Do you consistently find yourself with more to-do’s than time? If you’ve tried routines and schedules and planners and you’re still not organized, you’ll want to try time boxing. I love it!
How I’ve Organized Time in My Homeschool
FLYLady wasn’t a homeschooler, but in my early homeschooling years she introduced me to the idea that I needed routines. My plan was putting out fires. I handled whichever baby screamed the loudest. I learned that I needed to do the same things in the same order every day. Sure, there were interruptions, but the basic pattern created peace in my home.
I still use routines and talked with FLYLady about the power of routines in homeschooling in an episode of The Homeschool Sanity Show. But when I added more children and more students to my homeschool, I decided I needed more than just routines; I needed a schedule. Managers of Their Homes showed me how mothers of many could homeschool and parent and have a life, too. Time had to be allotted for it. I created the perfect schedule. But I forgot that my family is far from perfect. The schedule never really worked. It felt too constraining. So I started using what I called anchor points along with my routines. There was the noon anchor point by which the majority of my teaching should be done. There was the 5:00 p.m. anchor point at which time I needed to start dinner. Then there was the 8:00 p.m. anchor time which was when I wanted to have the kids in bed. I was usually disappointed in that one.
Today I have more scheduling in my day than I did years ago. Scheduling can be very effective if you don’t resist it. But I find that the more I schedule, the more resistance I feel. I like freedom and I suspect many homeschoolers are the same. Fortunately, routines and schedules aren’t the only options when it comes to organizing your homeschool day. Time boxing is another option and it’s flexible and effective.
What Time Boxing Is
Time boxing is a list of tasks you’d like to complete in a day, together with the amount of time you plan to spend on each. Unlike a routine, a time boxing list will be different every day. The list can be arranged in order of how you would like to complete tasks, but unlike a schedule, can be easily changed as you go through your day. A list for a homeschooler may look something like this:
Bible time – 30 mins.
History – 15 mins.
Read Aloud – 15 mins.
Raking leaves – 30 mins.
Tutoring Time – 60 mins.
Break – 30 mins.
Organizing – 15 mins.
You decide to do one of these tasks first and set a timer. When time is up, you can either wait to start another task or move on to the next one of your choice. When you’ve finished the list, you’re done for the day.
Tips for Using Time Boxing to Organize Your Homeschool
Use an app. The Sloth (iOS) and Do Now (Android) apps make it easy and motivating to keep track of your tasks for the day. You can easily rearrange the task order, start and stop the timer, and mark tasks complete. I love having my task list with me on my phone. I’m easily distracted!
Don’t include routines. If you already have morning time in which you do the same things in the same order, don’t put them on your time boxing list. Instead, make a list of the other things you’d like to spend time on that day.
Use generous time estimates. Most people underestimate how long things will take. The more time you anticipate, the more likely you will finish with time to spare. You’ll also be less frustrated by the day’s accomplishments.
Use it to add balance to your day. What is it that you never seem to have time for? Add things like sewing, reading, or Bible journaling to your list. Even 15 minutes of these activities matters. The more time we spend doing things that rejuvenate us, the more likely we will get less enjoyable tasks done.
Use it to create habits. Until exercise is a habit, try adding it to your time boxing list. If there is something you always forget to do, add it to your list.
Use it to organize your homeschooling life. The Organized Homeschool Life provides you with 15-minute missions that will help you get organized all year. Add a 15-minute organizing task to your time boxing list and you’ll be on your way to experiencing more peace and joy in your homeschooling and life.
Use it to organize your distracted child. I have a child with ADD who flourishes with time boxing. He learns to plan work for the day, estimate how long tasks will take, and to work quickly when timed. If you use the app on your phone, rather than your child’s, you can help remind your child to stay on track.
Don’t time box your whole day. If you have a whole day’s time allotted to tasks, you are scheduling and not time boxing. The beauty of time boxing is it allows for response to distractions, new tasks, and our need for margin. Keeping the list short is more motivating, too.
