Category Archives: Organization

Happy New Year

I am feeling very optimistic about 2017 for our family. I feel so grateful for the blessings of 2016 and I can truly say that I feel more at peace than I have in a long time about attacking this coming year.

If I had really been on the ball with blogging, I would have a series of posts lined up to greet the new year. A minimalist challenge, a meal planning calendar, a homeschooler’s guide to getting through winter.

If I were on the ball, I would be hosting a giveaway, sharing DIY essential oil projects, and working on my Instant Pot Recipe ebook (this book does not exist, except in my imagination).

Instead, I am catching up on sleep. I am cuddling my kiddos. I am putting away holiday decor with more excitement and glee than I have ever had in opening a gift. I am staring at my new planner with stars in my eyes, imagining what the next year could be. I’m making lists and I’m taking my time. I’m thinking about a theme word to guide my year. (I’m considering the word savor. Kind of weird but it jumped out at me. Any thoughts?).

A dear friend asked me what happened to push me towards minimalism. I can’t exactly put my finger on when the change happened. As I rebranded my blog in the spring, I renewed my passion for writing, shifted my efforts away from looking for deals and began searching for my niche as a writer. But the significant change happened somewhere in between my Target boycott and when I started researching ethical shopping practices. In the midst of the busy everyday of parenting and life, I was crying out to God, asking Him for direction. I was so tired of being so overwhelmed and feeling like such a failure as a wife and mother. I begged God to show me another way.

God answered me very clearly by saying, “Stop valuing stuff”.

Soon after that moment, I read the article “How Getting Rid of Stuff Saved My Motherhood” by Allie Casazza and I knew that this was my answer. My answer was minimalism, and next I had to find out how to become it myself. I then began reading furiously everything I could find on the topic and spending every spare moment emptying our home and studying minimalism as if my sanity and survival depended on it.

In this process, we have filled and emptied both cars many many times. Boxes of donations, from furniture, clothing, gadgets. Tons of papers have been recycled or shredded. We’ve pared down, and pared again, and realized we still aren’t done. We’ve parted ways with items both sentimental and senseless. We’ve worked hard, we’ve had a few moments of panic and we’ve seen the holidays come and go with less chaos than usual.

So that brings me to today, January 4th 2017. I’m still tired and overwhelmed. We haven’t finished the process, there is so much more to do. But I am so hopeful and can’t wait to see what this year brings. Here’s to 2017!

Lessons as a New Minimalist

I’m tentatively thinking of myself as a minimalist now. It feels very strange, as if I am wearing someone else’s shoes. But I feel like I have spent enough time to warrant the title at this point. And I remind myself that minimalism is a choice I have made, not something that requires years of education, special equipment or a particular skill set.

Don’t worry, I’m not going around introducing myself to new people as a “minimalist” or ordering business cards or anything. I’m just telling myself, “it’s different now. I’m going in a new direction.” And I know this change is for real.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned a few months into my minimalism journey, in no particular order. (By the way, I used to roll my eyes at the term “journey” but now I sheepishly admit, a journey I am on and there isn’t really a better way to describe it). If it sounds snobby, please forgive me. There are times when the best words sound obnoxious, and this is one of those times.

  1. Yes, I really am materialistic. I had no idea the hold my stuff had on me, until I started to let it go. I’m still materialistic but admitting it is helping me to make better choices for the future.
  2. Our house isn’t small. I had spent so much time trying to squeeze “stuff” into my little house, I had forgotten how much space there actually is here. 1400 sq. ft. is really not that shabby for five people and one beagle.
  3. Working towards a positive goal is so much easier than giving yourself restrictions. All the times I have told myself to “stop shopping” have been difficult because the bad habit wasn’t replaced with something positive. Now that I am working toward a specific goal, I don’t miss shopping (yet). “Stop wasting money and filling the house with more and more stuff” just wasn’t working for me as a goal. “Focus on the important things and eliminate the things that get in the way” is a motto I can stick with. Maybe semantics, or maybe the secret elixir of life?less-to-clean
  4. Organizational tips can become traps. I was constantly trying to organize and constantly struggling. I had believed so much false logic in regard to organizing and I didn’t even realize it. One of my main mistakes was storing things in multiple spots. Since we had “limited space” I thought I should utilize every nook and cranny even if it meant spreading out the junk so that nothing was easy to find and I had no idea how much we actually owned.

