Paper or plastic?

Photos by martha and daniel k. gebhart

These days, technology provides so many great resources for home managers.  Paper is becoming more and more obsolete, and the free web apps and tools save us money and time as we effectively run our homes.

But you know what?  I kinda like writing on paper.

There’s something to be said for giving your eyes and brain a break from screen time.  When I sit at the laptop for too long, the my body’s atrophy weighs heavily on my shoulders, and my overstimulated brain needs a rest from the glare of the screen.  Plus, I’d hate to think my kids’ memories of their mama was staring at the computer, even if I am managing the home from there.

But I’m also not a luddite.

Many of the free tools we have at our fingertips are gold mines, and I’m sure our grandmothers would have loved to have such access to the endless supply of recipes, calendars, to-do lists, automatic bill paying, and educational curriculum we have online.  It would be poor stewardship to shun all these helpful tools, all in the name of paper.

My solution?

I do both.
What works best for me is a hybrid of both traditional, offline management and online web apps.  Both have their benefits, and both have their pitfalls.  I want to work both to my advantage.

There’s not a right way to do this – in my opinion, each home and home manager is different, so there’s different methods to best meet our needs.  The beauty of the 21st century is that we can customize a management plan to best meet our needs.  And that’s cool.

For the next few articles, I’ll share how I use online resources to my advantage, and also how I use offline, traditional methods.  I’m still tweaking my system (I’ll probably always be tweaking), but for now, I’ve got a rhythm that works well, more or less.

Have you found a system that works well for you?  How intentional are you in your choice of using offline and online tools to your advantage?  If you had to pick, which method is your preference?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. I’ve tried to stick to one or the other before, only to find (like you) that what works best is a combination of the two. My system still isn’t perfect and I imagine it never will be, but I’m looking forward to looking at your methods. Dave.

    Dave Fowler’s last blog post…A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One

  2. After sitting at the computer for work most of the day and then with blogging on top of that, I’m trying to do more paper to get away from the screen. Exception would be online bill paying – love that!

    Denise’s last blog post…brilliant

  3. I do most of our family planning online or in OneNote (calendar, meal planning, tasks (because I hate rewriting things), etc) . I print out the weekly calendar so that we can refer to it.

    Looking forward to seeing your hybrid. Love seeing how people use the computer for managing the home.

    Avlor’s last blog post…Tuna denied participation in tie-dye day…

  4. I do have to reiterate that I don’t have the end-all to be-all of management systems – I’m just learning what works for me, and it evolves frequently. So I appreciate everyone sharing what works for them!

  5. I def use a hybrid as well – I tend to print your daily docket forms and use those for my daily to do lists, and I use a calendar on my computer to keep track of the weekly/monthly events and appointments. Recipes I also keep track of online.

    This is the first month we have done a budget a la Dave Ramsey (exciting!) and this time we copied his forms and filled them out by hand. I am thinking about trying something like Pear Budget in the future though.

    Lucie’s last blog post…Weekend Reflection: Mother and Friend – When Worlds Collide, Who Takes the Hit?

  6. I am definitely a paper person when it comes to organizing our family schedule. I tried the palm pilot a couple of years ago and failed to update it on a daily basis. I do online bill pay though…what a lifesaver. I’m looking forward to your series.

    Jen@OurDailyBigTop’s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday

  7. I like your title choice for this entry. My first thought was, “Canvas!” but then I realized you were approaching a slightly different topic. Clever.

    I love how computer options can make things like calendars and journals/blogs so neat and tidy. Beautiful, too. I’ve never loved my handwriting, so pencil/paper options for those things haven’t been my favorite. Also, as a bookkeeper, the computer is amazing for simplifying repetitive tasks like monthly billings and statements. On the other hand, some things like grocery lists and away-from-home note-taking seem easier with a nice pad of paper or a spiral notebook instead of lugging my computer around.

    I look forward to reading more of your ideas.

    Marcia’s last blog post…This Week in the Garden

  8. Amen to all that’s been said. I’ve constantly gone back and forth between the convenience of digital and the classic, beautiful allure of pen on paper and have come to the same conclusion: use the best of both worlds. I carry an iPhone and a Moleskine notebook everywhere and together they’ve naturally evolved into a system that works for me.

    Looking forward to your articles!’s last blog post…Write in my journal

  9. Daily spends, to do list’s, and events in a moleskin diary
    Excel spreadsheets for all our financial stuff
    Menu plans now in Google calendar – thanks simple mom!

