WARNING: This is a long story of progress, not perfection. If you are not interested in pondering the decluttering process, then skip to the photos.
I’ve been homeschooling for fourteen years now. I spent the first half of this time accumulating materials. I was building a home library, an art studio, a classroom, and trying to figure out which methods and curricula worked for my family. Then it was suddenly “all too much.” (Thank you, Peter Walsh!) I’ve decluttered at least once every year since then. In the beginning, I got rid of a lot. I went through all the emotions you feel when you do a big purge. It was an eye-opening experience.
Past purchases can teach you much about yourself. I could see how I bought things we didn’t need out of fear, or to avoid pain; how I blindly followed “experts” instead of praying and trusting God; how I thought curricula, and not discipline, was the problem; and so on… It was all a learning experience. Processing those feelings helped me to see more clearly and stop the spending. That didn’t mean I reached the schoolroom “click point” as Marie Kondo calls that place where you feel you have just the right amount of stuff. So this time, my goal was to keep only those things that we love, or use, or will use at a specific time in the future.
I divided the room into these categories:
- Art Supplies
- Craft Supplies
- Office Supplies
- Mary’s Activities
Next, I picked up each item for consideration and made lists of “The Keepers.” I asked myself (and sometimes my kids) three questions:
- Do we love it?
- How often do we use it?
- Does it serve a good purpose?
A “yes” to any of the questions made it a keeper. Some items went into the trash or donate piles. Where it got difficult was when we answered “No. Not at all. No, BUT I’m going to use it someday!” Or we might use it in the future, or maybe it’ll serve a good purpose someday.
Then, two months-of-doing-nothing later, after realizing that some of the “Keepers” did not meet my criteria of love, use, or going to use it at a specific time in the future, I made another pass through the room. I weeded out some more items.
This time I went through quickly, not touching every item individually, and I used another set of questions which I made up based on the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
- Does this help me to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord?
- Do I use this to help me on to my end?
- Does this hinder me as to my end?
The thing about homeschooling books and curricula, and even some art supplies, is that unless you know in advance what your course of study will be every year for all of your homeschooling years, it’s impossible to know whether or not you will use a certain book at a specific time in the future. The best I can do is make an educated guess. I’ve been procrastinating “finishing” decluttering the schoolroom because I’ve been confusing the end with the means.
I was so focused on having the perfect amount of stuff in the room, that I forgot that the perfect amount of stuff is not my end. These new questions reminded me of my true end, and made me realize that having a few extra picture books on a shelf that we never read is not going to hinder me as to my true end.
I just need to be the best steward of our things that I can be at this time, then move on. So I am keeping the items that we love, we use, and a limited number of items that we will likely use in the future, and I’m assigning a home for each item.
Because my schoolroom is large with lots of storage spaces, it is easy to find homes for everything. The way that I am limiting the number of items is by confining them to certain areas. And these areas don’t need to be filled. Empty space is desirable. Here are some of their homes:
- Mary’s activities in the old computer cabinet
- chapter books in the cherry cabinets
- reference and religious books on the top white shelves
- readers, poetry books and plays on the middle white shelves
- picture books on the bottom left shelf
- history, geography, art and science books on the bottom right shelf
- cleaning, art and craft supplies in the cabinets and a drawer
- office supplies in a drawer
- Playdoh in a cabinet
- sewing supplies in a chest of drawers
In the schoolroom closet, I have a dresser in which I am keeping:
- items to use later this year in the top drawer
- audiobooks in the little drawer above the cabinet
- future language arts, Latin, math and religion books in the second drawer
- future art books and syllabi in the bottom drawer
- future music, science, history and geography books in the cabinet
Many of the books and supplies for the current year are kept on shelves in the closet.
I feel comfortable with the items currently in our schoolroom. I don’t consider them to be clutter. There are more activities, sewing, and art and craft supplies in here than I would like; but I keep them because the girls love and/or use them, and they have assigned homes. I expect that many of these items will go out the door as the girls get older and their interests change. You can see the rest of the schoolroom when I do a room tour post. That’ll happen when I am finished with this VHS-C tape project,
or right before school starts… whichever comes first.