It's back to school time and I'm *mopily packing away the beach towels and flip-flops, and pulling out backpacks. Getting ready for the perpetual motion of the school year means getting organized!
This is not a blog about home organization.
If you saw my house on any given day, you would understand why. I am not an organized by nature... but with a big family- some semblance of organization is a necessity. I'd like to share some simple tips for keeping your kids' stuff where it belongs and out of your way. I probably did not invent these ideas, but I've put them to the test and been pleased with the results. I've read many books on organization and would recommend A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family if you are looking for more detailed help in this area.
- Consider making a "mud room". Our mud room was a small formal dining area near our front door. It houses our piano on one wall, and a wide bench on the other. Bins for the children's shoes are lined up under the bench. When kids walk in, they take off their shoes and throw them in their bin. Children heading out the door have a place to stop, put on shoes and gather their things. During the school year we hang up backpacks, the library bag, umbrellas, jackets and hats on the hooks above the bench. In the summer we hang the swim bag, swimsuits and towels on these same hooks. Once a week one of my four-year-olds has the chore of spraying the inside of every shoe with Lysol. My three-year-old helps by pulling out the shoes and lining them up. It keeps the mud room smelling nice, and keeps two preschoolers busy for an hour. Priceless.
- Store items by category... not by kid. I currently have four children playing soccer. That means 4 balls, sets of shin pads, cleats, uniforms, etc. It's a lot to keep up with, and having a bag for each child's stuff seemed overwhelming. This year I bought ONE giant mesh bag at a sporting goods store for $5. EVERYTHING soccer goes in that bag (except uniforms, which I keep in a basket in the laundry room). When the kids climb in the van after practice they immediately take off their pads and cleats and toss it all in the bag. This system also sets up some great Parenting with Love and Logic. If you're missing your cleats it can only mean one thing... you didn't put them in the bag. And if you didn't put your cleats in the bag... it looks like you will be practicing in crocs.
- Label with last name, not first. I had a jean jacket in elementary school. I loved it. But it said "Doug" (my older brother's name) in permanent marker on the inside label. 5th grade was awkward enough for me without be nicknamed "Doug". Do your hand-me-down-wearing-kids a favor, and label items with your last name. Ebay has inexpensive personalized iron-on labels I use for jackets, sweaters, blanket-lovies, etc. I have my phone number put on the labels too. When I'm fostering, I go ahead and order each child labels with their first names. Practical? Maybe not. But it's worth the effort for a foster child to feel they have ownership of their belongings.
- Trash it before it lands is my motto about papers sent home from school. Graded papers. Permission papers. Coloring papers. Most of them are trash. But if I don't sort through and toss papers as they come in... I'm quickly overwhelmed and frantically digging through a mound of papers for one permission slip so my third grader can stop weeping and go on her field trip to the zoo. We have a routine to prevent this: I sit at the head of the table with my kids each day after school, my trusty trash can by my side, and sort through the papers while my kids eat snack and tell me about their day. But what about that sweet drawing? Or wonderful poem? Items like this can live on the fridge for a week. At the end of a week I either toss them, or decide they are keepsake material and file them away.
- Hooks are one of the least appreciated home organizational tools available. They're great for backpacks... but don't stop there! Do you find wet towels on the bathroom floor? Install a hook on the back of the bathroom door for each child and have them hang wet towels there. My little ones hang their blankets and robes on a hook at the end of bed. My older girls have COUNTLESS hooks in their closet for purses, belts and bags. We have a hook on the inside of our linen closet for dog leashes, and another hook for their little doggy coats and sweaters (Okay, my dogs don't wear sweaters, but that would be cute in a Martha Stewart sort of way). Remember to choose hooks that have rounded ends, and hang them in places where no one can get snagged/impaled by them.
- Have less stuff. It's really the only key to having less clutter. Instead of buying more books visit the library. Instead of giving your child a scooter or roller blades, have them borrow or trade with a neighbor. Sharing more and owning less builds a healthier lifestyle and sense of community as well.
*Spellcheck says "mopily" isn't a word. It should be. Here it means "to perform a task or action in a mopey way".