Where Do I Put My Homeschool Stuff: Tip #5 Let it Go!

Having a dumpster here for our kitchen remodel provided a good incentive to declutter.
We pretty much filled this 30' beast.

Just where do we keep all the homeschool books, papers, binders, office supplies, old curricula that might be handy some day, and all that other good stuff? Here's what I've written so for:

Tip #1 Start by using what you already have (storage containers, furniture, etc.)

Tip #2  A crate for each student

Tip #3 Think vertically!

Tip #4 Hide it in plain sight!

But there's more to managing our stuff than finding the optimal place for everything. Because...

Tip #5: You don't have to hang on to every finished workbook, completed curriculum, outgrown manipulatives, and every single essay and piece of artwork your children have created. Pass it on to a friend, donate it, sell it, or throw it away!

Writing this last tip feels a tad hypocritical. I am a saver by nature. Plus we have a lot of storage room. So, if I think I might need "it" someday, I tend to hang on to used curricula, curricula I've reviewed but never used, manipulatives, record books, and on and on.

But in recent years I'm making progress with divesting. And I'm finding out just how freeing this is.

If you are like me, though, you are thinking, "BUT...
- it might come in handy some day!
- I want to be frugal
- it is such good material!
- these things are my children's mementos
- this is the result of my blood poured out in teaching our children (That's my husband's explanation)

If, like me, you think along those lines, there's more to consider.

First -  Clutter causes stress!

Plus it is distracting and just plain unattractive. I find it difficult to sit down and read aloud to my children (or work with them on grammar or Latin) when the surroundings are filled with out-of-place items or just too much stuff.

Clutter makes me feel like I need to get up and tidy things instead of sitting with a son who is having trouble understanding how to factor polynomials.

Clutter means I spend more time taking care of stuff and less taking care of people. And homeschool clutter is no different.

Less really is less.

The best way to be more organized is to have less stuff to manage. Find the best spot for everything you do keep, and make sure it always gets back to its home. One of the great side-benefits from our recent kitchen remodel is that it forced me to evaluate every single item and decide if it was still worth keeping or not, and if so to find the optimal spot to house it.

Here are some things I've found helpful in letting go of things.

1. Why am I saving this anyway?

Every year bring more finished workbooks, lapbooks, binders filled with writing samples, timelines, and so on.

I used to keep EVERYTHING of this sort boxed up on our basement storage shelves. Maybe some day a truant officer would want to see proof that my children really were busily working in 1991. (Yeah, right!)

But we've been at this a l-o-n-g time, and our shelves started groaning with all those boxes, so I became more selective. But still it was too much.

And then I asked myself, just why was I saving all of this anyway? Like my future daughters-in-law are going to want to take boxes of their husband's elementary school work? Come on!

Here's how I deal with it now.

At the end of each school year I sort through everyone's work, saving only a few samples. Often I've put together one family binder showing samples of work of all the under-high school children. More importantly, I keep an academic file for each child and record year end evaluations, lists of books read and poetry and Scripture memorized, and a summary of the course of study for that year in all areas. It's just a few pages per child each year. Those are the only records I actually end up revisiting. (I do record keeping differently for the high schoolers.) And then I purge all the workbooks, binder contents, etc. If I can't bear to toss something, I still box it up and date the box. The next summer, I go through that box again, and by then I can usually part with the contents.

2. Take the "40 Bags in 40 Day" challenge.
The idea behind this challenge, popular on Catholic blogs, is to get rid of one bag of clutter each day for the 40 days of Lent. Each day you'll tackle a different area of your house.

I've not done this challenge for 40 consecutive days, or even at that time of year, but when I started keeping track of the amount of stuff I was throwing out, I found it very motivating. At the White House Black Shutters blog you can find helpful forms for knowing where to start and for keeping track of your progress.

3. Keep things you use frequently somewhere can access them readily. Things you aren't ready to get rid of, put in deeper storage. Then revisit those items once a year or so and see if they are still important.

My deep storage is in the basement. And yes, there are a number of times when I head down there for some material we used long ago, but which might just fit the need of a child (or a friend's child) who needs to approach a topic from a different direction. For others deep storage might be in the attic, under the stairs,  or even under beds. Just don't put things there and never pull them out to reevaluate their usefulness.

Being willing to part with material I've enjoyed using with my children, things I "might use again some day," or the products my children have created doesn't some naturally to me. But as I remind myself that all these things are all going to burn some day, it sure becomes easier!

Luke 12: 15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."


Grace said…
Thank you, Anne! This is so helpful, as always!

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