You know the drill. Your kitchen is completely clean — the counters are clear and there is not a crumb on the floor. And then your kids get home from school. And they bring home so. many. things. I can’t really help you with your floors (other than recommending a cordless vacuum). However, I can help you organize all the “stuff” so it doesn’t take over your home.
Create an Organization Station
This is the place where your family will hang their backpacks and coats, store their shoes, and all of their other random things. Think about where you want the organization station in your home. Do you want it by the front door because they walk to school? Maybe in the garage because they ride to and from school in your car? Perhaps by the back door so it’s out of the way? Pick the spot you think is best and go from there.
Next, decide how do you want the space to look. It doesn’t have to be a fancy mud room with built-ins in order to be functional. Simple hooks for each child and a big basket for shoes works just fine! Consider how your children will use that space. Do they need somewhere to sit while they put on their shoes? Do you want to hang a shelf on the wall to display their artwork?
Once you have a vision, you can start making a shopping list. Grab the hooks, baskets, etc. that you need and set it up! Once you have created the organization station, take your kids on a tour of the space, show them their place to hang their backpack, and explain how your family will use this every day! If the entire family knows how to use the space, the more likely they are to utilize it!
Design a Family Command Center
A family command center is the centralized place for your family’s calendar and ALL of the papers. Here, you will store the announcements, birthday party invitations, t-shirt order forms, and everything else that is sent home in paper form.
I’m sure you’ve seen something similar to this beautiful Pottery Barn system. There’s a calendar, a bulletin board, a letter bin, and a magnetic chalkboard. It’s so pretty. Everything is framed in white and somehow everything on the wall seems to color coordinate. It looks calming. This is not what yours (or mine) will look like, but don’t worry! This is real life, not a magazine photo shoot!
Pick a place for your family command center that is a little out of the way — maybe the laundry room or a hallway near the back of your home. There will be lots of calendar items and random papers. You don’t necessarily want your annual exam appointment to be the first thing your guests see when they walk into your home!
The necessary items you need are a calendar, a bulletin board, and some sort of filing system. Use the calendar to write important events, sports schedules, and due dates so the entire family knows what is going on each week. The bulletin board is for the invitations, special notes and other items that you want to see. Last, the filing system will be used for the papers. Create labels that make sense for you! Maybe you want a file for each member of the family. Or perhaps you prefer to divide by category, i.e. school, artwork, and sports. However you decide to label the folders, just make sure it makes sense to you so you will use it!
Establish a System for the Artwork
Moms of littles — I feel your pain. Everything that comes home from preschool and the first part of elementary school is just so darn cute! You want to keep everything. It’s a hand print made to look like a turkey! It’s the first time they wrote their name! It’s a funny story with a ton of misspellings! I hear you, but repeat after me … I cannot keep every single piece of art. Seriously … you can’t. It’s too much.
So many moms have asked me how to decide on what to keep and what to toss, and this is such a hard question. First, decide if you want to keep the physical items or if you want to virtually store them.
If you want to keep the actual items, you will need an organizational system for the artwork you decide to keep. I recommend a file box for each child and a hanging folder for each year. If that’s not your style, you can use art storage boxes — just make sure to get one for each year of school for each child.
I recommend using a process of elimination. Go through their folder next to the trash can and only keep your favorite things. Place these favorites in a file folder in your family command center. At the end of each week, go through it again and only keep the best of the best. These pieces go into your organizational system. At the end of the semester, go through it a final time and keep five items. Do the same process in the spring and you will end up with 10 items for the school year. It will be so tempting to keep more! Remember, there are at least 13 years of school, so the items add up quickly!
As a general rule, I recommend that you keep one hand print picture per year. I know that these are so cute and special, but how much growth happens in two months? Keep one per year, and you can see their growth over that period of time! Grandparents and aunts and uncles love to receive artwork in the mail! If you simply cannot throw it out, send it to someone who will love it just as much as you do!
If you don’t have a lot of extra storage space or you prefer to store artwork electronically, there are tons of great sites that will create books out of your child’s artwork. Check out Artkive and plum print — both take high quality pictures of the artwork and send you a book! These make great gifts for grandparents, too!
Another option is an app called Keepy. It is an easy-to-use app that helps you organize and save your family’s memories. You can save artwork, awards, and pictures all in one place. It’s super easy to set up and share with family members!
Creating these three organizational systems in your home will help you manage all the “stuff” and make life easier for the entire family!