Introduction to S.H.E.

Welcome to 21 Essays to S.H.E.™! In the next 21 essays, we'll learn and implement Pam Young and Peggy Jones' card file system for home management from the book Sidetracked Home Executives.

Newcomers or old hands alike, the questions have been flying. What is this card file business? How does it work? How do I start? Where do you get the cards--and where do you put 'em?

Today's essay is meant to introduce the system, so you get an idea of where we will be traveling during the next 21 weeks.

The card file is the heart, nerve center and brain of Pam and Peggy's home executive system. A rotating "tickler" file, it contains 3x5 cards for all the household tasks necessary to maintain your home. The cards are color-coded according to frequency: daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal jobs. When you've been on the system for awhile, your card file is worth more than gold. It was the second thing I grabbed when our family prepared to flee the Oakland Hills fire in 1995!

How does it work? Each morning (P&P recommend the night before), you pull a stack of cards from the day's divider. They'll be different each day. Some cards appear every day: make beds, wash dishes. Other cards roll around once or twice a week: vacuum, laundry, mop floors. Some are monthly chores: tidy closets, oil woodwork; a few are seasonal: shampoo carpets.

Here's the key: you pull out the cards and do what they say. At first, this is daunting! You're digging your way out of a big hole, and you can't see the sky! Laundry, waxing floors, windows--whew! It makes you want to throw the cards in the air.

Don't do it! After a few weeks, your house will be clean, and you will be on the system. Then, a few cards each day, (with one or two heavier cleaning days each week) will be all that is needed to keep you on track. Getting started is the hardest part--but the rewards of sticking with it are great.

Where do the cards come from? From Activity Lists. It's very simple. Take a 3-ring binder (with paper in it--one S.H.E.™ knows another S.H.E.™), and walk smack into the center of each room of your home. Stand there. Make a 360-degree turn and LOOK at the room. Now, write down everything that needs to be done to keep that room clean and orderly. Is the woodwork grimy? Write down "clean/oil the trim". How about the floor? Write down "vacuum", "wash area rug", or "sweep". Do one room each morning, but do them all before you go on.

Now you're ready to make your cards. Sit down with your 3-ring binder and your Activity Lists. Make one more list: for yourself, listing exercises, manicures, haircuts, and other personal care activities. I include trips to the library!

Decide how often you want to do each job. Estimate how long the job takes. Then make out one card per job. Complete instructions are found in "Sidetracked Home Executives", or you can order pre-printed cards from P&P!

When you've made out all your cards, you're ready to file. You'll use either 7 days-of-the-week dividers or "1-31" days of the month dividers, and a set of dividers for the months of the year. File daily cards behind tomorrow's divider, weekly cards within the next week, and monthly ones behind the next few months.

That's the system in a nutshell--but don't think you have to do it all today. We'll start slowly and gradually, easing into a new way of life.