Organized Chaos

M is constantly being asked how she does it. How could she possibly manage her house with 5 very involved kids. T isn’t quite there yet, but her schedule is far from empty. Both of us use a calendar through Cozi . We both love it so much we wanted to share this gem with you.

Scheduling is a constant challenge.  M often says that it is her least favorite activity of the year. Figuring out the fall after school activity scheduling is exhuasting.

M: I have 5 kids, all of whom do too much, and one driver (my husband and I both work).  We are also at 4 different schools right now, which just doubles the fun.  I use Excel quite a bit, but my favorite scheduling app – hands down – is Cozi.

T: M got me hooked on Cozi and it has already helped keep everything on track! Especially because it allows me to let my husband know about doctor’s appointments, plans, etc. When he looks at it that is….

So why is Cozi so great? Cozi is an app for your phone or tablet as well as a website.  You can use a free version, which gives you all of the basics, or you can pay $29.99/year to get upgraded features like contacts and birthdays. Once you decide to join, you create a family password and anyone you invite can create their own login to the family calendar. As individuals add events, all of your devices sync together.

The app itself has a ton of features! Some highlights (and our most used features) include:

  • Calendar
  • Shopping Lists
  • Meal Planning
  • To Do Lists

Calendar: Let’s focus on why the Calendar is so fantastic for a moment. Each member of your household can be assigned a color. When you click to add an activity, all of the colors come up.  You then select who is involved with the activity, the date and time (including the option for recurring activities), location (if you want), and any notes that might pertain.  You can set up reminders and email notifications, though both of us are looking at our calendars so frequently that there is little need for reminders. Another great feature is that single events, or events that are out of the norm, are marked in bold so you know something is different that day (for example, early release from school).  You can view the calendar in daily mode (with color coding), monthly mode, or a scrolling weekly mode.

M cozi schedule

M: I prefer using the calendar in weekly scrolling mode. On top of all of this, I absolutely love that my calendar is emailed to me weekly (you can also print it out at any point).  I print the week for my caregiver, so she can keep track of any changes to the schedule.  It also gives the kids something to look at if they want to see activities.

T: Most of my calendar is in bold because We don’t have as many of the weekly recurring activities. But for me the best feature is the syncing of the calendars. Whenever my husband asks what’s going on I immediately ask if he checked Cozi…he usually hasn’t. BUT I have now said it so many times that he has started to look! AND he even adds his own stuff so I know when he’s not available. It is super helpful to me to know when he can’t be around or if he’s going out of town, etc.

Neither of us have used Google Calendar, so it’s hard for us to say how Cozi differs from that. We just find Cozi to be very user friendly and very intuitive.

M: I’m a GIGANTIC fan and consider to the key to our making it to (most) events and activities on time (OK – well, close to on time, sort of).

T: For what it’s worth, I have friends who have used Google Calendar and, when I referred them to Cozi, said they were happy they switched.

The Shopping Lists: We use the shopping lists almost as much as the calendars.  In this section you have the ability to create multiple lists:


M: We have lists for groceries, Target, wholesale, drugstore, pet store, etc.  (My husband created many of these and I’ve gone with it since at least he is using it!) It’s easy for any of us to add items when we run out.  If my husband goes to the grocery store, I can be at the house adding items to the list as he drives and shops.  It syncs that quickly!  If I happen to be near a store, I can pull up my list at any time and figure out if we need an item.  It’s a lifesaver.

T: I love lists! We have a grocery list, Target list, Lowe’s list, Buy Buy Baby list, a Pets list and an “other” list. It’s so helpful because nothing gets forgotten, and I don’t hear this “UGHHH I wish I had known you were going because I need x, y, z” upon my return.

Meal Planning: M uses this more than T does, so T will defer to her. M: I am not a huge cook, but with our big family and lots of activities, I’ve found that I need to have a plan for the week.  You can store recipes on Cozi (which is helpful, though I don’t have many I’ve put on) and you can list your meals for each day.  One of the best features is that it will pull up your calendar as you do this so you can figure out which days you can cook a “nice” meal (one that doesn’t necessarily involve the crockpot), when you need to order pizza, and when chicken nuggets will have to do.

To Do List: T uses this more than M, so she’ll talk about that one. T: I LOVE THE TO DO LISTS!!! I have to do lists written everywhere. It is literally the only way I will remember to do anything at all (is that sad?). Much like the shopping lists you can have multiple To Do lists. I have a personal to do list, a shared to do list, and a “Honeydo” list for Braden. I put all kinds of stuff on there, even if it doesn’t need to be done immediately, so I don’t forget to do it. When I’m out of town and I KNOW Braden wants to do all of the chores, I can kindly refer him to his list :). It is an excellent tool to keep track of what needs to be done.


Cozi has additional features including: a journal option, contact list, and birthday calendar.  We have only briefly, if at all, ventured into these realms, though we are confident they are well done!


In case it’s not clear, we are HUGE fans of Cozi and recommend it for any busy household.

M: For me, I can’t imagine life without it – and that’s no exaggeration!

T: Ditto what she said!

xoxo happy organizing!




