Have you ever noticed how quickly your home fills up with “stuff”?

Most moms I know are busy.  When you’re busy, it can be challenging to keep up with all the stuff that creeps into the car and house. I’d like to tell you I know how all our stuff gets into our house, but honestly, I don’t. I just know that if I don’t keep on top of it, before long, I’m surrounded by clutter and overwhelmed at the thought of what to do with it all.  Can you relate? Clutter creates stress.

It’s difficult to create a successful rhythm to your day if you are surrounded by the not-so-wonderful set of twins that I like to call Chaos and Clutter. Left unmanaged, these two will drain you of your time and energy. They are the nemesis of every busy homeschool mom. Along with their cousin, Excess, they are the enemy of a peaceful, organized home.

We tend to think of our things in terms of the money we spend on them. Did you know there is an emotional cost to the things that you own? Clutter takes up more than physical space. It costs emotionally as well as financially.

Here’s what I mean: clutter and disorganization in our homes can rob us of peace and restfulness, leading to feelings of frustration and anxiety. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by all the piles of clutter at home, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s easy to see how too many piles of unfinished business at home can steal our energy. I call my excess stuff my “de-motivation piles” because just looking at them makes me want to crawl under my covers and never come out.

Obviously, staying in bed is not going to help, but here’s what will: learn to get a grip on your stuff.  I promise you that learning how to control clutter will translate into more hours in your day! If that sounds appealing to you, then get ready to purge and simplify. You probably don’t need all that stuff you have.

LEARNING TO THRIVE

Years ago, I learned that one of the secrets to a well-managed, peaceful home lies in my ability to control both physical and emotional clutter. Physical clutter eventually results in mental clutter. The “overwhelmed” feeling you have is emotional clutter. You can’t thrive when you’re overwhelmed. It’s time to simplify.

There is something deeply satisfying about simplifying life. We can simplify our things, our schedules, and our homeschooling. I like to start with physical clutter, though, because clearing the clutter at home frees us in so many more ways than just physical space. It brings emotional freedom as well.

Are you ready to simplify and de-clutter your home? Before you can organize, you’ve got to prioritize. You’ve got to get rid of excess. We were created by a God of order. Therefore, it makes sense that we function better when there is order in our homes. If you are ready to THRIVE in your role as a wife, mom, and homemaker, keep these six things in mind.

T- Tell the Truth

Before you can start purging, you’ve got to be able to tell the truth about your clutter problem.  Let’s start by defining what it actually is.

Clutter is anything that is disorganized. In our home, everything has a place. That’s not to say everything is always in its place, but at the end of the day, we know where things go.

Clutter is anything you don’t need or love. This is a big one. This is the question I had to ask when I did my first big cleanup. Training the kids to ask this question has helped them to define what they really want to keep, as opposed to what they feel they might want later. It has also helped us to define what we truly value in life. When a home is filled with things we love, rather than things we are just keeping around for a rainy day, it helps us to truly love where we live.

Clutter is too much stuff in too small of a space. It frees us mentally and emotionally when we scale down. It’s amazing how wonderful it is to come home to a clean, uncluttered house at the end of the day or to wake up to a tidy kitchen in the morning.

H – Have a Plan

Start with zones. People ask us all the time how we keep our house tidy and neat with ten people under one roof. Let me just say this right up front: our house is NOT always neat and tidy. We usually start our days with a clean and tidy house, but within an hour or two, it seriously looks like a bomb has gone off in several areas.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that the key to living peacefully with a houseful of kids is to have a plan to keep order rather than an expectation that the house should look like a show home from Better Homes and Gardens all the time!

We have tried different methods for keeping up with housework during different seasons of life in our family. When all the children were very young, a schedule taped to the refrigerator door helped tremendously. On it, we had areas of our home divided into zones. Each child was assigned one of these zones.

A zone might be the hallway and guest bathroom, the entry way, or the kitchen.

Even little ones can have their own zone. Our three-year-old loved tidying her zone … it was her toy box!

The best thing about zones is that you can use them to tidy up for company in no time flat! This is because you’re not trying to figure out which parts of the house need attention. Everyone just tidies up his or her zone.

When your home is filled with clutter, trying to tackle a mountain of stuff can be quite overwhelming. It’s easy to get discouraged by a task that seems insurmountable when you’re trying to raise a family and homeschool at the same time!

R – Restore Order

So, here’s my advice: start with just fifteen minutes at a time. You can do just about anything in fifteen minutes a day! You can create a place for incoming papers, clear off a counter, or take fifteen things out of your house – for good.

Write down what rooms need your attention first. If you can write them all down in order of priority, you can come up with a game plan to tackle the job.

