How I Got Rid of the Mess in my Life
By Beverley Paine
I wasn't always organised or tidy. I was one of those people who used to shove everything into the spare room and squeeze the door shut whenever we had visitors. The children's bedrooms looked much the same with piles of toys, clothes and boxes in dreadful disarray. The children slept on mattresses on the floor in our room for almost a year; such was the extent of the mess!
What happened? We cheated! The five of us moved into a converted garage that measured 8m by 5m for four years while Robin built our lovely home. Space was at a premium, especially during winter. I quickly learned that it was impossible to live in a mess, let alone homeschool. Everything had to have a place and be returned to that place or we would be forever tripping over and breaking things, probably bones. As homeschoolers we were always creating and making and playing. Toys, games, puzzles, books, stationery, resources and junk had homes which could be easily accessed by all three children and which also encouraged them to put the items away after use. Because floor space was precious we lined our tiny home with shelves and used an assortment of plastic and cardboard trays. Colourful cubes and covered magazine boxes completed our shelving storage system.
None of this would have worked without some basic rules. The children weren't allowed to play with another set of toys until they'd put away the first lot. The floor and table had to be clear at the end of the day. I labeled shelves and boxes with words and pictures to make it easier for the children to pack things away. The rules were fair and made sense: this made it easy to be firm. In no time the children had developed relatively tidy habits.
Clear surfaces and swept floors make for a calm atmosphere at home. I found this essential at the end of the day before preparing the evening meal. It created a boundary between the busy day and a restful evening and set us in the right mood to wind down for bed.
Lists were essential to organising my time and making sure that my daily and long term goals were achieved. I would have several lists going at once, often in different locations. Crossing something off the list was very satisfying! I'd transfer uncompleted items to a new list, making sure that my lists never really grew too long. I'd rather have five short lists than one huge one!
Cutting back on commitments is something all homeschooling families gradually learn is essential: in our early days we tended to go out too much, cramming into every week many educational and social opportunities because we thought it was necessary. Instead, it just wore us out. We gradually learned to pace ourselves. As I learned to cut back on my expectations of what the children could learn and do in a week, I also stopped hoarding materials and resources. The house became less 'busy' and cluttered. It seemed to take forever to learn to relax and not feel compelled to turn every moment into an opportunity for learning!
A seasoned home educating mum once said to me that the most important tip she could offer was simply, "Relax." We really don't need to make homeschooling as hard as we do!
See also Letting Go of Possessions - Part of the Decluttering Process for more ideas from Beverley as well as Do you really need that awesome educational resource in your homeschool?
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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