My fiancee and I started using Slack to organize and manage household activities about 6 months ago and it’s really improved our day-to-day life, the best part is that it didn’t require a lot of work and it’s free! I wanted to share how we use Slack at Home with the Internet in the hopes that someone else might be able to get their household better organized.
What is Slack?
You may have heard of Slack on NPR or you may use it in your office, the chat and collaboration platform utilized by more than 9 million users weekly in more than 100 countries is becoming increasingly more ubiquitous.
If you haven’t used or heard of Slack, it’s is a cloud-based set of team collaboration tools. The name is actually an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” I have a feeling those sentences will likely glaze the eyeballs of many readers, so lets break it down:
- “Cloud-based” – Slack workspaces live on the internet, which means they’re accessible from any supported device with an internet connection, namely your phone or computer.
- “Searchable Log” – Everything that you have access to is searchable in Slack, so if you’re looking for information but can only remember part of it, you can try and search for it and likely find it. (There’s some caveats that we’ll cover in a little bit.)
- “Team Collaboration tools” – For decades software companies and corporate gurus have tried to leverage technology to get teams to work together better and more effectively. Slack has been one of the most successful tools so far, through it’s semi-private team-based workspace and third-party integrations.
Since this is a post about using Slack for household organization and task management, we’re probably not going to go back to business concepts like ‘the cloud’ or ‘Searchable logs’. Instead we’re going to focus on the team collaboration elements because a household – whether it’s your roommates, a couple, 8 feral cats, a full family with kids, or anything else – is a group working towards the same goal(s), which could also be called a team.
Your household’s goals are an important element to think about before we get into the nuts-and-bolts of setting up a Slack workspace to manage and organize your household activities:
- Are you trying to organize chore responsibilities and rotation?
- Do you want to keep your grocery shopping list in one place, where anyone can add one-off items?
- Is your household working on a major project like moving or taking a family vacation?
- Or are you just trying to figure out what you want for dinner for the week?
All these things, and more, can easily be handled through Slack, for Free.
Signing Up For Slack
Signup for Slack by going to Slack.com. Enter your email and click “Getting Started” or “Create Workspace” and then enter your email address. They’ll send a confirmation code to the email you entered.
After you enter your confirmation code, you’ll be asked to enter your ‘Full Name’ and ‘Display Name’. If you don’t want to enter your full name, your first name is fine, the display name, if entered, will be what other users see in chats and how they tag you in messages, i.e. @mom or @steve.
After setting up your name and display name, you’ll need to create a password: feel free to make this password as strong as you’d like. When signing in, Slack will often prompt you to send a login link to your email instead of entering your password and once you’re logged in, you typically don’t need to log out.
When your password is set up, Slack will ask you some questions about how you’ll use Slack and how many users you expect to use Slack with. Feel free to select “Other” and in the ‘Could you elaborate?” field, put ‘Steve Badcat’s Home Slack Method’.
Next you’ll need to setup a name for your workspace and a workspace URL. Feel free to call it whatever you’d like, whether that’s a nickname for your place (we call our house Badcat Manor) or just your street and number like 123MainSt, whatever you want. The URL is used to find a Slack to login to, whether you’re going through a web browser or the dedicated Slack client, for example 123MainSt.slack.com.
After you’ve named your workspace, it’s time to invite users by email, you can also share a link that will allow users to signup for your workspace.
Free Vs. Paid
There is a free version and there are paid versions of Slack. The paid versions of Slack come with a lot of great business features, but for household management and organization the free version is fine.
There are 2 main limitations with the free version of Slack that you should keep in mind:
- You’ll only be able to search the most recent 10,000 messages – My fiancee and I created our Household Slack almost 6 months ago and haven’t even reached 1000 messages (at post time we were at 922). Unless you plan to use Slack to replace texting, calling, and speaking in your home, this limitation shouldn’t be much of an issue.
- You can only have 10 third-party or custom integrations – Since we’re not using Slack in a business environment, this limitation isn’t really a big deal either. In a later section, I’ll recommend five Slack Apps that I use on my Home Slack.
You can always see how many messages you’ve used by clicking on your Workspace name and looking for “Total Messages” in the menu.
You can access Slack through a few methods: there are iOS and Android apps for phones and tablets, and on your computer you can access Slack through your favorite web browser (like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) or through a Slack client that you can download from here.
There’s not much difference between the client and accessing Slack through a web browser on a computer, but I definitely recommend getting Slack for your iOS or Android phone because it’s easier to use this method if you can easily access your workspace from anywhere.
Channels are the crux of this household organization and management method, make channels that match your household’s goals: what needs to get organized in your house? what could get handled better?
To create new channels, click on the Plus (+) symbol next to the Channels section header. You can create public or private channels, this distinction is more important in a business environment, all the channels on our home Slack are public. Name the channel something that makes sense, feel free to set a purpose, and make sure you invite everyone in your household to the channel. If you forget anyone, you can always invite them with the ‘/invite @user’ command.
