Lani’s son Max (8) hard at work during the spring lockdown
The idea of getting through another semester of home school while working and doing all of the other things is a lot. I hear you. But this is the hand we have been dealt. So, we will deal with it. Just like I was there for you with the blog, What the F*ck Are We Going to do About The Summer?, I am here for you this school year.
This week, longtime friend, co-founder of the Manhattan-based organizing firm Pixies Did It, and author of Organize Your Way Kelly McMenamin advises on how to best organize our kids’ physical space for home school this semester. Please, let it only be one semester…
Next week, I will be back with my personal advice (gleaned from experience and listening to a lot of podcasts) on how to organize your time for maximum efficiency. And then we will get back to fashion eventually!
May the force we with us,
Home school set up of Lani’s son James (6) in the playroom
How to Organize Your Physical Space for Home School by Kelly McMenamin of Pixies Did It
Keep It Simple
“Keep It Simple”. That’s my mantra when it comes to home schooling organization or frankly anything. When I’m physically setting up these systems for clients, I weave their natural habits into systems. It’s the foundation of what we do at PixiesDidIt. It’s impossible to STAY organized if you set up systems that don’t work with your organizing style, i.e., what you innately do or want to see when you’re tired at the end of the day. But when you don’t know someone’s organizing style, keeping it simple means it’s easy for anyone to maintain … including kids.
With that in mind, open bins are the simplest way to organize. So you get a gold star, Lani. You’re ahead of the game with your roving, labeled storage bins. If someone doesn’t like to have the open bins out, they’re easy to tuck away in a closet at day’s end.
A more buttoned up approach to bins are these plastic modular bins for kids papers and notebooks. They are more contained than open bins. They stack. They come in opaque or clear and have various sizes for different supplies and categories. Plus, they’re useful to store supplies when normality returns. I also love the ColorWave SmartTote systems. They can be all white or colorful and the inserts either allow you to hide and store tons of supplies or utilize them as stand alones.
If the idea of bins allover doesn’t appeal, another option is to create a sort of home schooling station. Something that maybe can’t be hidden away as easily but is cute enough to hold it’s own. Voila the rolling school cart. I love this one because it’s so retro cheery. It makes me think of those drinks trolleys they used to wheel around on old train cars. And let’s face it, having a school organizer make you think about a gin & tonic on a train ride is superior to thinking about arguing with your second grader about a math assignment.
The Container Store 3-Tier Rolling Cart, available in 7 colors,
$34.99 $29.99. Try the large version if the small cart is still sold out.
If you don’t want to invest in temporary home schooling solutions, a great “Keep It Simple” option is storing everything in their existing backpack. They’re fabric versions of the above two solutions. But unlike those, they hang on hooks and are less rigid. I often have to remind myself, “You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.” If backpacks worked for your kid at school, they’ll work at home.
The backpack idea bleeds into a homeschool time saving idea that dawned on me after the Spring Lockdown: Lunch boxes. In normal life, I prepared lunches the night before school because I was too harried to do it in the morning. Once the pandemic hit, I made lunches when they were done with morning school. I joked that I wasn’t just the assistant teacher to three boys, I was also the lunch lady, the janitor, the procurement officer, the gardener, etc. This fall, whether my boys are physically in school or not, pre-prepared lunches will be in the fridge when I go to bed so I can get more work done everyday.
My almost final piece of advice is if you don’t have a mail room set up for your household where everybody has a cubby for their stuff, set it up before school starts. It’s the rare bird that has empty shelves but everyone can de-clutter or re-arrange a couple of shelves to create a mail room. The ideal spots are easy to access cabinets or closets with doors. With mail rooms, I put large labeled bins that can accommodate piles of randomly sized sundry items. Lani, just buy four more of those same bins. Whenever you find something that doesn’t fit in their daily bin, put it in their cubby. Your house (and daily bins) will be less cluttered and more organized without having to waste time making a decision on where to store something innocuous (and then potentially forget said decision). The answer to “Have you seen my?” breezily becomes “Look in your cubby.”
Last but not least, if you don’t already have an electric pencil sharpener, get one. They’re life changing.
Lani: I agree, Kelly! We got the one above a few months ago and I don’t know how we lived without it. You put the pencil in and it spits it back out when it is done! One more thing I don’t have to supervise. It’s the little things that keep us going these days, right?
Thank you so much for the fabulous advice! I really need to follow your advice on making lunches the night before and stop playing short order cook (for every meal) seven days a week! The mail room idea is also very intriguing.