    Laura’s last blog post…Learning Portuguese

  10. I’ve tried to switch everything over to online sites and programs. But, I discovered something recently. I like sitting down and making lists. I like writing out bills and checks, using a calculator and putting stamps on the envelopes. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not some freak stuck in the 20th century alone! 🙂

  11. I, myself, find it easier to manage things online, however it is more rational for me to do it on paper instead. Why? Because I become easy involved in doing other things online as well. Whether it be because it’s quick or just conveinent. I like to click on things, I am a curious person. With me being curious though, it also causes me to procrastinate or forget what I even came online for.
    So, to help myself with this -I am TRYING to limit my time online. Get on here, print off what I need, use it or file it away [being it is a recipe, ebook, etc]. I know that this can result in printing up a lot opf paper, so once I am done using the paper, instead of throwing it away -since I use only one side -I glue the used sides together and then use the sides of the paper that have nothing on them. I also have scrap pieces of cardboard and I am making a “scrap book” out of the paper I am re-putting use to. [Hopefully I will have time (in the very near future) to make a blog about what I am talking about here.]

    I also must thank you for your time and patience put into your blog[s] and ebook. For a while, I was becoming quite unorganized and unmotivated and extremely overwhelmed! Now, fortunately, the things that work for you – are luckily enough a lot of the same tools I need to have things work for me! I fail to remember how I came across this blog, but I am very glad I did!


    Bridgette’s last blog post…Day One: F vs F

  12. I’m starting to do menus on google calendar, thanks to you :)…
    All financial stuff goes into an excel spreadsheet…
    All of my bills are paid automatically via scheduled online banking and through my credit card if the utility allows it…
    To-do lists, blog ideas, and other on-the-fly planning are in my spiral notebook…

    Nenette’s last blog post…Achieve Powerful Beauty with a Bionic Beauty Shirt!!!

  13. @Lucie – Congrats on the budget!

    @LivSimpl – Ooh, I love Moleskines, but I’ve never experienced the wonder of an iPhone. Maybe someday. 🙂

    @Rachel – I agree with all you said, except maybe bill pay. I’ve never enjoyed having to make sure I pay everything on time and get it in the mailbox, so I love online bill pay!

    @Bridgette – I totally understand. There are a few online tools I use to help me keep track of where I spend my time online, but nothing yet to give me a little “hand slap” when I start rabbit trailing through blogs, twitters, etc.

  14. I definitely love online bill pay, and I keep my menus/menu plans and monthly calendar on the computer, but I love printing out my daily docket and keeping it with me to keep me on task (and for writing out notes).

    I also print a copy of my monthly plans to keep in my notebook. There is something about a spreadsheet when it gets too big that makes my eyes cross!

    Steph’s last blog post…Works For Me Wednesday

  15. I just wanted to stop by to tell you how much I enjoy your site. I enjoy stopping by everyday for your tips.
    Thank you for sharing with all of us!

    Stacie’s last blog post…Linky Loo Time!

  16. Does Blackberry count? I can sync my google calendar with my blackberry and write notes, reminders, grocery lists, and all of my other lists on there. My husband got me on the blackberry since there were many times where he forgot that we had to be somewhere or I forgot that he was coming home late due to a meeting. Now, he just includes me on the meeting invite and vice versa and we are on the same page. A little investment, but so worth it! I love to pay my bills online and do our online budget using I also print out our weekly menu so that I can easily refer to it. So far, this has worked for me. I just started recently doing a creative journal, which you referred to on your site. I cut out pictures about things that interest me and write about plans, ideas, or thoughts that come to mind. It allows me to use my creativity, since right now I do not have the time to scrapbook. Thanks for the great idea!

  17. I guess I still do some stuff old school 🙂 I cannot cannot brainstorm on the computer, have to use a paper and pen. I think the old calender to keep my days straight and write down my appts. It is hanging right above the computer 🙂 My To Do lists are hand written also.

  18. I like writing on paper too. I keep my calendar and home management journal on paper. I like the sense of physically writing down to-do lists and then, the best part, crossing them off. That just brings such a sense of satisfaction!

    Then for our budgets and all other things financial I use the computer to keep track of it all. So far it seems to be a good balance.

  19. I pretty much do everything online… but I always leave the house with a paper list of things to do and a pencil. I also carry around a small notebook – that is just as important as my debit card!

    Dana’s last blog post…Back from the Magical World of Disney

  20. @ Simplemom -“There are a few online tools I use to help me keep track of where I spend my time online” – curious, what would these tools happen to be?!

    Bridgette’s last blog post…Day One: F vs F

  21. Yay! Someone else who likes using paper too! I do like the computer for templates, but nothing beats the feel of pen on paper. After my grandmother passed away, we found her house neatly in order. We also found small notebooks with detailed to-do lists. I like to think we have that in common. Her to-do lists included things like “learn Japanese” and “pick up braille typewriter” (she wasn’t blind, just curious). Mine is not nearly as exotic….”mow lawn”, “plan menus”, “update blog”…

    CarrieK’s last blog post…It’s about time

  22. I just discovered your site and I love it. You have great stuff for those of us who aren’t mothers too. I’m just homekeeping challenged, although I am trying to change that.

    Shawna R. B. Atteberry’s last blog post…Chicago Carless Nailed the Palin Speech

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