Nobody Told Me That Homeschooling Would Create So Much Clutter!

I first heard about homeschooling when our eldest was a newborn and our child-related clutter was limited to a diaper bag, a playpen and a few baby toys and stuffed animals.

Fast-forward 26 years…..after two moves in two years, we continue to fight the paring- down battle of stuff even though two children have left home and two remain. In one box I find old bottles of tempera paints that are easy to pitch because they’re all dried up. In another I find a set of rubber stamps that bring back memories of my children stamping out their names in ink and coloring in the letters. Still perfectly good and made much sturdier than what can be found in stores today, they’re not so easy to give up because of their condition and the fact that they bring back so many memories. Multiply that by many boxes’ worth of art supplies, books, drawings, book reports, educational games, hobby supplies and small craft projects (at least I didn’t keep the big ones!), and you can understand why it’s taking us so long to go through everything.

We’re making progress: we just emptied the second of two storage units we required to make two moves. But seeing all this stuff in one place reminds me once more just how much clutter a homeschooling family can create. All those years of indulging our kids’ interests by buying them related stuff for birthdays and Christmases, not to mention their own purchases, wound up filling a five-bedroom house plus its basement before we started on the pack-up-and-move-again phase of our lives that we’re in right now.

It’s been quite a job going through all this stuff and figuring out what to do with it. But I can’t look at it without thinking about what my children gained from all of it: the interests, the enjoyment, the education. The end result of what they did and made when they were children is still present in them today. All of them are creative and have interests. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of them say they’re bored. They still make things that they need and things that they want. All this stuff that I saved represents the benefits they gained, but even if I get rid of every single bit of it, my children retain what they learned and enjoyed while making all the art projects, papier-mache masks, homemade games and sewing and craft projects. It was worth all the clutter if it means they’ll always benefit from those projects.

In the meantime, do I have any advice for new homeschoolers about how to deal with all the clutter? Well, I can tell you how to organize it, but you should probably ask someone else how to find the time to purge some of it every year so you don’t end up overwhelmed by it after the kids leave home!

13 thoughts on “Nobody Told Me That Homeschooling Would Create So Much Clutter!

  1. Here’s one thing I did to keep the clutter down a bit: I had ONE drawer in my desk that was our “portfolio” drawer. Sample handwriting sheets went in there, so did occasional math worksheets, tickets to concerts or museums, term papers, and other memories and paper-trails of what we’d done. If it didn’t fit in the drawer, it couldn’t be saved. Maybe we’d save a photo of the castle they built. At the end of each school year, the contents of that drawer were put into a manila envelope or a gift-box the right size for a man’s shirt (depending on whether we were homeschooling 2-3 or 6 that year, and depending on how “savey” I’d been). And those envelopes were put away for posterity. We now have one trunk that contains those things. But hey, it is confined to the one trunk!

    The thing I struggle with is how to find loving homes for the clutter I need to get rid of. There are some fantastic books we have, and games, and tape sets (but who listens to TAPES any more?), and pet cages, and resource books. I could try to sell them at a garage sale, but that hasn’t proven successful. I have tried taking them to homeschool used-book sales, but they were small sales and I didn’t get rid of much. For the last few years, the huge used-book sale has been on a weekend I was unable to attend. I don’t want to donate the books to the library’s sale because it’s unlikely many homeschoolers would attend, and the books will end up in the trash. I tried Half-Price Books, and they don’t usually take very much. I’ve tried ebay, but the prices there are low enough that I have ended up spending more on the envelope and postage than I earned in sale-price + shipping.

    I’m beginning to wonder if a bunch of our books are going to end up in the trash, and I might as well get used to it.

  2. Yes, I have struggled with all that you mentioned Barbara, but when I watch the tears in my Dads’ eyes (he’s 84) as he’s reliving his memories as he looks through “saved stuff”, I go home with renewed interest in that tubbie(s) full of wonderful, space-taking-up, don’t-know-what-to-do-with, dried up, heart-warming “clutter.” :) At worst, my children will be sorting through it all when I’m gone, and they’ll relive the precious few years together that we spent one on one in homeschooling.

