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Homeschool Litter: Why It is a Downside and Easy methods to Repair It

February 12, 2024
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Whether clutter drives you batty or you’re the one who always knows where everything is amid the chaos, too much homeschool clutter may be a problem. Read on to discover why too much clutter may be hurting your homeschool and what you can do about it. 

Everywhere we look – on Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, you name it – people are decluttering. I’ve seen umpteen clutter-purging room-by-room lists and photos of donation bin bags piled high, boasting another victory in the challenge of getting rid of the obscene amount of things we don’t really need.

homeschool clutter

Marie Kondo has undoubtedly made heaps of money with her tactics on purging your home down to the very bare essentials. (Though I have read that she’s done some backpedaling now that she has kids, so there’s that.)  But what does this mean for us homeschoolers and our homeschool clutter? Aren’t we supposed to have an excess of books and paper and glue sticks? Isn’t an overflowing art cabinet or a three-foot-high stack of Ticonderoga pencils a homeschooling mom’s badge of honor?

I’m usually one to lean more toward the minimalist side of the spectrum rather than being a clutter bug. No matter which end of the spectrum you prefer, the fact is that homeschoolers tend to have a lot of stuff, but too much clutter could be hurting your homeschool. 

The Problems with Homeschool Clutter

Whether it’s a curriculum we thought we’d use (or even the stuff we do use!) or piles of paper, stacks of books, and mounds of art supplies, too much homeschool clutter can present problems. 

Clutter Wastes Time

Homeschool Clutter: Why It's a Problem and How to Fix It

In the last week, how much time have you or your kids spent searching for the missing math book, digging through drawers looking for the pencil sharpener, or shifting stacks of paper to unearth this week’s read-aloud?

Probably lots. And, I’m guilty, too.

With four kids who are always home and doing all the things, I don’t think there will ever be a time in the next 15 years that my house isn’t somewhat cluttered or messy. But excessive homeschool clutter steals our time.

When things start to get really chaotic around here, I find myself moving a lot of piles and “losing” a lot more stuff. When paper clutter is at a minimum, and the kids’ rooms are not overflowing with unnecessary stuff, we spend a lot less time searching for things!

Sometimes I suspect that not being able to find the supplies is akin to a toddler “needing” just one more drink of water at bedtime. Unfortunately, the tactic is more effective than it should be when homeschool clutter makes it hard to find those homeschool books. 

Clutter Causes Overspending

Raise your hand if you’ve bought two of the same resources because you forgot you already owned the first copy somewhere in those bookshelves and closets overflowing with curriculum. 

Yep, me too.

Spring is a great time to start planning for next year and save money by hitting those used book sales and homeschool conventions. Unfortunately, we’re overspending rather than saving money if we’re unknowingly buying duplicates of what we already have.

Or maybe you’ve had to purchase replacement supplies for those that have gone missing somewhere in all those piles of papers. Tell me I’m not the only one who finds the missing math CD the week after the replacement copy arrives in the mail. 

I don’t know about you, but with the current economy, it’s in my family’s best financial interests to control the homeschool clutter so we can find and use the resources we already own.

homeschool clutter: books

Clutter Breeds Clutter

At my house, things get messy and cluttered when we get too busy to keep up with daily spot cleaning. When this happens, I’ve noticed how quickly the piles seem to grow! This phenomenon shows that clutter breeds clutter. The more you have, the faster it seems to multiply!

I really notice this most in the kitchen. If we don’t get the dishwasher unloaded in the morning, things start to pile up in the sink. Before I know it, the sink is full, the dirty dishes wind up on the counters, and suddenly, the whole kitchen is a disaster!

The same thing happens in our homeschooling areas, too, though. Plus, my kids seem to feed off my level of cleanliness. When I slack, they slack. (Thankfully, the opposite is true – they pick up steam when I do, too.)

How to Tackle Homeschool Clutter

Thankfully, staying on top of clutter is easy with a couple of simple steps. And, no, Step #1 isn’t “throw away 90% of your stuff.” So, relax, mama. You can keep your stash of unused crayons and reams of paper you picked up for next to nothing during last season’s back-to-school sales. Just quit buying more already! (Says the office supply junky.)

Create Space for Your Supplies

You know that saying, “Have a place for everything and put everything in its place”? This really is the first key to clutter control. It’s hard to put stuff away if there’s nowhere to put it. 

Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you have to have a dedicated school room or a spacious home to successfully corral the homeschool clutter. Look for simple solutions such as:

  • Keep a small bookshelf in the area where you typically work (Yes, we had a bookshelf in our dining room!) to hold your most-used items.
  • Use baskets for books and supplies. (Pro Tip: Keep a separate basket for library books so your library fines don’t rival the national debt!)
  • Have backpacks or file boxes (we used old milk crates) with hanging file folders for each student to store his or her supplies.
  • Invest in a few under-bed storage containers

Creating space for your supplies may mean purging some of the extras. Before you hit those used book sales this spring, take some time to go through what you already have. Clear out the things that you tried that didn’t work for you. Purge the duplicates. Get rid of the things you bought just because they were a good deal but deep down you know you’ll never use.

No guilt! Bless another homeschooling family or set up your own table at the used curriculum sale and recoup a little of your investment. When you have a clear view of what you have, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you need. 

Do a Little Every Day

Every afternoon when we finish school, I ask the kids to put away all their books and papers. When I ask them to clean up their messes, I feel obligated to do the same by putting my planner and books away too.

Again, after dinner, we have a cleanup time. It’s only about five to fifteen minutes, but everyone cleans up their rooms, toys, and projects while I clean up the main living areas and the kitchen counters.

It only takes a few minutes and the payoff is enormous! It’s a lot easier to let piles stack up when there are already piles galore. The more, the merrier, right? Clean surfaces are much harder to junk up. I find that the clearer the space is, the clearer it will stay.

homeschool clutter

Try these tips to minimize homeschool clutter:

  • Take photos or make videos of projects (art, science, etc.)  rather than trying to physically keep them all.
  • Send artwork to grandparents and other relatives.
  • Scan copies of written work that you want to save or three-hole punch them and add them to a binder so they aren’t loose all over the house.
  • Prepare recipes or make edible projects together (like our favorite edible cell project).

I also love the quick clutter-clearing tip from Hip Homeschool Moms for using labeled bins on your bookshelves! Tell me I’m not the only one who might love my label maker a little too much.

It’s also important to realize that change isn’t going to happen overnight. Oh, if only there were a fairy godmother waiting to wave her wand and make all that homeschool clutter disappear! But since that’s the stuff of fairy tales and we live in the “real world” (despite what the homeschool naysayers claim), we have to understand that tackling the clutter is going to take some time. 

To get started, try these realistic tips for tackling clutter from Hip Homeschool Moms. And, don’t think you have to do it alone. Get the kids involved! They’re more likely to want to help keep everything clean and clutter-free if they help get it that way.

The ongoing key to keeping clutter under control is making daily clean-up a habit and paying attention to how much stuff we are holding onto. 

Remember, we can’t expect to have immaculate homes. Our children see to it that that won’t happen for a while, but that’s okay! We don’t need immaculate homes. We just need our homes to be comfortable places that work for our needs. And, that is an achievable goal.

What areas of your house tend to collect clutter the quickest?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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