    Then I proceeded to spend time every day searching for items that I wasn’t sure were even there to begin with. Making my life constantly frustrated.

  5. Allowing clutter is just another kind of procrastination. I am not sure where I originally read this statement but it has really stuck with me. For multiple reasons, we tend to let clutter build up even knowing we will eventually deal with it (or at worst others will deal with it). Whether it’s from guilt (“I never should have bought this”) or dread (“I’ll never really be able to get this taken care of”), we can be paralyzed. But I want to enjoy my home NOW. So no more waiting and no more putting it off for later. Seizing the day and acting can be very empowering and I love that I’m finally DEALING with issues rather than burying my head in the sand.
  6. Just because I love it, doesn’t mean I have to re-create it at home. This is something I never realized I was doing but it has been another light-bulb moment. I made choices of purchases and preferences rather randomly, based on a vague notion of re-creating things I enjoyed outside of my home. If I like eye-catching colors, I wanted them all over. If I enjoyed visiting a home with tons of tiny details, I thought maybe that’s what my house needed too. What I ended up with was a busy, eclectic combination of unrelated styles with no common thread. I have finally realized that I can go outside to enjoy nature, go to a museum to enjoy art; I could go to Cracker Barrel to peruse random collections of dusty collectibles, for Pete’s sake. I do not have to have each of these aesthetics in my home! My home is about creating a restful space for my family to re-charge so that we can go out into the world again. That takes a lot of pressure off me and helps me make decisions with clarity. 

I also have one item I would like to recommend for Friday Favorites. This is one of the cheapest diffusers I have found and we have been very pleased with it at only $12.99! Check it out here via my affiliate link!

That’s it for now! Keep simplifying, friends!

Minimalism, menus and buying in bulk

Right about when I started my official “minimalism” conversion, the much-awaited Costco opened up near me. I had been waiting for this moment for YEARS. Remember, I am a Shopaholic at heart. I was afraid Costco was going to become a major stumbling block in my journey, but that hasn’t actually been the case. In fact, buying in bulk has actually helped me simplify our meals. I never thought of cooking in a minimalist way, but now that I am devouring minimalist literature like there is no tomorrow, I’m finding that nearly every aspect of a simplified life appeals to me. With three kids, a part time job, homeschooling and all the details that come with mom-life, I’ve simplified our menu significantly. Check out some of my easy meal ideas here and here. I want to share a few ways that buying in bulk has actually helped my kitchen become more streamlined, efficient and enjoyable to my family.

I should preface this by saying that my children, especially my girls are remarkable open-minded and cheerful in their diet. All three of my kids try whatever they are given. I know that isn’t typical so some of my ideas will not apply to everyone. If you are dealing with a picky eater, you have my sympathies. My kids eat like champs but none of them ever sleep past 7 AM, if that makes you feel any better.

Also, I would like to say sorry I haven’t included any of the prices. I will try to add this info in the future for a post update.

