June 06, 2007

Ideas for Keeping Clutter to a Minimum for Moms

Being a homeschool mom, my house is very full of STUFF. Not only do I have the regular toys, games, books, and kid messes that come with having children... but I also have the supplies, science projects, paper trails, eraser droppings and other school messes that usually are created and dealt with while the kids are AWAY from home. Living in a small apartment out of state for the last 20 months has helped me to let go of a lot of clutter that I might have previously tolerated as well. When we moved in here, I gave about a third of my wardrobe away because we just couldn't fit our things in these tiny closets. Let's face it... The more STUFF you get rid of, the more time you will have for your meaningful life’s purposes and the less distraction there will be around you. I truly believe that clutter shortens your lifespan by creating unnecessary stress!

Another homeschool mom asked me recently:
"WHAT do you do with all your paperwork, supplies, toys, and THINGS to keep your sanity if you are home so much?"

Below is a list of ideas you can use to help keep clutter at bay and maintain order in your homeschool or your kid-friendly home:

1. Put a lot of things in a storage bag in the attic and recycle them. Simplifying the toys and books can make things seem newer longer if you have time to exchange books and toys every 3-6 months.

2. Use a large toy box for smaller toys to keep them off the floor and provide a place where the kids can easily HELP put them away. Keeping things in kid-reachable spaces gives you the ability to delegate chores and cuts down on your own workload.

3. Hang a hammock type net from the corners of your child's bedroom for stuffed animals (if you do it in an area where they can climb on the bed, they can put the toys away up there themselves).

4. Put up "around the top of the room" wall shelves for stuffed animals if you don't already have built in shelving in your closet. We did this when my son was little and kept all the stuffed animals in a row around the top of the room. They could keep 10 of them on the bed and had to “exchange” one if they wanted a new one down.

5. Give toys away to charity. Have the kids do a “27 Fling Boogie” Fly-Lady style and pick 27 items to give away (once a week).

6. Do an "around the middle of the room" wall border that is big enough to be a background color for your children's artwork. Hang their art on the wall (either framed, stuck on with wall putty, or hung on a string that you can use small clips with). Cycle the old ones off and the new ones on as new creations are made. This will make them feel special and give them a place to show their creativity off. Also, you can keep a Tupperware box for the older stuff or keep in a file cabinet by year.

7. Keep a small bookcase in a closet for art supplies. Recycle coffee cans and jars to hold pens, pencils, paintbrushes. Buy plastic boxes for crayons, paint sets, sponges, beads, etc. Or you can set up a “art studio” in the garage if you have room and hang a clothes line to clip their wet artwork to. This is particularly nice if you have an outside washer and dryer. The kids can paint while you fold and hang.

8. Get a file cabinet for your paperwork. Set up folders with labels. Keep your bank statements and receipts in a monthly folder system.

9. Buy the book "Order from Chaos: A 6 Step Plan for Organizing Yourself, Your Office, and Your Life" by Liz Davenport. Use her system for filing paperwork and keeping your desk orderly. One idea she shares (as well as most organizing shows on HGTV) is to ONLY HANDLE MAIL & PAPERWORK ONCE. Keep a trash can by your desk/doorway and USE IT!

10. If you homeschool, read and use the ideas in the book "The Organized Home Schooler" - by Vicki Caruana.

11. Get rid of anything that doesn’t make you smile, that you don’t use, that isn’t something you can’t live without, or that you haven’t worn (clothing) in the past year.

12. Join a freecycle list and give away the items you don't need. Seeing things go to families that can't afford to buy certain items or that are trying to help keep things from going to the land-fill is rewarding.

13. Thin out your drawers. Do you really need 50 pair of underwear? 25 night gowns? 70 white t-shirts? 10 skillets? 65 spoons? 35 boxes of dental floss? 30 used toothbrushes? Keep only what you need. Think of all the people you could bless (or at least all the space you would re-claim)!

14. Use a silent-butler box. If mom finds things lying around, they are claimed and must remain in the silent-butler box for a week. At the end of that week, they must be PURCHASED back with allowance money or they will be given away, sold or thrown away. It is amazing how things will suddenly stop getting left out!

