I thrive on the ability to control everything possible in my life, including the organization of my home. Usually, I can tell you where everything is, because I’ve spent much time putting things in order, creating a place for everything (and I mean everything).
I collect an array of items every month for my curriculum needs for my two homeschooled boys, so having a calculated place for every item is imperative for it to be used. Otherwise, it is guaranteed these items will be lost in the throes of many of my book shelves or piles on my desk. I also ensure that I take time to go through all of my bookshelves on a regular basis just in case some item might be useful for a various upcoming project.
How did I become organized? Honestly, I sat and stared at the space that I had and started thinking about how best to organize my “stuff”. Just keep in mind as you ponder: it can be done. It takes time and eventually a person rhythm will be found amongst all of the members in your family.
I don’t have a huge home, so making use of the space I do have was important. We tend to spread out projects on our kitchen table as work-space for many of our projects and our art projects have now been quarantined to only outdoors since we tend to make a messes.
With two children, I make sure that I have items necessary for immediate use in an easy to access place. I have small drawers for each of them that include any and all manipulatives for math, science, etc. Because these items are always in the same spot, the boys can also grab items they need during free time that they wish to use, and then put it back in the appropriate spot. Not all of my home is organized in this manner, I admit. While I have a personal spot for everything, I’m working on the boys’ having their own personal spot for everything in their work space/play room.
I have my own area organized as well. I have a pile of resources that I need for each son in a different pile, stacked in a bookshelf. We have bookshelves with doors, to keep the cluttered look away from guests eyes. Simply enough, when I need a certain sticker book to keep my younger son occupied, I know that it is in his pile inside the closest bookshelf to the kitchen. So, I have a workspace area for myself, as well as a bookshelf dedicated to items I need to utilize in the teaching process, and then I have a space for each child. This works well as we work through our day because items can be put back on the shelf, returned to their appropriate spot and the next activity rolled out quickly.
For larger activities, I have cubes that fit inside my bookshelves that can store multiple workbooks or manipulatives. Our science curriculum this year has a variety of books and I’ve chosen to keep them inside one cube for easy access. This way, we shouldn’t have to be scrambling around looking for a specific book that we only need to read a few pages of each day. I’ve purchased a separate cube for each child, so they can move from one area of the house to the next with their own cubes to find a quiet place to work.
I also use small baskets for items so they can be moved around as needed, for pens, pencils, etc. I also have smaller baskets for computer games and other computer related items sitting at the computer, so games and needed materials are at arms’ length from the keyboard. This works well for my boys.
At the Florida Parent Educator’s Association convention in Florida, I heard an excellent tip from a speaker to keep any clippings from newspapers, magazines, or any other resource in a separate box for each subject. While I’m not yet at the point where I need boxes for items of this nature, I’ve started collecting file-folders with appropriate titles and starting to save worksheets, reproducibles, and newspaper clippings for assignments I hope to complete this next year. This will help me stay focused and have instant resources when the time comes (I hope!).
To keep clutter down, I have found it imperative to keep artwork, projects, and completed work in a specific location. I have folders for each of my boys under my desk so when a project is complete, it goes into their personal folders. About once a month, after tracking their progress in each subject area, I put these items in a box in their closet to keep and organize for our yearly evaluations (required in Florida). That way I know where everything is when the time comes. The boys know where their completed projects need go and I’m not running around the house in each room that we regularly school looking for certain items.
The boys have their own personal spaces for items they collect as well. They have found a place for magazines and posters they wish to keep, coloring items, and games. While these items aren’t necessarily where I would have put them, they have started to manage their own space, so I’m excited and relieved.
We have many art projects taking place simultaneously, as one project dries, it gets pushed to the side to make room for another project. These items get hung up on an art string (you could easily use a clothesline that can be taken down for guests, but ours is a permanent fixture in the kids room) and taken down again when ready to work on the next step. Art supplies are all stocked in rolling bins in a closet, which keeps me organized and ready to grab a certain colored paint or needed item for projects. The art closet probably took me the most time to organize, but it has been well worth the time saving effort in the long-run. Labeling here was key. Paper always goes into the drawer with paper. If it doesn’t fit, it goes on top of the rolling bin for use. I also use containers to hold all colored pencils, markers, etc. Not a great deal of money needs to be used for the organization process. You can use recycled boxes, cleaned margarine tubs, etc. As long as items have a place to go and are labeled, you’ll find putting these items away a much simpler task.
I keep a list of needs in a little notebook on my desk and if there is an item running low, no matter what it is: markers, workbooks, etc, I write it down. Then I know when I’m out to purchase this item to restock, so that I’m not at the last minute shopping for a needed item (and wasting valuable time).
I mentioned before that finding a rhythm that suits your family is important. I’ve shifted things around from one room to the next several times before finding an items “home”. I like my house to look orderly, which is why I have doors on all of my bookshelves. I can keep items hidden when I have any company coming over and we all know to put items away when we’re done with them. Homeschooling is anything but neat and orderly, so this system works for my family. On a regular school-day, you’ll find my house scattered with books, tools for projects, and toys, but at the end of the day, I love that items are put away.
Some excellent resources are bins, baskets, buckets, crates, drawers (and drawer organizers), in-trays, folders, labels, gallon sized bags, recycled boxes/tubs, and time. It does take a good amount of time to find a system that works for you. Be patient and you’ll find the slow hum that you find does work. Good luck.