Category Archives: organization

Room for Learning

Our days are structured around learning, so it is no surprise that the #1 factor in choosing our new house was (for me anyway) the place where we would “do school.”  Now, to be fair, our work happens all over the house, and much of it doesn’t look like school at all.  However, when I saw this sunroom, I envisioned cups of tea, good books, finger paintings, and sunshine.  Here is how our “school room” looks when it is all tidied up and ready to go.

You pass through the French doors to enter the sunroom.  The sweet rocking horse was given to us by the house’s previous owner.  She said that it was enjoyed by her children and made by her sister.  I love having it in our school room.

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We already owned the loveseat, and it fits perfectly at one end of the room.  To give you a sense of the size of our room, it is only a little wider (maybe three feet) than the loveseat itself.

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The big school table is actually a “retired” library table with two big drawers at the front.  I love that it came from an honest-to-goodness library.  We adopted it from a friend, and it couldn’t be more perfect for our purposes.  Bins beneath the table hold our books and supplies.  The wool, braided tote on the radiator holds our percussion instruments.

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The flowered tin is my sticker box from when I was a child.  I still have stickers in it from when I was six or seven years old, plus many new additions.  The little metal buckets are from the Target dollar bin. 

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The wonderful owl puppet was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from my parents when he was four.  He adored it when he was little, and the owl still brings a bit of charming wisdom to our days.  The alphabet puzzle is a Melissa and Doug toy from Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake.

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We love to use magazines in our homeschool.  We typically use National Geographic Kids and Highlights.  The microscope is a “talking microscope” that we really enjoy.  It was a gift from my in-laws, and it is used very frequently!  The books are ones that we are using currently.  We did a unit on the library.  We’re slowly reading through the Little House books, and you’ll notice our Story of the World (Volume 2) history book and the accompanying activity book, plus some fables and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories, perfect for spring.

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This board is the Everyday Display from Creative Memories.  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I’ve seen them on Ebay for good prices.  The board is magnetic.  We made the rainbows  for a unit on refraction and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

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I hope you enjoyed your tour of our sunroom.  We love it!

Let’s Get Organized {Week #1}

Oh yes!  Oh yes!  It’s time to report on my organizing project.  Week #1 went really well.  I’m so pleased that I actually followed through.  Now, I’m not saying that I absolutely reached my goal in its entirety.  Sadly, no, but I did make great progress.

I gave myself the assignment of organizing our four downstairs closets–entryway closet, pantry, livingroom closet, and laundry closet.  The entryway closet was a mish-mash of many odds and ends.  If we didn’t know where an item should go, it went in the entryway.  I wanted this closet to be a sort of “landing zone” for things that go in and out of the house often.  I wanted to know where backpacks were located before the morning rush.  The boys know to put their shoes by the front door, but the shoes were usually in a crazy pile somewhere near the closet.  Here is what the closet looked like before:

And here is my AFTER…drum roll…

I bought hooks for the backpacks and my purse.  They cost $1.20 per hook.  I spent $5.00 on corkboard.  The money bought me four 12 x 12 pieces, and I only used one in this space.  The hanging shoe organizer was in the boys’ room, and it wasn’t being used.  One little plastic wrestler was hangin’ out in there, so I snitched the organizer for the closet.  The tan bin on the shelf has outdoor toys in it.  I found the bin in our garage–not being used.  I would like to buy something to hold the dog food, but it can wait.  I turned the box lids on the shelf into paper sorts for the boys’ school papers and art work.

Here’s our pantry:

Our pantry was sparce but sloppy.  Painting supplies were tossed in there, along with plastic shopping bags and loose papers.  Now, it looks like this:

(I have several more pantry pictures, but they won’t post.  Grr…)

I made little labels for the shelves.  I cleared out the rest of the closet to the right.  That’s the home of our sweeper and steam mop now.  I also made a family emergency kit with candles and matches.  I plan to add bottled water, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a few other things.

The laundry closet was a really easy fix.  I want to show you what happened there, but my camera battery died before I took my “After” shot.  I’ll save that reveal for next week.  The livingroom closet is not complete.  We need to buy some shelving, and it just isn’t in the budget right now.  J and I organized the toys though, so that’s definitely progress!

I planned to organize the boys’ room this week, but I’ve decided to bump up the master bedroom to the top of the list.  We’ve barely even moved into our master bedroom.  It is basically a bed, a dresser, and mess of boxes, bins, and baskets.  Time to fix that!  {I’m editing last week’s post to reflect the change.}

Are you organizing along with me?  If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out my pre-organizing post here.

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?