  1. A signature salad: We have never eaten as much salad as we have this year and it’s totally due to bulk-buying. First, we buy the huge container of Organic Baby Spinach at Costco, the huge bag of Craisins, the huge bag of croutons, the huge bag of bacon bits, and we found a salad dressing we all love: Vidalia Onion Vinegrette (we are still using up this dressing from Sam’s Club, but I would like to try a similar one from Costco next). We mix the salad up in a big bowl and the girls have gotten great at gauging the perfect amount of each add-on. Since we always have these on hand, it’s great to always have a healthy side ready to pull out. (Note: sometimes we throw in other veggies or strawberries or cashews. The nice thing is that the base “recipe” is very simple and shelf-stable. I realize the dressing could be healthier, but I’m striving for small steps. Eating a big pile of organic spinach is still a win, in my book. Also, I’m convinced that when a salad is properly tossed in a large bowl, much less dressing is used.)
    minimalism-and-bulkbuying
  2. Beans & Rice: Sorry to mention it again, but it is still a favorite for the Prescotts and it is so crazy easy in the Instant Pot. At Costco, we can buy pretty much all the ingredients in bulk and just have that recipe ready to make any given day. We have loved having a HUGE bag of black beans and a HUGE bag of rice on hand all the time. minimalism-and-buyingbulk
  3. Parfaits as a main course: I totally get that this doesn’t appeal to everyone, but for my kids it’s like they’ve won the lottery. From their response, you would think we were giving them ice cream sundaes for dinner when it’s actually: vanilla yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and/or bananas and granola. We really like the big double bags of granola from Costco and they are insanely cheap compared to granola at the regular grocery store.
  4. Limited Options: One more mindset-shift that fits in nicely with minimalism and bulk-buy is limiting options. Now, I know this sounds like a negative thing, but please bear with me. As parents, most of us bend over backwards providing for our children. We want them to have the best of everything that they might want or need and we want them to have all the choices in the world. One thing I have really been working on in an effort to cultivate contentment in our home is limiting our options.
    Examples: instead of having crackers and cheese, tortilla chips with salsa, potato chips, popcorn and pretzels all in my pantry at once, I am aiming for one main snack for the week (or shopping period). Instead of filling the fridge with all the veggies and fruits, we can maybe have pineapple and carrots this week, apples and broccoli next week. (The exception is bananas, we try to always keep those on hand for smoothies and snacking). This is something new for us, but so far it’s working pretty well and there is less produce wasted. This is so much easier than constantly feeling like I need to provide an entire buffet & salad bar of healthy options for the kids at all times. (When I tried to do this, produce was becoming so wasted and I was exhausted from prepping food or guilty when I handed them a Popsicle instead of prepping the rapidly-expiring food. Live and learn.)

chalkboard-magnetic-menuOne last quick thing and it’s an affiliate link for a product I have really loved having! We ordered this HUGE chalkboard style magnetic menu for our fridge and we have really enjoyed it. It totally helps me to have a cute visual reminder of the menu plan for the week and I’ve used the grocery list spot a lot as well. The magnet is super strong and it goes so well with our other chalkboard items in the kitchen.

What are your thoughts on bulk buying and minimalism?

 

Step 2: Assess Needs

Welcome to Step 2 of the Simplify Your Life Challenge! If you haven’t followed these posts, you can find the Introduction here and click here for Step 1. Step 1 was a long post and an even longer assignment. Eliminating excess is usually a huge undertaking. So moving on to Step 2 doesn’t mean we stop working on Step 1! Keep eliminating excess and simplifying your life one donation at a time!

Step 2 Assess Needs

simplify.your.life.challenge.step2
What are your family’s true needs? In discussing simplicity and organizing, someone made a comment on Facebook along the lines of this: “First, deal with the basic needs of your family: make sure sleeping, eating, bathing and laundry are covered”. I took that comment to heart and went back to the basics and the actual necessities of life. What do you need to address your family’s needs?

For instance, we were storing the dog food in the bag, rolled up with a plastic clip. It was messy and took extra time. I went right out and bought a large storage container that pours. Why didn’t I do that long ago? Mostly because my life was too chaotic to focus on areas of improvement. Once I began to eliminate the excess I could focus better on solving household problems and addressing true needs.

More examples that I discovered of “needs” in my home:

Coffee. I make coffee every single day, sometimes twice a day. It’s an absolute necessity, yet I had made the process ridiculously complicated through poor planning. My coffee pot was on the far right of my counter. About 6 feet over, my coffee filters were in an upper left cabinet. On the total other side of the room, my coffee was stored in my (child-locked) pantry. I wasted time and steps every single day making coffee and never even thought about it. There was so much excess in my home that I couldn’t even identify the problem areas right in front of me! I solved the issue  by putting all the coffee items together beneath the coffee maker. DUH. Now every morning I appreciate the lack of total stupidity that was previously ruining a good thing.

