Friday, October 31, 2014

The Finale

Well, here we are at the end of the 31 day challenge.  I can't believe it went by so fast.  It was definitely a challenge at times, but it was fun to blog on a regular basis.  I'm thinking of taking all of this information and formatting it into an e-book to go along with my organizing book, "A Plan for Joy in the Home".  I'm envisioning a free add-on.  Now I just have to make time to do it!

The 31 day challenge wasn't just supposed to just be fun for me, but fun for you, too.  I hope you enjoyed the series and learned a thing or two along the way.

I'm not sure what kind of blogging schedule or topics will come up next, so stay tuned and if you have any suggestions of things you'd like to see here, please feel free to share.

Have a Happy All Hallows Eve :)

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wait A Minute, What About School?

Can you believe it?  One more day to go and I haven't written about how to organize your school day!  Well, actually I have.  I think it is the longest section in my book, "A Plan for Joy in the Home", so if you want great detail on how to get organized, check that out!

Here's the long and short of it.  School is important because we are homeschooling parents (or at least most of my readers are).  Our main job of the day for about 180 days of the year is to educate our children.  This takes time and effort.  It also really does require some organization.  A lot of moms like to say that they just can't work off of a schedule, but I believe that, even though they might not have one written out, their day has some sort of rhythm to it.  How could you survive if every day was up for grabs with no plan in place?  That's my wouldn't.  You would be, or maybe are, frazzled and pulling your hair out.

That's why, even if you just can't fathom living by a strict schedule (your day broken down into 30 minute blocks), you can live (and actually will be more at peace) if you have some sort of schedule to your day.

A basic schedule can look something like this:

6:00 get up, pray, shower and dress
7:00 Kids up and dress
7:30 everyone eat breakfast
8:15 out the door for Mass
9:30 Get home from Mass and begin school
12:00 break for lunch, clean up lunch and recess
1:00 more school work
2:30 errands and/or free time
5:00 make dinner
6:00 eat dinner
6:30 clean up kitchen
7:00 Free time
8:00 family rosary
9:00 kids to bed
10:00 mom to bed

There you have it; a very basic schedule that lends a backbone to your day.  A rhythm that you can get back into if you have a morning or a whole day of distractions.

Now, if you're looking for more detail (especially if you have a lot of children to school), take that time from 9:30 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 2:30 and break it down by child into 30 minute time blocks so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and who you are supposed to be working with.  This will eliminate 5 children wanting your attention at once and everyone will know what they are supposed to be working on.

You may not need this much structure forever, but if you do need it, then use it.  I'm telling you, structure is a good thing and sometimes even a necessity.  You will find more peace, as will your children, if there is a structure in place.  At a bare minimum, let them know what time is set aside for school and what to expect when they enter into school mode.  Kids like structure more than adults, I think, so do everyone a favor and bring some of it to your school day!

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Can I Learn This?

Are you born an organized person or it is a learned behavior?  I'm going to say that it is both.  I believe that I have an innate tendency towards organization.  It might border on obsessive at times, but for the most part I think I'm just wired to have things neat and orderly.

Sometimes it is like a game for me.  I look at a task or event and ask myself how I can possibly do it in the most efficient manner?  If I don't like how I've done it, then I try it again the next time to make it even more efficient.  It is most definitely a challenge that I enjoy.

Are my kids all wired like me?  Absolutely not.  I think that over the years, those that aren't have definitely learned a lot from me, but they weren't born that way.  What I'm hoping is that when they get out and have a home and family of their own, they'll realize how important orderliness is and the old lessons from days gone by will kick in and they'll "straighten up"  (pun intended!).  

If you don't feel like you can think or act in an orderly and organized fashion, never fear, because with God, all things are possible.  Lean on Him for the Grace to change your life.  Read books.  Read websites.  Talk to other moms who are better at it than you are.  HOWEVER, don't get stuck there.  It is possible to spend your whole life READING about how to become organized but still never putting it into practice.  That is a temptation that must be done away with.  

Being organized takes effort, and work, and sweat!  Put the time in and you will see results.  Like I always tell my kids, some people just have to work harder at it than others.  The key is just getting started doing SOMETHING and then sticking to it!  As Nike says, "Just Do It"!!!

 God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Does God Have to Say?

We've all heard it said that our God is a God of order.  Just look around at the world.  Everything is ordered so precisely by God:  the day, the seasons, the life cycle, etc.  Nothing is left to chance.  Nothing is askew except for the things that man has had his hand in.

So, what does God have to say about being organized?  Well, in 1 Corinthians 14 we have two verses that help us out.  Verse 33 says, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace".  At least that's what the RSV translation says.  Other translations use order instead of peace.  Verse 40 says, "but all things should be done decently and in order".  Right there St Paul is telling us that we should be doing things in an orderly fashion.

