Thursday, February 11, 2010

Organizing the Homeschool Shelves

Org Junkie issued a "28 Day Challenge" to organize either a whole room or a "small space" during the month of Feb. I decided to tackle our homeschool shelves that were rather out of control, I was constantly scrambling to find the books or school supplies that I KNEW we had, but couldn't find. Plus, boxes had taken over the spot where our extra dining room chair goes and having it sitting out in the middle of the room (it's an arm chair so won't slide under the table) made it that much harder to even get to the homeschool shelves). Here are our before pictures:

I should have stepped back and taken a "whole area" shot, but you can see part of the window in each picture, the 2 bookshelves sit one either side of the window at one end of our dining room/school room.

So, my main problems were:
  • more books than would fit
  • books were completely unorganized, we moved in, I unpacked books onto these shelves, and have kept adding them as we went.
  • I started out with all craft/school supplies in a basket on the small wood cabinet (which is full of hubby's stuff, I didn't touch it except the top) but over time the kids had thrown extra stuff into the baskets and we'd outgrown it.
  • The windowsill is one of the few that gets enough lights for plants to grow, but it also had other random junk stacked there, and because of lack of room on the shelves, when the girls got a set of Bobbsey Twin books for Christmas, I set them on the windowsill . . .
  • The last few times I cleared off the dining room for guests I put hubby's random work stuff into a box & it got set under the windowsill, then that box got full & I started another one, and those had never been dealt with. Other over-flow books and such were also stacked in that area between the bookcases.
  • More craft stuff and other things I needed out of the baby's reach had been randomly stacked on top of the bookcases.
So, here are the after pictures:

These show the whole area.
  • Windowsill has the plants, and a calendar on it
  • cleared off the top of the brown cabinet & put the scale & hourglasses on it (those hourglasses may have to move up to the windowsill if Little Bit notices them, and can reach them, but I like having the "weights & measures" stuff together like that, so hopefully it will work).
  • The boxes of hubby's stuff were carried up to the office and the other junk on the floor was put away so the arm chair could re-claim it's spot.
  • I sorted through all the books, I have a bag to take to the used book store & hopefully sell, I also have about a box & a half that are books I want to keep but don't see us using in the next few years (Shakespeare and other "classics", etc) I wrote down what was in what box to put in storage so we can easily find them if we do need them but for now they're not taking up valuable real estate on our main shelves.
  • On the brown bookcase I designated one shelf for resources for our current Bible curriculum (Polished Cornerstones) and one shelf for resources for our current Unit Study (Prairie Primer) since each of these are curriculums I plan to re-use I've purchased many of the books and resources so that we have them, having them all together makes them easy to find when we need them. Once we finish using these I'll either box them up or shift them to a less-used bookcase, keeping them all together so that when we do re-use the curriculum we can just move it back to our main shelves.
  • The rest of the brown bookshelf has a shelf of my books that I reference often or are on my "to read" list (top shelf that the children can't reach yet anyway), and the lower shelves have not currently used homeschooling resources sorted by subject: history, science, art, etc. There was also room to put the Bobbsey Twin series so I could move it off the windowsill. All but the top shelf still have room on them to add books as we get more (yes, that's a given!).
  • I decided to leave extra baskets and hat boxes on top of the brown bookcase. They have nothing to do with homeschooling, but I just don't have another good place to store them and with young children I end up using a basket for storage one week, and then as needs change not using them for awhile, so keeping them easily accessible is helpful, and at this point I don't have anything else that I need to put there.
Bulleted List
Close(er)-up of the white shelf area. The picture leaning against the wall is waiting for hubby to hang, the bottle on the chair rail is diaper rash oil for Little Bit, it's the only place I've found to keep it that she leaves it alone but I can grab it when I need it (I change her diapers on the floor in the doorway of the dining room/living room). Now on to actual organization stuff:
  • On top of this bookcase I have the playdoh bucket (it used to live under the extra chair, but Little Bit has discovered it and so now it needs to be out of her reach) and a basket that holds extra "carschooling" resources. We now travel with hubby for work, I have a file box that I keep in the car, and set between the middle row seats when we go on trips, but I'm always collecting additional resources so these are things to switch out with what's currently in the car box. I want it out of the big girls' reach/sight so they have the "surprise" aspect to keep trips interesting.
  • The top shelf is adult books (again, since it's out of the kids' reach anyway it's not real useful for actual homeschooling use) and the McGuffy Readers we're not using yet.
  • The 2nd shelf holds misc. current homeschool resources. Things we have available all the time, like nature reference books, Bible reference books, etc. And also some random current books we're using like the Draw Write Now books.
  • The 3rd shelf became our supply shelf. I got the boxes from Lakeside and sorted all the stuff that was piled in baskets on the brown cabinet & on top of the bookcase into these boxes, we have one for school supplies, one for craft supplies, one for our microscope, one for sewing things, one for the "Ruby dolls" that the girls are making as part of Polished Cornerstones, and one for "stationery" (envelopes, thank-you cards, etc). Then we have buckets of pens, pencils, and markers, and the 3 hole punch, pencil sharpener and stapler.
  • The 4th shelf holds childrens' classics
  • The 5th shelf holds books for the big girls to read or look at on their own. Easy reading books are piled since that's what they use most often and tend to not like putting books back on shelves correctly, books too big to stand on that shelf are piled under the easy reading books.
  • At the bottom is a small shelf sized for paperbacks, most of these won't be used right away, but are things like Dickens that we might delve into within the next year or two.
  • On the floor in front of the white bookcase is a basket of Little Bit's board books, I decided to go with a basket on the floor for 2 reasons, first, hopefully if none of "her" books are on the shelf it will at least delay her discovering the fun of pulling books off shelves (I can hope, right?) and/or this way if I DO see her pulling something off the shelves I know I need to stop her. Second, right now she likes to EAT books, so if she starts eating these, I can easily move that basket up on top of the bookcase or otherwise out of her reach.
And that's our small organizational challenge for this month! We tried it out for the first time this morning, it was so nice to be able to go straight to the shelf and pull out the book that we needed for school this morning. And with all our snow, the girls have been doing lots of coloring and such, being able to point them to clearly labeled boxes to find school supplies and such has also been wonderful, and I can just as easily point them back to those clearly labeled boxes to put things away when they're done. I don't think they've "discovered" the shelf of "their" books, but I'm hopeful that once they do, having it easily accessible and all together instead of scattered through all the shelves will encourage them to spend more time reading.