Once you have written down which rooms need the most attention, choose one to start in. Just getting one room done will motivate you toward success and spur you on to your next room. It’s much like being on a diet! Losing two pounds is good motivation to continue on and lose two more. Start small. One step at a time!

I – Insist on Teamwork

Here’s the best way, I have found, to tackle large rooms: if you have older children, train them to work alongside you. Encourage them to offer their suggestions as you rearrange and organize. Some of our kids are really gifted in this area. Allowing them in on the process has not only trained them, but it has also been a huge blessing to me!

Teach your family what clutter is. Teach them to help you keep it under control. After all, that mess didn’t get there by itself!

Before you start, set out four containers, either boxes or bags. One is for items you will keep, one is for giveaway (whether you garage sale, donate, or whatever), one is for items you are not sure what to do with, and one is for trash.

Empty the room. I know this sounds crazy, but, if things have gotten out of hand, it’s the best way to start. Empty the room as much as you possibly can.

When I am getting ready to organize things, I expect things to get worse before they get better. I warn the family ahead of time that it could take a few days before we are finished. Start sorting as you empty the room. BE BRUTAL about what you decide to keep. Ask yourself, “Do I love this?” If you don’t answer yes immediately, it’s time to get rid of it or set it into a separate box to get back to.

Keep sorting, and take a deep breath, busy homeschool mom, ’cause you’re going to feel a whole lot better when this is done!

V – Verify Need

Ask yourself: do you need it? Do you love it?

Now you’re ready to move back in. But, before you do, remember, you want LESS, not MORE! So, verify with others who can help you decide if it’s clutter or not.

Move back in. Once you have taken all the giveaway and trash items out of your house, it’s time for the really fun part—moving things back into the space you cleared out. I am a big fan of keeping beautiful baskets on shelves for organizing. We have baskets with scrap paper in them and baskets that are full of colored pencils. I believe that we even have a basket for storing extra baskets! The point is, EVERYTHING has a place. When you bring things back into the room, have a vision for how you want to display what you keep. For an item to come back in the room, it should:

  •  Fit neatly into a designated space
  •  Be something you truly love or use regularly
  •  Not exceed a reasonable number of items

E – Ease of Use

Organize for ease of use: we should be organizing in such a way that it’s easy to keep up with. Fancy charts and bins aren’t worth the money you’ll pay for them if they are too complicated for everyday use.

KEEPING SCHOOL RECORDS

Transcripts. Standardized tests. Record of work done. These words have struck fear into the heart of many a homeschool mom. The idea of keeping meticulous track of school assignments is daunting for a mom with one child, let alone four or more!

Like it or not, though, you need to keep records of your child’s schoolwork.

We use a very simple method for keeping track of school papers and note-booking assignments. ALL of their assignments, love notes, darling drawings that I can’t part with, and artwork, go in one box.

That’s it! Each day, as the children finish their work, they know that they are supposed to write their name and date on the assignment, and put it in the “completed assignments” box. This keeps my table clear of clutter and my mind free from worrying about losing their work.

About once a quarter, we empty the box, saving their best work in sheet protectors. We put them in their notebooks in chronological order. Each child has a notebook. We throw away things that we don’t love or need to keep. That’s it! Simple and effective.

MAINTAINING ORDER

Here are some more quick tips for making sure your new, organized self stays that way:

  • File important papers – give 15 minutes a day until you get the pile down.
  • Sort mail as soon as it arrives at your house. Don’t let it pile up.
  • Clean out desk and kitchen drawers regularly or they become “junk drawers.”
  • Make daily cleanup a habit.
  • Make sure the kids (not you) are responsible for tidying up their zones.
  • Create a space for everything from car keys to tennis shoes.

Since new things are always coming in … when they do, consider letting something else go.

Can’t you just feel a more organized daylight coming? Life is made much easier when you don’t have to waste precious time hunting for something that’s been misplaced because of clutter.

Remember, organizing your daylight hours is all about managing your time. Carve out some time in your daily routine for cleanup and organizing.

Being a mom is challenging, but you can do it! Don’t just survive … reclaim your space and THRIVE!

Heidi St. John has been married to her husband, Jay, since 1989. They have seven children and have homeschooled all the way through high school. A favorite conference speaker, Heidi approaches homeschooling with humor and grace at events all across North America. Her passion to encourage homeschool moms and set them free to be who God has created them to be will bless and encourage you. Heidi is the author of The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years and The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight. Jay and Heidi are also the founders and executive directors of First Class Homeschool Ministries, a parachurch organization dedicated to helping churches start parent-led, Bible-focused homeschool cooperatives. First Class has been in operation since 2000 and has over 40 locations across North America.

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