If you give time boxing a try, let me know how you like it. If you’d like even more homeschool organizing tips, check out 10 Days of Homeschool Organization Ideas at They Call Me Blessed.
Am I the only one who hasn’t gotten my spring cleaning done? I doubt it. Once spring arrives, I find myself getting busier. But I’m determined to give my home a good spring cleaning before we have my son’s graduation party at the end of May. If you’re motivated to get your cleaning done too, read on.
Part of The Organized Homeschool Life
Spring cleaning is one of the challenges in The Organized Homeschool Life. I think it’s important to get the kids involved in the process, as I recommend. One of these days they’ll want to get their own homes freshened up this time of year.
While I love all the spring cleaning checklists that you can find on Pinterest like these from SheriGraham.com, I find they can be a bit overwhelming. I’d love to have my entire home clean and perfectly organized TODAY, thank you. That isn’t possible, but it doesn’t keep me from being frustrated.
What’s the answer to the desire for a perfectly spring-clean home? Doing a little bit every day. I recommend just 15 minutes. If your family members help you, your time will be multiplied. Okay, if a toddler is “helping,” your time won’t be multiplied. But you know what I mean.
How to Spring Clean Konmari Style
The book The Magic Art of Tidying Up inspired me to declutter. I’ve written about my passion for her method of folding clothes before. But the KonMari method of determining what sparks joy can also help us complete our spring cleaning.
Of course, we can ask ourselves the question of each item we touch in our 15-minute spring cleaning sprints (“Does this spark joy?”) and use it to declutter and simplify our homes. I prefer the question: Do I love this? Of course, not every item that doesn’t pass this test has to go. I’ve had a microwave I haven’t loved for years, but I was stuck with it until died recently. When it comes to standard clutter, though, the question can be very powerful.
What about washing windows, beating rugs, dusting shades and ceiling fans and the like? How can the KonMari approach help with these cleaning tasks?
FLYLady helped me think differently about my home with her Home Blessing Hour. Rather than engage in the drudgery of dusting and mopping and cleaning toilets, I was blessing my home. As I changed my thinking about cleaning, I realized I loved my home. I had the privilege of owning it and caring for it. What a change in perspective!
So now when I clean, I can ask myself if I love my picture window as I clean all the many fingerprints left on it. As I beat rugs, I can think about how much I love having my children, my friends, and their friends in our home. As I dust shades and ceiling fans, I can ask myself if I love having a comfortable, private retreat from the world for me and my family. My answer will be a resounding yes!
If you’d like a cheat sheet for KonMari-style decluttering as you go about your spring cleaning, MakeSpace has provided you one. You can check out their self-storage locations here.
What’s your top priority for spring cleaning this year?
I thought I would have two or three kids and wasn’t prepared for the organizing challenge six kids would be. I’ve learned the hard way, but you don’t have to. If you have three kids, some of these tips may not be necessary; if you have twelve kids, feel free to offer your tips in the comments. You certainly have a lot more wisdom to share than I do!
These are the tips that have saved my sanity for the last 16 years that I’ve had three or more children.
#1 Organize by Day
I wish I could say the issue of arguing over the best seat in the car or the house is over now that my kids are older, but that’s not the case. The bickering started early and I needed a strategy for resolving these squabbles.
My solution was to assign each child a day. Once I had six, it worked out rather well. Monday was the oldest’s day, Tuesday the second oldest’s, and so on. Sunday is Dad’s day. We use each child’s day to give privileges like choice of seat and what restaurant to go to if we are going out to eat, but also responsibilities like leading prayers and being mom’s helper.
Bonus Tip: Assign seats at your kitchen table for life. Do you have to ask why?
#2 Organize by Color
I wanted to be able to identify whose belongings were whose (because there are oh-so-many belongings!), so I assigned colors to the kids at an early age. You can use color for towels, toothbrushes, cups, notebooks, folders, pencils, and more. When someone’s item is missing, it makes finding it easier than if everyone had the same color. It also makes shopping decisions easier.
