Constructing A Great Household Manual
Overseeing a substantial household is a complex task with so many different aspects to coordinate. With this in mind, taking the time to invest in a well constructed household manual is time well spent as this document will streamline the workings of your home, creating daily structure, increasing efficiency and mitigating crises when the unexpected occurs. You will discover that bringing in temporary or new staff becomes far easier as all details are on hand to double check.
It may take some time to build your manual but if you view it as an ongoing project you will find that you likely develop new management strategies through the process, and your manual will evolve and be updated as it becomes a key tool. You may wish to develop the manual with a housekeeper or household manager, or may take charge of this guide yourself. Either way, once it begins to take shape, you will wonder how you ever managed without it!
The format of your manual is a personal choice. You may wish to keep it in electronic form that can be transmitted to all concerned but will probably find it useful to keep at least one physical copy, fully up to date, that can be consulted at any time. Below you will find suggestions of sections to include, and descriptions to follow. Consider if there are any other areas of your own households structure that could be added and tailor your manual specifically to your own unique requirements.
- Contact List
- Staff Schedules
- Family Schedules
- Daily Procedures & Standards
- Household Supplies
- Medical Information
- Dietary Information
- Events Schedule
- Event Guides & Practices
- Security Protocols
- Emergency Procedures
Keeping a current list of useful contacts is a must. Start with contact information for all household members and all members of staff, with mobile phones, email addresses and any other useful information such as birthdays or spouses. Make a list of emergency contacts, ranging from the family doctor, vets and dentist, through to plumbers, electricians and handymen. Compile contacts for children in the house such as the school, private tutors, clubs and child-care agencies should you require emergency cover for your nanny or child minder. Lastly make a list of useful services such as decorators, gardeners and groundskeepers, florist, event planners etc. to avoid hunting for excellent services in the future.
Staff & Family Schedules
Coordinating multiple schedules can be a headache at the best of times. Drawing out standard schedules to ensure all roles fit together and nothing is missed is well worth the effort. Plan out all schedules, including work, events, appointments, and daily, weekly and monthly responsibilities, in advance so each member of your household knows where they stand and record and agree any changes. In this way nobody is let down and everything goes without a hitch. You will find great templates for schedules online to guide your structure. You might find that every week is the same or that you use this section more like a calendar, adding new pages as you lay out your future plans.
Daily Procedures & Standards
This may well be the most substantial part of your manual and you may wish to break it down into smaller sections. For example you may include a section on household laundry procedures, garden maintenance, pet care, cleaning schedules, specific maintenance instructions for valuables and rules regarding homework and discipline for children. Lay out each section in a clear and concise manner with bullet points of the main aspects. You may also wish to include checklists to ensure consistency.
In a busy home ensuring everything that is needed is on hand saves a great deal of time. Use this section to compile a guide list for stock management and then instructions for use. For example; specific laundry detergent, cleaning products for antiques, pet food or garden supplies. You may wish to cross reference this section with your Daily Procedures sheets so your staff can double check their actions.
Inventories are a great resource for keeping track of tools and valuables when so much is going on. Make a regular inventory check part of the discipline of your household to encourage respect for and maintenance of your belongings.
Medical & Dietary Information
Prepare a practical guide to specific medical needs of those within the household for example those with diabetes or epilepsy, or medication schedules for children. Record all aspects of dietary requirements, from allergies and intolerances through to simple likes and dislikes. This can negate accidents and embarrassments and means that transient staff such as private chefs, caterers and child-minders have access to information which they can double check as often as they want.
Events Schedule & Guides For Planning
Keeping a longer term schedule of upcoming events is a fantastic resource. Everything from work events to traditional holidays takes planning to arrange. Your schedule will serve as an overview of what is ahead and then separate sections can address each event in turn, including contacts, guest lists, storage instructions for relevant materials or decorations, and any useful resources from previous incarnations such as itineraries, recipes and magazine articles.
Whether your security practices include simple instructions for management of keys and locking-up procedures, a home security system with cameras and alarms, or a contracted security company; keeping track of this information and ensuring diligence and maintenance are very important. Record your protocols for security and list relevant contacts and procedures for situations when security is breached. Make sure that all members of your staff and home are aware of security and the importance of being accountable for their contribution to it.
Add an area of the guide for any potential problems that may be faced such as tripped circuit breakers, a difficult central heating system or a malfunctioning fire alarm system. Record the location of all relevant manuals for household equipment and access locations for things like fuse boxes, shut off taps and panels to enable efficient troubleshooting.
Familiarity with emergency procedures will mean that should something arise, all members of your household know how best to react and support each other. Prepare plans for fire, power-cuts, medical emergency, and any other threat that may be relevant to your household. Make sure everyone is up to date on the current version of your household manual and that your legal obligations are met.