Making the Most of Your
Chapter 8 "More Ways to Use the 3x5 Card System"
“The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps."
As I began having more children, it became necessary to get more organized. I have listed a few more ways below to use the 3x5 card system to organize your life.
Get ready: When you are planning to go somewhere with children, you exert a lot of mental energy trying to think of what you need to bring. I came to realize that if I made a permanent list on a 3x5 card, I could write additional items I had missed each time so that I would have them written down for the next time. I could also erase what I really didn’t need to bring.
I took a blank divider and made a “Get Ready—Go!” file where I keep all of these permanent lists that I “add to” rather than making new lists. Below are a few suggestions:
Diaper bag: Write down what you must have: how many diapers, a sipper cup, wipes (I keep two wash cloths in a sandwich bag for sticky hands or a messy diaper instead of wipes that are safer), a couple of toys, training pants for the toddler, and clean bibs. After each outing, I restock my diaper bag as soon as I get home so that it is ready to go (by checking my diaper bag card with the contents listed). This is a job that I began to delegate to my older children when the last three were born.
Purse: My mom used to carry everything in her handbag (it was the size of a suitcase) and she would only clean it out annually. As for me, I like to sort my purse once a week. I have a “sort purse” card in my “Get Ready” file. To properly “clean out” anything, you need to first take everything out. Remove all the trash, make a pile of what needs to be “put away” elsewhere and then put the things you need back into your purse. Next, check your 3x5 card list to see if there are things you need to restock, and add any “new item” that you may need to add to your list (or erase from your list any item that you no longer need to carry in your purse). Though I like to do this weekly, you may only need to do this monthly.
Tip: I carry a small scissors in my purse at all times. I cut threads that I see on my husband’s or children’s clothing, and even tags off of my purchases. But the really great way to use the scissors carried in your purse is for cutting up meat or pizza for your little ones when they are young. It’s impossible to cut with the plastic knives at fast food restaurants. Surprisingly, it is easier to cut steak, chicken, pizza, and just about anything else, with scissors than it is to cut with even a steak knife. I bought the bright handled ones with the blunt tip (the good variety that cut well), and I find that this one item is used and borrowed more than just about anything in my purse. Of course, after using your scissors to cut up food items, you must make sure that you clean it well before storing it in your purse again. And for obvious reasons, never use any rusty scissors for cutting up food.
Couple “Getaway.” Once, my husband surprised me with the exciting news that he was taking me on a weekend “getaway.” (We’re pretty sure number seven was the “fruit” of this getaway!) He said, “Just throw a few things in a bag!” My head was spinning since I had to get six children situated (well, need I explain?). I did throw a “few” things in a bag—too few! I had nothing to wear to bed—of course my husband was delighted. I didn’t wash my face for two days since I forgot my cleansers, and he looked very GQ by wearing no socks with his dress shoes. I learned my lesson.
When I got home, I made a list of all that I wished I had brought that weekend, and made a 3x5 card labeled “Couple Getaway.” Later, I added a “Couple Getaway with Baby” card, since my husband would often on the spur of the moment suggest a getaway when I had a nursing baby.
Emergency bags. Even if you have a well-stocked diaper bag, it’s no good when it’s back home. So I got a plastic container for each car and filled it with emergency diapers, bibs, a receiving blanket (this comes in handy for many things), and underpants for those who still have an occasional accident. I also carry a brush, comb, and deodorant (for the sweaty teens)! Of course, I made a corresponding 3x5 card marked “Emergency Bag” for each car. Be sure to include a flashlight, flares, etc. Don’t forget the “throw-away” camera for recording an accident or a special event that you would have otherwise missed. They’re cheap and can easily be replaced.
Special trips. Each year, we take a trip up to a river and stay in a cabin. Without a doubt, many things are forgotten, which makes it really “roughing it.” I have two cards that are paper-clipped together that list everything that we need. Each year, I update and add to it immediately after unpacking.