Of course we have Proverbs 31 and the Proverbs 31 woman, which quite honestly, seems a bit daunting, doesn't it?  This is the ideal woman to strive for.  Will we all make it?  Probably not.  However, if we rely on God's help and strive to have our lives in order, we might come pretty close.

What about the creation of the world in Genesis 1?  Does it not show a very orderly creation?  Why would God expect anything less from us?

I know there are times when order and organization seem impossible; believe me, I've been there.  However, don't be discouraged.  Realize that this is just one season in your life and soon things will change and you will be able to be better organized and on top of things.  If this is a crazy time in your life, just pick one thing to be constant and stick to just that.  My pick would be a morning prayer time.  Try very hard to set aside the same five, or even 15 minutes if you can swing it, every morning to talk to the Lord.  Beg him for the graces you'll need for the day.  Offer your entire day to Him, even if it is messy and disorganized.  

Disorganization = chaos.  Organization = peace.  It really does.  God wants you to be organized, so it is definitely a goal that you should seek.  There are plenty of resources and books out there to help you, so what are you waiting for?  Go out and get started!

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Importance of Chore Assignments

By the way, have we talked about chores yet?  This is such an important topic that I've devoted a whole chapter and a bunch of worksheets in my book, "A Plan for Joy in the Home", to help you get organized in this area.

Let's face it, it is just impossible for us to do it all:  homeschooling, cooking, cleaning and everything else in between.  If we do one thing well, another thing will most likely suffer.  I really believe a husband and wife need to come to an agreement on how clean the house needs to be.  If hubby wants a spotless home when he comes in from work, then that probably needs to take priority over something else.  If you just don't think that's possible, then consider a compromise of sorts; one that you can deal with and one that still makes him happy.

Another important thing about chores is that you have to start your kids out young.  Waiting till they're older to start helping around the house is too late.  They might not be able to do a lot when they are little, or even do it well, but they can do something to be helpful.  Get them enthusiastic at a young age and it will reap rewards when they are older.

I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of how we handle our chores because it is quite detailed and covered very thoroughly in my book.  I would just encourage you to have some kind of organized chore schedule (daily, weekly, monthly), stick to it and have the kids take on as much as possible.  It is amazing how much ground you can cover when you have a team instead of trying to do it all yourself.

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


The word strikes fear into a parent's heart.  The word Lego usually means little pieces everywhere.  I have two boys who love Legos but hate having to put them away.  I, on the other hand, love to have them put away because I really don't enjoy tiptoeing my way through my living room.  In fact, since we redid the living room this summer, I've deemed it a LEGO FREE zone.  I need one room that looks neat.

Here is how our Lego collection looked recently:



I believe that is an air hockey table hiding under there

And here is the storage area!
Like I've said before, a system works if those people who are involved in it participate.  I'm not a real stickler about downstairs because I don't spend too much time down there, but upstairs is a different story.

When I do crack the whip, the house cleans up nicely and every Lego has a home.


This brings peace to my soul!

You might not have Legos all over your house, but I'm sure you have other toys that seem to be scattered everywhere.  When the kids were younger, I'd make sure we did a pick up of toys before dinner time and then definitely before I went to bed.  I've always hated getting up and seeing a messy house.  Kind of ruins the moment for me.

I realize that it is impossible to have a tidy house all the time.  I realize that some day all these kids will be gone and I will have as clean of a house as I want to have.  I really do get it.  However, some days it is just really nice to have a house that is neat and tidy AND have the kids around :).  This is why it is important for everything to have a place.  Not just a place, but a place where they can be placed and look neat.  It really will bring peace to your soul!

God Bless!
To see the other posts in this series, go here. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Seasonal Clothing

We have been blessed over the years to get a ton of clothes handed on to us from a wide variety of sources.  The problem is, it is quite overwhelming when a bunch of bags of clothes get brought over and you have to deal with them.  It is times like these when you need to have a system in place to handle all of your clothes, especially if you have a lot of kids.

My first three girls are all just about two years apart, so from the beginning I began collecting big bins to store all of the clothing in so that I could pass them down to the next girl.  It helped, too, that they were all born at the same time of the year and were about the same size, so one set of clothes went through three girls. God is so good :)

My next girl was about three years after the third and born at a different time of year, so for her I needed to start a different collection.  More bins.  At this time we only had a crawl space, so that meant literally crawling in twice a year and grabbing out all of the bins, sorting through everything and then putting them all back.  This usually took up a few days and the entire floor of one room.  

The next three kids were boy, girl and boy.  This meant five years between girl #4 and girl #5 and the same for the two boys.  This meant even MORE bins; but God bless the person who invented plastic bins with lids.  They are the key to a successful clothing storage system.  That and some tape or paper and a sharpie so that all the bins can be properly labeled.  I've always labeled the bins in the following manner:  girl/fall-winter size 10.  This way I know exactly what is in there.

