October 31, 2010

Tackling The Clutter, Homeschool Style

Homeschool families are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting organized. Having children at home – and even mom at home – all day adds to the mess tenfold. Just imagine: three meals a day in the house, all of the school papers and projects spread out on the floors and tables, book cases and cabinets full of educational supplies, and chores that get neglected because of other, more important learning experiences. Add these all up and you have a colossal mess: a daily challenge to overcome that tends to overwhelm even the most dedicated of organizing mamas!

You can ‘tread water’ by just tackling the urgent – laundry, dishes, floors, paperwork… but if you ever plan to get ahead, you have to create your own system – and then devote your entire family to keeping it. Everyone will have their own system – based on what works for your family. Each of us is different: different amounts of children, different types of stored things, different amounts of times in the home, etc. No matter how different all of us are, though – one thing is the same for everyone (homeschooling or not): clutter.

The first part of getting organized is getting rid of clutter. Clutter can be anything that is in the WRONG place, or things that don’t really need to be in your home any more because they aren’t being used. We all have our fair share of those types of things because for the most part, things just keep multiplying. The longer you live in one place, the more you accumulate. There are easier ways to learn to purge unneeded things than moving. It takes time, but it is so worth the effort when you can remove the mental weight of all that clutter off of your back. Clutter stresses people out. Having a place for everything and an organized system that works for YOU will give you peace of mind.

Here are some ideas to get rid of the junk and organize the things that stay:

1. Use the 3 Box System: “Keep”, “Donate”, “Trash”

Have your family pick a room together to tackle on a weekend. Just like many of the Home Improvement Television shows instruct their participating home owners to do, set out a set of boxes and start going through the closet, drawers, corners, shelves, and crannies – emptying the room down to it’s core. It’s amazing how much you will begin to ENJOY getting rid of things when you see progress. If you have more than one person doing all the work, you’ll tend to stick with the project until it is done. Better yet – enlist a third party that isn’t as sentimental as you are (someone who hates clutter and keeps a clean house is preferrable). Watch your home begin to slowly morph into an organized haven, one weekend at a a time!

2. Move things UP

Clean floors can give the illusion of a clean space – even if you have your shelves packed and your room busy with furniture. Have a rule in your home that children (and parents – remember to set the good example) can’t create floor piles. It’s tempting to just set things aside to tackle later, but stick to your guns. Utilize upward spaces… such as the wall (hang a floating shelf if you don’t have one to use) or even the ceiling (hang a stuffed animal hammock). Put things in stackable boxes in the top shelf of your closet – ones that are easy to get down and work with so your “to-do piles” can remain tucked away out of sight until you have time to work on them.

3. Light it on Fire

School projects are fun, but it isn’t realistic to keep every single toilet paper animal, macaroni necklace, overly large construction paper glitter painting, or towering clay volcano. The children might balk at the idea at first, but let them start a project scrapbook and PHOTOGRAPH these items. Make them write a paragraph or two about the fun they had making them. Then set a date to have a bonfire! Goodbye clutter, hello sneaky writing assignment!

4. Meet a Need

Freecycle and Craig’s List are great ways to give back to others in need and keep the landfill from growing. People (especially in today’s economic times) are looking for gently used items on both of these great websites. Join either one to get rid of your stuff. Craig’s List is a selling site like Ebay that charges no fee to list your items. Freecycle is a FREEBIES only sight and you are allowed to give requests for needed items as well as give your things away. I have a special place in my heart for Freecycle. There was one year that I was supplied with a Christmas tree and an entire set of pots and pans by giving Freecyclers. I have even seen people giving away LAND on Freecycle. Someone else’s junk might just be your treasure. Just be sure to give away more than you bring home!

5. Thin out your drawers.

Keep only what you need. This is hard for women in the closet department… but before you start figuring out what wardrobe items to give away, tackle the areas where it is easiest. Do you need 10 kitchen skillets? 25 serving spoons? 30 boxes of dental floss? 13 boxes of primary color crayons? Start small and begin to fill a box of ‘Extras’. Before you know it, you’ll be able to donate to Good Will or list things on Freecycle. Keep reminding yourself that the less you have, the less you have to keep up with. Liberate your time by limiting your responsibilities to ‘things’.

I’d love to hear your organizing ideas. Leave me a note in the comment section and let me know what things have helped you to keep your homeschool house functioning with ease. It is an endless battle, but one we can’t afford to lose if we want to keep our sanity.

*This post originally posted at 'Complete Organizing Solutions'.


Unknown said...

Paper clutter is just one area where I struggle. One helpful tip I've stumbled into is grading yesterday's assignment when we get together for today's lesson. Not only does this help me to keep up with my grading, but provides the opportunity to go over anything the lesson shows my child is struggling with right away. When I'm done checking the lesson, my children have learned to place it in their notebook, before we proceed with the next lesson. By getting things filed routinely I am saved from having a huge pile to go through at some later date. It takes discipline to make sure these steps get taken every day, but the pay off is well worth it!

Anonymous said...

Re: #2-Keep it off the floor. Our solution- a new puppy! Anything left on the floor gets eaten.

Gwen T said...

You know we're in the middle of moving, so this article is very timely and needed for me! I've determined to get rid of a large amount of toys and clothes. My husband is determined that I get rid of large amounts of decorations that have been sitting in my basement - boxed up - for the past 5 years. :)

The ministry that we're working with in Dallas also has a boutique. People donate things and missionaries home on furlough or students studying at Wycliffe's Linguistics Center can get clothes, household goods, books, etc for free - That's where most of my de-cluttering things are going!!!!

De-cluttering, organizing - whatever you call it - it's a great opportunity to teach our kids the perils of materialism and greed. We all have far more than we need!!

Tracy said...

I said OH MY GOSH, so loud when the picture came up that my son came running to see what was wrong! LOL

kat said...

That picture is close to what our schoolroom looks like every day after the toddler finishes "reading."

I'm so busy keeping the public areas of the house relatively tidy and the laundry done, as well as school, chauffering, and changing nappies that organizing never seems to get done. Your post has given me courage. Perhaps I can attack the clutter in the schoolroom today!

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

You so inspire me!

In a million ways...

All's grace,

Unknown said...

Last year we started a wall where we hang things that pertain to our unit of study. We take pictures of individual projects and then we also take a picture of the wall before we take everything down at the end of a unit. Keeps the childmade posters, pictures and signs around for a while, but off the floors and counters and it acts as an evergrowing bulletin board to remind he kids of certain elements of their lessons.

Leah said...

Hi Heather,

Wish I would have met you at Relevant..I know what you mean about being speechless though. It happened to me almost instantly after the first evenings meal! I had to sneak back to my room just to process all that Holy-Spirt filled inspiration in between every session and speaker!!

Ok, so anyway, I love your photo (lol) and ideas. I recently bought a bookshelf with square cubicals and LOVE having our many books (though not enough if you ask me!) separated by category. I'm actually getting all geeky now and labeling each book and cubicle with a colored sticker and initial to match the category. Fun stuff.

Blessings to you!

Susannah said...

Great post! My decluttering secret is toddler twins. If it's out, it will get destroyed. My older child is slowly learning this. :(

Lane said...

We just moved to a much smaller house and to a much smaller town. I love the idea of taking pictures of their projects and keeping a scrapbook! I have six kids from ages 20 to 2 and many boxes of drawn pictures and projects. I better stock up on photo ink and hello fire pit! Thanks for the idea!



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