On one card, I wrote what each child was to pack in his or her own bag. I wrote how many pairs of pants, shirts, underwear, socks, also a sweatshirt, P.J.s, etc. Under toiletries, I sorted them into categories such as hair care (brush, combs, elastics, hats, gel, or hair spray), eye care (contacts, glasses, or sunglasses), body care (deodorant, sunscreen, etc.), face care (make-up bag, acne stuff, etc.). The four oldest (I let them do their own when they are 10 years of age and upwards) gather their own belongings, while I pack for the three younger children. They lay everything out on their bed, and I check to make sure that they have done a good job (don’t let them pack their bags first since it makes it harder to see what they pack).
For years, their suitcase was just a pillowcase! Everyone had a different color, and it really worked well. (Of course with our large family, we never flew anywhere. Come to think of it, we did use army duffel bags when we flew—when we had four children.) Last year, each of the older children got a nylon sports bag for swim team that we now use for trips. I bought each of the younger ones a backpack for their birthday. (Do not use these bags for the beach—sand will forever be part of your belongings!)
Now that money is not an issue, we have been able to purchase sets of suitcases that have wheels. We purchased the ones for the three younger children, and the older ones purchased their own. This became a “must-have” when we began going to resorts instead of to a cabin and when we began to fly with our children. Everyone is in a different phase in his or her life; do whatever fits your lifestyle.
Out to eat: When we all go out, we are stared at enough without everyone watching me try to figure out what each child wants on their baked potato! At most restaurants or fast food places, you will find, as we did, that everyone has their favorite food that they like to order, so why not write it down? I started by making out a 3x5 card for my mother, who liked to take the children out to dinner, to expedite things for her. After that, I kept the card with my money (bills) in my wallet. Then I began making one for each place where we ate out at. I even wrote down the amount that it cost, which helped me to see if I had enough money with me (before we charged everything to gain “frequent flier miles”). An added benefit was that I knew whether they had over-charged me! And if you are using a coupon and paper-clip it to your 3x5 card, you’ll remember to use it!
For those of you who just let your children “choose” what they want, even if you can afford it, this does make for impolite children. Most children who come with us are indignant when I tell them they must choose “one” thing from the “dollar” menu when they have always ordered whatever they wanted. And when they are allowed to order, they often choose unwisely and order too much. Then they will either leave so much uneaten food or over-eat.
Young girls should be trained to be “frugal” with their choices, since most married couples are on a tight budget. Also, the young men need to learn how to be prudent in their choices, since they will have a family to care for. We all know that it is “easy” to learn how to spend money, but it is difficult to learn how to get along with meager means; therefore, a child should be trained to do so.
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Phil. 4:11–12).
Books. I tend to borrow and lend out a lot of books, and it is extremely hard to keep track of them when they are gone. So now when I lend or borrow a book, I write on a white card: “Borrowed from Sue” (or borrowed from the library) or “Lent to Sue” and the date I lent it out or borrowed it. I then put the card in my dated file to come up when the book is due at the library or a month later to give the book back or to ask for the book back from a friend.
When I return a book, I draw a line through it and write, “returned” with the date, but I keep the card for a while! Many times there might be a question by the lender or in your own mind whether the book was returned.
I also list on another card recommended books that I can’t buy right now, and I use this card when someone asks me what I might like for a gift. I keep the card in the month of my birthday or in December’s section for Christmas gifts.
When I read a book, especially a borrowed book, I write notes on a 3x5 card as a future reference. All of these are kept on a blank file card labeled “Books” that I keep in my file near the back (behind the days of the month 1–31 and the months January through December).
Birthdays! In the month section (January–December), I have a pink 3x5 card for birthdays. The name of the month is at the top of the card. Listed next is the day of the month followed by the person’s name and the year (i.e. ’78). Next, I put “send” with enough time for it to reach the person on time. The mail time is shorter if it is just a card; it is longer for a package.
For example, I write under January “7th Maura 1958, send card on the 1st.”) When I hear that a new baby is born into the family, I write the day at the bottom of that month’s card; along with the name, the year, and when to send the card (or gift) for their 1st birthday!
The pink card is pulled on the 25th, so you have a few days to buy the card or gift and mail it. (If it is on the first of the month, it may be wise to put it on the 3x5 card for the month before, especially if you usually mail a gift to that person).