Now that we have a basement, and older kids, the task is so much easier.  Twice a year they go down and bring their OWN bins upstairs, sort through them, relabel them and bring them back downstairs.

Twice a year I gather up all of the items that the youngest boy and girl have outgrown, make sure they're clean and worthy of being passed on, and then usually donate them to our local Free 4 All, or Goodwill if I miss the Free 4 All.

Systems.  That is the key to being organized with a large, and even a small, family.  For everything you have to do over and over again, look for the most practical and efficient  way to get it done and then make it a routine.  The more you can do of this in your home, the smoother your life will run.

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, go here. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Your Bedroom and Closet

Speaking of closets, do you organize the clothing in your drawers and closets?  You know, neatly hung and/or folded and stacked?  Or do you just kind of shove and run?  Do you leave piles of clothing all over your room or do you put them away every day?

I like to think of my bedroom as a haven.  Not that I spend much time in it, but if I need to, I like it to be neat and well organized.  I don't keep any papers or things like that in my room.  If you have to have a desk and/or papers in your room, then try very hard to keep the clutter down.

I also don't like to have clothing strewn around the room...clean or dirty!  I make a habit of hanging my clothes up right away or tossing them right into the laundry.  I put clean clothing away the same day, too.

The bed gets made every morning because that really brings a sense of peace to the bedroom.

I like to make picking out my clothes for the day as quick as possible, so last fall I decided to organize the clothes in my closet in groups by color.  Skirts are all to the right; shirts and sweaters to the left.  All I need to do now is pick a skirt and then go to the appropriate color coordinating section and see what my options are for the top half.  I really like this and feel it has also helped me mix things up better.  After doing this, I also was able to see if I was lacking in a necessary color and it made it easier to decide what I needed to buy for the season.

I did try that trick in my drawers about folding the shirts and putting them in rows so that you can see all of the different shirts (as opposed to just having piles of them, where you can only see the top shirt).  It works well for t-shirts and turtlenecks, but my drawers aren't deep enough to do this with sweaters or pants.  I tried it with my son, because he always seems to just wear the same shirt, and it worked for awhile...until he had to put away a bunch of clean shirts; then he just did the open and shove.

This whole series is about how to make the many small things in your life very routinized so that you have time and mental energy to deal with the big things.  Keeping your bedroom clean makes going to bed and getting up a much more pleasant experience, and keeping your drawers and closet organized makes getting ready for the day faster and more mindless.  Save the pondering about clothing for special occasions. :)

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Organizing the Closet Disaster

It's clothing week over here at the 31 Days of Organized Chaos blog.  Today, let's discuss closets.  I currently have three girls that share one closet.  Yeah, I know.  Here's what it looks like:

Clothes, clothes everywhere.  We have some of those multi-layer skirt hangers, and those help a lot.
 In amongst the stuff on the floor are a couple of bookshelves.  Here is where the girls store their books because there is no other room to do so.  I'm thinking that since they never look at those books that we should pack them away and utilize the shelves for clothing or shoes.

This top shelf is actually quite big and deep, which I suppose can be a positive and a negative.  I have absolutely no idea what is in those boxes.  I wonder if they know.

And I wonder why they usually just toss their clothing on the floor instead of hanging it up.

Since this is a rental house, I don't want to do anything permanent or expensive, so I'm looking into cheap and easy ways to help them organize this area.

Of course Pintrest will be a minefield of ideas for this project, but my basic outline is to empty the entire closet first.  Then, we need to go through all of the clothing and only keep what is necessary and in season.  We'll also have to go through those boxes and books and decide where we are going to store them.

I'm sure I can find some kind of a storage or shelving system for that top shelf so that there is more than one level to it.  We have a sturdy step stool that they could keep in there so that they could access whatever ends up on top.

I'd also like to utilize those shelves for shoes and work clothes that the girls have (two of them have work uniforms).  I think it would be much better than using them for books they never read.

Since these are plaster walls and the landlord doesn't want us nailing anything into them, I'm not able to add another rack, but that would come in handy.

The long and the short of it is this:  we just need to take some time to disassemble and then reassemble the entire thing.  This is almost 6 years of accumulated build up.  As you know, when you let things go for a long time, it soon becomes an overwhelming task.  Ideally all three girls would be home on the same day (which really would require a small miracle at this point) and we would tackle the project together.  Short of that, I might just have to go in there and blast through it myself!

I can only imagine what kind of things we will find hidden in the dark recesses of this closet.  That is one of the main reason why it is so important to maintain control over your closet.  If you don't, you will not take full advantage of the clothing you have, and you may even spend money you don't need to because you'll rebuy something you already have but have lost in the mess.