step 2 towels

Bathing. Bathing wasn’t exactly a problem area, but I realized it needed some attention. I hadn’t evaluated our basic hygiene routine in awhile so I pulled up good ole’ EWG/skin deep. I admit I had been procrastinating this step because I knew some of our products weren’t going to rate well and I was right. No more Suave blissfully cheap coconut conditioner, and no more using whatever cheap soap is around. We have officially switched to Babyganics line of bath products, which tends to rate low (which is good) at EWG. (I can personally recommend the bubble bath, shampoo/body wash, hand sanitizer, and lotion). For conditioner, I needed a product that was relatively inexpensive (we go through a lot), and relatively healthy. For now we are trying RenPure Originals (which is free of sodium chloride, sulfates, dyes, parabans, salts and gluten). It is rated 3 on EWG, which isn’t terrible and that’s good enough for me since it satisfied my other big wish: a PUMP bottle. Now we have all the products we need and have discarded all the products we aren’t using. The kids can help themselves with the pumps and the bathroom is de-cluttered. I also have to re-recommend color-coded towels which is such a big sanity saver! Each child has a color, all towels stay on their hooks until I grab them 1-2 per week to wash.

Some questions to ask yourself as you work on Simplicity at each step:

What items should be eliminated all together?

What items need to be moved to another room?

What do I like/dislike about this room and living/working in it?

What items are stored elsewhere but are needed here?

If I was walking into this room for the first time, what would I think?

Step 1: Eliminate Excess

If you missed the introduction to the Simplify Your Life Challenge, please check it out here. To make a long story short, I am simplifying to help manage my stress and household, so that I can focus on what really matters to me. I have a lot going on and I need the absolute best way to help my family succeed at life!

Simplicity to me means not just successfully surviving but thriving!

You can join the challenge by subscribing to my blog to keep up with each step. At the end of each step we will have a challenge and I would love it if you would join me and post your own progress! (Bonus points for any pictures you can take of your simplification status!) Now on to Step 1 and it probably won’t surprise you:

Step 1: Eliminate excess

 In 2012 I did a challenge with some friends to get rid of 2012 items that year. It was such an eye opener as I realized just how much excess our 1400 square foot home had. That was when I really began to acknowledge my issues with shopping and how the “stuff” was stifling us. What I learned that year really helped me to have confidence in getting rid of stuff this time around.

In a similar way this summer I have been going through every single room and purging, purging, purging. Ruthlessly selling, trashing, re-homing. I’m taking a hard look at items, making sure they are serving enough of a purpose to earn their keep. If not, out they go. For example,  in my living room, I had 10 throw pillows. TEN! On only two sofas .The truth was, every day was frustrating because they ended up on the floor. There wasn’t room for PEOPLE on the sofa! How many do we need? Not ten!

WilliamMorrisquote

The key here is purpose. I have lots of items that are useful (as in they can be used with success) but if they’ve been collecting dust on a shelf or packed away in a closet they do not have a purpose. Think of all the “gadgets” in your kitchen. Which ones are you actually putting to good use? Sometimes this means getting rid of perfectly good, useful items when you realize that the space and clarity they leave behind is more valuable than the footprint they occupy and the chaos they  collectively contribute.

I feel obligated to mention the wildly popular book by Marie Kondo: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I have read it, and I do recommend it for gaining perspective on clutter and minimalism. At the same time, I feel that her method introduces the risk of an extreme and almost compulsive distaste for possessions. I’m also somewhat uncomfortable with the animism that she endorses.

While helpful, her tag phrase: “Does it spark joy?” has encouraged many hilarious memes of housewives discarding their credit card bills and sweeping their homes of all vegetables or dirty laundry. After all, can everything really spark joy?

Well, what if everything around you truly did spark joy or contribute to a joyful existence? How would that change your life?

(Here is a post on whether or not Konmari really makes sense for families. I found the comments really helpful also)

If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend the book Simplicity Parenting. I read it when I first started my parenting journey and I still think about it years later. It so beautifully explains how less is more in the eyes of children and how we can raise them with the gift of simplicity.

eliminatingexcess

This has by far been my most ruthless and therefore productive purging round, and I have to tell you that I am really happy with the results. If you are overwhelmed with where to start, I suggest  either A) attacking room by room or B) attacking category by category.

Uncertain?
If you want to get rid of items but are worried about needing them later, packing them into storage or the attic might be a good idea. Oftentimes it will be clear when you retrieve them a few months later whether or not they bring value to your home.

Donate
My advice is to find a charity or cause that you really care about and if possible, donate your items to that cause. It’s easier for me to let go of items knowing they are going where they are truly needed. An alternative is to host a yard sale and donate the proceeds to your charity of choice. Sometimes a “higher purpose” is all you need to encourage yourself to purge.

