Organization is that dirty little word that constantly seeps into our everyday vocabulary. Have you ever heard someone say they've finished organizing anything? Probably not because organization is a process and not a goal. The good news is that organization is a simple process that doesn’t have to take much time. The bad news is that you have to do it often.
But with a few simple steps, you can be more organized in five minutes or less. First, you have to decide which of two routes to take. You can either 1. own less or 2. organize more. I’ve rarely met a person who chooses to organize more, but you have to make that decision for yourself.
Organizing by Owning Less
So let's talk for a second about owning less. How often do you purchase puzzles, games, or flashy learning software that doesn't work for you, so you just shelve it? Or perhaps you're saving everything from an older child for a younger child? Do you have an overabundance of math manipulatives or learning toys? Do you save every single piece of paper that is produced during your school day? The most important question of all is do you need all of that stuff?
Is there anything you can do without?
Go through your belongings – one by one – and ask yourself if you honestly need each item. We unloaded about three-quarters of our school materials by deciding if we really needed it. What I found was that we used the leftovers more (because we could easily find them) and our school time was less stressful. Yes, less stressful! Once we reduced our belongings, we could easily put everything away, and we didn't waste time searching for a specific book or paper.
Quick and Easy Steps for Organizing by Owning Less
1. Find 5 minutes in your day to organize and decide on a target area such as a bookshelf, a small closet, or counter space.
2. Set out 3 boxes, bins, or bags. Believe me; this tip makes a big difference. One is for trash, one is for giveaway, and one is for keeping.
3. Set your timer for 5 -10 minutes. This is an absolute must — you have to stop when the timer is up. Marathon organizing is not sustainable. Keep it brief.
4. Pick up each item and decide which box to put it in. Put it there. If you’re not sure, set it back down and come back to it later. We’re going for quick wins.
5. When the timer is up, STOP. Put the items in the keep box away. Put the donation box in your car to drop off the next time you are out. Throw the trash away.
Repeat steps 1-5 at least daily. You’ll notice a significant difference quickly and by only spending 5 minutes a day on downsizing your possessions.
Organizing by Organizing More
Understandably, some people will choose not to own less. Perhaps you're already at a minimum state or you have a place for everything (and everything in it's place). That is terrific. Organizing for you is going to be more about finding a method that is sustainable. By that, I mean one you can commit to on a daily or weekly basis.
As I said, organizing is a process and not a goal. But once the system is set up, you can maintain the process much easier. First, what do you need to organize? Papers? Learning toys? You need to determine what you want to organize and how you’d like to organize it. Remember, keep it simple! (KISS is a great acronym for this, although I usually leave the word stupid off at the end. Positivity spreads).
If you need to organize papers, keep the segmentation low. Don’t have 50 different options – keep it to 5-10. Perhaps organize by subject or month. When you’ve decided on your segments, figure out where to store your papers. Make sure it is easily accessible so you can organize papers every single day. Then, make sure to actually organize your papers daily.
If you want to organize learning toys, you'll have to determine what toys you want to organize. We have our bigger toys in bins that are kept on a shelf. The kids have to check out these toys if they want to use them. These are not the everyday toys but toys we reserve specifically for learning time. For smaller items, little boxes or baggies are great.
What about organizing curriculum?
The biggest question in organizing for homeschool is how to work out a daily schedule with curriculum. My suggestion is to keep It simple. We school on a block schedule. Math and language arts are every day items. History and art fall on Monday and Tuesday. Science and music are Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is Harry Potter school. That's a very loose schedule, but it allows me flexibility which means one off day does not ruin an entire week. We keep our main curriculum in a rolling cart with 12 drawers so we can do school wherever suits us and still have all our materials ready.
About the Author
Erin blogs at RoyalBaloo.com where she inspires people to make learning fun! Through printables, games, activities, and unit studies, learning becomes an adventure worth having.