15. Put together a chore chart system and make sure everyone in the family knows what is expected of them. Even dad and mom need a reminder now and then. Make sure to add rewards to your system and give incentives for everyone to work towards. Dad can do his chores for a month to earn a video game. Mom can earn a MAID SERVICE or pedicure. The kids can earn a pizza and movie night or a sleep-over. Everyone works better when they have a goal and a prize in mind.

16. Organize your bookshelves and keep children's books within reach of children. Hold them responsible for putting books away. We have our books separated by topic. All our Science books are on one shelf, our history and geography books are on another shelf, our school books are on the next shelf, and the children have a bookcase in their room with kid books that are not school related. They are required to keep the books in order from tallest to smallest.

17. Sell some things on Ebay. Who knows, maybe you'll get addicted and start making the extra cash you need to purchase things that your family really needs. Go check Ebay out and see what prices things are going for. Who knows, maybe that brand new shirt your daughter never wore that she has now outgrown might earn you a fast five dollars. Sell a few items and you might be able to afford something YOU have been wanting.

18. Clean out the garage. I know it is easier said than done. I'll tell you one thing, though... it is an AMAZING relief once you get this done. Enlist a few friends and make it a weekend project. Hang some shelves or buy some free-standing ones. Get rid of junk you either don't use, or don't even know HOW to use. Paint the walls, hang your tools on a rack, roll out some cheap carpet or astro-turf. Hang a string with a soft ball on the end to tell you how far to roll your tires in while you are pulling the car in (when the ball hits the windshield, you can put it in park). I have even know some people to turn their garage into a chic parlor with pink paint, faux fur sofas and beaded lamps... and many men make them into "football" caves so their buddies can come over to enjoy the game. Either way you decorate it - claim the space in your garage and don't let clutter keep you ashamed every time the garage door rolls up.

The less STUFF in your life, the less STRESS in your life. The more you allow others to help, the less work you yourself will have to do. Get creative and tackle that clutter. You'll breathe a sigh of relief when your job is done.

Other Quick Links:
Fired-Up Homeschool Projects
How Do You Use Your Time?
Simplifying the Load

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"My Little Wonders" said...

What a great post!!
I am so so cluttered I can't even think, this is right up my alley, now I just need to do it , right...lol.
I love the ideas and I am in an organizing mood, because it really does stress you alot and I need to destress.
Thanks ........I'm off to get a grip and organize on baby step at a time.
Oh and I'd like to paint some time this summer too.
Blessings Lori

Sprittibee said...

Go for it, Lori! ;) I'm kind of on the backwards end of this article right now with a move coming up (hopefully soon)... but I'll be needing my own advice soon - as soon as the boxes are all unpacked on the other side! Maybe this time I can actually do #18 promptly (instead of a year after we move in!).

KarenW said...

I've actually decided that I can be an organized person, IF I lived by myself. I am constantly organizing only to have my family undo what I've done. It's frustrating.

groovyoldlady said...

Howdy...I found your blog when I was looking for KONOS links.

The hardest things for me to get rid of are those REALLY COOL homeschool extras that I find a great deal on and we might use "someday".

Other than that we stay pretty trimmed down and organized.

Cyndi said...

Yes! That's what I'm working on this summer: clutter! I used to think that it was spedific to having smaller children, but I have a preteen and a teen, and clutter's just as much as an issue as it ever was for us. I agree, that as homeschoolers we have a tendency to have more *stuff*. I just boxed up a bunch of curriculum to get rid of this year, and it was so FREEING. Great ideas in this post!

Sprittibee said...

Karen - Yeah, but we have to keep on keeping on... or give up and just live in a pile of mess (I can't do that).

Groovylady - I try to stay on top of the organizing, too... but it is a constant battle.

Cyndi - Thanks! I am about to get rid of a whole lot of junk after we move. Half of my things have been in storage for two years in another state. I'm sure if we have lived without them this long... that there are plenty of them that will be easy to part with. Plus - putting both storage and the stuff we've been living with in one place... we are bound to have duplicates of things. :)

Vicki Caruana said...

Thanks for mentioning my book The Organized Homeschooler! Just remember, that the task of "reorganization" is just as important as getting organized in the first place...everything eventually falls apart. Don't be discouraged...just start again.

Sprittibee said...

Hey Vicki! :) I love your book. It is a favorite on our homeschool shelf. Thanks for the comment. :)

Meredith said...

Wow, some really great tips. My favorite thing to do is throw stuff out/donate. Amazing how little we really need to function.



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