Keeping up with all the papers children bring home from school can be a full time job. Having a good system to manage homework, artwork and school correspondence is crucial to keeping your child (and yourself) organized during the busy school year. I keep a file for each of my children with a label for the grade that they are in. Important papers that come home from school go into this folder. At the end of the year, my child and I go through the folder together to determine what papers should be kept and what can go. It’s a fun project to do together in the summer reflecting on the past school year. I keep a box that the folder goes into every year. This way, the keepsakes are organized chronologically.
Artwork is the trickiest of all papers to organize because it doesn’t usually fit into a file folder or box. Sometimes artwork can be forced to fit by trimming the picture and saving only the best section as you see in the photo above. Another way is to take a photo of the artwork and keep it in the current year’s file. The artwork can also be stored digitally. One company that makes a beautiful artwork keepsake book is The Little Author or even a digital photo book from Shutterfly can be used. Keeping artwork on display (within reason) helps your child to know their work is appreciated, but keeping too much can cause clutter and chaos. Reevaluate from time to time which artwork to keep displayed, and remember, if you keep too much you can’t find what’s really important!
Laundry is an unavoidable drudgery, so getting it done quickly and efficiently is a must. Here are some tips to process laundry promptly.
Sort it out.
Rather than putting all of the laundry into one hamper, sort it as you go with these terrific laundry sorters from Sterilite. They’re a great time saver–when one fills up, you can throw a load in right away. Eliminate the hassle of sorting like colors into piles on the floor (which sometime stay there longer than they should). Sort and wash as you go.
Do it often.
Laundry may be your least favorite task, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets. Make it a small part of your daily routine rather than that monkey-on-your-back that will eventually consume a full day.
Connect the socks.
Sorting socks can be a big time zapper. Ask family members to tie socks together or put them in a mesh hosiery wash bag so they stay together. Toss any loose socks into a container and have each person reclaim their own. If they don’t like doing it this way, maybe they’ll choose to start using a wash bag or putting them into the laundry connected.
Make the best of the space you’re in.
If possible, add shelving, counters, cabinets and bright lighting in your laundry area. If doing laundry means going into a dark dungeon, you are going to put it off. Consider moving the machines upstairs or even into a walk-in closet.
Hang it up.
Putting clothes back onto hangers is time consuming. Save time by waiting to hang up clothes until you’re in the closet. Just fold them over the side of the laundry basket and do the hanging up when you’re in the closet.
Organize your closet.
It’s hard to put laundry away into an overly stuffed closet. Go through every item of clothing (good to do at least twice per year) and determine what can be eliminated. The more room you have to put things back, the easier it will be to get the laundry done.
Hand it off.
Enlist the whole family when it comes to laundry. If kids are not of the age to do their own, they may be able to at least put it away. Sort each persons laundry into baskets and hand them off. The more you can delegate, the less you’ll have on your own plate!
Today is my daughter Alissa’s 9th birthday, so on this day, I thought I’d share a gift I give my kids on their birthdays so they will remember the past year. I make an annual digital photo album for each of them. The album goes from birthday to birthday and highlights all the adventures of the year. I use Shutterfly.com to make the books. I love the new Custom Path option because it allows you to create a unique custom scrapbook and it’s easy. The only thing that’s required is taking the time to sit with it and follow along. I think the biggest stumbling block for people is picking which photos to use in the book, that is, if you are taking photos, if not, maybe this will inspire you to start! You can always get the pictures in order or create a book, but there’s only one chance to take a picture of a particular event. Once the photos are uploaded into your computer, just drag the favorites from the year into a new album. Edit and crop your pictures, then go to the website and upload them. If you want some help making your own album, our organizers are happy to assist you. Here’s what Alissa’s 8th year looks like:
It’s that crazy time of year when kids sporting activities are in full swing. Here’s what our organizer Lara does to keep all the different sporting activities organized in her busy household:
My family is involved in multiple sports per person including soccer, baseball, basketball, softball, football and tennis. Recently, our mudroom, which is really a hallway, was completely over taken by sports bags and shoes. I’m a firm believer in having a bag for every sport or activity including music lessons, Sunday School and library books. Our household seems to have a lot of grab and go days. Inside each sports bag, there is a check list including items such as equipment, uniform, water bottle and shoes. Get Buttoned Up makes a great checklist notepad.
It is my child’s responsibility to check that the bag is stocked for each practice or game.