Christmas Gift Strategy

We are closing in on the final moments of the Christmas shopping season and the last hours of the miracle that is Amazon Prime. As we see the boxes and boxes of things being delivered to our home and offices it makes you wonder if it’s all just too much? But then you think of how magical the season is and how you actually WANT to give your child the toys they have spent the last 364 days begging for. So T&M decided to take a look at their own habits and also looked at what some other moms have done.

We will start with what we do.

M: Christmas and gift-giving.  Always a challenge for me even after buying for kids for 14 years now.  We still go overboard (compared to some) but I’ve definitely pared down over the years.  Every year, I try to figure out what is enough and what is too much.  Many years, while the kids are opening presents, I hit a point where I think – I wish we could just stop right now.  I could put these wrapped presents away and return them, save them for birthdays, donate them, anything – they just don’t need any more!!

This starts when the kids are little and toys are fairly cheap and easy to buy.  And it’s all so cute!  I would pore through all the catalogs that came in the mail, dog ear pages, rip them out and carry them around, and then buy way too much.  These days, for the most part, I just throw the catalogs out and buy more classic gifts and, with older kids, a few pricier items instead.

T: This is my son’s first Christmas and I am SO excited to share it with him. But I have to remind myself that while he is learning more and more every day he has no concept of Christmas….or toys…or Santa. So I tried really hard not to buy too much (and I was moderately successful!) But as an avid Target aisle walker I struggled. The boxes scream at you to BUY ME BUY ME!!! I’m not sure how I am going to manage when he is older, but it’s something I’d like to think about now.

M: The truth is, when the kids are little, they don’t need that many gifts.  It’s the honest to goodness truth that they will likely enjoy the box more. (T: or an empty chip bag). Once they get a little older and understand “toys” they also will want to play with each gift the minute they open it.  The adults have to pry the toy away and shove the next present in their hands to be opened – all the while the kid is crying because they want to play with the one toy they just opened.

M: I remember many years ago when my niece (who is now 21) was around 3 years old.  My sister had told me to buy her a ball.  That’s it – just a ball.  I saw my niece open a much nicer gift and get so excited.  I was concerned about my gift and wishing I’d gotten something nicer.  Soon enough, it was time for my gift.  Well, my niece’s face lit up just as much over the ball as it did over the expensive gift.  Worry for nothing! And, chances are good that the ball was played with more than the expensive gift.

Now that I have five kids, I can’t go too crazy for Christmas.  It’s too expensive, too much time, too much stuff, and too unnecessary.  But I still worry about it and try to find a system.  I worry about their expectations as well, since I have overbought in the past.  But really, when I look at some of their lists, they aren’t looking for big ticket items.  I’M the one worried about it and they are just happy to get some new things! I’m also focusing more on “experience” gifts when I can. For example, when the grandparents have asked about gifts, I’ve suggested Medieval Times tickets or a similar experience that the family can enjoy. The kids love it and we get to have more family time. Bonus that it doesn’t take up any more space!

T&M: So what’s the answer? Quality over quantity? Stick to the basics? Just one gift? We aren’t really sure there is a right answer other than to do what is right for you. That being said you should take some time to think about what you and your kids really need, what you have storage space for, and what will make them truly happy.

T: I’ve been reading a lot about other people’s traditions trying to find some version that works for me. Here are some interesting traditions I have found:

  1. The Big 4

These families focus on 4 areas for their kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great system for minimizing all of the “stuff”. T struggles with the idea of getting her son just 1 toy, but that’s sort of the point! This would greatly cut back on your stress and you can put your time and energy on something your child really wants. With that you can still modify it how you want. You could do this as what you get from family members and then they would of course receive another special gift from the big man in red 😉 (we can talk about him in another post)

  1. The 3 Wise Men

This one is SUPER interesting. My favorite phrase was if it is good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for you! In this method the families are scaling back on the gift giving and also reinforcing the point that Jesus is the reason for the season. In this method the child receives 3 gifts, and each one represents the gifts the Magi gave to baby Jesus. First, the gift of gold. This gift is something of value to the child or something precious to them. It can be a high dollar item or just something that they want more than anything. Second, the gift of Frankincense. This gift is meant to be something spiritual or healing. This could be religious based or not. Perhaps a book, or a class, or something that helps them on the road to better themselves. Third, the gift of Myrrh. This gift is something for the body. It can be something physical such as sports equipment or work out clothes or it could be something like bath salts, make up, etc. An interesting twist on this was that Mommy and Daddy each brought the kids 3 gifts and Santa brings 3 gifts. So each child got 6 gifts 2 of each. This allows you to do a little more while also keeping it within reason.

  1. Donating before Christmas

This suggestion has less to do with managing the gifts given at Christmas and more to do with teaching your kids the spirit of giving and decluttering BEFORE Christmas. These families spend some time helping their kids go through the toys they have and pick out a few (or many) items that they don’t play with anymore to give to other children. Of course this kindness definitely puts you on the nice list, but it’s more than that. Teaching your kids now about the spirit of giving will hopefully instill a lesson that will stay with them for many years to come. The Patriarch of our family is one of the most giving people we know, and that has been passed down through the family. We hope that our kids learn that as well.

For both T&M, the holidays will continue to be a struggle of determining how to gift give, but we hope that some of these ideas resonate with you and help you determine your own method of gifting at Christmas. Do you have any other methods? We would love to hear them!

Merry Christmas!