If your closet looks like this (or, dare I say...worse), set aside a day and take back your closets, ladies and gentlemen!  It will make getting dressed in the morning a much more enjoyable task.

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Clean Clothing Goes Where?

Having a lot of kids means having a lot of clothes, even if you do reign in how many outfits they each have.  Having a bunch of those kids in one room means a lot of those clothes have to fit somewhere in that room.

One problem we had with the girls was that, once their clean clothes were folded and put in their room, they wouldn't get put away in a timely fashion and the clean clothes would end up all over the floor mixed in with the dirty ones.

Telling them to put their clothes away didn't help, so I came up with the idea that I would put a laundry basket in their room and all of the clean clothes that came in would get put in this basket.  This way, they wouldn't end up all over the place and everyone would know where to find their clean clothes.

I'm sure you can guess the downside to this program.  Yep, week after week passes by and more clean clothing gets stacked on top of other clean clothing and never gets put away.  People start digging through the pile looking for that one thing and messing up everything else.  Once in a great while one of the girls will put away their clothes, but I haven't seen an empty basket since I don't know when.

Overall, I suppose it is still better than seeing piles of clean clothing getting strewn around the room, but in a perfect world, I'd like to see an empty basket at the end of every week.  Pick your battles, right?

If you're looking for a solution to this problem in your home, I'd recommend you give this a try and see if it works for your kids!

God Bless!
To see all the posts in this series, go here!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A "Neat" Scarf Solution

With six girls in this house, you know at least one of them is going to like scarves.  In fact, she doesn't just like scarves, she kind of has a buying obsession with them.

Seeing as how clothing storage space is at a premium for the girls in their room, we had to come up with a way to neatly store all these scarves so that they would remain neat and be easily accessible.  It bugs me to have things crammed into drawers because first of all, they get all messed up and secondly, you'll end up likely to wear the same scarves over and over again because the rest get buried in the big pile.

I credit my scarf-loving daughter with this solution.  In case you can't tell, she's hung all the scarves through the slats on her sister's bunk bed.  It also blocks her bed from the hallway view, which is kind of nice, too.

Not only does it keep the scarves neat, you can also find them easily and see what your complete selection is.  In addition to all of that, they serve as a colorful decoration to the room.  Remember, we can't hang things on the wall in our rental home, so this is a nice bright addition to their mess room!

Are you a scarf lover?  How do you deal with them?

God Bless!
To see the full list of posts in this series, go here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Keeping Your Purse Organized

Are you a big purse person or a small purse person?  Or maybe you're still in the diaper bag/backpack years.  Finding the right purse can make a big difference between being organized and having a garbage bag attached to your arm.

One of my daughters is finding out how much of an impact this can have on your life because she has a cute, small purse but now that she is out and about more, she is realizing how little it can actually hold and how fast it fills up.

For 16 years I carried various forms of a diaper bag and back pack.  It was silly to have a purse for my stuff and a bag for the current child(ren) in diapers.  When I was finally able to carry a purse again, I opted for a big one since it seems I like to carry a lot of things around with me.  The key to keeping it organized is going through it and sorting through the junk and papers at the end of each outing.  If I'm running around for a few days straight and I don't get a chance to clean my purse out, I just never know what I'm going to find in there.

On a side note, I have noticed a difference in the generations when it comes to keeping the checkbook register up to date.  Only one of my daughters is organized in that area.  The other two rely on their online banking screen to tell them how much money they have in their accounts.  One daughter in particular is horrible at keeping up with the receipts in her wallet.  She'll let a wad of them collect there, realize how far behind she is and then just throw them all out and look online.  In my experience, it is just easier to take a few minutes each day or so to go through your receipts, enter them into your register, figure out your balance and go on your way.  I use the online bank register to double check myself, and the bank, in case there is a mistake.

Anyhow, I digress.  Finding the right size purse for your needs will keep you on the organized track.  If it is too small, you'll be nothing but frustrated.  If it's too big, you'll end up with the contents of your house hanging off your shoulder, which will definitely hinder your ability to be organized!

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Storing Photos

This is the view that greeted me the other day when I opened up the doors to our coffee table.  This is where a lot, but not all, of our photo albums are stored.

After peeling back the layers, this is the mess I found.

After years of sitting in albums, our photos are falling out, the pages are ripping and everything is getting jumbled.  You know how it is, don't you?  The problem is, as we all get older, we're trying hard to remember which baby that is in the picture.  They used to be sorted nicely by year, but once everything starts falling apart and things get mixed up, I sometimes can't recognize which baby is which!  Horrible, I know.

This is one project that is at the top of my list when the kids are mostly grown and out of the house and I have a lot of extra free time on my hands (ha!).  I've thought about other options in the past, like cardboard photo boxes or plastic storage boxes, but as of yet have not invested in any of them.  My biggest fear is that one of the boxes would get dropped or knocked over and we'd have an even bigger mess than we have now.

