Is your life so chaotic right now that you can’t even begin to get organized? If that’s your situation, you’ll appreciate these six steps you can take today to break through the chaos and get organized.
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#1 Stop and pray
Too often when our lives are chaotic, we are in the midst of spiritual warfare and we don’t even know it. If it seems like everything is going wrong, we ought to consider the possibility that we are engaged in battle with the enemy. The day the post on marriage was published, my husband and I had a big disagreement (a.k.a. fight) that made no sense to me. A friend of mine pointed out that this was likely spiritual warfare. Of course it was! My husband and I were trying to strengthen marriages — something the enemy opposes.
When we are doing God’s work (and homeschooling is God’s work), we may find ourselves oppressed and challenged at every turn. The most powerful thing to do when we are in the midst of spiritual warfare is not to pick up another organizing book or to find another cleaning list on Pinterest. Instead, it is to stop what we are doing and pray for God’s strength, for His protection, and for His wisdom. This is step number one.
#2 Do what you absolutely, positively have to do today
When we are in chaos, we imagine that we have 100 things that have to be done today, and of course there isn’t enough time to do them. The truth is we have very few things that absolutely have to be done today. First let’s define what “absolutely has to be done today” means. It means that you would be willing to stay up very late to finish this task. You couldn’t stand to go to bed without it being finished.
I have created a list to help you find these tasks. Use this form for subscribers or a notebook to record your tasks. In order to find those things that are critical for today, we need to first check our calendar. What do you have coming up later today or tomorrow that requires any work on your part? Write it down. Next go through your inbox or wherever you keep physical mail. Make a list of any of the items you find that require action. Next look in your purse. Look for anything that requires your action and add it to your list. Next look at your phone text messages and listen to unanswered phone messages. Write down any tasks that have to be done. You are going to want to check your email inbox for things that absolutely positively have to be done today. Make a list of these. Finally, check social media. Did someone message you, tag you, or invite you to an event that requires your action today? Make a list of these things.
On the form I’ve created for you, you can add these tasks to a list based on where you found them. Then write only those tasks that have to be done today on the Tuesday list (or whatever today is). If you used note paper to make your list, star the items that must be done today and rewrite them on a separate list. This should be a short list. Remember that it should not include “like to get done” tasks, but “have to get done” tasks.
Now that you have your list, get to work on them. Do them in any order you please. Do the easiest first or the worst first. You can even roll a die to choose the task to do first. Whatever you do, get them completed as quickly as you can. You will feel so much better when they’re done.
#3 Plan dinner
After you have prayed and have tackled your critical task for today, you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, if you really want to break through the chaos to get organized, it’s important that you also have a plan for dinner. Even if your plan is to order pizza or to go out to eat, your plan will give you tremendous peace of mind. There will be no last minute scramble to determine what you’re going to eat with your family. If you will be eating at home, make sure any necessary preparations like thawing is done.
#4 Do the dishes and clear the table
I once visited elderly people’s homes as part of a research study I was doing. The tell-tale sign of an older person who was living in chaos was dirty dishes stacked in the sink and on the counters. Dirty dishes are a distraction and a discouragement to us. Getting them clean, whether that is loading them into the dishwasher or washing them by hand, will go a long way to helping you feel organized. Doing the dishes does not have to be something you do alone. Get your family involved to help you get them done.
In order to have that peace of mind that comes from being organized, you also need to clear your primary table. If there are dirty dishes on the table you will want to wash those. But if you have leftover school books or experiments or newspapers or just clutter on the table, you need to remove it. Don’t even worry about getting everything put away. Just get the stuff off your table. Your table is like your brain. The more clutter there is on the table, the more chaotic you are going to feel. This is also critical for your family’s peace of mind. Now you can enjoy dinner at the table if you’re cooking or having takeout.
#5 Declutter for 15 minutes
Set a timer for 15 minutes to clean or de-clutter an additional area of your home that is robbing you of peace. You definitely want to get your family involved in this. Don’t spend a lot of time deciding which area to focus on. If the kitchen counters need attention and that’s what you were looking out at the moment, choose to start there. If the family room or bedroom or school room are robbing you of peace, go to work there. If an area of your home is cluttered, declutter it before focusing on deep cleaning chores. Always work on visible clutter before tackling hidden clutter. Get clothing off the bed and floors before decluttering drawers or a closet, for example.
To begin getting organized when things are in chaos, you don’t want to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to give away. If something is obviously trash, throw it away. You may want to have a trash bag with you as you work. If something does not belong in that room of your home, put it in a box or laundry basket to be moved later. Do not waste time walking from room to room to put things away. Stay in the room you are working on the entire time — and that includes your children. If you find something to give away and you are emotionally prepared to give things away, you can also use a box or bag for giveaway items. But this is a very quick organizing sprint. Do not concern yourself with where you’re going to put things, where you will donate items, and certainly not with selling things. Stay focused. I recommend listening to upbeat music while you work.