Bonus Tip: Does your child keep losing things? Make him pay a finder’s fee to a sibling who finds the missing item.
#3 Use a Label Maker
Some things can’t be purchased in multiple colors. That’s when a label is a life saver. I often have two kids using the same level of curriculum. We immediately label the books. I keep a label maker in the kids’ bathroom so they can label their toiletries. Everyone has their own hygiene tools and products and complaints of missing items are minimized.
Bonus Tip: Consider getting items personalized when you order them.
#4 Teach your Children to Do Chores
If I had had just one child, I would have been tempted to do too much for them. With six children living in a bigger house, I couldn’t manage without their help. There are many ways to approach chores with a big family. Managers of Their Chores is one option. Many systems are more trouble than they’re worth for big families, however. I know; I’ve tried so many of them! I’ve created a super easy checklist that you can modify for your family. It has worked well for us for many years.
Bonus Tip: Instead of using a chore list for daily chores, just work together on each room or floor of your house. Use a timer and play some fun music to motivate kids.
#5 Use Checklists
Packing for myself and six children when we travel would have been a nightmare if not for the checklists I created and saved on my computer. Each child has a list of things to take that I edit each year. I print them off and the kids love packing for themselves. Do I have to check my younger kids’ clothing choices? Absolutely! But it takes so much less time to check than to pack for them.
I’ve also created checklists for allowing my kids to be independent with their homeschool assignments. But there are many ways to use checklists to organize a big family: packing lists for sports or music practice, morning and evening routine checklists, exercise checklists, and tasks to be completed before screen time checklists, for example.
Bonus Tip: Laminate or put checklists to be reused into page protectors. Make dry erase markers available to be used with them.
#6 Declutter Together
I don’t have any mind-blowing tips for organizing toys and clothes with a big family besides constantly getting rid of things. For years, I struggled to determine how to choose what to give away. So many toys belonged to all of the kids. Just because my 10-year-old didn’t like something didn’t mean my 5-year-old didn’t want it. I finally put blankets out on my playroom floor for giveaway items and throw-away items. I had the kids go through their toys and put them on the respective blankets. Doing this together allowed younger kids to rescue treasures, but still encouraged them to give things away. It’s worked brilliantly and the kids actually enjoy doing this.
To declutter clothes, I start with my oldest child. As he pulls out things he doesn’t want, I offer it to the next smallest child (my second son is actually the tallest now). If the next child doesn’t want it and it’s in good condition, I donate it. We keep working our way through the kids in this way until we have gotten through all of their clothes. My daughter only has to sort through clothes a friend has handed down to her.
Bonus Tip: Keep bins or hampers for unwanted items easily accessible in your home to make this process faster.
Do you need more help getting and staying organized with your big family? Order your copy of The Organized Homeschool Life.
Join us for the “How to Organize your Life in 30 Days” Challenge!
Do you feel like you are drowning in to do lists, laundry, and dishes? Does lack of organization cause you to lose your patience or avoid having people over? Are you often late because you can’t find what you are looking for? As moms, we all have a lot on our minds and life is busy. In some seasons our mind becomes so full that we become less productive. I am teaming up with some amazing bloggers to bring you 30 days to an organized life! All you need to do to join the challenge is check out the landing page HERE and start working through the challenges. You can join in at any point, there are no rules! Share your before or after pictures on Instagram and use the hashtag #30dayorganize for a chance to win a $10 gift card to Hobby Lobby (3 winners)! The more your engage on social media, share the graphic below, etc. the more entries you’ll have! The winners will be announced on Instagram so stay tuned!
#1 You’ll Remember Appointments
If you want to be organized, remembering appointments is your top priority. At one time in my life, I missed appointments all the time. It was so humiliating, I was temped to lie about it! How could I forget the same appointment even when it was rescheduled? The reason was two-fold:
First, I sometimes didn’t write appointments and the location of the appointment down on my calendar. I either thought I would remember, was busy doing something else, or I wrote it on a piece of paper that never made it to my wall calendar. I once had a speaking engagement on my calendar, but didn’t write the location down. I barely made it in time after a frantic search for the right place. I was speaking on organization.