Persevere
Remind yourself that this first step, though overwhelming, will allow every subsequent step to go more smoothly. This could be an EPIC Weekend project or an ongoing, daily effort but either way keep your eye on the prize. Enlist help, get the kids involved, and don’t give up!

Resources:

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

10 Tips for De-cluttering by Peter Walsh (quick read with great tips for beginners!)

How to Declutter your Entire Home Going Room by Room by Elizabeth Larkin (awesome resource with clickable guides to help focus on results!)

Eliminate Excess Challenge:

Choose one room and commit to really eliminating all the excess from it. Look around and imagine how this room would look if it was void of any items that don’t spark joy or add value. Grab some boxes and bags and get to work!

Be sure to check out the other posts in this series:

Simplify Your Life Challenge

 

Simplify Your Life Challenge

As I approach Fall 2016 with the goal of “Simplicity”, I’m not going to lie: I’m scared. I know that I’m getting in over my head. Homeschooling is a huge responsibility and parenting doesn’t get any easier as the kids get older. So this year requires quite a bit of prayer, committing my efforts to the Lord, and surrendering the outcome. I am reminded that these children aren’t mine, they belong to our Heavenly Father! I’m very grateful for friends who have helped me to see this truth more clearly with their faithful, open-handed approach to parenthood.

(I am so, so slow at learning this truth: yes, He entrusted them to me, but they are HIS treasures, not mine).

In light of the “Fall Fear Factor”, I am working every single day at improving our routine and getting things set up for the School Year. The girls will be in 4th grade (I can hardly believe it), I’m writing on a daily basis, I will be working two days a week, my youngest demands constant attention and money is tight so we can’t afford to pay for convenience. I am also trying to work on diet and exercise for myself and cutting WAY down on shopping as a “hobby”. Here’s a post for BargainBabe that talks about my shift from Shopaholic to more of a minimalist (these are baby steps, for sure).

I’m tired of being pushed around by my responsibilities. I’m ready to push back.

Through this process, I’m seeking a more harmonious schedule that works for us, rather than the schedule working me to death (or just leaving me incredibly defeated).

I have gone through each room carefully and thoughtfully with the long-term goal in mind of cutting down on chaos and complications and smoothing out the day to day. I want to share with you some of my ideas and some resources that I found helpful.

simplicity

I want to mention right from the get-go that I am not an expert on organization, simplicity, home management, or discipline. Quite the opposite: these are areas that I really struggle with. Because these are weak points for me, I am working hard to improve them. In the past, I have realized blogging about my goals has really helped me to stick with the plan. So the “Simplify Your Life Challenge” is mostly for me as I work on improving our daily routine and seek simplicity! I hope some of you will be inspired to do the same, or at least encouraged that you are not alone if you struggle with this! In the next few posts, I’ll be getting down to the nitty-gritty of simplifying and challenging myself to commit.

Please SUBSCRIBE to my blog (top right corner) to join this challenge and get all of the Simplify Challenge emails right in your inbox!

Resources:

This is one of my favorite books about parenting and just life pursuits in general! It’s one that has really stuck with me nearly a decade after first reading it. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, I think you could benefit from reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

My Pinterest Board! If you would like to be added as a contributor to this board, please email me at leahprescott@gmail.com. I’d love your feedback on Simplicity and what your goals are as well!

 

 

Budget Tween Room Makeover: Part 3

Twin Tweens

I’m sharing my budget “tween” shared twin room makeover because tweens are a tricky demographic. They want to be grown up, but they don’t bring in their own income! They want all their toys, but they also want their room to look sophisticated. Don’t forget to check out Budget Tween Room Makeover In Progress (Part 1) & Budget Tween Room Makeover Part 2 if you missed them!

purplegoldcollage

Things are shaping up nicely over here. Although we totally had a DIY-fail this week involving a vintage lamp and spray paint, we found some adorable accessories that we are excited to add to the room. As we planned, we sold our Ikea Kura (we will miss it, such a fun versatile piece; but our other Kura is still serving us well in my son’s room) and took a family trip to Ikea for a more grown-up alternative, finally settling on this:

New Bunk Bed, Ikea Mydal

 