When we could no longer store all of the bags in the mudroom, I found a sturdy, easy to assemble chrome shelving unit from Home Depot. It is at the foot of the basement steps. For about $100, I’ve saved my sanity and the sporting equipment has a new home. Our mudroom can now be a place for school backpacks, lunch boxes, coats and shoes.
If you have children–you have artwork, and one piece at a time it can snowball and become overwhelming. Kids come home from school every day with papers, drawings, paintings, etc… You need to be selective about what is kept and what is tossed. If you keep too much, you will be lost in a sea of paper and artwork where nothing will seem appealing any more.
You must also have a good system in place for keeping kid’s artwork. Dynamic Frames is a good solution for displaying children’s art. It has a well designed frame that can hold up to 50 sheets. You simply open the front part of the frame and add your artwork. With DynamicFrames.com you can organize and display the masterpieces your children bring home.
Today’s Friday Favorite is the Command Hook from 3M. They are functional and attractive hooks that our organizers use and recommend frequently. These easy to use and removable hooks help make use of vertical wall space absolutely anywhere. The Command Hooks by 3M are not only good looking hooks, they are also completely removable with no damage to the walls. I use them in my mudroom. When the kids were little, I placed the hooks at an appropriate height so they could hang up their own coats as soon as they were able—it’s great to get them in that habit as soon as possible! Another great use for command hooks is in a closet or a bathroom—especially with kids—hanging towels, robes etc… at the appropriate height allows them to start taking the responsibility of putting their own things away. Apartment buildings, office space, teacher’s classrooms, there’s many places that having a removable, non damaging hook can come in handy. You can purchase Command Hooks at The Container Store or online at Amazon.com.
The unofficial end of summer is upon us as we approach Labor Day weekend. Kids are back to school and all schedules are amping up. Now is a good time to take a look at your household schedule and make sure smooth systems are in place. In the Friel household we use electronic calendars and sync them with our phones, but not everyone is old enough to have a phone or use the electronic calendar. So I keep a daily events calendar on a dry erase board in our mudroom/back entryway. This is a great way for everyone in the house (wired or not) to know what’s going on. You may choose to show a week at a time, that can work well too. I’ve just been in the habit of writing out the activities daily. When schedules get really busy you may opt for a daily view and during slower times you can switch it to weekly. That’s the beauty of having a plain white dry erase board, make it whatever you want–if it’s a special day, you may just want to save it for a big, “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations”. However you use it, a dry erase board prominently placed near the most used entry of your home is a great way to help keep your family and their schedules organized.
Below is an article written by our client BJ Marshall about her experience with Chaos To Order and how she not only got more organized, but she found the ultimate bargain in doing so!
Bargain hunting is a borderline-addiction for me. There’s nothing like scoring a deal on something I love (or even just like a lot). In fact, my husband officially banned me from the TAG Warehouse Sale after the year I had to make two trips to fit it all in the car.
This summer, I discovered the mother of all bargains—finding something you already own but didn’t know you had. Snagging this great bargain took a lot of hard work, though. And it involved one of my most dreaded household tasks: organizing.
A couple of years ago, I saw a show about an environmentalist who worked for the City of Chicago and lived an extraordinarily green lifestyle. What impressed me most was not the “gray water” system in his home, in which the water he used to brush his teeth made its way to the toilet for a second use. It wasn’t the fact that his wife used cut up cloths as baby wipes. It was his storage closet. read more…
During the hectic months of summer we are busy coming and going from one place to the next. Your mudroom or back entryway is heavily used and should have systems in place to make an easy transition from the outside to the inside or vice versa. Go to that space and think about what you need there. A place to hang your keys? A calendar with activities? Bulletin board? My family spends alot of time at the pool, so when the coats come off the coat hooks, the beach towels go on. I love the photo of the mudroom shown because it’s really a makeshift space that you can put in any hallway. Even the space along side the stairs is used to hang hats and place a chalkboard (I prefer a dry erase board) Make sure the area is seasonal, meaning winter coats, hats, etc… are stowed somewhere out of the way. Maybe you like to plan picnics in the summer, get the picnic basket out of storage and keep it handy. Are you bringing the kids to the beach ofter? Sand toys in a mesh bag can easily hang on a hook. Anything you can do to make the space more functional and current to the season is going to help you to transition from home to away and back again more easily.
