Archive for August, 2011



Now we come to the (R)estore segment, where we begin to restore order to a chaotic environment. I guess I should include a spoiler warning of sorts here, YOU WILL PROBABLY FACE WHAT LOOKS LIKE A HURRICANE DAMAGE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER. That is part of the process. It takes patience and time to get through any organizational project. We must disassemble, in many cases, what is contributing to the disorganized environment in order to rebuild and restore. DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep at it and  you WILL conquer  it!

The first step to restoration is to come equipped to your space or backpack with the following items: a permanent marker, three white garbage bags, bank boxes OR apple boxes (the latter you can grab from the local grocer, in most cases, for free), post-it notes, a bottle of multi-purpose Pledge, and a lint-free cleaning cloth. **Obviously, if you are dealing with cleaning out a backpack from last year, you won’t need three boxes or bags, but you will need one of them to empty the items into while you toss the pack into the wash.

The second step is to remove and sort ALL items that are in the area you want to organize. Place like items together and when you are finished sorting in this manner you will be able to see what type of containers you will need and will be able to measure the containers properly for the spaces they will be used in.

One thing that I really like to do while I am sorting is to use my apple or bank boxes (I prefer these over bags for the reason of sturdiness and also because if I have to leave the project overnight, I am able to cover the box and it appears neater…rather than appearing unkept) to sort according to rooms. If there are items that do not belong I will start a box for the living room, for example. In this way, when I am finished sorting, I can simply remove the appropriate boxes to the appropriate rooms and store the items contained in the boxes where they go. This is the primary reason I use sticky notes, by the way. I can label the box multiple times without having to scratch out what I wrote before, which I like because it doesn’t mar my boxes. Crazy, I know…but that’s me!

At any rate, I find that sorting in this way helps me to maintain control over the space in which I am working and it allows me more peace of mind because it is more tidy, and the hurricane effect can be kept at a minimum.

At this point, we have sorted the items in like bags, boxes or piles. The next step is to decide which containers you will need in order to organize the area you are working in the best way possible. This is one of the more fun parts of organizing because you get to choose containers that can really reflect who you are as an individual. You will also have more room in regards to creativity.

Many people, particularly in our American culture, believe that you have to rush out and purchase everything tiny thing and that it must match, etc. This could not be furthest from the truth. In fact, it can be downright counterproductive. That isn’t to say that we will not need to purchase anything; rather, we need to make sure that what we purchase is actually needed and that it will be used. We also, as a culture, seem to overlook items which can be recycled and repurposed. Look around your home, are there shallow boxes that could actually be used as dividers inside drawers? Are there other containers which can be repurposed for something other than what they were originally intended? An example of this is the container which is holding the pencils in the first part of this organizing series. You know, the little grey one which has the floral flourish on the exterior. It originally housed a soy based candle. I loved it so much that I repurposed it as my pen well! Be creative and use what you are able and don’t be afraid to creative a container that reflects you. I have had students who have gifted wrapped shoe boxes with drawings they created or gift wrap they liked. They then covered the paper with Modge Podge or clear shipping tape. It was a store-bought container from “Containers and Such”, but it was a container which worked for the purpose they needed and it reflected them as individuals.  I applaud that kind of ingenuity, creativity and craftsmanship.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely ADORE container stores, I just don’t think we need to be wasteful with our resources, if we already have usable items available. Plus,in my way of thinking, it gives us an opportunity to be young and creative again (if we are not still! :P) instead of being all stuffy. Okay, so in terms of organizational stores out there, if you do need to buy something… there is “The Container Store”, “Bed, Bath and Beyond”, and believe it or not, Wal-mart, Target and your local Lowe’s. They have great items available without having to order online, if you can avoid it. I have found in recent years that my local Target has some great items available in their ‘dollar section’. I just purchased some file folders for my girls yesterday for two dollars and the girls thought they were cute!  IKEA is another store I recently discovered to have a vast amount of organizational items. The excitement I felt over this little discovery was great, I can assure you! I can’t wait to plan a field trip. (And, yes, I do have field trips for myself…we have to stay young some how, right?!) The items that IKEA offers are inexpensive and yet, get the job done. SO excited!

Okay, I digress.

Once you have measured for and obtained your containers, it is time to finish up the (R)estore segment.  You will now begin to place like items in containers. We want to place things together where they make sense, according to where they are going to be used. So, if you are working in your child’s bedroom and you are creating a study station, you will want to keep all things which pertain to studying there at or nearby that station. The same idea applies no matter where you are working.

Commit to assigning items to specific “homes”. This is uber-handy when trying to establish the habit of putting things away. You won’t have to look or search for things, they already have an assigned home and maintenance will be so much easier. In other words, you won’t have to start the whole D.A.R.E. process from the beginning, you will simply have to (R)estore and (E)valuate on a much smaller scale.

