Decluttering the Schoolroom

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:

  • Furniture
  • Accessories
  • Walls
  • Books
  • 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:

  1. Do we love it?
  2. How often do we use it?
  3. 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.

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  1. Does this help me to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord?
  2. Do I use this to help me on to my end?
  3. 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,

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or right before school starts…  whichever comes first.

 

 

Room Tours: The Master Bedroom

Welcome to my Room Tour Category!  This is my second post here.  The first one was a tour of the girls’ room.  This will be a tour of the room I share with my husband, Bob.  I think I’ve been calling him Bobby here.  I usually call him Bob when I’m talking about him, and Bobby when I’m talking to him. Oh well.

I found some pictures of this room, from 2010, on a blog that I stopped keeping at the end of that year. I had blogged for five years, and then I took a break from it until this year.  I read a few posts, and although I was still pondering the same ideas as I am today, I could see that I have made progress with simplifying (though slowly) over the past seven and a half years.  For example, back then I was overwhelmed by our kitchen clutter, and today our kitchen seems to be in good order.

So here is what our bedroom looked like back then:

We bought the Shaker style furniture when we moved into our first home in 1999.  Then we decorated the room like this in 2006, when we moved into our current home.  Eventually, the quilt started falling apart.  I flipped it over for awhile, then I took it off completely and just had sheets and blankets for awhile.  This year I wanted a change. I did something drastic.  I moved the furniture around for the first time in twelve years.  I took down the pictures.  Then I replaced the valances with sheers.  And I bought new bedding, lampshades and placemats for the nightstands.  So this is how it looks now.

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I looked at loads of pictures online and found neutral colors were most attractive to me. I’m usually frugal, but this time I splurged on some 750 count sheets and they are amazing!  I feel like I’m in a hotel at night.  It’s very cozy and comfortable.  So we each have our own nightstands.  I keep a prayer book, earbuds, my Kindle, and a box of tissues in mine.

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The armoire belongs to Bob.  The little decoration on top was the cake topper from our wedding cake.  It was a gift from his mother.  She painted it to look like us.  I have a cute little veil and beads and flowers just like the real ones.  Well if I knew I was going to share all these details, I would have taken a closer picture of the thing.

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The dresser is mine. And you can see our bathroom door on the left.  My closet door is next, and our bedroom door leads to the living room. My dresser currently holds a wedding picture, my undergarments, socks, pajamas, work out clothing, bathing suit, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, dressy pumps and nylons, a sentimental box, and the jewelry the girls receive as gifts, but don’t wear yet. Most of my capsule wardrobe is hung in my closet.

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Bobby’s closet is across from mine and he has the larger one, because he has more clothing.  My closet is L-shaped. I keep my clothing at one end, and on the other end…

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are my books!  After seeing the movie, War Room, I created a prayer closet.  Before capsule wardrobes, I kept all of my clothing in my dresser.  But I found that because of the shape of my closet, It doesn’t bother me to have clothing in here too.  I actually like leaning on my bathrobe when I’m reading on the floor.

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You can see Bobby’s closet and our bathroom door on the right. I haven’t hung any pictures on the walls yet.  I’m enjoying the simplicity of the room.  If Bobby doesn’t tell me he wants stuff on the walls, it’s going to stay this way.  We have talked about getting an electric fireplace in here.  I’m thinking it would go to the right of my dresser.  Maybe when it gets cold again.  So this is our room and that’s the end of the tour.

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Decluttering Checklist: The Kitchen

I remember the first time I decluttered my kitchen. It was in 1998, just after I read the book Totally Organized by Bonnie McCullough. I gathered everything in my cabinets and drawers and put the items in cardboard boxes in another room.  It seemed extreme at the time, but it was really just a mini packing party.  I brought items back into the kitchen as needed, and eventually purged what was not needed.  (And I likely kept some items I deemed unnecessary, to please my husband.)

Now we are a family of eight.  We have WAY MORE STUFF than we had back then.  I don’t do kitchen packing parties anymore.  We use the stuff we have. I’ve spent years tweaking the number of spatulas (and other kitchen tools) that will work best for our family. So this latest decluttering wasn’t difficult.

I went through each shelf or drawer, one at a time, and decided which items to keep. I cleaned as I went.  Some areas I put back exactly as they were and other areas I rearranged to fit our current lifestyle.  For example, I made one cabinet just for snacks.  We used to keep candy and a blender in that cabinet, and some snacks that Bobby eats almost daily were stored in the pantry.  This new arrangement is more convenient.

