By Kyndra Steinmann

This morning I looked at my desk and decided (yet again) that I needed to spend some time clearing it. Of course, I thought this yesterday, too—and the day before that! Last week, I actually did clear it off…and it stayed organized for about an hour.

The basement looks like a bomb went off, with scattered chess pieces, Scrabble tiles, blocks, and Legos as shrapnel. I’ve asked the children to clean up several times, but I suspect the mess is too much for them to even figure out where to start.

We’ve been doing school in the main part of the house instead of the schoolroom, which means I am constantly shuffling school stuff from one location to another. Having a busy toddler means that the dining and living rooms are really the best place for us right now, but I feel like I’m forever having to locate books, pencils, and notebooks instead of being able to calmly and efficiently present and guide the lessons.

Add in a week or two of nasty, sleety weather instead of good snow for playing, and I think we’re all about to go a little nuts!

Obviously, I need to dig us out of this mess and restore some order, but where to start? How do I pick the starting point that will make everything else fall into place? I made a list of the frustration points in our days:

  • Identify the problems.
    1. School books can’t be located
    2. No one can find a pencil
    3. Noise level is too high during school
    4. My desk is a dumping spot for incomplete work
    5. The basement is unusable as a play space
    6. Somehow the socks get to the laundry and never return.
  • Identify the things that can’t change.
    1. School is going to be downstairs for the next couple of months due to the busy toddler
    2. Certain children are noisy and others (and I) are noise sensitive
  • Identify the things that can be changed.
    1. School books and supplies can come downstairs temporarily
    2. Everyone can learn to be gracious to each other’s noise issues
    3. I can inspect the basement regularly
    4. I can schedule desk cleaning into my days
  • Change the changeable. This is the hard one! It involves deciding which things need to go and which to move, and to where. Those are the kinds of decisions I don’t find easy, but I think I’ve got the beginnings of a workable system at least until Easter.

Basement: I bought a bunch of large totes and have been picking up everything I find on the floor and sticking it in a tote. So far the children haven’t done any cleaning up themselves, but I think that eventually we’ll get the amount of stuff down to a reasonable point and they will decide to clean up themselves. I rather suspect that this point of reasonableness is going to have far fewer toys  and books in it than previously. That’s OK. We can always rotate stuff or add stuff back in if needed, but having the children learn that they can keep their spaces neat is a life lesson I don’t want them to miss.

School Stuff: I cleared a bookshelf in the living room and brought down the books that each student uses every day. Most of the books have stayed in the school room where they are easy to access if we need them, but the daily stuff is right here and can be put away easily as well. I’ve also added a “supply box” with pencils, scissors, glue, etc.

Incomplete Papers and Other Loose Materials: I haven’t found a good solution for this yet. My file cabinet is in the school room and things like the maps for history each week are already copied and filed. My problem is figuring out what to do with those things during the week when I need to refer to them but haven’t given them to my students yet. The pigeonholes in my desk aren’t tall enough for file folders so I think I’m going to have to put a file holder of some kind either on my desk or on top of the bookshelf. Any ideas?

Desk Cleaning and Basement Inspection: These have been added to my daily to-do list, which means that they get done about every other day in reality! My sisters and I challenged each other to clear our desks via Facebook the other day—with each of us posting before and after pictures—which was a lot of fun, so we may do that again, perhaps with kitchen cupboards or the fridge!

Noise: The noisiest three are the youngest three, so I’m working on their learning to hush when asked—and on the older two (and myself) to accept that sometimes little children are noisy, and that we can work around it. That’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely been an incentive to get the basement cleaned up so they can go downstairs and make a ruckus!

Finally, I’m reminding myself that I experience this feeling of chaos and disorganization at about this point every year. We are actually in pretty good shape as far as school goes, and we should finish in May as we usually do. I’m telling myself I should make these changes and then wait until Easter before changing anything else. It will be spring then, the children will be able to get outside more, and—if I can concentrate on staying the course now—I’ll be able to finish strong then!


Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones about living in a houseful of young children, special needs, discipling hearts, and abundant grace! As a homeschool graduate, she has an especial burden to encourage mothers to know and enjoy their children. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


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