Tag Archive: organizing



In the last post, I posted an idea or two about filing solutions that could help our children keep track of their schoolwork. But what about filing solutions that help¬†parents keep track of their children’s work as it is brought home (or turned in, if you are a home educator).

When my children were much younger and attending public school, it seemed like my life was inundated with their paperwork, art projects, and permission slips. Does that sound familiar? ūüôā ¬†I thought, perhaps, when we decided to bring them home in order to home educate them that it would be different, that somehow, that pile of paperwork would disappear, or at the very least, lessen. After eight years, it hasn’t. Granted, there are no longer macaroni art pieces to be hung, but as I write this, my younger daughter (who is 14), has taken it upon herself to create “slime”. You’ve got it…SLIME! A budding kitchen chemist…Now, I ask YOU…How am I to file THAT piece of artwork?! As the ideas I am about to share with you, just will not do the job. So, seriously, if you have any ideas, let me know!

Okay, the way I managed our children’s files when they were younger, was that each was assigned a particular color. Three sets of colored files lined our file boxes, representing each of our children. Each child had a file for art work, finished schoolwork, permission slips and the last held notes from the teachers and friends, as well as their grade cards.

At the end of each week, we would go over the first two files and each of the kiddos would pick out two school assignments and two pieces of artwork they would like to keep. My husband and I would also choose two items from each that we would like to keep (if our preferences differed from our children’s) and these, too, would be lain aside. We would also place report cards, friends notes, or encouraging or comical notes from the teacher in the protective sleeves.

The rest are disposed of. I know this sounds harsh, heartbreaking, horrible and all the other synonyms that mete out this idea, but think about it. I have four children. The younger three, at this point, were still in elementary and middle school. If I had kept each and every piece of paper they brought home throughout their educational careers, my entire home would now be filled with boxes! What an overwhelming thought! It is hard to enjoy that which overwhelms, right? So, we chose the best of the best.

With the choices made, we slipped them into protective sleeves and placed them in binders where they would be stored. ¬†At the end of the school year, we typically had 1-2 binders for each child. For those macaroni art pieces, take photographs of them, print them and then place in the protective sleeve. I completely understand the desire to keep them. I have kept some “one of a kinds” that just needed to be kept as the original. For those, I framed them and they still line our upstairs hallway. However, think about this. Each time these pieces of artwork are taken out and viewed, the risk of damage is increased and then, we can’t completely enjoy it, whenever we would like, either. With a filed photograph, you can!

This is how I have chosen to deal with the schoolwork, even now that I home educate.

As a side note, I know many mothers who scrapbook their children’s work at given times during the month. I think it is a fabulous idea if you have the ability to work that into your schedule. I think it would be a beautiful tribute to the work of our children. I, too, would like to do that, but for the time being, I have not had time to do that, so I have stuck with the binder system. Hopefully, when I am no longer a full-time student and instructor, I will get around to it.

I look forward to that day!

In the meantime, I will share some fun find links…

Here is a post from Megan and Jake at “The Nerd Nest”, where there are photos posted that perfectly represent the system I use. Their link is¬†http://thenerdnest.com/2011/11/elizas-school-work-scrapbook.html

The scrapbook idea offered toward the end can be seen here by Beth from the blog site, “It Is What It Is”.

While Erin, at the Sunny Side up Blog, has some great pics of a similar file box system that I use. I like her colors better than my own though. I have mahogany boxes and while they work, they are just not as fun! By the way, she has some great scrapbooking ideas, as well, for those of you who would like that next step. 

Happy Organizing, ladies (and gents…should you choose to join us! ūüôā )

We will see you next post!

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In the garden…


One of my favorite places to be is in my garden. And, with Spring coming to an end and Summer time making its way to this Central California hamlet, it is time for be to do some maintenance in my garage, which is where I store all of my garden tools. 

I was perusing Pinterest, again, this morning and found some really creative ways to store larger garden tools, as well as some of the smaller ones. At the moment, I have a stand that holds all of my long handled tools, but I really, really liked the cleaner, more effective way this Pinterest user stores hers…So, I will be implementing her idea very, very soon. This method does not only provide a cleaner “finish” for your storage area, you won’t have to wrestle with those long handled tools as much, which is an irritating problem I face with my current system. 

So, here we are…I hope this idea will make your time in your garden even more special and sweet and that you will create a beautiful refuge to spend summer and maybe, even into Autumn!

 


I don’t know about you, but when I begin to look at all there is to DO in 2012, my head begins to swim with all the excitement (for the fun stuff!). But along with the fun, there is some confusion in the areas of life I am contemplating taking up or laying down; then, there are some areas where I am downright gasping for air at the sheer magnitude of them!

That being said, I am the kind of chic who guffaws at a challenge, simply because I can. I may laugh loudly at the road that lies ahead, but that does not mean there are not moments when my palms feel like they are leaking Lake Eerie! This dichotomy within myself, puts me in mind of a time when traveling that we decided to go to the !Explora! in Albuquerque, NM. For those who are innately curious, it is a divine little place. One can look, touch, read, experiment, etc. with all kinds of things.  Like I said, divine.

