If you want to get organized this year, you’re in good company. It’s the second most popular goal for the year. But it’s a big one. Where do you start? I recommend starting with six areas.
#1 Organize Your Tasks
The first area I recommend you organize is your tasks. Nothing makes me feel worse than forgetting to pay a bill, forgetting to RSVP or even forgetting a party completely, or letting someone down because I don’t have my tasks organized. This used to be commonplace for me when I started homeschooling. There is one good reason for that. I didn’t have a system for dealing with all of my tasks.
As homeschooling moms in a digital culture, we have tasks presented to us in multiple ways. In addition to traditional mail, we get email, phone calls (sometimes on more than one device), text messages, and social media messages and event invites. We also have family members and friends asking us to do things in person. If you’re like me, this happens all the time. If any of these tasks fail to make it to a common list, we are likely to forget them.
The solution seems simple enough. We need to choose one place to house all of our tasks. The first decision to make is whether you will have a digital or a paper task list. A digital task list has the advantage of always being with you if you have a smart phone. This is the method I choose. The advantage of having multiple alarms to remind me of appointments is huge for me. If you choose a paper list, choose something that you can take with you wherever you go. If you have a home planner and want to have a smaller planner with you when you travel, it can work. But you will have to be disciplined in transferring your tasks to your planner when you get home every time.
Once you’ve chosen a central to-do list, your work in organizing this area isn’t done. Next, choose a method of insuring that all tasks make it to that main list. I was once in the middle of a meeting when I got a phone call asking me to be a substitute teacher for a class at my church. I was sure I would remember to put the date on my calendar when I was done with my meeting. I didn’t. I no longer allow myself to put off adding tasks, appointments, or even grocery items to my list. Develop routines for adding Facebook events, text messages, and phone tasks to your list. For example, every night before dinner, go through your messages of every sort and add them. Use a checklist for all the places you need to look for tasks. Organizing your to-do list will help you feel organized this year.
#2 Organize a Parent-Teacher Conference
A second organizing challenge to take on this year is to have parent-teacher conferences. This is certainly not a typical organizing challenge and it may seem funny to suggest to a homeschooler. But it is amazing how much anxiety we homeschool moms can have about our children when we aren’t discussing them with our spouse or someone else if we aren’t married. The successes feel more significant and the challenges seem smaller when they are shared.
One of the things I have learned over the years is that my husband has some anxiety about how our children are doing. Having a parent-teacher conference gives me the opportunity to talk about what each child is working on. It also gives me the opportunity to share ways in which my husband could be supportive. For example, if my kids are doing a computer coding course and he doesn’t know, he might tell them to get off the computer. It’s a good idea to talk about all of your children’s needs and accomplishments during this conference. Discuss progress in chores, sibling relationships, and attitude. If there is something your spouse or another confidant can do to help you in homeschooling or parenting, be sure to ask.
#3 Organize Your Homeschool Space
The third organizing challenge I recommend you take on this year is to put your homeschool space in order. A cluttered and disorderly space takes a toll on your morale as a homeschool mom and does not encourage your children to work hard. Rather than ogle designer homeschool spaces on Pinterest, my recommendation is that you remove anything in your homeschool space you aren’t using. Simplify your space and keep frequently used items accessible. If the kids have to move things around in order to access their books or tools, you will have a mess every day. It’s better to have these items visible, even if they aren’t pretty, than to have the frustration and mess making.
In order to make your homeschool space decluttering easier, don’t make any final decisions about curriculum and material that you’ve purchased at this point. Just remove it if you aren’t using it. Put it in storage and leave the possibilities open. Ask your children to help you find the best place for the things you are going to be using. When you’re done decluttering, then pretty up the space. Attractiveness is important, but only after you have simplified. Buy a nice art frame or two to display your children’s work. Or put maps in a frame. Have favorite photographs of homeschool activities enlarged and framed for your homeschool wall. I love this idea and will be implementing it this year.
#4 Organize Your Used Curriculum
The next organizing Challenge I have for you is the used curriculum challenge. If you know you have things that you won’t be using again, then you can absolutely get them out of your home now. Otherwise, wait until the end of the traditional school year to decide what to do. When you have younger children who may be using materials in the future, It can be hard to let go of curriculum. But I can tell you that I have sold or given away curriculum only to have to repurchase it and I survived. I also could have asked to borrow curriculum if I did not want to repurchase it. It feels great to sell or donate items you won’t be using anymore. You can bless other families with them. I wrote a comprehensive post about the best places to do just that.
#5 Organize Kids’ Clothing
Once you have organized your to-do’s and your homeschooling, I recommend you get clothing organized. Make it simple for your children to choose what to wear. The easiest way to do that is to remove clothing that they cannot wear right now. I have spent countless hours organizing my children’s hand-me-downs. I did save money doing this, but I honestly wonder now if it was worth it. I do know homeschooling moms with large families who don’t hand clothes down. If you need to keep used clothing, I recommend that you start with the oldest children. Have them choose clothing that no longer fits. Then have the next oldest child of the same gender give it a try. Choose a number of clothing items that you think is appropriate for each child. If your child is in need of more clothing, add those items to your shopping list. You do have a shopping list now, right? I use the built-in list on my iPhone for this purpose. Having your children fold clothing in drawers using the Konmari method well help them to remove items without making a mess.
#6 Organize Meals
The final area I recommend you organize this year as a priority is your meals. Unfortunately, dinner has to be made at the end of the day. If we haven’t planned ahead or put something in the crock pot, we’re likely to be irritated by having to get dinner on the table when we’re tired. Without a plan, we are likely to go out and spend more money or time having to run to the grocery store at rush hour. Failure to meal plan costs us money, time, and good health. Fortunately, there are easy ways to meal plan. The simplest way is to make a list of easy meals your family loves. Create a meal plan and grocery list from them. Start with a one-week plan and keep creating more plans as you can.
A more advanced way of planning your family meals is to use Plan to Eat. Sign up for a free trial. Once you have your family’s recipes added, you can drag and drop them to a calendar. In this way, you can plan an entire month if you want to. Another advanced meal planning method is to do freezer cooking. You can not only plan your family’s meals but make them in advance. It’s one less thing you have to worry about at the end of a long homeschool day. My favorite freezer meals go into the crockpot in the morning. Finally, you could opt to use a premade meal plan. The problem with that method is not liking all of the recipes. I have had very good luck using Tastefully Simple’s 30 day meal plan, however. I also have a free meal planning book for you.
When you have completed these challenges, you’ll be well on your way to an organized year. If you’re ready for more, I think you’ll enjoy my book, The Organized Homeschool Life. It includes 52 challenges for organizing every area of your homeschool life.
Which area are you organizing first? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.