One of my biggest challenges is finding ways to organize all this "stuff" so that I can find it when I need it. It doesn't do anyone any good to have every wonderful, educational game ever invented if I can't find it when I really need it. For several years, we stored all our school games in a six-drawer dresser which is now in our family room. I divided the games up by subject. Math games in one drawer, science games in another, word games in a third. That made it easy to find the game I was looking for without pulling everything off of a shelf.

I did the same thing in a storage cabinet, putting games for different subjects on different shelves. I like both of these ideas better than opened shelves. When we're not using the games they are out of sight so they look less cluttered. The dresser worked especially well when I had preschoolers that I didn't want getting into some of our school things. It was hard for them to open the drawers, so it discouraged them from trying to get into things and dump pieces everywhere. Now that my kids are older, the cabinet is nice because they can open the doors and see everything that's available to them all at once.


What if you have everything sorted and organized, but you still can't remember where you've put things? I have a very simple solution--labels! I love labels! My memory isn't very good, and I tend to have an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. So if I put something away where I can't see it, I'm probably going to forget where it is until I've searched for, and found it, several times. So I label everything! It takes a lot less time to read quickly down a list of labels on the edges of bookshelves than it does to read the titles of each book to find the one you want.

Until I memorized our filing system for our books, I labeled the shelves "Science", "History", etc. It made it so much easier to find things, and much easier for everyone to put things back (at least close to) where they belonged. I've also put labels on the inside of dresser drawers, on the outside of plastic storage drawers, on storage boxes, on shelves in a closet, even on individual toy boxes. Especially when I can't use clear boxes, labeling the outside makes it much easier to find what I want quickly, without ever having to open a lid to see what's inside.


Another "stuff challenge" for me has been what to do with maps, timelines, educational posters and charts that we are using for school. I would love to have them hung up where we can see them all the time. But since we school mainly in our family room, which has paneling on all the walls, and since the little wall space we do have is covered with tall bookcases, it was a real problem.

Our best solution has been to hang many of these things in my children's bedrooms. Not only has this given us more wall space, it has had other hidden benefits as well. One daughter has a map of the United States on her bedroom wall, and without any encouragement from me, she memorized all the states and capitals "because it was fun."

Another daughter has a poster of the books of the Bible in her room, and she would read over the poster each night when she went to bed. Before long she had memorized all the books and their divisions. My youngest daughter used to go to sleep at night practicing sign language while she looked at the poster above her bed. She would think of words and phrases and practice signing them to herself until she was sleepy. I didn't have to "teach" my girls any of those things. They just learned them on their own because the maps and posters were available to them.