‘milestones’ in my plant’s history, like when I repotted it last, what kind of soil I used, when and for how long it ever bloomed, and so on. This way I can keep track of special needs, understand basic cycles, and ultimately use my time more efficiently.

3. Schedule plant care

When it comes to regular and frequent plant care like watering or fertilizing, I cannot stress enough how useful it is to plan or schedule it! Although every person will have to do it a little differently depending on their actual houseplants and their lifestyle, it’s still important to realize that in general, planning or scheduling the care of your houseplants will be a big time saver.

fertilizing-schedule

Whether you pick a day and time slot during each week that will be your ‘plant watering’ day, or you keep a printed schedule of when you should fertilize various plants, it goes without saying that having any kind of schedule will be beneficial. Use a calendar or write notes in your daily or weekly planner. You’ll be glad you scheduled your houseplant care because you’ll never forget anything, your plants will be healthy, and you’ll maximize the use of your time.

Keeping a schedule will also help you plan ahead for when you know your life will be more hectic or you know you will be gone on vacation. I use my planner to schedule everything for my plants so I can keep on top of their needs and avoid any stress caused by last-minute planning.

Spotlight on the African Violet

So far in my spotlight series, I’ve talked about fairly forgiving plants in terms of care. african-violet-laughing-annaThis week I want to introduce the African Violet, a plant that despite its popularity can often be a little tricky to care for. If I am remembering correctly, I’ve actually killed three African Violets in the last two years. However, despite my failures with these finicky flowers, I’ve also managed to successfully raise and maintain about ten others. With a little trial and error, you too can grow this ever-blooming, space-saving, and all around beautiful houseplant.

  • Light: Bright indirect sunlight is best. Too much sunlight causes leaf burn (leaves turn yellow) and can lead to an unhealthy and stressed plant. Not enough sunlight can lead to root or crown rot and the plant will not likely re-bloom. I place my African Violets in a south-facing window, but I use a sheer curtain to block direct sun rays.
  • Temperature: Normal home temperatures are fine.
  • Water: Water when dry. Overwatering is the number one killer of African Violets so be careful! Watering from the bottom (pouring into the tray) is best since water splashing on leaves causes brown spots to form. Don’t leave water standing in the tray for too long.
  • Fertilizer: For strong, frequent blooms, fertilizer is recommended. Try to use fertilizer that contains no urea Nitrogen, as this is harmful to African Violets. Unfortunately, most commercial African Violet fertilizers contain urea. I use Optimara 14-12-14 African Violet Fertilizer and give my plants a diluted solution of it every other watering.
  • Soil: Regular potting soil is usually too heavy for African Violets. You can purchase premade African Violet soil (lighter) or make your own mix (peat moss with perlite and vermiculite is what I use).
  • Repotting: It is ideal to repot African Violets every 6 months to one year. Wait until the plant is finished blooming to repot it so the stress is minimized. When repotting, remove the large older leaves around the outside of the neck to help the plant have a fresher start. Then bury the exposed neck into the new soil.
  • Propagation: Take single healthy leaves and plant them into a very light soil mix. Do not fertilize or overwater. african-violet-cuttingsAfter a few months, babies will begin popping up through the soil surface. After some babies have reached a good size, you can detach them from the mother leaf and repot them into their own pot.
  • Toxicity: Considered non-toxic.
  • Pests: Powdery mildew can form on the leaves and blooms if there is not sufficient air flow or if the plants are too crowded. Spray plants with a fungicide if the problem persists.
  • Miscellaneous: Rotate plants regularly so they get an even amount of sun and can grow in a balanced symmetrical fashion. Also beware of commercial African Violet self-watering planters as these can often lead to root or crown rot due to overwatering.

What’s next?

Hopefully by now we’ve figured out how to organize our space, time, and money when it comes to our houseplants. Next week we’ll switch gears a little to talk about how we can save money buying the supplies necessary to care for our green friends.

Reader Reflection

How do you manage the care of your houseplants to use your time efficiently? Does anyone raise African Violets and want to offer any tricks of the trade?

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