I purged plastic cups that BOBBY! (surprisingly) said we should get rid of.  And I also let go of a large electric mixer and oven mitts that belonged to Sarah.  She was willing to part with them after a couple of years of them sitting unused.  Sarah is the main baker in our family and she said that she prefers the hand mixer.

I felt really great when I finished with the kitchen declutter.  Just as it is in the girls’ room, there is truly a home for each item.  Now we just need to establish good habits of putting things back in their places. My plan is to attach this activity to meal times.  So, after we eat, we put the kitchen back in order.  And I am certain we are going to eat!

Decluttering Checklist: Weeks Eight and Nine

So this is what I checked off since my last post:

  • dining room (another round)
  • linen closet
  • extra closet
  • master bathroom
  • master bedroom (my own things)
  • Sarah’s clothing
  • Rachel’s clothing
  • Matthew’s clothing
  • my clothing
  • basement: clothing storage
  • basement: decorations
  • basement: trash from Matthew’s room
  • mudroom

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So, I went through the dining room again after realizing that I had just glanced around the hutch without actually touching each item and asking myself questions about it.  I took out our excess gravy boats, crystal dishes, platters, and this cheese dome.  I asked Bobby about them, and surprisingly, he thought we could get rid of the cheese dome and one crystal platter.  So these are gone.

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The linen closet and extra closet in our back hall “before” and “after” photos:

The extra closet stores: lightbulbs, batteries, my tools, paper products, the crock pot, a box of items to return, a box of items to donate, and some more household maintenance items. I’ve been through these areas so many times, that we are left with only items we actually use.  I think I got rid of about four blankets and 2 pillowcases. Also, some items we meant to return and never did.

I brought up my out of season clothing and I’m donating (with Sarah’s too) a full kitchen trash bag.  I plan on making my own summer capsule wardrobe soon.  I may buy a few new items, but most of it will come from items already in my spring capsule wardrobe.

This is where I began in the basement.

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I updated the lists I keep inside some of the clothing bins so I know what’s in them.

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I crossed out items as I purged them, and added new items going in.  I also made a few new labels for the bins and went through the Halloween and Easter (and other holiday) decorations. I know we use all of the Christmas and Thanksgiving decorations, with the exception of the Carousel. I asked Bobby about it because it belongs to him. No answer yet.

Finally, these are things that have gone “out the door”, and there are even more items in the back of my van right now.  I’m making progress!

Decluttering Checklist: Week Seven

This week I checked off:

  • the living room
  • the dining room

I purged paper one day. And I entered loads of receipts into an expense notebook that I am trying to keep up with this year instead of using Quicken.

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I also bagged and boxed stuff that we had already decided to get rid of that was still lying around the house. I dropped it off at the Salvation Army and felt a little lighter.

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This was week three of the Uncluttered course. The assignment was to declutter your vehicle (which I did), and the main living areas such as the living room, dining room, sunroom, etc. The only thing I’m getting rid of in the living room is a large landscape painting we had hanging for about twelve years. I don’t really like how it looks with our new furniture. I’m testing out the Order picture (which I love) that was hanging in the foyer. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it in here yet. I’ll give it some time.

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I tested many things above the loveseat, but haven’t found anything satisfactory yet. I’m bummed that Joseph will not allow me to hang his Harvey portrait in the living room. In fact, he won’t even allow me to post a picture of it here.  Joseph played Elwood P. Dowd in his high school’s production of Harvey.  His art teacher created a fake painting of Elwood (with Joseph’s face) and the rabbit, Harvey.  I laughed when Joseph, in character, hung the “painting” above his mantle on stage, and I’d love to see it daily, but no…  so Lego Harry Potter 7 is up there temporarily to make me chuckle for a couple of weeks.

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That throw pillow has moved up to Rachel’s bed.  And speaking of moving things around…

Yesterday, I listened to Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered webinar. In it, he talked to the people who were organizing and moving things from room to room, but not really getting rid of much. That’s me!  I know I’ve been decluttering for years, so I’m not going to have as much to purge as someone just starting out, but truthfully, in certain areas in my home, that is what I am doing.  For example, in the school room, it is easier to reorganize all of the extra curriculum, art and craft supplies, etc. then to let them go and trust that we’ll be OK without them. I’m talking about all of those items in my home that I’m not using and I’m keeping just in case. “I might need them someday.”

