Learning is Messy

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We Unschool, but let me be frank:

I cannot stand a mess.

I really can’t, but I’m all for making messes and allowing my children and grandchildren to make messes. As a matter of fact, I encourage messes, because some of my best fun memories were made within a mess.

All that said, I also like to have a clean, organized home, where there is a space for everything and any time I or my children need something for a project, they know where to find it. We have a special container for glue, for paper, for paints, for sewing materials, books, scissors, you name it…and it feels good.

To balance my need for creative freedom in our home, as well as organization, I have a rule:

It’s okay to make a mess. It’s not okay to leave a mess.

What I love about this rule is my daughter is no longer afraid to make messes. If she makes one, she either cleans it up herself or she asks me for help. Either way, there’s no shame in having made a mess. There’s no anger regarding the mess and there’s no issue. We clean it up and move on.

It wasn’t always this way. When my son lived with us, the kitchen served multiple duties: cooking, eating, creating, homeschooling, hanging out, pet feeding, storage, etc. It was a mess all the time and I couldn’t stand it. I hated never knowing where things were. When my daughter wanted to do a project, it took more time to find everything than it did to complete the project. The clutter made me anxious and irritable and it wasn’t an environment that was conducive to learning. So while my son was moving into his new home, I was planning the spaces in our home and I knew that everything needed a place.

For me, material clutter equals internal clutter. So to have my space organized lightens my mental load. Also, it makes being a stay-at-home-mom easier. Our home is not just a place where we come together to eat dinner and the rest is spent sitting on our couch binging on Netflix before we go to bed and wake up to head in all different directions. Like other homeschooling families, our home is for learning, for family, for recreation, for art, for science experiments, for fun with friends, for entertainment, for work…we do it all here. If not for organization, I might lose my damn mind!

Aside from what organization does for me, organization also allows my daughter to be more independent in her learning. This morning she wanted to pain the stepping stone we worked on yesterday. If not for organization, my much-needed quiet morning time would have been interrupted with my going upstairs to locate everything she needed to do her project. Instead, I simply told her to paint at the craft table and to be sure to put down a towel. She did this.

After a few minutes she called downstairs to me, “Mom, I need help. There isn’t any black paint and I want to paint the Ladybug.”

I replied, “Look in the blue container in the closet.” This is the container that holds all of the paint. It’s just an old blue canvas bin that I used years ago to hold cloth diapers. I think I picked it up at Target or Hobby Lobby or something. Five bucks, well spent.

By having everything organized and having a place for everything, my daughter was able to independently paint her stepping stone.

Some may think I was being lazy this morning and well, maybe I was a little. My husband was off work and we wanted to spend some quiet time together having coffee. I’m okay with allowing myself some downtime. I don’t feel like I need to be at my child’s side every moment of every day, nor do I think I should be at her side every moment of the day. I trust her to work independently. I trust her to respect our space and clean up after herself.

It works for us and I think that learning to work independent of an adult is vital to learning and organization plays a major role in facilitating this.

How to Organize:

1. Simplify! I have donated so much stuff. It’s amazing what we can accumulate over the years. Toss what you don’t need. Toss the toys your children seldom play with. Toss the clutter. So many people wrap up who they are in there stuff, but you are not your stuff. Simplify your belongings and make room for what really matters. It lets the energy flow. For more help with this, check out @brydo64tribe on Instagram. She helps people simplify and create and she’s a beautiful, nurturing soul.

2. Grab storage. You can grab nice, inexpensive shelves at IKEA, or shop Thrift stores for hand-me-downs. Paint them if you feel the urge. Grab inexpensive canvas bins, mason jars, old vases, tins, etc to store the materials you need. I have old beer glasses on a low shelf to hold pencils, scissors, and paintbrushes. I also like to use chipped or cracked mugs with cute sayings to hold small things like erasers and staplers. Be creative and have fun with your space. The key: have space for everything and return everything to its place.

In our creative space, we added old selves to the closet, literally just pushed them in there and that’s where we store printer paper, science experiment materials, larger bins, craft materials….If you have an extra closet in your home, use that space to organize your materials and be sure to keep much-used items low for the kids to grab when they need them.

That’s really it. it takes time. Don’t get overwhelmed and if you do feel like you’re getting overwhelmed, take a step back, call a friend, or contact a professional to give you a hand. Trust me, the time you put in is absolutely worth it because you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time and headache later.

Do you have an organization tip for other moms? Feel free to share!

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