Sunday, August 5, 2012

School Cabinet Organization

Today is the first post in a new series on organization. The word alone gives me the chills as I am not a natural organizer. I see things that are cluttered and messed up and I just shut down. However, my house, the place that is my domain, the place that is to be a ministry to those entering my home was just getting out of hand. No one could find anything and it was making our days become unproductive and difficult. It is because of this that I am challenging myself to organize my house. To hold myself accountable I am committing to blogging the last week of each month about the room that I have chosen to organize.

I took the month of July to sit down and come up with a plan of action. Where was I going to start and what room was next? As I thought about the upcoming school year and my planning for it, I decided to start with my school cabinet. It has been a thorn in my side from the very first day I started homeschooling 8 years ago. I was determined that the 9th year was going to be different!

I started by taking everything out of the cabinet and purging what I didn't need. If it was old, ripped, out of date, or not used anymore I either put it in the trash or donated it. It felt so good to fill a complete 36 gallon trash bag of junk and take 4 boxes of books to goodwill!

After cleaning the shelves off and purging it was time to put the things back on the shelf. I first thought about things I liked and didn't like about my setup before. OK, so I thought about more things that I didn't like than I did... but there were a few things I did like. I liked where I have my teachers guides, reading and reference books, and student books so I put all of those back on the shelf where they were.

Then I looked at what I didn't like. I didn't like loose papers everywhere, digging through boxes looking for things (even the plastic see through kind), moving things to get to something else behind it, and having things in plastic bags. It just looked messy or was an inconvenience to get to.

To solve my organization problems I started at Walmart in the storage department. I found some plastic storage bins with sliding drawers in many different shapes and sizes that would fit perfect in my cabinet. I thought about the things that I wanted to put in them and where they would work best on the shelves.

I decided to put all my math flashcards up high on the top shelf, but made sure there were easy to reach because they are something we use everyday. The small alphabet cards and miscellaneous flash cards went into another larger bin like the one I put the math flashcards in on the other side of the cabinet. The only flashcards I didn't put in bins were my phonics cards. I have two sets of these, one with pictures and one without and I wanted to keep these broke up in their color groups. However, because I don't like to dig through boxes to find things I put both sets in an accordion file. I put the file next to the bins on the top shelf because like the math cards, these are something we use everyday. To complete the top shelf, we added two smaller 3 drawer plastic bins to hold things like scissors, tape, and push pins.

I have always had my teacher's guides on the 2nd shelf and it works well for me there. Beside my teacher's guides, I placed a large plastic jar with a hinged lid to hold all my pencils. By the end of last year we were down to using just a few nubs of pencils left and I did not want to go through that again this year. I got a great deal on high quality number two pencils at staples a few weeks ago and ended up buying about 100 of them. I also bought a pack of chalkboard labels at staples and used one of those to label the jar. Next to the pencil jar is a small 3 drawer bin that holds rubber bands, dry erase markers, and my dry erase eraser. I bought the 3 drawer instead of the 5 drawer so I could place my stapler and tape dispenser on top. Next to that I have the bigger 5 drawer plastic bin that holds other things like chalk, counting blocks, and paper clips. I labeled all the plastic bins with removable label's trimmed in red that are part of the Martha Stewart line. I had just enough room next to the 5 drawer bin to put a magazine holder for the educational magazines that my children enjoy reading. It was a perfect fit and gave the shelf a finished look.

The 3rd shelf has always held my children's school books. It's a good height for each of them, but they always seem to get their books mixed up with each other. So I did end up changing how we stored their books and I'm hoping this will fix the problem. I bought another larger 3 drawer bin like I used to hold the flashcards and put in on the shelf. I labeled each bin with their name using the metallic bookplates from the Martha Stewart line that I bought at Staples. It made the girls boxes stand out and gave a bit of extra style to the inside of the cabinet. Inside each bin holds their workbooks and text books as well as their special pencils, rulers, glue, crayons, and colored pencils.

Next to this bin is one of my favorite additions this year, my dish drainer! I went out and purchased a new small white dish drainer (I wanted a red one, but I would have had to order it) and placed it in my cabinet to hold my files. I didn't just want yucky manila files so I searched and found some fun colored ones at Walmart for .88 for a 3 pack. I left a few of them open, but on the others I took clear tape and taped the sides up to make them pockets. I have things like my stickers, educational games, laminate sheets, and reader response journal questions in the folders/files. I placed my favorite file in the very front that reminds me to stay organized. In the front of the drainer there is a silverware holder and I use this to hold a few pencils and pens for my husband and myself.

Next to the drainer is where I keep my all important planning binder (I've blogged about my planning binder here). Next to it is where my children keep a few workbooks that wouldn't fit into their drawers and reference books that they use the most.

So lets see, we have a place for books, pencils, rubber bands... what's missing? Oh! What about glue sticks, markers, high lighters and stuff like that? Here is where Martha Stewart meets Walmart canning. I had the thought of putting my extra stuff in jars and having my husband build me a half shelf in the very top of my cabinet, but I wanted to label them clearly with chalkboard labels and I didn't want all the bumps from my Ball mason jars. When I was looking at Walmart, I found that their mason jars had no bumps or markings. I admit I had a "thank you Jesus" moment right there in the store. The jars were just perfect and I was able to fill them with pens, markers, craft sticks and more, label them with the chalkboard labels, and write clearly what was in them for a nice added touch.

To finish off the cabinet I added 2 clips to the top of each wooden door to hang posters and charts from when we need them and a clear plastic pocket folder that hangs about half way down one of the doors. In the pocket I keep seasonal reward stickers and thumbs up sheets (just little notes that give a thumbs up to the child for doing something extra special or just working hard).

I have to admit, I enjoyed organizing my homeschool cabinet. It was nice to stand back and see the fruits of labor and know that everything had a place that could be easily reached and used. I have a few things tucked and hidden, like extra boxes of crayons and bottles of glue on the top shelf behind one of the plastic bins and my Judy clock slid on top of the math flashcard bin, but I still know where they are and they aren't cluttering things up.

I'm praying that this will help our school year run the smoothest it ever has and that we are able to maintain this level of organization from the start to the end of the school year.

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