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To Organize or Not to Organize...Do I Really Have To? Colored Storage Bins and Other Tales for the Organizationally Challenged

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By Shari Crooks

"Organize": a) to arrange in an orderly way; b) to make into a whole with unified and coherent relationships.

“Piece of cake! Not a problem!” This is what many DO NOT say when it comes to organizing!

I know many homeschooling moms that run every time I use the word 'organize'. It seems that this may be the number one trouble spot for most everyone...with the exception of Martha Stewart, of course.

I personally, am not Martha Stewart, but I like things to be organized. I will admit that I am organizationally challenged when all of those school-related magazines arrive in my mailbox, but I'm working on it.

Let's examine the definition more closely...

"a) to arrange in an orderly way"

My dear husband likes to think that his piles of stuff fall under this definition. I don't agree. I do agree that you may know where something is by having it in a certain pile; the question is, how big is your pile? Will it take you awhile to flip through the various mounds that are taking over your house? Not many piles consist of just 3-4 items!

On to the next definition...

"b) to make into a whole with unified and coherent relationships"

This is why piles don't work. I do realize that a pile could be considered 'a whole', however, a pile is neither unified nor coherent. If you have the time to actually make your piles unified and coherent, then you have time to really organize them in a more productive manner.

Part of being better organized is the way you organize. Storing schoolwork, newsletters, textbooks and supplies were a big problem for me. When it came to schoolwork, I thought I had to save everything. I've since weeded out the items that weren't needed. I'm going to give you my system, and hopefully it will help to inspire your own system. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as being overly organized.

Helpful Hint #1: Stay away from those Dollar Stores! I can't seem to resist all of those colored storage bins. Small, large, round, square, red, bright green, blue, purple…my name was written all over them. I didn't know what I'd use them for. I just KNEW that one day I MIGHT need them. Wrong. If you don't need it now, don't buy it. If the day ever does come when you genuinely need something, you can go out on that day and buy it.

Helpful Hint #2: Give away or sell all items that you purchased prior to reading Helpful Hint #1.

Storage is different for everyone. First you must consider your available storage space. Try to keep in mind that you want a simple method. Don't get discouraged if your first attempt at organizational mastery doesn't work. Remember my fetish with colored bins? I thought I could use a bin for everything. However, I found myself having to dig to the bottom every time I needed something. Needless to say, it was frustrating. I've since revamped my storage system. I still have bins, but the quantity I use and the purpose of each has been carefully selected.

Helpful Hint #3: You want a system that is most productive for you, not a system that works in Martha's world.


Like most homeschooling moms I thought I had to save every piece of work my children did. I quickly learned otherwise when I reached the maximum capacity of our filing cabinet halfway through the year. Since it's in my best interest to save some of their work, I decided to let my children choose what they wanted to keep, with one stipulation...all of it cannot be A+ quality. Here's how it works:

They store their papers, by subjects, in notebooks. At the end of each week they choose one or two pieces that they are especially proud of. I also require a paper that they are not so proud of. I chose to do it this way so they can see the improvements they've made and so they will learn not to be ashamed of anything they do.

I never throw out their papers while they are in the room. It's a personal thing, but I just don't want them to see their hard work being tossed into the revolving filing cabinet.

When it comes time for our records check, I bring their notebooks with me. This provides a good sampling of their work over the past few months. I was happy to discover that Vicki Caruana, the author of The Organized Homeschooler, actually suggested a similar storage method. Thus far, it has proven to be a keeper.

Newsletters and Other Handouts

I keep all of these in one notebook. It also houses report cards and homeschool forms. I make it a point to clean out the old news every month. I put important dates into my lesson planner. Why? Because I look at my planner every day, and instead of having to look at a calendar when planning, I immediately know what is scheduled. I can then plan our days accordingly. I also put these dates into my Day Timer. Yes, moms can use those too. And why not? Our jobs are full of multitasking and require us to be in several places all at once on some days! I take mine wherever I go. I'm the Activities Director for our homeschool group and I have the hardest time getting the moms to put dates somewhere that they'll see them. Use one of those magnetic calendars or use a software program that works like a Day Timer. (Read the review on the software program "Any Time Deluxe"...great!)


I use the old fashioned bookshelf. This bookshelf houses strictly homeschool materials. The notebooks I just described above are kept on the bookshelf. The bottom half of the bookshelf has doors behind which we store the completed curriculum that will be used for the next child. Though my children have desks in their rooms, their books are stored on this bookshelf as well. We also keep our Bible Dictionary, Dictionary and Thesaurus here.

In the beginning of our homeschooling adventure, I thought it was best for the girls to keep their books in their rooms, but when I needed to look at one of their books, I had to wait for them to locate it. All books are now kept on the homeschool bookshelf.


Paint, manila paper, construction paper, sketch pads, colored pencils, felt, glue, markers, tape, and pipe cleaners, otherwise known as the never-ending supply list are kept in...guess what? BINS!

Actually, for arts and crafts supplies, the bins come in handy. Paint and paintbrushes are in one bin; all paper is in another; pencils, pens, crayons & markers are in another; glue, tape, glue gun, & glue sticks in yet another. Whenever we need art supplies we just pull out the bins and lay them out on the table. Before I organized all of it, we'd have to go to the computer desk to get tape & pens, then off to the closet for paper, the glue was somewhere in Katelyn's room and the glue gun never had the glue sticks with it. Ugh. 30 minutes later, we were ready to do art. (Hmmm, how eager I am to defend my bin usage.)

Thus far, I've shown you my way to organize school items. For most, organization is not just school-related; it's an everyday obstacle. There are many benefits that come from being organized. You, your children, and your family as a whole will have less stress. Your time will be maximized, which is what all homeschooling families need. Your children will grow up to be organized, thus saving themselves from being showcased in an article that their spouses write!

Being organized is not something that just happens; it's something that you need to keep working at. While on bed rest with my third child, I saw the organization habits of my dear children and husband start to dwindle. I wasn't there to supervise and things started to go downhill at a very rapid pace. The baby arrived and, with her colic, kept us up 22 of our 24-hour days. This is when I really felt the urgency to get things back the way they were. Like most moms with infants I had to do house-stuff when the baby was sleeping. I can't tell you how many times I planned to get a few things done and never could start because I couldn't find what I needed. Eventually, I did find what I needed, but always the baby seemed to have awakened by this time. STRESS!

Still think this organization stuff isn't for you? Let's look at it from a Biblical perspective. God is orderly. Everything He does is with order and with purpose; our lives should reflect the same.

Being organized is a character quality that is far too often set on the back burner for various reasons. Orderliness is having everything in its place, organizing and utilizing your God-given resources to their greatest efficiency. "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." 1 Corinthians 14:40

I call it a blessing and a privilege to homeschool my children. I will do anything I can to make it a rewarding experience not just for them, but also for myself. Plan to make some changes that will better your homeschool experience and help to build up your children for the Kingdom of God.

Shari Crooks and husband Ric homeschool their two daughters, ages 18 and 11. Their youngest daughter just celebrated her 1st birthday. Shari also enjoys her business...making scrapbooks for others!

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