What do you do with all the little stuff? You know, markers, tacks, glue sticks, math counters, paper clips? Do you have some here and some there, including underneath the couch? What we need is a way to gather everything into one designated spot so we can avoid overbuying or being unprepared. There's no reason to waste time looking for supplies we already have, so let's get them organized1
Baskets and/or shoe boxes (cardboard or plastic) help to corral slightly larger craft supplies, math manipulatives, extra pens and pencils, markers, science experiment supplies, flashcards, etc. These baskets or boxes need to be clear, open on top, or labeled so that everyone knows not only where to find supplies, but also where to return them. The boxes can live on a designated bookshelf, be placed into a larger, portable, plastic tote, or stored in a closet or pantry.
Small containers are next on my list of organizational essentials. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” goes the old saying. There is just no sense wasting time looking for a paper clip or another package of filler paper when you have those supplies already on hand. Leave the kids at home and go to your favorite office supply store; recruit several other homeschooling moms and make a girls’ night out of the project. Invest in some desk containers to contain paperclips, erasers, pencils, small manipulatives, CDs, tape, scissors, glue, rulers, post-it notes, tacks, pencil sharpeners, and so on. If that seems too expensive, have a craft afternoon with the kids. Clean and cover soup cans and small shoe boxes—one for each type of supply. Small drink powder containers will hold a few tacks or paperclips (bonus: they can also be saved for painting). A covered soup can makes a serviceable pencil holder for each child’s work area, and yours as well. All containers need to be either see-through or labeled neatly.
After you have a collection of containers, then comes the fun part: putting everything away. Here’s where your children can get involved. Have a contest to see who can find and put away the most paperclips, pencils, erasers, glue sticks or whatever. Or, have each child be responsible to find all of one type of supply. This will save time later when you are looking for something, and it will also keep you from buying supplies that you do not need. Now, go put those cool, filled containers closest to where you do the majority of your schoolwork. You can designate one shelf on your bookshelves for them or put them in a closed cabinet.
Need more organizing help? Check out my Organized Your Homeschool e-book.