When Mallory started kindergarten I didn’t realize how much it would change our home life. I figured it would be mostly like preschool, but going more days. Boy, was I wrong: the influx of papers, the homework to do, her schedule and the tasks to keep up with and remember. I felt like I was just barely keeping up with it all, and not doing a good job at that.
At the start of this year I knew I needed to do something about it. I needed a way to organize the girls’ incoming and outgoing items and I needed to create storage for many items to save my sanity.
These are my solutions.
In the hallway by our backdoor, I created a family command & communication center. I couldn’t find a complete solution from any one store, so this is a conglomerate that works really well for us.
The left section is Mallory’s (the kindergartener), the middle is Chelsea’s (preschool) and the right is Tessa’s (starts preschool in the fall).
I knew I wanted an IN and OUT box for each girl, so I got the Daily System Letter Bins in white (which is really off white and what I wanted) from Pottery Barn. The girls put their school papers, folder and books in the IN (bottom) bin when they get home from school. Once we do homework, read the book, do what needs to be done with the paperwork, it goes in the OUT (top) bin. This has made getting out the door in the morning so much easier.
Below the bins, I added hooks where backpacks and jackets get hung up (and they do!).
Above the Letter Bins, I made a cork board for each girl. Pottery Barn has cork boards with their Daily System but they are much too small for what I wanted. I knew I wanted space where three vertical letter-size pieces of paper would fit. I couldn’t find anything like that to buy (which I would have preferred), so I had to make this with 12″x12″ (1/2″ thick) cork tiles (purchased here). From the little research I did on cork tiles, I discovered that you can’t just stick them to the wall if you want them to stay long term. So, I got some hardboard/masonite pieces cut to 12″x36″ from Home Depot and used Gorilla Glue to adhere the tiles to the board. I then used anchors, screws and washers to attach my new cork boards to the wall.
On the cork boards, I use the top 12″ square to display current artwork. In the bottom two 12″ squares, I tack up important papers that I may need to reference later (schedules, reading logs, reminders, etc.). I was having a hard time keeping up with those papers for the first part of the year and now I know where to post and find important information. Oh, and Tessa’s cork board (right) has miscellaneous artwork and papers tacked to it, just for fun until she has her own papers to pin.
I also got some wooden letters to add above each cork board, but I need to paint them before hanging them.
The next thing I wanted to do was create and post a schedule for our family. I thought this might help get us organized and stay on track with certain tasks. I got some “chalkboard” contact paper and adhered it to the cabinet that surrounds our fridge. On the top I posted our schedule, using a chalk marker. On the bottom, I made a chore chart. The schedule is very ambitious and we haven’t followed it completely on any one day yet. It helps me by reminding me what needs to be done each day. It has really helped me in the mornings and we are getting to school five to ten minutes earlier than we used to.
As for the chore chart… it is a bit of a chore to keep up with it. I think if I followed through with it more, the girls would really get into it and do the things I’ve asked of them. But, most days we are too busy or I am tired or my patience has worn thin, so the things don’t get done or they get done and not marked off.
I didn’t photograph this, but I also added a little square of chalkboard contact paper to the front of the fridge (I did this after I took these pictures). On that “chalkboard” I post some of my goals for the week and month. This has been a big help for me and I’ve already accomplished several items on my TO DO list (items that normally would just sit and sit on my list).
I also want to add that I really like the chalk markers. From what I understand, you shouldn’t use them on a traditional chalkboard because they should be used on nonporous surfaces (like the contact paper, mirrors, glass, etc.). The markers wipe mostly off with water and then with a little 409 or Windex, the rest of the paint comes off completely.
The third aspect of our get organized plan involved creating a homework station. In our kitchen, we have this cabinet (pictured above, on the left) where we used to store the girls’ crayons, markers, coloring books, stickers, craft supplies, etc. (behind the sliding bottom doors). This solution wasn’t working for me anymore because it was too hard for the girls to get what they wanted without creating a mess and then it was always a struggle to get them to put everything away.
I found a better solution in the Stanton 6+1 wide Rolling Cart from Home Decorators Collection (on sale + free shipping). This is piece, on the right, is made with real wood, comes assembled and is nice quality. There are several different options for the cart (colors and number/configuration of drawers). It comes with wheels but we’re not using them.
On top of the rolling cart I added a quality pencil sharpener (I didn’t realize it was so big when I ordered) and a wire basket. The wire basket holds papers that the girls are working on or have finished. I hope to go through the papers once a week or so to make sure there aren’t any keepers before throwing most away. In the drawers, are their supplies:
- Drawer 1: rulers, stapler, tape, glue sticks, erasers, hand pencil sharpener (for colored pencils since they can break the electric one)
- Drawer 2: colored pencils, crayons, specialty markers
- Drawer 3: small white boards, white board markers, white board eraser
- Drawer 4: white paper
- Drawer 5: construction paper
- Drawer 6: stickers sheets, sticker books
- Drawer 7: coloring books
I’m sure as the girls get older, the items in the cart will change, but this is what is there now. This little cart has been a great addition to our home. The girls can get things out and put them away so much easier.
In the bottom of the cabinet (on the left, above) where their supplies used to be stored, I am storing other art, craft and school supplies: Play-doh, paint, brushes, beads, pom-pons, stencils, educational workbooks, etc.. The supplies in the cabinet are used infrequently and with parental supervision, so the cabinet has more of chance to stay organized now.
The other thing that I added to the area (but didn’t photograph) is a black Bedford Lazy Susan (pencil holder) from Pottery Barn. It sits in the middle of our kitchen table and holds the girls’ pencils, markers, colored pencils for Tessa and sometimes scissors (if the girls aren’t on restriction from them; they currently are because they create the biggest messes after using scissors and they don’t like to clean up the paper scraps. No clean up? No scissors.). When we eat dinner, the Lazy Susan sits atop the Stanton Cart in the wire basket.
So, my attempt at getting us organized is helping me; some solutions more than others. I just wanted to share in case anyone else out there is looking for a way to calm the chaos in their homes. 🙂