Saturday, January 1, 2022

How to Conquer Homeschool Clutter

If you came here from the post Aspirational and Sentimental Homeschool Clutter, welcome! if not, please go check it out!

When I first decided to homeschool, every retired schoolteacher I had ever known graciously wanted to gift me the entirety of their saved classroom supplies, which they had each saved for just such an occasion. I was excited at first at the thought of all those books, wall maps, ABC charts and games, but then the clutter of unused and over-saved items took over and I got overwhelmed. Questions swirled in my mind: What might I need in the future? What would I need this year? What could I pass on?

Homeschool clutter can cause you to waste a lot of time searching for things you may or may not own, as well as causing you to spend money buying things you already have! Below are some ways I found to help tame the different kinds of homeschool clutter and paper monsters and find some peace, organization and money saved in my life.

How to Decide What to Keep

Because it’s hard to know what kind of path your homeschool will take, start with the Big Picture Question: Who are you as a family? All kids are different, all homeschooling parents are different, and you may find yourself switching up curriculum every year. That doesn’t mean you should keep every textbook, workbook, old Highlights magazine and storybook that comes your way.

Do your kids like puzzles and/or games? If so, keep a few, but not ALL of them. Rotate out those that aren’t favorites when new ones come in they like. Are you the kind of family who treasures those math manipulatives, tangrams and card games, or are the spread all over the house and destroyed within minutes? If you aren’t “that kind of family,” then pass on that item.

You Can Educate Without Stuff Taking up Space

Some families just don’t have the space to keep every wonderful resource they receive and so they need to give away some great things. It was hard for me to turn away classic picture books, fiction easy readers and other great books I knew my older kids would love. Then I got comfortable with my local library and realized I didn’t need to hoard all the books when there was a place that was already doing it for me!!!

When passing on items, don’t forget that you have M&Ms, Cheerios, beans and beads instead of fancy and costly math manipulatives (saves loads of space and money); cooking and Legos to teach fractions; YouTube for free, entertaining and educational documentaries and help with every subject (check out Crash Course for all ages!). You also have Khan Academy (free and covers EVERY subject you can think of and more), ABC Mouse (get a free teacher account), and paid programs like Reading Eggs if your kid learns better on a computer than using a workbook.

Homeschool Donations

Maybe it’s your mother-in-law, shopping every garage sale looking for curriculum, manipulatives and other supplies just for your homeschool. Or your husband’s coworker, whose wife homeschooled 15 years ago and so here come 6 boxes of textbooks into your home one Friday after he gets home from work.

However you are getting your lovely donations, you have to go through them sometime. My advice is to tackle these items immediately. Figure out what you might use and get rid of the rest (recycle, donate to the library or to a local homeschool coop, pass on to a friend, sell). Then about a week later go through again to see if you’ve even thought about or touched the “keep” stack. If not, get rid of even more.

Special Things Showcasing Your Child’s Genius

Nostalgia. I get it. I’m a sentimental big baby when it comes to my children. But you will drive yourself nuts if you try to save every bit of paper your precious child has ever touched. I want to keep everything my kids ever touched, but I know I never look at it and also that they won't want it all in the future. For now, I keep select pieces in the basement in a box (one per kid) and go through it regularly. Basic coloring pictures end up getting recycled a lot through the years, but original drawings and early handwriting attempts will be kept for more years! You can also take pictures of special art, recycle the art, then print the pictures and put them in a special artwork photo album.

I also used to save every workbook my kids ever finished, proof that they had learned that subject that year and hard evidence of my rockin’ teaching skills. When these started taking over, I decided to tear out a couple of pages that showed handwriting or a story told and made sure the pages had a date and kid's name and put them in the basement “keep” box. It saved a ton of space.

I promise you this: the less clutter you have and the easier you can find things, the more peace you’ll have in your life! Less stuff to think about, move around, consider, stress out about using or not using is a great thing!

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