The second reason I missed appointments is because I’m a highly distracted person. I could look at my calendar in the morning and completely forget that dental appointment for the afternoon.
Today my iPhone’s Google calendar alerts keep me from missing appointments. I schedule events on my iPhone immediately and carry my phone with me at all times (even from room to room in the house).
I no longer appear disorganized because I’ve learned how to use my calendar in a way that works for me. Using your calendar to track appointments and events immediately and checking your calendar frequently (or using alerts) will keep you organized, too.
#2 Tasks Are More Likely to Be Done
Most of us use our calendars for appointments and events and a to-do list (paper or digital) for tasks. If you’re organized using that system, there is no reason to change. But research shows you are more likely to complete a task when you make time for it on your calendar. Francis Wade wrote a super popular guest post on Why CEOs and College Students Manage Time the Same Way. You guessed it! They use their calendars, going so far as to account for time in 15-minute increments.
I schedule my time using an app called Skedpal because I try to make the most of every bit of my day. However, simply scheduling time to complete a few important tasks will make you a more organized person. Do you have a vacation or a party coming up? When are you going to plan it? Schedule time on your calendar and you’re more likely to get it done.
#3 Homeschooling and Work Can Have Protected Time
When I started homeschooling I felt like I didn’t get any teaching in at all. I was too busy doing laundry, nursing babies, and chasing a toddler. I didn’t have a schedule for my homeschool. I figured I would teach when I could. Unfortunately, that meant almost never!
Once I adopted school hours during which I had a routine (a series of activities done in order, but not to the exact minute), homeschooling actually happened. Not only did having school hours help me get more done, it made me more confident as a homeschooling mom. Skeptics always asked me when I taught. I didn’t want to see them roll their eyes when I said, “Oh, you know, whenever.” I once sent my son to a science class held over a few days that I paid quite a bit of money for. He told me that the teacher spent the whole time using her iPad. If that irritated me (and it did), I felt I shouldn’t do the same thing by not devoting a certain part of my day solely to homeschooling.
I have been writing as long as I’ve homeschooled. It was tough to make time for that, too. It’s only when I scheduled the time that I’ve been consistent. When you have time allotted to working (if you work at home), you’re more likely to get things done. Your family will respect the time and so will you. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to bill you for work they hadn’t done, you want to use your calendar to protect and use your work hours. In doing so, you’ll be a lot more organized because you won’t constantly be trying to work when you should be spending time with your family.
#4 You’ll Make Time for Important People
I’m so busy as a homeschooling, blogging mom that it’s easy to let family time and time for my husband go. It just kind of happens. That’s why it’s important for me to schedule family time. We have family events and movie nights planned so nothing else takes over. Scheduling time for devotions that I do with my daughter has finally allowed me to do them.
My husband loves to entertain and come summer, he was always begging me to invite people over at the last minute. That drove me a little batty as I like to plan for guests. So at the beginning of summer, I asked my husband to list all the people he wanted to have over. I started booking dates with them and it was amazing! We had more people over than we’d ever had before, but I was more organized.
When you schedule time for important people in your life, you feel organized and the people you love are happier, too.
#5 You’ll Achieve Your Goals
It’s amazing how long three months seems until you plan using a calendar. “I have plenty of time!” you tell yourself. Whether you want to do a home project, meet a financial goal, or lead a ministry event, you’re more likely to succeed if you use your calendar.
We always tend to think we’ll have more time later. One reason is because we haven’t scheduled things far in advance. The calendar looks clear. One thing I like to do is to have recurrent events scheduled all year. That way I can see that while I have fewer appointments scheduled three months from now, my son still has drum lessons, my daughter still has gymnastics, and I still have to do the grocery shopping. I’m less likely to rest on my laurels like the hare and lose the race to completing my goal.
Our calendar can also help us achieve our goals by setting mini-milestones. It has taken me a very long time to complete the language arts curriculum I’m writing. But I was able to stay motivated by setting a completion date for each unit and adding it to my large wall calendar. A wall calendar is a great visual that can help us see how quickly the time goes.
