Resolve to find low-tech ways to keep in touch throughout the day

The Family Command Center — a wise and simple investment for the new year — keeps family members in the loop. They can write on the calendar and post activity reminders to each other. It also keeps everyone stress-free, holding papers, mail and keys neatly in place.
 
The Family Command Center — a wise and simple investment for the new year — keeps family members in the loop. They can write on the calendar and post activity reminders to each other. It also keeps everyone stress-free, holding papers, mail and keys neatly in place.
 
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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CONTAINER STORE

By Kathie Robitz

Special to Homescape

Remember the 1969 Prince Spaghetti TV ad where a mom yells out the window — "Anthony! Anthony!" — for her son to come home to dinner?

Today, with cell phones and text messaging, there’s no need to shout. But as families usher in the new year, there seems to be a desire to return to good old-fashioned, low-tech ways to communicate with each other.

Modern family life can be complicated, but communicating effectively at home doesn’t have to be. With a little creative thinking, you can find some fun and effective ways that will keep everyone in the loop.

A TOUCH OF NOSTALGIA

How many times have you had to text your kids in their bedrooms to get their attention? Inexpensive two-way radio sets and walkie talkies made for kids will do the job just as nicely, if not better. Made of lightweight plastic, these low-tech alternatives to cell phones and iPads come in snazzy colors and are easy to use; even a three-year-old can operate most of them. These low-tech devices typically run on batteries, and have a very decent range — as much as a five-mile radius for some.

MANAGE BUSY LIVES

arents sometimes travel for business and kids often have a full schedule of activities. No wonder it’s easy to occasionally forget a dentist appointment or to walk the dog after school.

"With so many activities, appointments, deadlines, meetings and commitments to manage, families need a dedicated message hub to help make the most of each day," said Melanie Graham, public relations assistant for The Container Store. "It all starts with a command center where parents can organize and orchestrate everyone’s plan for the week."

The most important feature of a family command center is the calendar, according to Graham. "It’s great for visual reminders of events, games, classes and chores for the week or month. Use different colors to code each family member’s entries or tasks, but save one color for reminders for the whole family (for example – vacations, birthdays)." As Graham pointed out, it’s a great way to see everyone’s schedule at a glance. "There won’t be any confusion about whose soccer game is on Saturday and who won’t be available to babysit on Friday."

Ringwood interior designer, Cozette Brown, ASID, agreed. "With my own family and business to manage, I find it is most helpful to have a dedicated ’command central.’ For me, it’s a large paper calendar that I keep near my desk. It’s where I handwrite things to do: client and doctor appointments, when to be at the kids’ games, when Frontline flea and tick treatment is due for the cat — those types of things. I live by my calendar and check it every day. My older daughter and husband check it, as well."

Office supply stores and other retailers such as The Container Store also sell wall-mounted planners and bins that you can hang underneath for mail and important items or papers. "Or if you are using a table or countertop, set out baskets, one for each family member, Graham suggested. "Keep in mind, even if your command center has to be in a visible area of the home, bins and baskets can look great while serving a functional purpose for the family."

When you’re planning your message center, Graham recommended getting input from family members, including by finding the best location in the house. "Many find that the best spot is in their kitchen – where families gather the most. Some people prefer a mudroom or entryway where calendars and notes can be seen on the way in or out of the house. Place a basket or bin near the area to collect library books, mail, dry cleaning, and items to be donated or delivered. The next time someone is heading outto run errands, they can simply check the items in the basket to see what needs to go."

Brown admitted, "I’m not a cork board person or a wall person," however. "I don’t like to write standing up and a cork board can get easily overloaded. But if that works for you, I recommend any products that are designed for organizing papers, bills, notes, and so forth. In my opinion, the bottom line is: a message center may not necessarily be the prettiest part of a room, but that doesn’t mean it should be messy."

Short on space? Not a problem, according to Graham. "With many ad-hesive, magnetic or hanging solutions, you can use a blank wall or even the side of your fridge."

POST WITH PERSONALITY

"Don’t forget to add some personality to your reminder board with a photo of the family, postcards or a fun quote," advised Graham.

You may even want to create your own unique board. Shauntina Lily, public relations associate for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores noted that there are easy ways to personalize any type of reminder board, whether it’s a cork board or a chalk board. And there are lots of products that make this type of crafting fun for the whole family.

"Families can add a creative element with our assortment of colored chalk and dry erase pens, for example," Lily said. "And for easy cleanup on chalk messaging, the chalk can be wiped away with a damp cloth."

Want to make your chalkboard? "Simply cover a portion of the wall using chalkboard paint," Lily explained. "Once it dries, the chalkboard markers can be used to write messages onto the surface."

In fact, you can apply chalkboard paint on a backsplash, door, cabinet front or an entire wall in the kitchen, mudroom, pantry, playroom or anywhere else in the house. Use it for recipes, shopping lists, reminders, for example, and simply "wipe the slate clean" when you want to make a change.