A note on stations…stations are fantastic ways of creating small geo-centers within a given room. When it has come to my own children (all four of them) and to the students I teach, they all seem to respond really well to structure. So, having these smaller stations that break up their rooms into task specific areas, really helps them identify where individual items go. And clean up and maintenance is so much easier. It also helps in reducing excuse making as to why things cannot be carried. “I didn’t know where it went”, flies right out the window when an organized station is created and, often, peace is restored, because they are confidently able to carry the task of putting things away through to completion. They receive the opportunity to grow into a person who is confident about how to handle things and we, parents, are able to have a few more moments free from “Hey,  MOMMMM (or DADDD)! Where does this go?” And how sweet is it to see them walk something out confidently, knowing that they can, indeed, complete it and complete it well?

Well, I have prattled on today…(R)estoring life to an organized state takes time and patience, but you if you are willing to put in the effort and time, you will seem reformation very quickly. Just remember to be methodic about it and follow the simple instructions here.

Tomorrow, we will cover the last part of D.A.R.E. and from there we will look at a  whole slew of other organizing tasks.

Until then…scale your Everests and enjoy the fresh air of freedom from disorder!

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Well, I had hoped to get this new post up before now, so sorry for the delay, but I have stumbled onto a new resource for organizing tools that I was unaware of before now. I will share that tomorrow in the (R)estore section of the post.

For now, let’s look at organizing the spaces that your family uses which affect their (and if you are like me, possibly your own) education. The spaces that come to the forefront of my mind are backpacks, bedrooms and supply storage.

It is a given that these spaces are different, but the organization of such areas requires the same tasks! Let’s look at the acronym D.A.R.E. to find out how to tackle these areas. Today, we are looking as the first two parts of this acronym, Define and Analyze. So, let’s get started…

First, we are going to DEFINE our goals for our spaces, hence the “D”. What would you really, really like to achieve with this space? By defining what you want the end result to be, you are able to work backward to better formulate a plan of action for reaching the end goal. A goal for a space might look something like this, “I want my child’s spaces to be organized in such a way that will allow him or her to find whatever they need at any given time. I also want them to be able to easily maintain it throughout the year, so there is less stress on our relationship.”

This is a great example of a goal because it not only defines what you hope to gain physically from an organized space, but you are also identifying what is happening in your relationships when organization is not maintained. It may sound a bit odd, but this latter part is significant and incredibly important to organization. It gives flesh to the issue and helps you address the “whys” of organization with your child, so hopefully they understand better that you are not just wanting this because you are being persnickety!

Defining also helps in the sense that it aids in identifying what is not currently working and how being disorderly is affecting your life as an individual and as a family.

Another aspect of the defining process is to specifically define exactly how you want to use the space but specifically what you would like the space to contain. This becomes important when we reach the (R)estore segment because this is when we will begin to removed items that do not belong to a given space and add those items that need to be added to make the space the space that we intend it to be.

After we have set about defining our goals and the desired use of our space, we can then move on to the (A)nalyze stage of the process. It is at this stage of the process that we begin to analyze what is working and what is not in our spaces. Make very sure that you identify what is working, as this will help to spur you on when the going gets tough in the (R)estore segment.

A few examples of what is working are 1) the closet is large enough and I always keep my clothes there rather than strewn throughout the room. 2) my backpack has sufficient space and I never leave home or school without it, if you are a student or your child exhibits this valuable habit. Or, 3) you love to fold and store your clothing neatly, but you simply don’t have enough drawer space to do so. Take heart if you have examples such as these, it is a good starting point. You can use these good habits to help you defeat the bad habits.

Don’t cop out on this segment and refuse to see the good for the bad. There are ALWAYS things that are working well, even if they are seem to be few compared to what is not working. As a good friend of my family says, “Don’t through the baby out with the bath water”. Meaning, don’t toss what is good in an effort to discard what is bad. Hold onto those habits or tools available that are good and will help you get the job done.

That being said, it is incredibly important that brutal honesty is employed in both the identifying of the good and the bad. So, when dealing with the bad, resist the urge to become overwhelmed. We are simply looking at what is not working and we are going to find solutions that do! This may take some time and some trial and error, but if you keep at it, you WILL find what is very effective for you and your family.

Examples of what is not working might look something like this…1) your closet is large enough, but you do not ever return items that belong in the closet back to the closet. 2) Your closet is too small or there is not enough rod or shelf space. Or, 3) you want to be prepared so you try to pack everything and the kitchen sink in your backpack and then, can never find what you really need, so you quit using the backpack.

