Organization, Automation and Delegation – The Keys to Maintaining My Sanity While Running a Home-Based Business By Angela Hoy

I received the following email from a reader, Maggy, recently:

I love hearing the adventures of the “Hoy” Family — you-all could be a TV series — ever think of that? An interesting at-home business, involving both husband and wife, plus their varied-aged children. Just being in publishing would provides lines of interest. The sheer awful stuff you get, as well as the variety of good stuff and the range of topics. You could become a cult hour each week for anyone with even a vague interest in writing, and educate the public on publishing at the same time. Being in Maine would be neat angle (for me, a New Englander at heart, sentenced to her final days in Florida). Every installment could have one “kids and family” theme plus one on writing/publishing. But I’m no expert on sit-coms! All I watch on TV is politics, old movies, cooking shows and re-runs of OLD sit-coms, like Dick Van Dyke as a comedy writer. Now there’s a slight parallel for Hoys At Home in Maine!

My question: Would you do an article some time, or make it a series of weekly installments with tips — how ever do you and Richard do all you do??? Working one-on-one with authors wouldbe enough, seems to me, but then there are the courses (conducted by others, true, but all needs beginning and coordination by you or Richard, right?). Working at home!! How do you organize your day? Besides being uniquely positioned in POD publishing, your sharing of your lifestyle does soMUCH to personalize and humanize a basically Internet relationship.

Notes like Maggy’s really brighten my day. I’m so glad that we’re able to share our personal lives with readers through words and pictures. Sometimes I can’t understand why people are interested in this stuff, but News From the Home Office remains our most popular column. And, I admit it. It is my favorite column to write! And, the children have an online diary of their lives over the past several years.

I have received lots of emails like Maggy’s, asking how we squeeze it all into one day. So, today I’m starting a series on organization, automation, and delegation. How does one run a house, a marriage, five children, and a business in only 24 hours a day? It’s not always easy! The keys are organization, automation, and delegation. Today, I’ll give you a tour of our house and explain how we (try to) keep it organized.

If you walked into my living room this morning, organization would be the last word on your mind. You’d see Mason (age 16 months) wrapped up in his fleece blankie, eating rice cereal (generic) and drinking juice out of a sippy cup. His new morning routine it to sit on the sofa, wrapped up in his blankie, and have his cereal and juice while watching today’s episode of Sesame Street. There is a train track on the rug that nobody has the heart to dismantle because Max and Mason have been playing with it for a few days now. There is also a long, elevated Hotwheels track running from the sofa to the far wall. It ends at a coffee cup. Max made a contraption for rolling golf balls off the sofa and into the coffee cup. He gets a hole in one every time! Except for the dry cereal Mason just spilled on the arm of the sofa, it’s actually pretty neat in there today. That’s because Frank picked up in here last night and Alyssa (Zach’s girlfriend) cleaned it again this morning.

Move right, into the dining room, and you’ll see today’s clean laundry – a huge mound (and I mean HUGE) piled up on the table. It’s waiting for Alyssa to arrive and fold it. Richard does the morning shift of laundry while Alyssa does more when she’s here. In case you haven’t figured it out, Alyssa works for us now. He official job is “clutter control.” When I hired her, I told her, “I honestly just don’t have time to tell you where things go and what to do. Just pretend you live here and put stuff where you want it to go.” The arrangement is working out beautifully!

Also on the table are Max’s school books and supplies. It looks like Richard and Max were working on math and science this morning.

Okay, move right again and you’re now in the kitchen. Uh oh. There are still some dishes left in the sink from last night. That means no computer or videogames for Frank (age 15) today. If all the dishes aren’t done after dinner, and I mean ALL the dishes, the person in charge of dishes that week loses their electronic priveleges the next day. The bathroom off the kitchen is clean. Looks like Alyssa has already been in there this morning, too. Yea, Alyssa!

Okay, now, follow me through the living room and up the front stairs. Um, just ignore that door there on the left. That’s Ali’s room. If you just pretend it doesn’t exist, it won’t bother you. I learned years ago that I could ride the kids 24 hours a day to clean their bedrooms or I could just chill and let them be in charge of their own domain. Surprisingly, when it gets bad enough, they actually do clean their own rooms! You really have to pick your battles with teenagers and having an organized bedroom just isn’t a battle that’s worth fighting, in my opinion. If you listen closely, you can hear Ali (age 16) on her cell phone, talking non-stop. We won’t interrupt her. She’ll be on that phone for hours.

The front stairs are clear of clutter, again, thanks to Alyssa. The upstairs bathroom could use some attention. So, I holler downstairs, “Ali! Is it your week for bathrooms? Uh huh. Well, then get on up here and get it done! And don’t forget to clean the toilet. One of the boys missed again.”

