I recently received this question from a fellow blog reader.

I have a typical busy household with kids in sports activities and things going on all the time to keep track of. Right now, my husband and I each have our own At-A-Glance calendar that we try to keep coordinated. I have tried going digital on my Blackberry but like to see the whole month at a time, and that just didn’t do it for me. I don’t like the look of having a big calendar on the fridge, and ours is not magnetic anyway. I would like to have one family calendar that we all refer to and add to. In your experience, what do you find works well? Dry erase, traditional paper, one color ink per person to keep track, etc?

With school just around the corner (yes, it starts for my kids NEXT Tuesday!) I thought this was a timely question. For us…life is about to ratchet up on the complications scale…so it’s a good time to rethink the family calendar. So here are my thoughts on family calendars.

I have to agree completely on the digital calendar bit. I’ve tried this before, and like our fellow blog reading friend, found the time horizon to be just (way) too short for me. I prefer a month-at-a-glance calendar and for my family I maintain a big wall calendar from Erin Condren* (that hangs on the fridge.) OK…so the fridge part is where we differ…but that’s OK. There are other options. This is the wall calendar I like.

An important consideration with your family calendar is where to hang it. To be most effective, the calendar should be hung in a centralized location where everyone can see it. This is why the refrigerator works well…your calendar is right smack dab in the middle of everything, reminding you about what’s going on. Other options, depending on the layout of your home, include the laundry room, on the back door (if that’s the door you use daily), the inside of the coat closet door, or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. You could also use a smaller calendar, and keep it tucked in a basket on the kitchen counter or on the back of a cabinet door. Hanging the calendar out of site would require everyone to adopt a new habit of pulling out the calendar and looking at it on a daily basis. This would require some effort.

I’d recommend a paper calendar over dry erase or chalkboard (even though that type of calendar looks so cool) because you can’t plan as far in advance with this type of calendar. For example, now is a great time to get all the school holidays and planned school events on your family calendar. (Or do this as soon as this info is available in your school district.) With a single-month dry erase or chalkboard calendar, you wouldn’t be able to record events further out than the month you’re in. This means you’d have to maintain a secondary calendar and then update your dry-erase calendar at the start of each month. All of this translates into double entry of info, more stuff to keep track of, and more than one place to look to figure out what your family has going on (especially if you’re nearing the end of a month.) Also, with a dry-erase calendar you don’t have a paper record of the past events…which can be nice to have (especially if you’re a scrapbooker.)

As far as color coding goes…well…I’m not a fan. I typically don’t recommend this for clients, unless they have used color coding in the past and found it to solve an organizational problem for them. I know there are advocates of color-coding out there, but for me, the benefit of having everyone assigned a specific color does not exceed the challenge of having four pens at-the-ready each time I go to update the calendar. Color coding just adds a step and an extra thought process…and I don’t find that the added benefit is worth it. Keep in mind I only have two kids, so I usually just put their initials in parenthesis in front of the event or deadline that applies to them and this works fine for us.

I do like color, though. I use brightly colored Sharpies to update my calendar and usually select colors in keeping with the month (orange in October, red and blue in July, green and red in December.) I couldn’t do that with color coding…now could I? ;)

Wow…who knew I had so much to say about family calendars? Maybe you do, too. Let’s see if you do…

Do you use a family calendar? If so, what’s your favorite kind—paper, chalk, dry-erase, or some other kind? And I’m dying to know:  are you a color coder…or not so much?

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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