| Work/Life Balance | Family Management | New Baby | New Parents

Online sites help new parents stay organized

When you're expecting a new baby or have a newborn in the family, staying organized can seem impossible. Doctor's appointments and classes fill your schedule; other parents lavish you with recommendations for books and must-have gadgets; exploring child care options means stacks of information to evaluate, not to mention phone numbers to keep track of. But what sleep-deprived new parent can really keep track of all the notes jotted on endless slips of paper?

Most books and articles on getting organized offer the same tips you would have heard in the '50s. That's fine for closet organizing, maybe, but with most parents online at home and at work, it's time to modernize. There are so many great websites to help you stay afloat, there's no excuse for covering your desk with a bevy of Post-It notes.

You can misplace a Post-It note but you can't misplace a website. With your information online, you can check in any time you're at a computer -- or from your cell phone. When you need to go offline, just hit "print" and take it with you.

And when that new baby isn't a baby anymore, he or she will consider the Internet as vital as any major organ, so you might as well get in the right frame of mind now.

You don't have to be a computer expert to use these websites. If you're savvy enough to order from Amazon and check email, you'll be fine.

To-do lists

Ta-da List (free)

This fast, free to-do list site lets you to create as many lists as you want. I keep checklists such as: items to bring with my 2-year-old, Iris, to her babysitter (Iris is at the top of the list, just in case); computer gadgets I'd like to buy; necessary swimming pool gear and upcoming albums by my favorite bands.

Runner up:

Remember the Milk (free) has a snazzy interface and extra features for the heavy-duty, to-do list user.


30 Boxes (free)

An online calendar is a great way for a stay-at-home parent and a working parent to stay in sync. But whatever your situation, if you keep your calendar online, you'll miss fewer appointments. It's that simple. With 30 Boxes I can also see my wife's calendar, which tells me when she'll be home late from work and when to schedule a pediatrician appointment so we can both be there.

Users can be notified of upcoming appointments by email, text message to your cell phone or both. You can also use 30 Boxes to publish a public calendar, such as a sports team or band calendar, with absolutely no knowledge of HTML.

A place to keep all your stuff

Backpack (
plans range from free to $14/month)

For cleaning off your desk, Backpack is better than Pledge. Backpack lets you create pages that can contain notes, checklists, photos and more.

I made a Backpack page called "Shopping" to hold shopping lists for Costco, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I print a list from Backpack, and now I never forget to pick up Trader Joe's chocolate-covered caramels. A big list of favorite family dinners offers inspiration for planning the week's meals.

A Backpack page is perfect for planning a family vacation (when you're surfing the Web at work and just happen to come across a great tropical destination) or for keeping track of your research on daycare, schools or summer camps.

Backpack pages can be shared between users or with the public. For example, here's my Shopping page: mamster.backpackit.com/pub/389322

Backpack also has an email and cell phone reminder service. I have it email me every Friday morning with a reminder to buy bread for making French toast on the weekend.

Backpack is free for up to five pages and 10 reminders. I use the Basic plan, $5/month, which allows up to 25 pages and 100 reminders as well as lots of space to store photos and other files.

Matthew Amster-Burton is a Seattle food writer. Find him online at rootsandgrubs.com.

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