Finally, you can use your calendar for the technique Jerry Seinfeld made famous called Streaks. Maybe you want to spend a little time every day decluttering. Every day you do so, put an X on that day for the calendar. The more days of decluttering you string together, the less willing you’ll be to skip a day–especially if this calendar is posted for your family fan club to see.
#6 You Can Get Organized One Day at a Time
I have written before that the best homeschool hack is organizing all year. Getting organized isn’t a two-week event in the summer, nor is it this mammoth beast of an undertaking that we tend to think it is. Organizing happens in the little steps we take today and this week and this month.
But what if you don’t know where to start? I know that feeling. When there are so many things that need your attention, so many parts of your life in CHAOS, so many projects that you don’t even want to face, it’s easy to want to go back to bed and figure it out tomorrow. But you know what will happen tomorrow, don’t you? Yeah, we know how that goes.
Even as far as I’ve come in getting organized, I need help deciding what small step to take today. That’s why I created calendars with daily 15-minute missions to organize every aspect of your homeschooling life. They’re a bonus for purchasers of The Organized Homeschool Life from Psychowith6 or for anyone who sends a screenshot of their review on Amazon to Psychowith6 at Gmail [dot] com.
Start Using Your Calendar to Get Organized Today!
Pull out those appointment cards from your purse and add them to a calendar you know you’ll use. Schedule time to complete a few tasks that are coming due. Create homeschool and office hours and put them on your calendar. Put a family game night, date night, or dinner party on the calendar. Put a mini milestone for an important goal on your calendar, too. Finally, pick up your copy of The Organized Homeschool Life and do today’s mission. You’ll be well on your way to an organized life.
Also Join us for the “How to Organize your Life in 30 Days” Challenge!
Do you feel like you are drowning in to-do lists, laundry, and dishes? Does lack of organization cause you to lose your patience or avoid having people over? Are you often late because you can’t find what you are looking for? As moms, we all have a lot on our minds and life is busy. In some seasons our mind becomes so full that we become less productive. I am teaming up with some amazing bloggers to bring you 30 days to an organized life! All you need to do to join the challenge is check out the landing page HERE and start working through the challenges. You can join in at any point, there are no rules! Share your before or after pictures on Instagram and use the hashtag #30dayorganize for a chance to win a $10 gift card to Hobby Lobby (3 winners)! The more your engage on social media, share the graphic below, etc. the more entries you’ll have! The winners will be announced on Instagram so stay tuned!
I’m pretty passionate about organization. But does God share my passion for the subject?
This is one of many questions I addressed in an interview with my friend and fellow podcaster, Barb Raveling. If you want to:
- get organized this year
- have more victory in areas you struggle
- enjoy more peace in your home
you’ll want to listen to this episode. You can listen on your computer, through the podcasts app on your iPhone or an Android app.
I motivated myself, so I hope it motivates you to start creating good habits, too.
I mention The Organized Homeschool Life. It’s not too late to get your copy!
I want a peaceful home. You do, too. Nothing can so drain us as the conflict and stress that plague families.
Because I am a Christian psychologist, you can imagine that I will encourage you to regularly pray for your family. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 confirms that prayer is a vital part of peaceful living.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
If your family life isn’t peaceful primarily because of the choices of another family member, remember that we are only called to peace as far as it depends on us. We can’t change people directly, much as we might like to.
But there is something else we can do to promote peace in our homes.
When there is no routine, when we have to scramble to get out the door and are still late, when the house is a wreck and you have no idea what’s for dinner, peace will elude you. I know, because I’ve been there. My poor habits caused conflict with my husband, made me a short-tempered mom, and made me fearful that someone would come to my door and discover what a fraud I was.
If you want more peace in your home this year, develop good habits. I encourage you to read my post at HeyDonna.com titled “Habits: The Heart of the Home” for more on how to do that.
What habits would make your home more peaceful this year?