I was considering a metal bunk bed (we love the clean lines of this one by Walker Edison), but my husband felt like a wood version would be more sturdy. He was able to put the Mydal together in about two hours with tons of family interruptions. I’m happy to report I didn’t hear any angry outbursts or loud crashes so I think the experience was relatively painless for him. If you ask him, assembling furniture could be his least favorite task in the world. Hopefully the girls realize what a labor of love this was for him to work so much on their room during his “vacation” week.kuramydal

He also installed two picture ledges/shelves for the girls from Ikea. These appear to be the perfect solution for a few bedtime essentials (clock, book, water bottle) without the clutter of a bedside table (or the challenge of height for the top bed). We also bought a couple of these for under-bed storage, which we promptly filled with out of season clothing. (Nine year old identical twin girls sharing a closet is no joke, folks).

Our next quest was for new bedding that would match the new dorm room vibe. I started googling “bunk bed bedding” and here is the resulting shopping rabbit hole I ended up heading down. I will update soon with the bedding that we ended up choosing, but the girls are thrilled with the results.

Pinterest Fail: Spray Painting a Floor Lamp

Next I had this “brilliant” idea to re-paint my old lamp from college that for some reason was still stashed in the attic. We used Krylon Shimmer Metallic Black Spray Paint and I love the color. It’s nothing close to glittery, just black with a little extra “something”. It was a little tricky covering the base because it’s so narrow and I did end up with some paint drips, but keep in mind that I am also fairly careless with craft projects (just being honest, ya’ll). I plan to cover it with a clear protective spray to keep the finish nice.  Sadly, my brilliant plan started to deteriorate when I realized spray painting the translucent shade wasn’t quite possible.  The resulting splotchy light was pretty gloomy and depressing. On to Plan B…

The blogger who never gives up

 

As most folks know, I tend to cling to a project idea until it is pretty much pried from my lifeless, paint-stained hands, so I refused to give up on the lamp (which is really illogical since I know for a fact I paid only $8 for it at Walmart in the year 2000).  I tried purchasing a new shade at Lowe’s only to realize I was the semi-confused owner of two half-circle wall sconces.  (Thank you Lowe’s for easy returns).

Finally, I went to Michael’s absolutely determined to solve the lamp problem. I came home with some gorgeous gold washi tape and proceeded to tape and tape and tape. Washi tape lampshades are all over pinterest so I was confident this idea would be a success. (Misplaced confidence is also part of my DIY-er profile).

Sticky to the Bitter End

This was my first experience with Washi Tape and it turns out that it’s not as tape-y as duct tape. Soon I realized that the stick alone was not going to hold this project together. So I whipped out my Mod Podge (this $8 sixteen-year-old lamp was racking up a tab of upwards of $50 but good thing I made nearly $1.40 yesterday on Amazon Affiliates. Blogging my way to the top, ya’ll)

So I started haphazardly slapping sticky Mod Podge all over the lamp and tucking the ends over the edge (forgetting that not everyone is short like me and the inside would be visible to the naked eye). A couple coats later and ta-da! My eighteen  hour, four shopping trips later, simple DIY project was complete! And the results are:

washi tape lamp shade

Ok? Not bad? Better than dumping the lamp in a landfill? Semi-functional? Good enough for now?

Alphabet Train Line at Michael’s 70% off

Our fun find of the week was these two large letters with the ampersand for my “S” girls.  The total for all three was about $7 thanks to major markdowns! We plan to hang them on the wall once we figure out the perfect spot. There are tons of different letters in all colors and sizes for 70% right now at Michael’s from the Alphabet Train line, so check it out in your local store!
sands

I would love to thank Brooklyn & Bailey (teen youtube stars & identical twin girls) for their fun and cute videos about their shared room. I could tell my girls were really impressed to see cool older girls who enjoy sharing a room and can make it look so awesome at the same time. I really appreciate their positive sibling dynamic and great example!

Homeschool Uniforms

I remember when I was a child hearing that a homeschool family we knew was using uniforms and I was gobsmacked (to be fair: I was easily gobsmacked back in the day). I couldn’t fathom why someone who chose homeschooling would choose uniforms to promote conformity and rigidity. Homeschooling to me was a choice of flexibility, creativity, and opening up a world of options; whereas uniforms communicated the exact opposite to my young mind. In fact, I pictured a crowd of storm troopers.

