We are halfway through another school year, halfway through the first month of another new calendar year, and I’m halfway through decluttering and organizing our school room. Again. It happens. You get everything in order, get off to a great start, then slowly but surely it all goes to disarray. Have you heard of the Law of Entropy? Everything tends toward disorder. Chaos. Yep, it’s a natural law. Stuff just doesn’t stay put. I’ve seen it played out over and over.
So, our mid-school-year clean up is underway! While we have a very nice room in which we can work and store our resources and materials, it is not a room you’ll see in any designer magazine. We focus on functionality rather than stylish decor. We utilize what we have and make use of what is available to us.
In our school room we have put into practice my long-time motto: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, Do Without. Organizing school supplies and books and paraphernalia does not have to cost a lot of money. With a creative eye and a little forethought you will find many things around your home that will help you get organized. Here are some everyday items we have used for storage and organization.
- Cardboard Boxes – Turned on its side, a large box becomes a book case. Milk crates and wooden pallets could be used in similar fashion.
- Plastic Baskets – this one was intended for utensil storage in the kitchen but is perfect for use as a chalk tray.
- Mason Jars – All sizes. Use them for pencils-pens-paintbrushes, math manipulatives, chore sticks, science experiments, bits of string, crayons, etc. They look so nice lined up along a shelf and fit so perfectly behind a cabinet door.
- Dish Bins – The plastic containers are perfect for storing text books and spiral notebooks, or keeping each child’s school supplies corralled. Or maybe you need to keep track of hats, mittens and scarves. These bins easily slide in and out of a bookshelf.
- Cereal Boxes – Cut the top off a large, empty cereal box, then cut at an angle from the top corner to a spot 1/3 to 1/2 the way down on the opposite side. Store magazines, worksheets, coloring books, etc. in these. You can cover them with contact paper or fabric to make them a bit stronger and more attractive. They fit perfectly on a bookshelf, making for efficient storage.
- Cardboard Dividers – Cut strips of cardboard to the length/width of a desk drawer. Slide them in, creating divided sections for organizing school and office supplies. My son did this, using tape to keep the strips in place, because he grew tired of having a jumbled, shifting mess every time he opened and closed the drawers of his desk.
Take time to go ‘shopping’ around your own home. A piece of furniture originally meant to house china in the dining room might work perfectly as a cupboard for your school supplies. A set of inexpensive plastic drawers you were using in the playroom might be just the thing to keep all those crayons and rulers and art supplies organized. Maybe the hanging file folder frame in the desk drawer could be utilized for organizing worksheets and school assignments. That gift box full of herbal teas you received would be perfect for housing all those flashcards.
- Thrift Store Baskets – We all have them. Baskets and bins that were so cute, or such a great deal. Maybe your child used it as a prop in a play or for her baby doll some time ago. Dust it off and use it to store cd’s or supplies for this week’s art project or reward stickers.
- Wire Racks – Make extra storage space by using wire racks. I found this one in a rarely used kitchen cabinet and decided it was perfect for making the children’s art paper accessible.
- Jars, Jars, Jars – Baby food jars, Pickle jars, Pasta Sauce jars. Lovely jars with lovely lids that keep your lovely school supplies from spilling over.
- Food Containers – They come in all shapes and sizes. Beautiful containers that can be used and reused, saving you money and making good sense. Tin cans, coffee cans, cheese boxes, whipped topping containers, margarine tubs. Fill them up and label them and you can have all your supplies neatly stored ready to use.
- Baby Wipe Containers and Formula Containers – These fabulous little boxes come with hinged lids and stack wonderfully. The perfect thing for housing items for science experiments or magnetic letters or game pieces.
To get all our supplies in order and organized, my children and I put everything we used daily and weekly in our schooling into the center of the room. We combined like things with like things and then went on a search for containers that were the appropriate size to house each pile. It was like a treasure hunt! And there was a whole lot of learning going on.
We rounded up containers we didn’t know we had and found solutions to problems we thought had no answers. By including everyone in the work, by thinking ‘outside the box’, and by doing a little discussing and planning, our school room and the supplies that live there are much easier to maintain. And it didn’t break the budget!