Online Tools to Organize the Family From synced-up family schedules to meal-planning services, you don’t need a personal assistant to keep your household running smoothly. BY FRANCINE KIZNER
Get your family organized by using online tools.
With Johnny going to soccer practice, Suzie taking piano lessons, a homeowners’ association meeting, a dentist appointment and shopping to do, you may feel like you’re losing it a bit—and that’s only Tuesday. Worse, when you run into a snafu—you were supposed to drive carpool, but were sure it wasn’t your turn—you feel terrible and convince yourself you’re up for worst parent of the year.
So how can you keep track of it all? Short of hiring a personal assistant, there are some innovative new online tools you can use to help your family sync schedules and stay organized while helping you keep your sanity.
The Total Family Dashboard
Famundo (www.famundo.com) puts a host of scheduling and organization tools right at your fingertips on your family homepage. With calendars for each family member, import options that’ll seamlessly bring in school and community organizations’ calendars, and Outlook and iCal synchronization, you’ll never miss a pickup again. It also gives you a central place to keep an address book, scanned documents, photos, reminders, messages and lists.
With unlimited users, six levels of privacy options—from public to entirely private, so you can still keep secrets from the kids—and four levels of edit options, you can manage your family like you manage a complex work project. The site also lets you publish blogs and a public homepage, and will send you reminders and messages via e-mail, IM or SMS. Basic functionality is free and supported by Google ads, but to go ad-free and get expanded storage space and more public options, you can upgrade to the Plus edition for $99 a year.
Clean and Simple Family Calendaring
Cozi (www.cozi.com) helps keep your family in sync by downloading the latest additions to your calendar and shopping lists to your family’s PCs or mobile phones. With a clean and attractive calendar, fun family screensaver that incorporates photos and reminders, and new add-ons like a simple blogging tool, Cozi can help you feel more in control and in-the-know at all times.
Though there’s a web version available, you’ll want to download some software for full functionality. But ad-supported Cozi is free, and it also has some promising mobile uses. Forgot your grocery list and don’t use a smartphone? Just call Cozi’s toll-free number, and it’ll read you your list or send it via SMS.
Tackling Chores as a Team
Can’t seem to stop your family from fighting over chores? ChoreBuster (http://chorebuster.net) lets you take inventory of your family’s chores, then assigns them out fairly, based on difficulty and frequency. You can also specify if certain chores aren’t appropriate for certain family members so your 5-year-old doesn’t have to, say, mow the lawn.
Though this simple free tool will only help you if you stick to the schedule it creates, it can help stop fights between kids who feel their load is unfair and stop you from feeling like a nag for pestering about undone chores. The site also has a rewards system where you can mark off the chores done, after assigning them a monetary value, to calculate your kids’ allowance.
No-Stress Dinner Planning
For families who order pizza more often than they should or fall back on the same few favorites week after week, check out a meal planning site like Saving Dinner (www.savingdinner.com), MealMixer (www.mealmixer.com) or The Scramble (http://thescramble.com). With subscription prices ranging from $30 to $55 a year, the sites will send you recipes and shopping lists that’ll cover a week’s worth of dinners. And if you don’t like one of the options, you can always swap it out and get a new shopping list.
With family-friendly meals that can take dietary restrictions into consideration, as well as easy recipes with short ingredient lists and prep times, these services could have your family asking for seconds, or even volunteering to help bring a new recipe to the table.