I’m going to go over some of the channels we use on our Home Slack to give you some ideas on where to start and inspire you to create some channels of your own:
- #Cats – We primarily use this channel to keep track of when we last scooped or changed the cat’s litter. We also use this channel to keep track of Vet visits as well.
- #Chores – When I was a kid, my dad would make running lists of stuff he wanted to accomplish over the weekend, there were these small yellow legal pads on the coffee table with line-after-line of tasks – this channel was inspired by that. If we see something around the house that needs to get done but isn’t a weeknight job (like organizing a closet or deep cleaning the kitchen), we’ll message it in this channel. Writing things down and creating actionable lists is the first and most important step in being more productive.
- #general/#random – These channels come with your workspace by default, you can delete them if you’d like. We primarily use #general for important overall household things (like which parking spots are ours or our landlord’s contact information.
- #grocerylist – This is where we make our grocery and shopping lists, we’ll touch on this channel a lot more in the next section because ‘threads’ are a really great way to organize a channel like this.
- #lunchideas / #whatsfordinner – We use these channels to copy-and-paste recipes (usually links to websites) we want to try. We’ll pin recipes that we love.
- #travel – This channel is used for tracking travel plans or details like flight info or hotel location.
- #wedding – My fiancee and I recently got engaged and when you get engaged you eventually have to get married, which requires a TON of planning which we do in this channel.
- #WeekendFunIdeas – A lot like #Chores, sometimes you hear about an event on facebook or in the newspaper that sounds like something fun to do, this is where we copy-and-paste links to those things.
We create new channels as things come up, and we archive channels that we don’t use often or when we complete the topic of the channel. It’s important that you let this be a ‘living’ organization system meaning that it changes and evolves depending on what’s going on in your household.
What kind of Channels will you make?
Messages and Pinning
If your Slack workspace is the world, and your channels are the oceans, then your messages are the fish in those oceans.
Messages can be simple like a URL for a recipe, “Find Engagement Photographer” or “Whole Foods Run 11/2” or they can be longer if you’re copy-and-pasting an email from the landlord or homeowners association.
For really important messages that you want to easily find later, you can “Pin” them so they’re easily available.
To Pin a message on a computer, mouseover the message click on the “…” button and click “Pin to #channel”, you can view them by clicking on the Pin icon near the channel name.
To Pin a message on iOS, tap on the message you’d like to pin, then tap the “…” button, and tap “Pin Message.” You can view pinned items in a channel by tapping on the channel name and tapping on “Pinned” in the channel details.
You can only Pin 100 messages in a channel.
You can reply to a message and create a ‘thread’, this really comes in handy when you’re making task lists or shopping lists.
To create a thread on Desktop, click on the “Start a/Reply to Thread” button, this will open a side window where can add items to the original message. To view a thread just click on the replies below the message.
To Create a thread on mobile, tap the message you’d like to reply to and then click within “Start Thread” or “Add a reply” fields and do the thing. Same as desktop, to view a thread, just click on the replies below the message.
So, if I were planning a trip to the grocery store, I’d send a message like ‘Grocery Store Run 11/3’ in the #grocerylist channel. I’d then start a thread on that message and list the items I need to pickup at the store.
While at the store, you can mark the items you’ve found with emoji reactions. To add an emoji to a message in a thread, tap and hold the message, tap “Add Reaction,” and then tap your emoji. Emoji’s can also be sent in messages.
Under the ‘Channels’ section of the sidebar menu is the ‘Direct Messages’ section. Here you can send Direct Messages to other users, this is a more useful tool in a business environment or in a household with a lot of members. However, you can Direct Message yourself to keep a private list of tasks, like birthday present ideas or where you’re stashing money around the house.
Below is a list of apps we use on our home Slack and what they do:
To-Do – This is a bot that helps you manage tasks. You create tasks by typing:
“/todo [Thing To Do] [Date Due] @person-assigned-to” i.e. “/todo clean litter box 11/5 @steve”.
To-Do will add this to a lists of tasks and remind you on or before the due date. This works great for reminders like when you need to put the trash out or pay a certain bill.
Giphy – This app allows you to message gifs to your channels. It’s fun but not vital.
Simple Poll – Keep your household Slack democratic by instituting polls, decide what to have for dinner the way the Ancient Greeks did, with a Vote!
IFTTT – IF This Then That integrates with Slack. If you don’t know what IFTTT, it’s a great way to create automation through triggered events. We’ll have a post about this soon.
Google Drive – This app integrates google drive into your Slack Workspace. Google Drive is a great cloud-based storage platform that offers access to tools similar to Microsoft Office.
To find Slack Apps, check out Slack’s App Directory!
At the end of the day a household is a team working towards a shared goal, whether it’s paying the rent on time this month, organizing a weekend bbq, or just getting groceries. Slack is a great way for a team to work towards a shared goal and also crack a few jokes and post some funny gifs along the way.
If you’re trying to get your household better organized or managed, Slack might be the way to do it. Be sure to tell me how it worked out for you in the comments!