Since I've gotten my first digital camera (about 6 years ago) I haven't really printed that many pictures out.  I have a separate hard drive just for my photos, but even that scares me.  I really need to get some printed out in the event that my hard drive blows up or something.  I can say that they are organized in a very systematic fashion on my hard drive.  Does that count for anything?

I told you in the beginning it wasn't all going to be perfect here.  This is another area where I just don't have it all together.  Unfortunately, I think it might be one of those things that I will regret having not organized after something bad happens and it is too late.

How do you store all of your photos?  Does it work for you or not?  I am definitely open to suggestions on this one!

God Bless!
To see all of the posts in this series, you can go here. 
affiliate links included

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sending Cards in a Timely Fashion

(Coming in under the wire with this one!)  One thing I'm not very good at is keeping up with birthdays.  I love to celebrate peoples' birthdays, however, I am not very good at getting cards in the mail in a timely fashion.  

I have one calendar in my kitchen, that hangs on my fridge, that only has family and friends' birthdays on it.  You would think that that would be enough to remind me to get cards ahead of time.  Well, it isn't.  That calendar was my attempt at becoming organized about birthdays.  It hasn't worked.

Heaven forbid you should be on my card list and have a birthday or anniversary within the first few days of the month.  I usually don't see those until I flip the calendar and then I'm already too late.

Ideally I should buy all of the cards I need for the month about two weeks before the month arrives, but, well, that never seems to happen. 

We've tried making cards.  This way I don't have to get out to the store.  Still didn't work.  I just don't think we're creative enough to make that idea last.

I'm always impressed by people who send cards to our house in a timely fashion.  I'll have to ask them what their secret is. 

Any ideas on how to make this more organized for me???  If so, please share, as I'd really love to be able to stay on top of this for more than one month.

God Bless!
To see all the posts in this series, click here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Love My Lists!

By now you might have figured out that I am a huge fan of making lists.  It's kind of like a hobby for me.  Lists on pretty paper make me even happier.  I was so excited when I got my Kindle and I could get an app that looked like a piece of paper and then I could have notes on there, too.  Of course I have Evernote on my computer and my Kindle, but sadly have not gotten into the habit of using it.  I have sticky notes on my computer desktop in multiple colors :)

I have been a list maker since college when things began to overwhelm me in life.  It was at that time my mom, in one of those desperate phone calls home, insisted that I start making lists.  I've been hooked ever since.

I also find that as I get older, my brain doesn't like to retain as much as it used to.  In the morning, I will have a plan of all the things I need to accomplish that afternoon after we are done with school.  I really need to start writing them down then, because by the time I've schooled two children, answered questions from two more and dealt with whatever else may have come my way, I have forgotten what it was I needed to do.  After lunch I find my mind a blank canvas.  Ms 15 yo, who is a daily witness to this, just shakes her head and laughs.  

Other than that, I love to make lists!  I make them when we have a party, as you saw yesterday.  I have a grocery list on the fridge so that we can jot down what we need as the week goes on.  I also make lists when we have a particularly busy week so that nothing gets forgotten.  I have an ongoing list on my computer of projects that need to get done.  On my Kindle, I keep a list of things I need from Sam's Club and our food co-op.

Lists are good and helpful if 1. you actually make them and 2. you look at them and utilize them once you have made them.  They are a cheap and easy way to stay at the top of your game.

Are you a list maker?

God Bless!
You can go here to see all of the posts in this series.
affiliate links included :) 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wanna Party? In an Organized Way, Of Course!

Both my husband and I have lived in the same area all of our lives.  The majority of our family from both sides still lives near us, too.  We both also happen to come from decent sized families that like to celebrate.

All of this means only one thing...big parties!  With seven kids, there is always something to celebrate and if there isn't, we throw a party just for fun.  When we lived out in the country we had a barn and every Fall we would throw a huge barn party.  It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

It was during this time of the barn parties that I really became more organized about how to throw a party.  Now that I'm in the groove, I follow this same basic plan for any party we throw.

1.  I keep a list of everyone that is invited to the event.  This way, the next time I throw a similar event, I can just pull out the previous list and work off of that.  I'm also less likely to forget people, too!

2.  I keep a list of what food people volunteer to bring as well as what food and drinks we will be providing.  For most of our parties people usually volunteer to help out, so that is a nice bonus.  We never cater our parties because it would just be too darn expensive, thus, it's up to me to figure out how to feed a lot of people for the least amount of money.  Keeping track of the food and drinks in a list helps me to save money because I can plan everything out in minute detail and don't duplicate anything.

3.  The week before a big party I make a list of all of the things that need to get done both inside and outside of the house.  Any cleaning, shopping, errands and phone calls all get written down along with the day that they will be getting done.  Once they are finished, they get crossed off the list - and boy does that feel good.

