Do you ever find yourself asking that question? The homeschooling lifestyle has a way of causing many of us to accumulate a lot of "stuff." Sometimes keeping track of everything, and remembering where it is when you need it, can seem like a full-time job. A house that seemed huge when you bought it can quickly fill up as you find homes for all of your homeschooling supplies. Short of building an additional room, what can you do to make more space, organize your home, and make your homeschooling run more smoothly?

 

I have homeschooled my children for the last 11 years. During that time, we have lived in houses anywhere from 1100 sq. ft. to 2200 sq. ft. We have homeschooled with preschoolers, a high schooler, and everything in between. Over the years we have collected thousands of books, hundreds of cassettes, CD's and videos, and dozens of educational games and manipulatives. Along the way I've learned a few tricks for keeping it all somewhat organized, and in the process maintaining my own sanity, as well as that of my husband (the military retiree who can't stand clutter!)

 

First, let's talk about books. We have literally thousands of books in our home. The most obvious place to store them is on bookshelves, and we have plenty of those (at last count we had 4 very large and 6 medium-sized bookcases in our house, all of them full). But we have also stored books in many other places.

My youngest daughter currently has two sets of Bible story books in her bedroom closet, sitting neatly on top of a toy cabinet. When we had toddlers, we kept all of their board books in a basket on the living room floor. They could carry it with them from room to room, and at clean up time it was easy to toss all the books back into the basket. We've used boxes, milk crates and storage cabinets to hold our books. School books that we are not currently using (but are saving for a younger child) are sometimes stored in Rubbermaid-type storage boxes and put on a high closet shelf. Books that each person is currently reading are usually kept on the headboards of our beds, or on a dresser or table nearby.

 

What about all the games, manipulatives, and hands-on items that homeschoolers tend to collect? Two of my favorite ways for storing these kinds of things are in zipper-closing bags and clear plastic storage containers with snap-on lids. I love it because I can see what's inside without opening a box or having to label everything, but if the container is accidentally dropped, I don't end up with a million tiny pieces all over the floor. At one point we took all of our jigsaw puzzles and put the pieces in zipper bags, cut the photo off the cover, and threw away the rest of the box. I could stack these bags and box lids in a medium-sized storage box and was able to keep a dozen puzzles in the space usually taken up by 2 or 3 puzzle boxes.

My goal is to someday do the same thing with our games, but I haven't had the time to do that yet. I have stored some game pieces in clear plastic containers, though. One box holds the linking cubes. Another might hold a set of dominoes. One box holds all the miscellaneous game pieces (game markers, dice, chips, marbles) that can be used in a variety of games.  This makes it easy to replace missing pieces from one game with a substitute piece from another game, and the lid holds everything securely in place and away from small children or pets that might be able to get into a cardboard game box.