  3. Susan and Judie, your comments are so different and yet I find that they both make a lot of sense. Susan, you were smart to keep photos of things and to keep the clutter down to a minimum. And Judie, it’s so true that these things mean a lot and will continue to have value for many years. How sweet that your dad has his mementos to enjoy.

    To me, the combination of both of your comments is that while we should try to minimize what we keep by keeping only the best stuff, we should also realize that what we do keep will continue to have value for us all our lives, and possibly even for our children someday, so it’s worth preserving. :)

    Also Susan, I know what you mean about where to send your books and supplies. I had great success two summers ago with a blog where I sold some of my stuff, but it took a great deal of my time. Alas, I’ve found enough additional stuff to do another “used books blog,” but don’t have the time this year.

    Great comments—thank you!

    PS Kat, I emailed you :)

  4. Love your article! I can only commiserate, I have no suggestions to add. It seems like the more creative they are, the more you end up collecting. We have a pile of my daughter’s first attempts of knitted hats and scarves filling one shelf in my closet. I’m certain the LEGOs reproduce. My living room is swamped every year with drawings, models, and enough art supplies to create our own version of the ceiling mural of the Sistine Chapel. :-)

    Peace and Laughter!

  5. I agree, Cristina; creative kids = lotsa stuff! Thanks for stopping by :)

  6. I can very much relate. I have an ongoing battle with clutter, and all of those perfectly good things lying around that make up memories. It seems every time I do a massive donation and dump run, I find some use for something I just got rid of! I wrote about tackling my sons room last winter- it was the most intense clutter battle I’ve survived so far.
    http://pamelajorrick.blogspot.com/2009/12/boxing-day-week-month-or-how-long-is-it.html
    Good luck to you!

  7. I just wanted you to know that our homeschool journey has officially ended on June 1. Marcus has graduated from his distance learning school program. He’s now working for the county as a youth counselor.

  8. Thanks for the link, Pamela…..that post brought back lots of memories for me :)

    Congratulations, Rona!

  9. Thanks for the great article…however on my end, rather than force myself to rid myself of all the fond memories we’ve created, I just learned how to organize it all a little better. That way everyone stays happy…!

  10. It’s nice not to be alone in the “clutter wars” :) I use Storage tubs for their art projects. They’re still young (10 & 6) so there are only a couple (so far,lol). I keep completed wrkbks & unit studies/lapbks in another container. During the year I file all loose-leaf wrkbk pgs in a 3-ring binder that goes in the wrkbk container @ the end of the year. As for used txtbks & readers, my homeschool parent’s assoc holds book swaps every couple of months. I get to share our old books & have saved lots of $ by using other families’ hand-me-downs (incl flashcards, CDs, science project supplies, etc.). Has anyone tried donating their used story-books or educational games to a local children’s hospital or homeless shelter?

  11. I was wondering if anyone was willing to ship their unwanted items to canada? some of the things you wouldn’t want to seee thrown out can be passed on. am new to homeschooling….just finishing my first “year” with my 7 yo and my second son will be starting JK with me next year…i can use all the supplies i can get, but don’t have a large amount of money to spend. please email me if you would like to sylvietoroknagy@gmail.com thanks.
    barbara.. i love this blog of yours! i found it through imperfect homescchooler, but i still don’t rmeember how i found that one in the first place!

  12. Well, Roz, that would be the goal, but some of us have trouble getting there. Good for you!

    Regina, we’ve done book sales and swaps, too. The trouble stemmed from the books that had so many good memories attached to them that I didn’t want to give them up, the completed workbooks that are so much fun to look at 10 or 20 years later, etc. It all adds up!

    Sylvie, thanks for your kind words about the blog. Congratulations on your decision to homeschool! Have you tried eBay for used homeschool books? Also, do the public libraries by you do used book sales? Some of our favorite books came from those sales.

    Thanks for sharing, everyone :)

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