4. Then, finally, the day of the event, I make one last list with all of the things that have to get done that day and who will do them.  I also make a schedule of events so that anyone who is helping me can see what time things are supposed to happen, the most important one being "WHAT TIME IS DINNER?"

I have found that the more I write things down, the easier the whole planning and implementing process is and the more likely things are to get done on time.  This way, too, I can save my lists and use them to begin the planning stages for the next event. 

We enjoy throwing big parties so I had to find a way to make it as stress free as possible.  This system seems to work well for all of us.

God Bless!
To see the full list of posts in this series, go here. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Mom's Binder

Since we've been talking about things that are on and around my desk for the past few days, let's continue, shall we?

Do you have a Mom's Binder?  You know, one binder where you stick all of the important information that you have to hang on to for more than a day or a week?

Well, if you don't, you should consider it.  It makes a convenient, non-messy place to keep all those important things like: newsletters from your homeschool group, the meeting dates for the entire year for all of your clubs, your past Christmas letters so you don't repeat yourself (too much), important phone numbers or information like internet passwords or bank info.  These are just some of the things I've kept in my binder over the years.

Oh, how about one place where you can record all of the medical procedures and surgeries that you and your kids have had?  Not that we've had a lot, but with seven kids plus myself, I have a hard time remembering just when I had my gallbladder out or what year my daughter's appendix was removed.

I keep party lists in there, too.  This way the next time we have a big party I can just refer to a similar list to see who I invited and what I served.  This has been a big time saver and a help to my feeble memory.

What other interesting things could you store in your Mom's Binder?  If you have any ideas you'd like to share, please do so, as we all can learn from each other.

In my book, anything that helps to keep things organized without taxing my overfull brain is a good thing!

God Bless!
If you would like to see all the posts in this series, you can go here. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Personal Paperwork

Yesterday's mail becomes today's paperwork:  bill stubs, paycheck stubs, bank statements, donation receipts and medical EOBs come in day after day and stack up quickly.

If you don't have a plan, the whole thing can become overwhelming very quickly.

Here is the first place my paperwork stops:

What is left of the mail gets placed in the appropriate slot, with bills needing to be paid set in order of the date they are due in the second to the bottom bin.  Donations and church envelopes are in the bottom bin.  My business paperwork is in the middle bin, stubs and receipts and such from personal paperwork is in the second from the top and the top bin is reserved for papers that I need to deal with at some point.  Those bins up on top?  Those are where my students put their school papers when they are finished with them.

Once the second and third slots from the top fill up, the papers are brought downstairs to a large filing cabinet.  There they are sorted into the appropriate files: medical, donation, bank, paycheck, important receipts, etc.

Once a year I take all of the paperwork out of the files in the filing cabinet and put it all into a bankers box, label it and, you guessed it, put it in the back part of our basement along with all of the other years' papers.

I've been following this basic work flow for as long as I can remember and it seems to be working very well.  If you don't have a set routine for your paperwork, I'd recommend getting started on one soon!

Do you have any paperwork tips you'd like to share?

God Bless!
You can go here to see all of the posts in the series. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Organized Mail

Since today is a postal holiday, I thought we'd talk about how to deal with that daily pest...the mail.  I suppose some days there is a nice surprise, but around here it is mostly bills and junk.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't have a hard time hanging on to things, so as soon as I get the mail in I immediately toss all junk mail - any advertisements, sale flyers (except the ones I need for Wal Mart), political ads, miscellaneous requests for donations, etc.

That cuts the pile at least in half.  Next, I distribute any mail belonging to someone else in the house to them. 

Finally, I am left with bills and monthly donation requests.  I have a spot where I keep all my bills and donations to pay, so I file the necessary paperwork and corresponding envelope in the proper slot and I'm done.

Occasionally I might have a piece of mail that doesn't fit into any of the above categories so I'll just set it off to the side on my desk so that I can deal with it at a later date.

I almost never hang on to a magazine or catalog to look at later, for we all know that in a busy household "later" usually never comes.  I might save some newsletters for my husband to read, but usually those get stacked up in the family room, so after awhile I just toss the whole pile.  

I can't stand piles of paper for very long, so dealing with the mail as soon as it gets in the house is one of the best ways to stop that from happening.  If the piles never get started, there's nothing to deal with later.

Are you a mail procrastinator?

God Bless!

You can go here to see all of the other posts in this series. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Organizing Outside

It's Sunday and I'm a bit late but today, after a beautiful liturgy at our local Byzantine church, we came home to our annual "clean up the yard day".  I love to have the outside looking as tidy as the inside, so it really starts to get to me about this time of the year when things are starting to die off but aren't quite there.

I was tempted to just toss all of the remaining flowers, but there are still some nice buds on them so I let them be for the time being. We also finally got around to trimming all of the bushes and the cleaning out the gutters.   I also got rid of what was left of our garden plants!!