Joshua said organizing is always temporary. You organize one day, only to organize again another day. Minimizing, getting rid of stuff, is always permanent.  He added some more motivators. Organizing doesn’t help anyone else. (i.e. donate)  And organizing doesn’t force self-reflection. This is so true.  I have reflected a lot over the years on the stuff I have gotten rid of, and this doesn’t happen when you move it around avoiding dealing with the hard questions and truths about yourself.

Here are some more notes I took during the webinar that will help me as I get back to work on my checklist today:

  1. Do I really need this?
  2. Do I really use it?
  3. Why do I have this?
  4. Minimize first, before organizing and thinking about storage.

And lastly, I’ve added some deadlines to my checklist.  I think they are realistic, but I’m hoping I’ll finish most of them before their deadline dates.  I’ll post my progress soon.

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Decluttering Checklist: Week Six

This week I continued to work on the girls’ room. I hung the new rods and curtain panels and we put Rachel and Hannah’s belongings in the new dresser, wardrobe and bins.  Do the sheers look better loosely hanging or pushed more to the sides?

I also spent time planting a vegetable garden and flowers in the backyard.

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It was the second week of the Uncluttered course. This week’s assignment was to walk around the rooms of my home observing the stuff in them. Then, to go around again with a trash bag, filling it up with things I know I can get rid of right away.

The tour around my home was, for the most part, a happy one.  I took written notes about each room such as:

  • I’m going to go through everything in here
  • I’m done here except for some decorating and organizing
  • Done, but need to follow our routines better

When I got to the schoolroom, I felt a little worried. There was the usual stuff that I can totally handle, but there were also scrapbooks, photos, the VHS-C project, and other sentimental items that I’m not ready to deal with. I continued the tour downstairs, feeling more positive.

  • Need to make seasonal changes and declutter in here
  • There isn’t much clutter showing in here, but I’ll need to go through cabinets and drawers
  • Looks good in here

Then I got to the basement and wrote, “Aagh!!!!!!”

I listed items to get rid of and categories to go through.  Then I wrote, “Many hours!  Days!  Weeks!”  And then after that I had to tell Bobby for the fifteenth time that I am working on the main areas of the house first, and when I’m finished, then I’ll make Matthew work on the basement with me. And I’m going to get rid of a lot of stuff! (I was really trying to convince myself that it will happen.)

The hardest thing for me seems to be finding time when I am home to work on this. I’ve been out a lot and we had a Confirmation party last Sunday and we’re having a 7th birthday party for Mary this Saturday, so I’m also spending time on cleaning, party prep and socializing.  No more excuses… I am going to commit to at least 15 minutes each day this week.  I want to make progress.  I CAN DO THIS!!

Decluttering Checklist: Week Five

This week I checked off:

Nothing again!

I continued to shop for items for the girls’ room. A wardrobe, some sheer curtain panels and cheap curtain rods, a lamp, and storage bins. I’ve set a deadline of next weekend to finish this project.

This was the first week of Becoming Minimalist’s Spring 2018 Uncluttered Course. I’ve  had lifetime access to this course since I first registered for it (for free) by pre-ordering Joshua Becker’s book, The More of Less. So I’ve been through the course before. It hasn’t gotten me through my whole home, but I signed up again for extra inspiration. I joined the closed Facebook group, which I hadn’t done before. This week’s challenge was to list the reasons why you want to declutter your home and post it somewhere you will see it often. (And reduce it to one sentence and post it to the Facebook group.)

There are many reasons why I want to declutter. Maybe I’ll list them in another post, but here’s the sentence I wrote on a sticky note and posted on my bathroom mirror:

I want to declutter my entire home and practice a rule of life so that I may love God, others and myself better.

Decluttering Checklist: Week Four

This week I checked off:

NOTHING!!

I’ve been working on the kids’ rooms project, which I wrote about last week.  This has involved lots of shopping and acquiring new stuff, and getting rid of the large bunkbed/trundle/storage unit that used to be in the girls’ room. I’m happy to say that a young man picked it up this morning for his ten year old son. I posted it on Craigslist for free, and it took me a full three days to get rid of it.  I had twenty people express interest in it, but they weren’t committing to a pick up time. Next time I’m going to try a Buy Nothing Facebook group that my friend told me about recently.

