Our home has recently been the site of an overhaul, a complete makeover. Not all at once, and the job isn’t done — it probably never will be — but we’re on a path to simpler ways. We’ve been organizing.
We tend to maintain some sense of organization all the time, but in recent months the notion of less-is-more has taken over. With all the Waldorf influences via our homeschooling, and after visiting a Montessori school for an open house a few months back, my eye began to stick uncomfortably on places that needed work. For months I’ve been re-evaluating the effectiveness of our methods and here is what I’ve learned.
Less-is-more. Simplify. Doing without is freedom.
We live in a small home, and we’re about to have our third child. All the children will share one small room, a closet and a dresser. What does this mean? Bunk beds, shelving, hooks, and a place for everything. In order to make any of this work we had to junk a lot of junk. It may not have seemed like junk when it entered our home, but there were so many things that were unused, or just plain unpleasing. Most of this work I had to do myself, as kids have a way of seeing sparkly things like crows see shiny. I had to evaluate items in simpler terms.
:: Does it encourage imagination?
:: Does it encourage learning?
:: Does it get used?
:: If it was gone for a week, would anyone notice?
:: And, if nothing else convinced me, the idea that it might earn us a few extra dollars at our local consignment store would often put the ‘nail in the coffin.’
Next on the list of simplification was the wardrobes. Now the girls have two drawers each for clothes, a socks and underwear drawer and six to seven dresses in the closet. We have a tall narrow dresser for our new baby and it is stocked with diapers and newborn clothing. In getting rid of clothing, it helped me to use this criteria:
:: Is it made of natural fibers?
:: Is it comfortable?
:: Does it mix and match with the other pieces they’re keeping?
This is a tricky prospect for many moms of daughters. It feels like clothes are coming at us from every side sometimes, and the best thing we can do is be selective. Sure, they may wear through a pair of pants, but by consigning or thrifting it is easy to replace with more quality items. Not having endless options when dressing can really empower a child to feel good about getting dressed. I’ve been surprised to see my daughter immediately dress herself every morning since this change because the chore is no longer overwhelming! And an added benefit? Less laundry!
Quality, Not Quantity
This notion is huge, and it applies across the board. From clothing to toys to books and even crafting supplies. While I don’t want grandparents and friends to think we are excessively choosy, there’s something to be said about surrounding yourself in quality items. Being able to recognize true value is a skill that will benefit our kids in the long run. Cost alone will help keep you from buying more than you need, and the items you do have will become familiar to your children in a more wholesome way. For example, just one really nice wooden toy will last a lifetime and if your child turns to it more frequently, it can be explored on more levels than if they choose a different toy each time. And, like books — which again can be trash — they can be switched out seasonally.
Ultimately we set our own standards, but as with the food, we should think about the value of the items in our home. Sometimes an empty shelf is worth more than a full one!
Accessibility is Key
Upon visiting the Montessori school I mentioned, I had this vision of making our home a place where the kids feel they are capable. A place where they can reach, and find, and explore, and be comfortable. Sure, they need adult help for a lot of tasks, but toys and crayons and paper should be in a place that makes sense to them, places that don’t require stepping stools, or even permission. So, this is probably part of the biggest change for us.
The closet is cleaned of junk-toys and filled with baskets and containers they can reach. Learning manipulatives have a home even our two-year-old can access, and with this accessibility comes a great thing — responsibility. A rule that can now be effectively enforced? –one toy at a time and self-cleaning.
As a result, less of my day is spent picking up after my kids, toys are less often strewn about the living room, puzzle pieces less often found in the couch cushions and crayons under beds. From little suitcases for doll clothes to cheap or thrifted baskets for blocks; everything has a home. Jars for crayons and colored pencils, little thrifted filing boxes for beads and trinkets; simple drawstring bags offer a cheap way for sewers to use up scraps and provide a ‘place’ for piece-y items.
Homeschoolers Delight–Everything in its Place
Homeschooling can be an overwhelming thing; from choosing curriculum to planning lessons. The major accomplishment we made this year was in finding a method for our madness. It comes in the form of a mid-century estate sale find that adds character to our room but is designated to the very important purpose of housing our homeschool.
In our home there is no extra room to set up as a schoolroom. This can feel limiting, but having found this piece of furniture and dedicating it to this one purpose has been freeing. First, we know where our materials are, so the wasted time searching for the perfect color of construction paper, or rounding up paintbrushes, paint and water is a thing of the past.
Not only has it made project planning and completion simpler, it provides a sense of formality to my kids. If it comes from that furniture, it is school-related — official business. There is a sense of responsibility and respect that comes when the materials needed for a lesson or craft are found in this one convenient place. It holds our ‘school’ and if it comes from there my sometimes-not-so-respectful-six-year-old can’t deny it.
Crafters Not Hoarders
Lastly, we are a household of crafters. It is difficult not to see the potential in scrap fabric, bits of string, a box of ribbon from the factory my aunt works in, but to what end? Inspiration is often misled by clutter, so while toys need be accessible to two-year-olds, digging through piles of fabric pieces may not be the best way. This applies to any other hobby. Keeping a neat and orderly ‘studio’ is the best way to stay productive, and it models a good example to the children who are watching.
Mama’s Brain in a Half-Inch Binder
Lastly, one of my more subtle changes is a binder. Most folks have smart phones, online calendars, and other electronic ways of keeping organized. For me, even with all those things, having a physical binder with paper, a printed calendar, a pretty creation of my daughter’s on the front, pockets for loose notes, and a handy three-ring hole puncher has helped me clear my brain.
Though I don’t carry it with me everywhere, I could. It’s a planner and a place to hold articles I want to read, a place I can stash knitting patterns and invitations. It has a section for each club I’m a part of, one for baby-related lists, homeschool ideas and lesson planning. There is blank paper where I can jot late-night brilliant ideas, or just simply write a note to a friend. I’ve become more and more consistent about making it a useful part of my life and I even found it at a local thrift store. Granted, there are no apps — but in that lies a little extra focus.
While these are the organizational changes we’ve made in our lives lately, it is easy to feel like there are more to be made. None of this happened overnight, and what we have accomplished has been without much added cost. In fact, we probably made more selling and consigning than anything else.
All of these things have come together to help us establish a rhythmic feeling in our home. School is school, play is play, chores are chores, and so on. Simplification is the best way to organize, and it can be so fulfilling. Here’s to deserving simple, quality, wholesomeness in our lives!
Lacey Grim is a stay-at-home mom in Greensboro, North Carolina. She spends her days exploring, learning, and enjoying life with her husband and 2 little girls, and there’s a baby on the way. Music, crafts, farming, gardening, homeschooling, living a vintage-esque life and picking up new hobbies is how she spends most of her time. Lacey keeps up a blog and an Etsy store, Gremlina Vintage & Handmade goods.