Leaves are just beginning to fall around here, and we've had two light frosts the past two nights, so I'm sure it won't be long before our yard is covered in leaves and that cleanup will begin.  When the leaves fall in earnest, then it will be time to put away the patio furniture and put the last of the planters in the garage.

Having a neat looking outside to your home is a nice welcome for your visitors; it begins to make them feel at peace as they enter.

Have you started your outside fall cleanup yet?

God Bless!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

High School Transcripts

When my oldest entered our homeschool high school, I had already spent some time questioning those who had been through this before about how they handled the transcripts for their kids.

I am so glad that I had this figured out ahead of time!!!!  

If you have not hit this stage yet, I implore you to do your research ahead of time so that you know how you want to set up your transcripts (that is, if you aren't having one of the accredited schools do it for you!).

I have our transcripts organized by subject and not by year, this way if someone takes two years to complete a course, say Biology, then I don't have to decide which year to put it under, I just put it under the Science section.

I also have a big binder, with tabs for everyone, that I keep all of their grades and subjects for each year filed in.  At the end of each year, I calculate the grades for all the classes and their GPA and then keep it in the  binder.  When it is time to type up the transcript, I just pull all of that info out of the binder and put it into our transcript format.  Easy peasy!

If, at the end of four years, I had to go back and figure all of those grades out, that would be an immense headache!

So, here's my super-duper handy prepared for this before high school starts.  If you've procrastinated, then take the time now to catch up.  It will make that already hectic time of college decisions that much less stressful.

If you have someone else doing your transcripts, well then thanks for still reading up to this point!

To see the entire list of posts in this series, click here.

God Bless!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Conquering the Homeschool Paperwork Beast

Let's see, the topic of books makes me think of school and school makes me think of papers and with seven kids and 16 years of homeschooling that equals a lot of papers (and workbooks, and art projects, too!).

Fortunately, we have always lived in a part of the country where just about every house has a basement.  Basements = room to store things.  I'm not sure if this has been good or not, but it has allowed me not to think much about how to store all of our schoolwork.

I also live in a state that doesn't require any reporting, but just in case, I've kept just about every paper and workbook these kids have ever produced or written on.

This is how I handle the papers:

1.  At the end of every school year, I compute grades for each student.  After the grades are computed, I take their planning notebook and all of their papers and put them in a bankers box.  I then move on to the next student and do the same, putting all of their stuff in the same bankers box.  Most years I can fit all of the work into one box.  

2. I label the box with the names of the students, the grade they were in and the school year.  

3.  Finally, I put the lid on it, carry it to the basement and go on my way.

4.  Once a student hits high school, they get their own box marked high school and then all of the papers from those years go into that box.

This has worked well for me, that is until this year when my parents kept reminding me that when we moved 5 1/2 years ago, we had stored four huge stacks (we also had a lot of boxes of business and personal papers) of boxes in their basement and the boxes had recently started falling over.  They were nice about it, but about once a month they would remind me.  

Finally this past August, I went over there for a day and started rifling through the boxes.  I knew that all of this was from the early years, so I did a rough going through and tried to pick out pictures or stories that I thought the kids might like to keep and I brought all of those home.  The dad burned in his backyard burn pit.

Another thing I did was take my camera so that if I came across an art project or something that I thought was cute, I took a picture of it.  It's a lot easier to store a picture than it is a 10 year old art project.  If you're short on storage space, this is a great way to remember all those projects and drawings your kids have done.  Keep the project/drawing out for awhile, then take a keepsake picture of it and throw the original away!

Downstairs in our basement is where the remaining years of boxes are.  These are the most recent, so it will be awhile before I purge them, just in case something were to change in our laws or something like that.  Now that three of the kids are in college, I really see no point in keeping their papers so those will probably be the first to go when the time comes.

The homeschooling laws for your state probably determine how you organize your schoolwork storage system, or at least they should.  Since my state isn't very intense about this, it has allowed me to be loosely organized.  If your state has strict requirements about reporting and portfolios and such, you will need a more organized approach to your system.  If you don't have a basement, then you really need to pare things down at the end of every school year and keep only those items that you think you might need for reporting or later purposes.  If you're really short on storage, keep as much on the computer in the form of scans and pictures as you can.

Tackling this beast at the end of every school year is definitely the way to stay on top of things.  If you let it accumulate, it will become overwhelming in no time!

God Bless!

You can go here to see the entire list of posts in this series.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our Books and Where They Live

Books, books and more books.  I don't really think about the amount of books we have in this house until I go to other people's houses (usually not homeschoolers, however) and notice how many books they DON'T have.  It makes me wonder what they think when they come to my house.