In order to have an organized space, you need to have a place to put all of the items you have. I have an 8 year old daughter who loves art, reading and playing with a multitude of “little” things. We moved into our house when she was two and the space was perfect for her then, but as she has grown, so has the accumulation of stuff!
Since I’m always talking to other people about how to put their own stuff in order, it was time for me to practice what I preach with my daughter. Her room seemed to be a sufficient in size, but the problem now was where to put things. Remember, if you want easy access and organization, everything needs a place to belong. Clean up time is a whole lot easier when you know exactly where to put things. So we decided to remove a dresser on one wall and replace it with a desk, but not just a desk because, after all, how much stuff is going to fit into three drawers of a little desk? I consulted with my friend and awesome designer at Closet Works—Sue Tinker. We decided to create a desk surrounded by bookshelves, not just for her books, but also for her many knick knacks and collectables. In addition to the desk, bookshelves and drawers, we also added space for a bulletin board to hang the most recent drawings and creations. The result was the desk in this photo, she and I both love it. My daughter now has the perfect place to sit and color, read, create etc… and I have the perfect storage solution to finally organize all of her “little” things!
Being organized is all about having the habits in place to maintain order. Being disorganized is all about having habits in place that inhibit maintaining order. As you go about your day, stop yourself and ask, “Am I finishing tasks that I begin?” I happen to be easily distracted and have to work hard to complete tasks. My husband is a task master, when he starts a project, nothing can stop him until it’s complete and every piece is properly put away. I, on the other hand, get distracted at a moments notice. I can fly from one thing to another without a second thought. I have to work to remind myself that I’ll be so much better off if I take the time to put everything away when I finish. I’ve used this quote with my children since they were very small, it’s a constant reminder to me and to them, “finish one project before you start another”.
If you want to create habits to help yourself become more organized, read my blog post, “How To Create A Habit”. Living organized is all about having the habits in place and the discipline to maintain them–much easier said than done!
Although I’m answering the questions from our eBay Classified Twitter Chats about organizing with kids, I wanted to make this one more general because so many people live with or work with a clutter bug and it can be a tough dynamic. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
They don’t see the clutter like you do. Do you wonder how your kids can walk right over their dirty clothes, or throw their backpack in the middle of the entryway and leave it there? They just don’t see it the same and it doesn’t matter to them the way it matters to you. Speak with them about the clutter in a positive way and acknowledge how you see it differently.
Give them plenty of alternatives. They will probably not want to organize it the same way you do. If they have several options (like hooks vs. hangers or open baskets vs. bins with lids) and different ideas, something may click.
Be flexible. The other person may not want to organize things to the same degree that you want it done. Remember to praise even the smallest signs of orderliness. Be encouraging because being a nag will get you nowhere (Can you tell I have teenagers LOL)!
Kids follow by example. They may walk behind you like a tornado cluttering everything in their path, but if they see you putting things away, they will eventually start to model this behavior. Does that mean that they’ll start cleaning up after themselves when they’re 3, probably not, but you’ll improve your chances of this happening if you make it easy for them to clean up and put things away. Place hooks low so it’s easy to hang up jackets or even clothes in their closet. Have bins accessible and organized with only the toys they currently play with. If you keep too many things out, it provides opportunity for your child to make more of a mess, thus more for you to clean up. Regular decluttering and weeding out with children is very important. Let them know, if they want a new toy, they need to donate or sell an old toy. Modeling this behavior with your own stuff will teach your children how to do the same.
We had a some great conversations at our Ebay Classified Twitter Chat last night. There were many questions that I did not get to fully answer, so I thought I would post the Q&A; here on the blog for all to read, respond and put into action if possible.
So the best age to start teaching kids about organization? What ever age your kids are is the best age to start! Your kids will model your behavior, especially when they are very young. As they get older, they will push your limits on everything including the level of organization of their room etc. As the parent, you set the bar. If you expect it neat, you will need to make it easy for them to keep a neat room. This may mean keeping less stuff in the room for them to mess up. Adding bins and hooks to easily place things in so that maintaining order is easy.
Once person tweeted in that they think they’ve waited too long because their 11 year old daughter was very disorganized. It’s never too late, many of us struggle with different organizational issues throughout our lives. Encourage her, help her get in to a place where she is able to maintain it. The more positive you make the process and show the benefits of an organized lifestyle, the more likely she will be to follow suit.