Uniforms took away individual choice. Uniforms made the wearers look like mindless drones. Uniforms were ugly.

Fast-forward to my current mindset: homeschooling is all about access to the best materials, methods, and resources and having the flexibility of embracing any and all roads to a quality education.

Homeschooling means that what I use this year may be in next year’s curriculum sale crate. Homeschooling means if today isn’t working, then we re-assess and re-map. Homeschooling means being open-minded and innovative.

Last week, my husband and I were having a HHH (Homeschool Heart to Heart) with the girls. We were addressing the fact that their behavior at school (our hybrid program) was virtually above reproach. I’m very proud of how respectful, focused and hard-working they are in the classroom. Unfortunately, that behavior doesn’t always translate to our “class time” at home. Of course, I don’t expect them to behave exactly as they do in public when we are at home. However, I do want them to give their best effort as much as possible and that hasn’t been the case recently.

During this HHH, I blurted out: “Do we need to have homeschool uniforms to remind you that this is school time?” Suddenly, I realized, this wasn’t an altogether horrible idea. Simply doing something to differentiate our free time from work time could be a way to “shake things up”. I started mulling things over and doing some reading online about the pros and cons of uniforms. I was surprised how many homeschoolers consider this idea.

school uniformLess than I week after I started exploring this idea, I was flipping through the racks at my favorite thrift store and what did I find? Two size 10 girls navy school jumpers. For $1.20 a piece. It was a homeschool bargain miracle. Clearly, the uniform experiment was being set into motion despite any reservations on the part of my children. Fortunately for me, they pretty much roll with the punches when it comes to my brilliant ideas for life improvement. So let our experiment commence!

Be sure to follow Chasing Santee to read the riveting conclusion to this controversial topic. Or to hear how I wasted over two dollars and failed miserably at improving the educational process.

The Homeschool on-the-go Bag

In the interest of full disclosure, please realize that I have become an Amazon partner, so I will receive a small (really, minuscule) compensation for any items purchased through the following affiliate links. As ya’ll know I have been shamelessly raving about my favorite things for years, so I just thought I would finally try to get a little cash flow from my role as consumer enabler. Thanks for taking a look at my recommendations!

Once again, I ask, how did folks homeschool before the advent of Pinterest??

When I feel particularly overwhelmed with the clutter, I tend to browse the internet for the magical cure. Sometimes I get distracted by how to catch mosquitoes in a two liter bottle, how to decorate a mug with a sharpie, or the best way to dress for your body type. Other times, I find something truly helpful that I implement right away like this idea for a homeschool mom bag*…I love it and it has really helped me keep life organized!

This method works great for me because we have a fairly small home with limited dedicated school space, I want to be able to homeschool “on the road”, and I’m not the world’s most organized mom to begin with. All you need to make this work is a Thirty One Organizing Utility Tote**, (look at all the pretty color options!), an open top file box, file folders, and your basic craft/office supplies (the things you want to keep close at hand for school).

No instructions are needed, you simply fit the file box into the bag, add the file folders, and fill the outside pockets with supplies. Here is what I keep in my bag:

  • folders labeled with each child’s name, the previous school year’s records, this school year’s records, each subject, and forms.
  • My Homeschool Planner
  • pens, pencils, sharpies
  • glue stick, craft glue, tape, small stapler, glue dots
  • post-it notes, small notebook, reward stickers
  • hole-punch, scissors, rubber bands, paper clips
  • hand sanitizer, some random string or yarn, and a small screwdriver just in case (I’m pretty sure I could moonlight as a secret agent with the contents of this bag).

When we are at home, this bag lives on top of a rolling cart in our kitchen. If we are traveling, I can remove the file box portion and fill the heart of the bag with workbooks, notebooks, readers and whatever else we may need. It makes it so easy to homeschool on the go! I’m still not great with organizing, but with this bag, I can totally fake it! I’d love to hear any of your ideas!

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*I originally found this idea at IHeart Organizing!

**Please note, I am NOT affiliated with Thirty One Bags in any way, and in fact had never owned any of them until I found this idea. As it happens, I purchased my tote on ebay, but if you’d like to find a consultant in your area, look here.