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Family vacations, sports practices and games, summer camps, summer work projects, and even house projects rapidly fill up every family’s calendar each spring and summer. While it is inevitable that a family’s calendar will always be full, there are some steps families can take to de-clutter and de-stress their commitments and calendar in general.

The most important tip in de-cluttering and maintaining a family calendar is communication. Involve the entire family in planning and make sure everyone knows and understands the importance of remaining organized. Communicating about different events will also aide in maintaining a family calendar that is not overflowing or over scheduled.

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Families should first always have a firm set of ground rules when it comes to scheduling and their calendars. Defining what makes a stressful week for your family and what your ideal week would look like is a great start. As a family, do we best function when only two nights a week are busy or can we handle more? Defining at what point the stress starts to mount for the family will help identify what a typical week should look like. Knowing that, as a family, we do best with only two out of the five nights being busy will aide in knowing when to say no.

Once the ground rules and structure have been set, prioritization needs to be utilized. While it would be great if we were able to go to every single birthday party, it is not possible. Decide ahead of time which birthday parties are most important. Families can often be quite large and making it to every event is probably not realistic. Make a list of the closest family members and friends and try to make it to their events. Don’t worry about other events, if they work out in the schedule you may choose to attend and, if not, send a card. They will understand!

Plan family time. While the family vacation most often makes the priorities list, fun weekends to the zoo or park often get missed. While the goal is to de-clutter the calendar, make sure to include down time as well! Planning a weekend at home is just as important as anything else on the calendar. Ensuring that there are set times open for a trip to the zoo or park will help in avoiding stress and frustration at the end of summer when we are look at the calendar realizing we never made the time to focus on family. Scheduling free weekends will also help the calendar appear less cluttered.

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Just as family time should be included in the calendar, so should large work events. If you have to travel for work one week or will be gone over a weekend, make sure to work this into the family calendar to ensure it does not overlap any important family events. Creating one large calendar that encompasses everyone’s complete schedule will help avoid frustrating rescheduling attempts and overlaps in scheduling.

With everyone using the same calendar, it needs to be a nice, big one! Take time to look at different options before deciding which family calendar that will work best. Consider how much space you will need for each person. Do you prefer to see each month, week, or even day? Does each family member need their own column or row? Figure out what you want from your calendar before purchasing.

Once the calendar has been purchased, stick to a plan in keeping it organized. Color coding is always a great idea. Providing each family member with their own color, along with colors for other events, is an easy way to quickly glance over the calendar and find everything. Good penmanship counts! Unless your calendar is digital, keep it looking nice and uncluttered by writing nicely. Even if the family calendar is full, if it is organized and visually appealing it will appear less cluttered and be less stressful to maintain and use.

Utilizing these tips will help in maintaining a family calendar that is not too full and is easy to read and use. Communicating priorities and events for each person while working to maintain a schedule that works well for the entire family WILL reduce stress. While it is inevitable that family calendars will fill up quickly, maintaining it and communicating will help schedules remain streamlined and organized.