**Just a note on the habit of not putting things back where they belong. Many who have formed this habit  find that it creates much chaos not only in the closet but, generally speaking, all over the house! And, then, they are completely confounded and overwhelmed because they are not able to find what they need when they need it. We will deal more with creating a home for an item tomorrow in the (R)estore segment, but for now, resolve yourself to creating a home for an item and consistently putting it back when you are finished using it. You will save yourself a lot of time and potentially a lot of money and frustration in the long run.

Okay, so there you are. I hope this has encouraged you to get started, even if school has already started for your children. An organized home is a more efficient home and the people who live within its walls are more content and joyful, less frustrated. That is our ultimate goal… Happier families and better relationships.

Happy Organizing!

 


“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of  newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.” (Joe to Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail”) Folks, if I knew you, I would be tempted to do the same…that is how much I LOVE school and the year it encompasses!

Before we get started, let’s do a  little exercise. Let’s relax and take a deep breath.Yup, that’s it…inhale deeply…can’t you almost smell the crayons, construction paper, and glue? As a mother who home schools her children, Fall has always represented a time of fun, but always there are  a lot of ‘to-do’s” that make it onto my list and into my life. The list, for some, can be viewed as daunting, overwhelming. It looks something like this… Rush to Target, “shoot, what did we need?”…Rush to the grocery with not an inkling of what would be best to add to the lunch box, and let’s not even get started with the backpacks, bedrooms and clothing needs! The intentions of an organized approach were there, but not quite planned out and executed well.

I have known many a mother (and, sometimes, father) who have great intentions for overcoming the difficulties faced last year by beginning the new school year out on better footing. And, yet, Fall sneaks up like an unseen assailant and before you know it, “BAM!” the first day of school is Monday and you are scurrying the night before to get it all done. So, the school year begins as it had ended, with frazzled and tired parents and students.

But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way!

For me and my younger two children, school began last Monday. For the high school students I teach, it begins August 15th, and for my older children, their college start date is August 29th, whereas our local school district schools begin the 10th. No matter whether your start date is a few days away or a couple of weeks away, there are some things that we  can accomplish CALMLY and in an orderly fashion over the next few days or weeks.

There are a few areas which most every parent has to review before their children return to school. They are as follows: Supplies, schedules (both family and personal), clothing needs, bedrooms and study spaces.

First, let’s take inventory of what we have on hand for supplies. Very frequently, I will keep my eyes open for supplies as they go on sale or clearance throughout the year, but, of course, I have found the most cost efficient time to purchase school supplies is at the “Back to School” sales. I typically take advantage of the great prices, particularly with notebooks, ruled paper, pencils and pens at the beginning of the school year and stock up, but only if I foresee a need for them. To that end, the first place to begin is taking inventory. I have a supply closet that I have set up to keep all these items in and more. If you have a closet, shelf or other system available, begin to weed out those items that cannot be used any longer. Then, begin to assess the need items which are on the list provided by the school. Now, at this point, some of you will not have a list and that is okay. You will have enough of a list from experience to know the basics of what they will need. Begin with the basics: Paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, binders and loose leaf paper.

I have a note to share with you on the whole binder issue. A couple of years ago, I was about at my whits end with one of my children’s habits of NEVER using their binders to store their homework, assignment pages, etc. As a result, he would lose assignments, lose work he had completed or come to class without the proper necessities. I home educate, but I am not lax in these matters, nor am I a drill sergeant, but I do expect age appropriate responsibility. To this end, I HAD to get down to the underlying problem here. We would have what would seem to me like endless discussions as to his use of his binder and how important it was to utilize it as a tool and still, at the end of the day, we both would be very frustrated at his faithful insistence in not using it. Then, one day, as I was pondering the whole situation, I realized that it wasn’t that he necessarily did not want to be responsible or respectful of my wishes, but he was enough like me that when he greatly disliked something, there was a lot of resistance that came along with it. So, I asked him a simple question. “what is it about your binder that you cannot stand?” His eyes lit up as if to say, “EUREKA! She FINALLY sees!” and he told me that he cannot stand two things, one, the binders were cumbersome and two, his papers were often ripped when he was leafing through those few pages he did put in them. His solution…just don’t use it. It wasn’t effective in his life. The problem was, he needed at tool that was. Now equipped with understanding him better, I purchased an accordian file with twelve sections. He was able to use notebooks or loose leaf, assign a course name to the appropriate section, carry with him a planner where he recorded his assignments, as well, a supply pouch that housed his calculator, pencils and pens. Problem solved. It has been two years since we made the change and to date we have had very, very few hiccups to the system. He has a tool that doesn’t make him crazy and provides a solution to both of our needs…he turns his homework in on time.

Once you have the appropriate supplies, they can set up their backpacks (with assistance if the children are younger). If you have more than they need at the time, you can begin to set up your storage solution for the extra supplies.

Tomorrow, we will deal with how to tackle backpacks, storage areas and bedrooms in preparation for the school year.