I keep this month’s pink card in my paper-clip every day until I have bought the card or gift for every birthday that month. Then, I put the pink card into the day the next card, or gift, is to be sent. At the end of the month, I put the card into the month where it belongs.
For instance, after I send Maura’s card on the first, then I put the card in front of the 5th when I would need to send Jim’s birthday card since his birthday is on the 9th of the month.
Tip: If you’re like me, you like to buy ahead for birthdays and Christmas when you find a bargain or something you know that they would really like. However, many of us have trouble finding where we have hidden it. On a white 3x5 card, write out whom the gift is for, what the gift is, and where you hid it. Put it BEHIND the pink birthday card for that month. You will be alerted as to what you have bought and where you have hidden it on the 25th of the previous month. It really works!
Parties or other engagements: There is nothing worse for women than to wear the same dress around the same people, because you can’t remember what you wore last time. (Does this happen to you, or am I getting old?) What I do to remember when I speak somewhere is to write on a card the date that I am asked to speak and what I plan to wear in pencil. I put this card by the date (or the day before) I’m scheduled to speak. When I put that card back, I write what I did eventually wear so I know not to wear it again. (If I don’t have another speaking engagement scheduled, then I store this card in “Get Ready—Go!” section of the file.) If there is a date, then I put it by the day of my next engagement.
You can use this method for church clothes, business dinners, or even PTA meetings (though these probably call for very casual dress now, so it wouldn’t matter).
Bathroom linen closet: In our first house after our restoration, we had just one bathroom with only one small cupboard where I could keep toiletries, medicines, bandages, etc.. It was almost impossible to find anything until I used my 3x5 card system. I first saved a bunch of the plastic gallon ice cream buckets with lids to sort and store the stuff. I numbered each bucket and wrote out a corresponding 3x5 card. I listed the number of the bucket, the contents, and its location (which of the three shelves it was on) onto each card. This can be stored in the back of your card file with a divider marked “bathroom” or in the cupboard itself on a hook. When you, your children, or your husband need something, just flip through the cards to find out which bucket the item is located and on what shelf.
This system came in handy when I was sick in bed or nursing a baby. My husband or children would bring me the cards, and then go and bring the bucket so I could find the item for them! Then a few hours later, I would ask for the box of band-aids or anti-itch cream so I could get it back in the bucket and send it back with them to put on the shelf. Though we have many more bathrooms and lots of shelves, this method proved to be more efficient than what we have now!
Home videos. When we got a video camera, I was thrilled. But locating an event we wanted to watch was frustrating. So one day, we (the children and I) sat down to watch all our videos “for fun” and so I could document the main events of the video on a white 3x5 card. I numbered the tapes 1–10 and numbered a corresponding 3x5 card. If I knew the date of the event we were watching, I wrote it down (or often tried to guess the date), followed by the event (like Axel’s 10th birthday, Macy’s first steps, A & E soccer awards, 1998 vacation in Ft. Walton Beach). Unfortunately, I didn’t know that there was a button that marks the date on the film for the first couple of years we owned our own camera. With this method, we can now find anything we want to watch.
This method came in handy after my father passed away, and we were able to go back and watch the times we had spent with him. I hope to splice these all together, put them on one tape, and give it to my brothers and sisters for Christmas some year.
Tip: We made a tape of an interview with Great Grandma Brown a few years before she died. She dressed up in one of her church dresses, and we gave her a corsage. My husband, her grandson, wore his tuxedo from the church band. We followed the format of the “Tonight Show” as my husband introduced her and asked her questions about her life.
At one point, we (supposedly) turned off the camera to take a break—but we had actually taped it without Grandma’s knowledge. With the camera off, she began to “let her hair” down and was less formal. That’s when she began saying things that she wouldn’t have said with the camera on, which made us laugh so hard that we were just about hysterical.
When we heard she had died, we made a copy and sent it up to Minnesota. The family later gathered at her home and played it after the funeral. They called to say that they had laughed until they cried. They said that it helped them to remember how she used to be before she got sick; they said it was wonderful! We did the same thing with my father, and it was also a real blessing. By the way, Grandma’s was taken with a rented camera. If you still can’t afford one, rent or borrow one, and get each of your parents on tape for your children to remember. Do it now before it’s too late!
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