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There I was, crouched over with an armload of random toys, dodging Legos and Hotwheels, smushing more banana into the rug while the kids trail behind me – dumping out everything I just put away. My other hand was filled with who-knows-how-old yogurt tubes, and everyone was crying… This is a hot mess.

Have you been there, too?

Kindergarten homeschool room

Our Kindergarten Homeschool Room
+ 5 tips for managing the mess…

It was an out-of-body motherhood experience. I could see myself, and I didn’t like what I saw. I was hunched and tired, cranky and yelling.

The toys are taking over. I can’t do this all by myself.

When I found myself at the very edge of sanity, picking up kid droppings in every room of the house, I knew something needed to change. Homeschool materials, toys, games, crayons, pencils, art supplies, dress up clothes… I needed a dedicated space for all this STUFF. I hauled out our huge dining table and loaded the kitchen with every. single. toy. Out of the way, kids! Mommy’s on a mission!

Now it’s more manageable. With ONE organized space for toys and school supplies, the kids can mostly manage the mess themselves. Watch and see for yourself.

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Want to be done with rage-cleaning?
Read on.

5 Tips to a Tidy Homeschool Room

1) A Dedicated Space

A major part of the overwhelm was that there was kid stuff in every room. I needed a homeschool/play space, but we don’t have any extra rooms in our house!

Get Creative.

I hauled our kitchen table out into the living room and loaded all of the toys, games, and crafts into the kitchen. Now we have a dedicated space.

Most homes weren’t designed for homeschooling. If you have an extra room that’s great! If not, don’t be afraid to try something different: do away with the fancy dining room, bunk the kids up and use a bedroom, make some space in the garage or basement, or maybe your living room is the homeschool room. Go with it!


2) A Place for Everything…
Say it with me: and everything in its place.

It makes a HUGE difference when your children know where their toys belong. Grab some colorful (or beige if you’re into that sort of thing) bins, baskets, boxes, and label them with words and pictures.

I love the cube shelves and have repurposed our old changing table (below). Give every toy it’s own spot. Labeled bins make cleaning up a simple sorting game.
Toy Organization.JPG

3) Practice Side-by-Side

My least favorite part, but it’s true. When you’re building your own cleaning army it takes a lot of training and practice. At 5 and 3, they aren’t ready to be let loose on the mess, and it takes more than light supervision to get it done right. We work next to each other, not together. I give them their assignments, tell them what mine is, and we do it side-by-side.

One day they will do it all themselves. One day.

Cleaning is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Some kids will be ready to make their own beds at age 3 others not until 7. Some kids will be able to sort toys into bins at age 2 others not until 5. Don’t let lists of what your kids should be doing discourage you.

Introduce chores slowly and practice together. We go through weeks upon weeks of demonstrate/practice/remind. Eventually, I can just ask them to do the chore and it gets done… for the most part. Don’t expect mastery. Teach a new chore when they’ve reached “good enough.”

4) It’s Our Mess

“Yeah, I know it’s not fair that the baby dumped it and now you have to put it away. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t play with it. We play together. We clean together. It’s OUR mess.

Everyone gets a job. It doesn’t matter if they played with that stuff or not. One is in charge of books while the other picks up crayons. Then the first starts on Legos while the second finds all the train stuff. This way it all gets done.


5) Motivation Helps

…and I’m not above bribery.

The motivation for the video, above, was “Yes! Painting sounds like a great idea, but we can’t paint in this mess!”

They will also clean for company, which is fabulous. I tell them that we clean up for company so that our friends will feel comfortable in our home. They seem to understand that. It’s when they do their best work (me too).

When I’m on the verge of losing it (which is less frequent but still occurs), we play a game called “Clean up for Skittles” (or marshmallows or Goldfish or blueberries or whatever Mom has in the house). They get ONE for doing a big job like shelving all the books.

It’s amazing what kids will do for one Skittle.

Charging Station and electronics storage PinA Place for Everything

I hate cleaning but love organizing. This summer I’ve rearranged all of our furniture, switched around three rooms in our house, and raided every Dollar Tree in town.

My latest greatest accomplishment is this new charging station. It’s made out of stackable baskets and houses all of my kids’ tablets and headphones. I’m so pleased to finally have this under control! The chargers slip right in through the back, and all the cords stay hidden. Now if I could only remember to plug them in…

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