As home educators we face the unique challenge of having our homes be our living spaces as well as our classrooms. While there are advantages to having a separate space for school (I sometimes fantasize about how nice it would be to just close the door on the mess), I decided to take a holistic approach by using our whole house as a classroom.
That decision was both practical and idealistic! I didn’t want learning to be separated from our day-to-day life and I wanted to keep our tiny guest room for out-of-town family. A lot of you might be in the same boat!
My goal was to keep our home warm and inspiring, yet uncluttered. To do that I had to put away my own desires for magazine-like spaces and begin to think more about how I could make our home a rich environment for the people living here to experiment, learn and create.
I’m not sure I can call myself that much of a minimalist these days. I have a lot more toys and craft materials than I ever planned to! One of the undertakings of homeschool is not just the learning part, but helping our children to constructively self-entertain during their free hours.
Facts are, mine like to use a lot of Scotch tape and string and popsicle sticks to do this. As well as small beads and sequins. Grimace emoji. (Their volume has been reduced by about 50% and and it’s NOT because I vacuum them up with abandon. It could be, BUT WHO CAN KNOW THESE THINGS FOR SURE.)
It seems like fostering wonder, magic and productive leisure time means that we will have more tools, books and supplies to store than the average Joe! My challenge has been to organize these things in a way that is beautiful and orderly (well, at least when put away!)
1.) Tier 1: Free-for-All
So here we go. Everything at eye level and below is free to everyone all the time. This includes the art tray on our table (the markers are washable), scissors (yes, the sharp things and yes, hair has been cut), tape, Legos, blocks, picture books, and most of our toys. Library and picture books are stored in baskets around the house and on the lower levels of our book shelf.
Junie has a “preschool” cabinet in the buffet which holds her favorite puzzles and games. We also have a basket of Little People and one with sheets and clothes pins for fort-making.
I don’t hide all these things away or I’ll be constantly asked to get things down aaaaand then guess who also will be putting them away. I live at home with kids all day, so I need them to be able to get into some things on their own, you know, while I’m holding the rest of our collective lives together.
Part of being a minimalist is having your functional items double as decor! Though I’ve accumulated more items than I’ve ever had, I do try to keep this rule!
So I make sure these things are displayed in a way that is accessible for kids but is aesthetically pleasing to me (aka doesn’t make my eyeballs bleed).
The key is to use natural materials like wood, wicker, pottery and neutral colors for storage. Most of my organizing materials came from the thrift store in the basket and pottery section! I also use my living furniture to store things in, like open shelves and my buffet.
By the way, I got this nifty drawer organizer for the Legos, which can be rolled away to the guest closet when needed. The Legos were taking over my life and I dearly wanted to downsize them…BUT LEGOS. They keep my kids constructively busy for days upon days and like any basic homeschooler, I seem only able to accumulate them. So we organized them by color in this drawer thingie, which I must tell you, was extremely gratifying.
Book baskets and crates are my favorite way to organize! We have one in almost every room. They draw attention to books and are easy for kids to get out and put away. We use them for holding school books, library hauls, seasonal books, and personal favorites. (We got our book crates and market baskets from Amazon, thrift stores and garage sales.)
2.) Tier 2: Ask Permission
The ask-permission items are those that are above eye level. This includes things higher up on our family room shelving (affectionately known as the “book room” in our house). Ask-permission items are things that I need to be able to reach easily, but that I don’t necessarily want kids into all the time. This can be things like the blue tooth speaker, notebooking supplies for school, clips for the our timeline wall, games and puzzles with small pieces, craft supplies like permanent markers and clay. These are things that we use a lot but require some light supervision.
Lots of people have asked me what is in the baskets at the top of the open shelving! The answer is new phonics workbooks, reserve school notebooks, and my own personal craft basket (with completely necessary items like baker’s twine and a mauve glue gun from 1996.)
3.) Tier 3: Hidden Storage
This is reserved for things that we do not use on a regular basis or items that are not able to be stored attractively in baskets. I use the top shelf of our bookshelves and closet space upstairs for these things. (NOT a minimalist when it comes to games, puzzles, art supplies and of course books!)
The closet upstairs is where my labeled plastic bins are. Can you believe it!? I have a homeschool closet! Well, it’s homeschool and toys, but as I said, it all goes together in this house! They are a mishmash of clear bins I acquired over the years because the bin system is tried-and-true and works for almost anything, anywhere!
This is also where the KINETIC SAND lives. If you want to get revenge on someone from your dark past, just sprinkle this underneath the dining room table and in the crevices of the couch. That will be all that is needed.
I have a weird cabinet situation in my upstairs hallway (that apparently all houses of this era in our town have). I never know what to do with the awkward countertop in the middle! The games and puzzles are on the top shelves and extra linens below.
The pantry organizers in this photo are supposed to be hung on the door, but my husband hasn’t gotten around to that yet. (He wants to get the exact optimal arrangement before he drills permanent holes in the door!) They are the perfect size for holding extra glue, string, markers, and paint bottles. You can get some for yourself here on Amazon!
We just added shelves to this closet and moved it all upstairs from the guest room. Here’s what that process looked like! (I am trying to add more “messy middles” to my posts!)
By the way, you can also download my nifty minimal bin labels here for free! My gift to you. You can print them, cut them out, and slip them inside of these labels, which stick onto the bins. It’s very satisfying and I recommend it!
I hope you found this post helpful! Ideals and practicality can live in harmony. Organization should serve us; it should be about creating a space that welcomes and nurtures our loved ones.
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