Edited to Add: Now that the 28 days are over, there are specific questions to be answered, so here are my answers:

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?

Probably finding time to do it. The big snow storm that kept all of us home for most of a week, helped LOL, but still, Little Bit is extremely "busy" these days, so I couldn't just pull everything down onto the floor & start over, she'd have carried all the books off before I could get them back on the shelves LOL.

2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?

Mainly just making sure we put books back where we got them when they're done. And at least for now, the girls think it's great fun to pull school supplies & craft supplies out of the boxes and put them back, I'm sure the novelty will wear off, but for now they're inventing reasons to use school supplies just so they can dig through those boxes LOL.

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?

Toys went back to the girls' room where they belonged, 2 boxes of books we won't use for a few years are waiting for the snow to melt enough to be able to easily take them to our storage shed (dh managed to get in there to get the gate we needed to keep Little Bit off the stairs, but there's still a good sized drift in front of the door, so we'll take heavy book boxes up once that melts), and really that was the main things that shouldn't be there (oh and a bag of books waiting for me to take them to the used book store (there's another box of books to sell up in teh shed so I want to take them all at once).

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?

Nothing real creative, organizing the books by purpose, and using the boxes to organize/hold supplies.

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?

Honestly, I doubt I will, I'm sure other people had much more creative and impressive solutions, but the contest gave me the added incentive to get an area organized that I'd been being frustrate with, so I've already won the real prize LOL. (which isn't to say I wouldn't LOVE to win the challenge, just don't think I will!)


Ann@His Grace To Me said...

Fabulous job on the organizing! You've got me thinking about a china cabinet full of books that needs organizing. Hmmmm.

TN Quiltbug said...

You have inspired me to re-organize our homeschool stuff as well! I have a basement play area that I am trying to morph into a homeschool spot. Biggest problem is probably that it is COLD down in the basement during the winter--so "I" don't want to be down there doing homeschool! Hense most of our stuff migrates up to the living room and kitchen counter. But I would still like to get some school things organized better down there.....perhaps a portable heater would help!

Katie said...

Nice job! This reminds me I need to do a good purge in our bookshelves soon.