All those books just crave organization, don't they?  In a perfect world, I'd have my books organized like a library by very specific categories.  For now, however, they are very loosely arranged in very loose categories.  Besides, it would be one of those never-ending battles to keep all the books in their right spots with all the people around here who take out books.  Not a battle I want to fight.

So, in no particular order, here are our books and how I've got them organized.

These first two pictures are the shelves in our school room.  This photo shows all of the school books I've accumulated (just did a big purge back in August), arranged by subject.  That cute little basket with the blue flower holds all of our phone books and phone lists so that they are handy.

This set of shelves holds a lot of our other educational books, mainly history and science books, as well as manipulatives we've used.  The basket on the floor contains all easy-reader type books.

These are the shelves in our family room.  Can you find the Nancy Drew books?  Many of those I've had since I was a young girl :).  On these shelves reside homesteading/health related books, religious books, books on the saints, A LOT of historical fiction books and all of our picture books.  In the upper left hand corner are all the CDs we've hung on to from our younger days.  I wonder why we still have them?  We don't even have a CD player to play them on!  And with itunes, I mean really, WHY are they still there??

In our back hall we found room for another set of shelves.  Here are more religious books, prayer books, books on prayer, books on family life and raising children and my collection of Catholic fiction books.

In my bedroom I have another small set of shelves that contain books that I want to read and some books that I already have read.  Also there are books on marriage, health and such. 

I didn't go into the girls' room and take pictures of their book shelves.  Mainly because they are hard to find, buried under things in their closet, and because, really, that whole room is a post for another day.  Suffice it to say that there are a lot of books in that room, too.

Yes, we love books.  Or should I more correctly say, we love to BUY books.  It makes me happy to see all these books in our house.  It makes me wonder how other people live without books surrounding them.  Books are like our decorating scheme, you know?  

Are you a book hoarder?  If not, why not?  If so, how do you organize them?

You can click here to return to the list of all the posts in this series.
God Bless!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our Personal Library System

Continuing along with yesterday's theme, I think I should learn from our library system and come up with a way to track all of the books/movies/CDs/DVDs in our house and to whom I loan them out.  I know that over the years I have lent out books to friends and then we've both forgotten about them.  Many times I loan out school books that I'm not currently using and then promptly forget about them; until I need them again, of course, but then I can't remember who I lent it to!

One thing that I do is to put a return address label on the book, movie or DVD/CD that I am loaning to someone so that at some point in the future when they find it in their house, they'll see the label and remember to return it to me.

At one point I had a list of what the item was, who I loaned it to and when it was loaned out.  That list worked great for as long as I kept it up.  Like any type of system, it is only as good as the amount of time you keep up with it.

On the flip side, if I borrow something from someone else, I try very hard to keep it within my view and use it as soon as possible so that I can return it as soon as possible.  I would hate to hang on to someone's stuff and then forget about it - but I am sure that I have done that!  If you are reading this and I am guilty of keeping your items, please let me know (nicely, of course :)).

Like I told you in the beginning of this series, I might be mostly organized, but I'm not totally organized.  I have a lot of ideas but haven't taken the time to implement all of them.  I am also open to any new ideas that anyone might have on how to be more organized, so don't be afraid to share away!

God Bless!
Return here for the full link up of posts!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How Library Books Add Up

It is inevitable, isn't it?  Tell me it is.  It is inevitable that when you have a lot of children and they each check out a lot of library books and movies you are bound to rack up a lot of fines.  This is especially the case when we end up with books from TWO different libraries.  Oh what a headache.

Here is one case where I really need to implement a much more sound strategy for keeping track of when books and movies are due.  

I have to admit that our local library systems have done a lot to make this much easier.  First of all, when we check out we get a nice little print out with all the books and movies listed and the dates they are due.  Second, a few days before the books are due, I get an email reminder which again lists all the books and movies and the dates they are due.

Unfortunately for me, I rely on the emails more than anything.  Which is fine when I get them, but every once in awhile either that email doesn't come through or I somehow miss it and then we find out that "Charlotte's Web" (the $1.00/day fine movie) was due 8 DAYS AGO.

That's when I kick myself for not staying on top of this.

One day, which really should be today because we were just at the library yesterday and checked out a bunch more movies and books, I will collect all of those cute little slips and paperclip them to the planner that sits on my desk.  This way I will always know when they are due.  Then, I can use the email (you know, the one I'm on the lookout for now because I know when the books are due) to cross check which books go back when.

How does that sound for an organized plan?  

The kids already know to keep all of their books except the one they are reading in the library basket in the family room, so gathering them all up is rarely a problem.  My big thing is just remembering when to gather them.

So here is my resolution.  I will now get up and track down all of those little slips and put them in my planner and in three weeks we'll see if this whole process is a little less painful.

Anyone have any good ideas they'd like to share on how you keep track of these fines books?

God Bless!