Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Organization--back to school

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try you are always running a few days or a week behind?  When E was in preschool and I was pregnant with C and while he was a newborn I felt this way constantly.  I was frantically trying to keep a handle on everything, but not really doing it very well.  Several times I sent her to school without a snack or without returning things that needed returning.  I was so tired and sick and then had a sick baby that I was COMPLETELY unorganized.  I'm surprised that we made it through that school year at all.  I wanted Kindergarten to be a better experience for both of us.

I spent some time getting myself organized and things went much more smoothly. We spent a lot of time trying new things to see what worked best for us and by the end of the school year; we had a good system going.  I have spent time this summer fine tuning my system to the point where I feel like I can share it with others.

There are several different ares where organization is helpful.  I am just going to run down the list and explain why they are important and how to do it.  I have pictures of most things, so it should be pretty easy to follow.  I fully recognize that some of the steps are not really very fun, but a little bit of time now saves a ton of frustration later.  I promise that if you take the time now to get organized you will thank yourself later.  If you find this post and the school year has already started, it isn't too late--just do it and you will be glad you did.

We have 2 boys and 2 girls.  The boys share a room and the girls share a room.  They do not have dressers because I didn't want their rooms to be too full.  So, we bought sweater organizers to put inside their closets to put all of their clothes in.  Right now this works well because their closets are big enough to hold them and because their clothes are small enough to fit nicely.  The boys' organizer is horizontal because then we can hang their shirts over it.  The girls' organizer is vertical because then we can hang their skirts and dresses beside it.  The girls' room has 2 closets and we are only using 1.  Eventually we will have to split their clothes up, but for now I like having them all together.

The hanging space and the organizers are split down the middle.  There is a spot for short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, sweaters, shorts, pants, and pajamas for each child.  The little white bins on top of each organizer holds their undies and socks.  We got our organizers at Costco, but I know you can find them at other places too.  Here are pictures of both closets.

Cubbies and Dirty Clothes
Every night we pick out our clothes for the next day.  Each child has a cubby on the landing at the top of the stairs.  Opposite of those is a laundry basket.  The kids know where to go to get the clothes they are going to wear that day, where to put their jammies, and where to put their dirty clothes.  It works like a charm!  We got these cubbies at Meijer and they work great.  They stack on top of each other, but the space to reach in and out is big enough that they can easily put things in or pull things out without any problems.

Clothes not currently being used
So, what do you do with the clothes that they have outgrown?  For me it is an easy answer.  I save the clothes E has outgrown so B can wear them when she gets bigger.  I save the clothes J has outgrown so C can wear them when he gets bigger.  Once B and C outgrow their clothes, I box them up to send to friends and family that can use them.  I also sort out the stuff that isn't worth keeping so I can get rid of it.  I make sure everything is clean and folded, and then I put it into plastic tubs according to size.  I label the tubs on 2 sides and on the top so that it is easy to quickly see what is in each tub.  Then all of the tubs go down into the basement.  They could easily be stored in a garage, attic, closet, or shed if you don't have a basement.

There are also bins for E and J of stuff I have collected that they will grow into.  I like to buy future clothes when they are on sale at the end of each season.  (Actually my sister-in-law does it for me, and I love her for it).  If someone gives us clothes that their kids have outgrown, I sort it and put it in these bins too.  Then whenever E and J need new clothes we can check in the "to grow" tubs first.  If it isn't in there, then we can go buy it.  I always check Goodwill before I go to a regular store.  We have found some amazing deals on really great clothes there. 

Stuff they bring home
What about all of the papers and projects and other stuff they bring home from school?  I have plastic tubs for each school aged child down in the basement.  I regularly go through all of the things the kids bring home and pull out what I want to keep.  Then I put them in the tub downstairs.  I throw away (or recycle) what I don't want to keep.  **One word of caution: don't throw away anything your child makes or brings home when they are awake!  I promise you will avoid lots of tears if you do it when they can't see it**

When your kids are young, you will have a lot of bulky stuff--mostly art projects.  Just put it in the tub.  After the school year is over go through it again.  You will most likely find things that you originally saved that you don't want to save anymore.  Then put a piece of cardboard or tissue paper folded in half on top of everything.  When the next school year comes, you will be ready to put whatever stuff you want to save right on top of the previous year.  Then you will have everything you want to save and it will be separated by year.

Once your kids get older, they will stop bringing home art projects and will bring home lots of papers.  At this point you can get a 3 ring binder with plastic sheet protectors to put everything in.  You can do one per year or you can separate years with the tab dividers.  You can put them in the tub too.  Everything stays organized and in one central location.  Then when your child grows up you can give them their tub of keepsakes to take with them.

The only other suggestion I have is to keep in a separate binder or scrapbook each of your child's report cards and school pictures.  A friend of mine had a scrapbook that she made of all of her son's pictures from Kindergarten through graduation.  It didn't take her long to put it together because she had everything in order and in one place.  She displayed it at his graduation party and everyone loved flipping through it.  My kids are years away from graduation, but I LOVE this idea and have adopted it.

Back packs, coats, and shoes
When E was in preschool her shoes, coat, and back pack ended up in random places in the house when she got home.  Every day we frantically looked for one or all of these so she could go to school.  It was crazy.  When she started Kindergarten I told her we weren't going to do that anymore.  It took a few months of daily reminders, but she got to the point of taking her shoes off and putting them in the "shoe house", hanging her coat and bringing me her back pack.  This is our routine each day.

We took a shoe organizer and put it inside the closet so there is a place for everyone's shoes.  We also bought a bench and a shelf with hooks that are in our foyer so that the kids can hang their coats and have a place to put their back packs.  Now when they get home, it is routine for them to take care of their stuff so it is right where we need it the next day.

If you want more info on our daily routine, you can check out this post.

I hope this was helpful.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please share!


Jenn said...

So, you inspired me to get the kids' clothes organized. I went out and got some wire cubes, but then I see you pictures and their not wire! Where did you get those beauties? I might have to return mine!

Sarah @ Pumpkin Patch said...

Are you talking about the ones in the kids' closets? They are sweater organizers from Costco. We bought them about a year and a half ago. You have to put them together, but it is pretty easy. I just went back for another one and couldn't find any. I don't know if they are available online. I looked and this is all I could find. This is the same type we are using, but ours came in a box big enough to make 12 cubes and it was only about $30. Check this link