Ali comes upstairs, still talking on her phone, and muttering about how she has to clean the toilet even though SHE “never misses!”

To the left is the office, which will hopefully soon be moved to the attic (we’re bursting at the seams here and we’re going to move the business upstairs once that huge project is complete). Come on in, if you can fit. Matt is in here processing an order for a bookstore. He turns around and smiles shyly at you. He’s quiet and a very nice young man. Zach’s hard at work to his left, formatting a book. More on that in the “delegation” part of this series. He doesn’t bother to turn around. He just raises one hand and grunts. Formatting books can be a bit confusing at times. By this time tomorrow, he’ll be posting all the pieces of this week’s issue of WritersWeekly into the blogging program we use. That desk to Matt’s right is mine. Haven’t used it in months but Ali (age 16) uses it in the afternoons. She works on my backup laptop finding new markets for WritersWeekly and emailing the editors. It holds our backup server for our local files, a color ink-jet printer, a ton of books I’ve purchased over the past couple of years (that I will never get around to reading), and an assortment of odds and ends. There are several shelves behind it, shoved with more business stuff. Under my desk are large buckets that contain my crafting supplies (I am working on another craft book). To the right of that is the shipping table that contains priority mail envelopes, stamps, another printer, and more. Matt is the one who tries to keep the office organized but it’s hard with this much stuff.

When you leave the office and turn to the left, you’re in our bedroom. This is where I work. I keep my laptop on a whiteboard, which makes a perfect lap desk, and I work in bed. Yes, I do get up and get dressed in the morning. Ha ha. There’s our recliner, our TV, our fake fireplace and mantle (it’s fake, but it’s pretty) and Richard’s desk. He used to work in the office, too, but I missed him too much.

To the right of our room is Max’s room. Um, doesn’t look like Alyssa’s been in here yet this morning. Max is six years old and he can destroy a clean room faster than you can say, “Ow! I stepped on a Lego!”

Max is making a paper house for the gnomes that play with his toys at night. He’s hoping one of them will leave evidence that they really have been in his room. We haven’t been able to get any photographs of the gnomes yet. If any of you have any photos of real gnomes, can you please let me know? Max would love to see them. Max turns around and gives you a hug (he hugs all new “friends”). Max starts asking you all kinds of questions and you look at me with wide eyes. I say, “Hey, we have to listen to it all day long, every single day. It’s your turn.”

I leave you there while I run to the bathroom. I come back and you’re still standing there, shaking your head, and trying to answer Max’s questions as fast as he’s asking them. I tell him we need to head into Frank’s room and he says, “Okay! Bye!” and turns back to his gnome house.

Stepping over more toys, we get to the door at the far end of Max’s room (yeah, it’s a pretty big, 100-year-old house), which goes to Frank’s room. Frank’s bedroom used to be an old train room (when the previous owners lived here). It has hardwood floors, a rug, bunk beds, his desk and computer and gaming stuff, a dresser, an entertainment center, and a little workshop. Today, Max’s lizard, Cool, is in Frank’s room. Max wants me to move Cool back to his room today. Cool stares at us with his big, googly lizard eyes as we walk by. Frank (age 15) is in the middle of a video game and it sounds like he’s talking to himself. You give me a wide-eyed look. I tell you he has a headphone and microphone on that you can’t see from this angle and that he’s playing with his friends online and is talking to them. You look relieved and Frank quickly stands up, extends his hand, and introduces himself to you. I am proud of his manners and then say one word. “Dishes.” He drops his controller, rolls his eyes at me, and stomps out, heading for the kitchen.

Keep walking through Frank’s room and you’re now in the back hallway. To your right is the door to the attic. I can hear Richard sawing wood up there so we won’t interrupt him. In front of you is Zach’s room. Alyssa keeps Zach’s room pretty clean. It was much more interesting before they started dating – strange smells, poker chips strewn about, and no way to discern between the stack of clean clothes and the pile of dirty ones. There’s Zach’s cat, Tigre’, sleeping on his bed. Okay, now turn right and we’ll walk down the back stairs. At the bottom is the mud room. Alyssa recently made that room presentable, too. And, after walking past the back door, we’re back in the kitchen. Frank’s doing the dishes and Alyssa is now in here making us homemade chocolate chip cookies! Yum! She smiles shyly. Alyssa is very quiet, which is actually quite refreshing because this family is full of people who love to hear themselves talk. If you look out the kitchen window, you can see the three maple trees in our backyard, in all their fall splendor, along with the rest of my garden which is is now brown because we had a hard freeze last night. .

So, that’s the House of Hoys!

We not only run the business from home but we also homeschool Max. Next week, I’ll tell you how we schedule our work and Max’s homeschooling into our already-quite-full days. And, I’ll tell you how we manage to find time to do fun stuff, too!