At any rate, on an upper level of Explora! there is a sweet little ‘attraction’ called the “High-Wire Bike”. The whole concept of the exhibit is to demonstrate the capabilities and importance of counter balances. The exhibit is two stories up and involves a “loading station”, a¬†cable which runs across the length of the upper level, and a bicycle equipped with a counterbalance perched blithely upon said cable.

If you decide, in fact, that you want to become a living participant in the experiment, you line up in queue, and wait for your turn. When that decisive moment arrives, the fearless (or fearful) creature that you are climbs out onto the seat of the bicycle. To begin the experiment is very simple, you begin to pedal backward across the wire. Yes, it is very simple, but I left out one little, tiny detail… there is no net to catch you, should the bike flip…no net to catch you should you decide to bail…no net!

I am a curious creature by nature and love the idea of adventure. I love going to new places, seeing new things, delightful things, mind you, and I love to see if I can succeed at various things. Yet, at the heart of this adventure lover, there are two sides warring. The fearless side that says, “Just do it! You will be finnnneeeee….” then,¬†¬†the much more practical side, which needs ALLL the answers before I am inclined to move. Well, I can assure you that the practical side of me was looking at the fact that there was no net, while I stood in queue for my turn. Hence, the waters of Lake Eerie began to flow forth from my palms, my heartbeat hastened, debating just how sound I might be, if I climbed onto that bike! All the while, the other side of me screamed, “Quit being afraid of everything and DO it! Look, it has a counterbalance that has been proven to work! Just do it! You will regret it if you don’t.”

To make a long story a bit shorter, I climbed on that blasted bike, was properly strapped in, and began the journey backward with no sight. I couldn’t turn around and check my progress, though even if I had, I am sure that I would have been distracted by the fact that I was stories in the air, pedaling a bike on a cable! Moving backward, the pedaling seemed a bit more strenuous than I would have expected and the bike wobbled. I looked at all the people below me moving around in miniature and tried very hard not to think about the lack of netting.

Finally, I hit the natural stop at the end of the cable that signaled that I had reached the wall on the other side of the building. With a sigh of relief, (after all, I had made it halfway) I began to pedal forward.

If I was concerned about the backward pedaling being a tad strenuous, it is safe to say, I was terrified about the ease of forward propulsion!! The pedaling was much easier, much faster and A LOT more wobbly. Torrents poured from my hands and beads of sweat made their appearance upon the bridge of my nose and I prayed all the more fervently that I would, indeed, arrive safely back at the station.

What seemed like an eternity passed as bike and rider found their way back to the dock. Trembling inwardly, I dismounted and rejoined my family who had witnessed the whole episode. My darling husband, upon whom I had kept my eyes locked the whole time; my children and nieces and nephews, some of whom had laughingly reminded me of my impending doom during my adventure on the high-wire, all welcomed me back.

As some of them decided to take their chances upon the high-wire, I began to catalogue what it had meant for me to jump into the line in the first place and then, climb onto the seat. In the end, I realized that for me to be willing to climb aboard for the adventure, I had to have had more trust in their system than I had of distrust. Could it have been disastrous? I suppose it could have been. But, in the end, it wasn’t. Their point was proven. The counterbalance worked; it had kept me upright and alive.

So. What does all of this have to do with organizing one’s life and all the things that we may take on in the year 2012?

Well, for me, it means that I need to look at those things that offer a nice counterbalance to the weight of responsibility. While I am making my list of “to do’s” for 2012, I need to be aware of what makes me fearful and if it is a fear of God or a fear that is otherwise placed. If it is a fear based upon anything other than serving the Lord, then I know that I will miss out on some great and exciting opportunities. However, if I seek Him and ask for His wisdom, then I will have some wonderful ¬†adventures. They may make my palms leak, and, at times, make my heart palpitate, but when I look back at them, I will be able to say, “WOW! Look at what You brought through and TO, Lord! How fantastic!”

We are all called to live responsible lives and, for that, I am thankful. But remember as you are looking at what you would like to accomplish this year, that trust, peace, and joy need to intertwine with that responsibility. Are some of our responsibilities and callings scary? Sure. But, in the end, if we trust the One who called us to them, the peace and joy will follow.

What are some of the things that beckon you in 2012? Do they make you weak with ungodly fear? Or do they make your heart sing with excitement? If you look to Christ and ask if it is safe, jump on that proverbial bike and start to pedal. It doesn’t matter that you cannot see all the way around, HE DOES! He will get you from point A to point B. Keep your eyes upon Him, and the benefits and joys that He gives that counterbalance that fear. Go out in the strength of Christ and do the good works He has prepared for you ahead of time.

This year, I am looking to finishing my degree, to paint more with my younger daughter, cook more with my older one; sing with my younger son and play  more chess with my older one. I am, also,  looking to build a bigger business with my husband. Some of these things are pure joy, some are scary, but I am on the bike, nonetheless.

Are you on the bike? What will you do in 2012, that will challenge and fulfill you?


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!


“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.