So I have purchased two beds, two nightstands and a dresser. I spent an evening putting Mary’s daybed together. I also let the girls get a waste basket, which they’ve been wanting for years. We found it for $5 at Target. And we purchased a picture, a picture frame, a candle (for decoration, not for burning), and a light up “H” for Hannah. I had 4 photos Joseph wanted framed, printed at Walgreen’s and I bought frames for them. New komono.

The girls and I have been discussing the goals of this project. Well, my goals of this project.  (They might just want a pretty room.) They are simply to have a place for everything, and everything in its place.

More specifically, there are these three goals:

  1. To assign a home for each item that we use and/or love. (Or that matches the room décor.)
  2. To put things away when you are done using them.
  3. To have certain times each day for putting things back where they belong. (Because let’s be real, some people are not going to accomplish goal #2)

I eventually plan to have room tours on this blog.  But right now I am focused on finishing setting up their room, and then getting right back to the decluttering checklist.

Decluttering Checklist: Week Three

This week I checked off:

  • Joseph’s room
  • The girls’ room

I had expected to get much more decluttering done during the past week, which was school vacation, BUT…

I turned this into a major project. The girls room, which Rachel, Hannah, and Mary share, was very cluttered. Hannah and Mary slept on a used bunk bed/trundle/storage unit that we were given for free a few years ago.  Hannah kept asking that they get their own beds, and Rachel really wanted to make some changes in their room. Here are some before pictures.

So we took every single item out and moved it into the hallway and the school room. It was crazy how much stuff was in that room.

Then I started to panic. It was overwhelming. We probably took a snack break.

Then we cleaned the room, and here’s where I made this into an even bigger project.  I took down the bunk bed. We put all the pieces in my garage bay. (I still can’t park in there.) I moved the rest of the furniture out.

Ah!! The calm of an empty space. It was all ready to paint. But no, there wasn’t time for that. If it was summer, I would have done it, but we needed our school room back on the following Monday.

The next step was decluttering Joseph’s room. I moved the things he wanted to keep into the empty room.  This took up most of Tuesday. He got rid of some clothes, books, komono and loads of paper. He kept every single Lego.

On Wednesday, we went through the girls’ stuff. They got rid of some, but on Wednesday night (and Thursday) we went shopping. We plan to replace the bunk bed with other furniture, but I haven’t made any decisions yet. We bought a new lamp, a comforter set for Rachel’s bed, and a set of plastic drawers. And then I had a very busy three days and now vacation is over. So this project will be continued…

Decluttering Checklist: Week Two

This week I checked off:

  • kitchen desk
  • foyer closet
  • utility closet
  • pantry

For decluttering the kitchen desk, I tried something called the “Shock Treatment Declutter Method”.  I read about it on Uncluttered Simplicity.

  1. I took everything out of my desk and put it on my bed.

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Then I sorted it into these categories:

  • Paper (in piles and files) and Product Manuals (in binders)
  • Cookbooks
  • Matthew’s paper tray
  • Electronics
  • Stationery
  • Office Supplies
  • Cash
  • Keys
  • Gift Cards
  • Library/Store Cards
  • Kids’ bank books and cash (in tin)
  • Decorations
  • Items to repair

2.  I surveyed the damage. I observed that there was stuff with no assigned homes, too much paper, things I never use, and that my paper filing system was not simple enough. I decided to keep paper separate as it is listed on my checklist as a “Major Project”.

3.  Step 3 is to ruthlessly eliminate. I don’t think I was ruthless, but I eliminated stuff and I was happy that most of the things I returned to my desk are things I use regularly. (I may not use the sticky tabs often, and I kept a few paper clips that I may not need.)

Next was the foyer closet. I removed 2 games with the kids’ permission, and 24 hangers.

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I noticed I’d like to replace the ironing board cover. I started a wish list. (Maybe I’ll get one for Christmas.)

I took everything out of the utility closet.  (See below.) I sorted into these categories:

  • cleaning supplies
  • children’s medicine
  • first aid
  • bandages & tape
  • aprons
  • sunscreen/bug spray

I got rid of old stuff, and reorganized.

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The pantry was a mess. I forgot to take a before picture, and I’m glad I did. Here is the after picture.

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It will be a little more filled up after our next food shopping trip. Those Easter pails will be stored in the basement with the Easter decorations after more candy is eaten. I am pleased that everything in here has a home.  Most of the shelves are labeled with a category name and a little list of what goes on the shelf.  This is school vacation week, so I am expecting to declutter for a block of time each day. I may even post more frequently.