#6 Take time for self-care
Set a timer for 15 minutes of self-care. One reason our lives get to feeling out of control is because we try to mix self-care time with work and family time. This doesn’t work. This is a common form of multitasking which leads to discouragement. If we are on Facebook while our kids are asking us to help them with their math, we won’t feel like we’ve had a break and our child will be frustrated by not having our full attention. We need set boundaries for our time. If you haven’t heard the podcast on self-care I did with Andy and Kendra Fletcher of Homeschooling in Real Life, you will want to listen to that episode. We need time for ourselves to be refreshed. It’s the most loving thing we can do for our families.
Some of the things that I do during my self-care times are reading the Bible, journaling, reading other books, exercising, spending time on hobbies like scrapbooking, or socializing through a variety of online sites and apps. Of course, it’s very important to set a timer for our personal time, just as it’s important to set it for work. Personal time without boundaries creates guilt which works against the refreshment we are trying to achieve. Teach your children to take personal time at the same time you do. You could encourage your child to nap, play with Legos, listen to an audiobook, play an educational game, or watch a favorite television show while you are having your time. If your child trusts you to abide by the time boundaries, you are more likely to get his cooperation.
When your self-care time is up, you can choose to do another 15-minute organizing sprint or work on tasks that don’t absolutely have to do be done today. Follow your 15-minute work period with another 15 minutes of self-care. That may sound crazy to you. The Pomodoro technique that many of us are familiar with recommends working for 25 minutes and then taking a five minute break. The reason I am being so liberal on the self-care time is because if your life is in chaos, you need extra rest. You’re likely overwhelmed and burned out. Short work periods followed by liberal periods of rest are healing. Once you’ve regained your equilibrium, the work-to-rest ratio can be increased.
When things calm down, I highly recommend my book, The Organized Homeschool Life. You’ll get 15-minute missions to complete four days a week that are designed just for homeschoolers.
These six tips are survival strategies for today. The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow but to focus on today. If you simply repeated these six steps tomorrow, you would be well on your way to getting organized, regardless of how chaotic things feel right now. You can do this! I’m cheering you on.
The excitement of the new year is starting to wane, leaving me with a need for refreshment. I don’t want to wish my way through the rest of winter. Neither do I want to give in to sloth and discouragement. I want energy and vitality in my homeschool now. How about you?
There are a number of ways to incorporate a little Energizer bunny into our homeschools. I’ve discussed them on The Homeschool Sanity Show podcast. But I have one favorite way of getting refreshed — organizing.
I’m not one of these ultra-organized women. I don’t have everything in a beautifully labeled basket or bin. Martha Stewart wouldn’t be impressed. But I do geek out on getting my act together. I once purchased an organizing system for my scrapbooking supplies and couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about using it. I get a little jolt of energy, a burst of encouragement, and a bit more tenacity when I organize something.
I think refreshment from organizing is hard-wired. We crave completion. It’s one of the hardest parts of homeschooling. We have to wait more than a decade for our work with one child to be done. Organizing in your homeschool or your life gives you a win. It’s like running a marathon and feeling like you can’t take another step. Then you reach a mile marker where there’s a refreshment stand. Suddenly you believe you can finish. (I’m guessing that’s what it’s like because I don’t run marathons!)
I wrote a post on refreshing your homeschool through organization at Year Round Homeschooling. I’d love to be one of the people who cheers you on to the finish line when you read it. It helps me finish my journey.
See you there!
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.
I continue to be amazed by the talents God has blessed homeschoolers with. It’s a pleasure to look through these wonderful resources each week. Hope you enjoy them!
Free Math Placement Test
Learn Math Fast’s big math bookmark was a huge hit, so this week the site has another freebie for us. Quickly and easily determine what grade level your child is working at in math.
13 Questions to Help You Determine God’s Will (Great for Making Curriculum Decisions!)
Last week I had to make an important decision and my friend, Barb, directed me to her decision-making post for the second time. It was SO helpful that I realized it could help us homeschool moms decide on curriculum and other schooling issues as well. Pin it so you’ll have it when you need it.
Library Scavenger Hunt
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the kids to the library (my husband took them this summer), so I love No Twiddle Twaddle’s idea of sending them on a scavenger hunt. I think they will, too.
20 Activities for Tween-Age Boys
Can I ever use these ideas! I have a tweenager who is incredibly creative in imagining reasons he should be allowed to have more game time. Fortunately, Frugal Fun 4 Boys is just as creative in giving us these game-free activities.
Make Your Focus-Challenged Child His Own Cubicle
I was SO excited when I saw this idea because I was thinking like a psychologist. These homemade room dividers are not only attractive, but they are just the thing for a child who is easily distracted. Thank you, Organizing Made Fun!
Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills
I have five boys and none of them have had the motor skills that my daughter had. Fine motor skills are what enable a child to dress himself, tie his shoes, write, and draw. Hands on as We Grow has a wonderful list of fun ideas for developing fine motor skills that work for all ages.
More Hot Stuff!
This week I have a bonus tip that I shared on my Facebook Page that is for homeschoolers only. Be sure to visit the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network page and “Like” it to hear about the launch of these podcasts. You just might recognize one of the hosts. More later!
When the newness of the school year wears off, you’re going to want some tricks up your sleeve to keep it interesting. This issue of What’s Hot in Homeschooling is here to help.
350+ Ideas for a Creative and Fun School Year
KC Edventures offers us this pinnable post to refer to all year long. It really will be January before we know it!
4 Simple Ways to Fit Science into Your Day
If you’ve been homeschooling longer than a year, you may be exhausted at the thought of doing lots of science. Let’s face it. Science can take a lot of time. That’s why I appreciated this advice from Raising Lifelong Learners. I bet you will too!
An Unexpected Gospel Story
My family loves movies, but finding family-friendly movies that reflect our values has become a real challenge. That’s why I’m so excited about this movie that we were able to see for free at our local theater this summer. It’s a great way to fit in science and an even better way to talk about your faith. While you’re reading at The Inspired Day, I’d love to have you subscribe to these short shots of inspiration. Looking for more family-friendly movies? Plugged In Online has yearly nominations for the best movies for kids and teens.
An Inspiring Homeschool Space
Cornerstone Confessions shares pictures of her homeschooling space that looks like a kids’ library and preschool classroom rolled into one. If you have younger kids and need to rethink your space, don’t miss this post.
Homeschool Music Appreciation
Navigating by Joy inspires with her take on how to make classical music a part of your homeschool. The opening paragraph made me want to pop in a CD.
The Importance of Review in Learning
When I started homeschooling, I thought review was the boring stuff of traditional school. So I didn’t do it. I wanted to get on to more new material like what I’ve shared above. Now I see that review is what makes it possible to move on to new, fresh material! If you’re not convinced, read this great article from The Homeschool Classroom.
If you’d like to get some of these great ideas early or you want to see the pins of top homeschool bloggers, be sure to follow the What’s Hot in Homeschooling board.
We are back to school and so far, so good! This week I’m excited to share some hot math, history, language arts, character, and organizational resources with you. Be sure to follow me on Pinterest and you won’t miss a single hot resource. I scan Pinterest so you don’t have to!
The Big, Big Bookmark of Math
JK Mergens has shared her wisdom on teaching math fast with my readers before. Now she is sharing a free bookmark that has the basics of math condensed on one form. It makes a great cheat sheet for moms, too. Be sure to take a look at her no-nonsense curriculum. We use it and love it.
YouTube Videos for Mystery of History Volume I
I love Mystery of History and have no affiliation with it. Wish I did! This year we are using Volume I for the second time. We don’t take time to do the activities because we do hands-on activities during our homeschool co-op. But I would like to make the material come alive in a less time-consuming way.
I have always thought we would watch the recommended videos as a family in the evenings, but it just never seems to happen with sports and other activities. I decided to look for short videos on YouTube that could accompany our lessons. I have created a playlist of them for you, but a few warnings. First, I haven’t watched every video in its entirety. I cannot promise you that they will be appropriate for your family. They may not even be appropriate for my family, but I will be watching with my children and can stop the video and offer explanations if needed. Some videos mention millions of years which we don’t agree with, for example. In no way is this playlist endorsed by Mystery of History. Second, the videos are frequently deleted. Because that is the case, I have only added videos through the first semester of Volume I. I will complete the playlist as that time gets nearer so I don’t have to redo the work. Finally, the videos may not be appropriate for your children’s ages. I included a number of Bible cartoons which may be too young for some kids and documentary material which may be boring for younger kids. The basics are there, however, saving you time if you’d like to look for a few alternate videos or just not watch any videos at all. I pray these videos will be a blessing to your family.
Motivate Your Child to Read
Few things are as disconcerting to a homeschooler as having a child who doesn’t like to read. These 25 ideas will give you hope that can change.
I love this idea for the character it teaches and I know my kids will be crazy about it. The animal you use is up to you!
This project is absolutely on my to-do list as it’s perfect for a homeschooler, scrapbooker, and organization junkie like me. It’s pretty and practical.
One of the questions I am most frequently asked is how I teach many grade levels at once. Jill of Blessed Beyond a Doubt has six children like I do, but apparently has more time to answer the question properly on her blog. Now I don’t have to!
If you’d like to get some of these great ideas early or you want to see the pins of top homeschool bloggers, be sure to follow the What’s Hot in Homeschooling board.