Stuff Management and Homeschool in the Garage


"Look at all the clutter falling off the shelves behind me!"

Andi writes:

"I saw a post earlier where you said you lived in a smaller house when you had 5 kids (and did school in the garage. I think we are there– we have 6 kids, 1,600 square foot, 3 bedroom house and the garage is our playroom/school room.) HELP! I know it is possible to do this, but the STUFF and STUFF management is honestly killing me.

I believe I have some great systems in place and am a fairly organized person. I am thankful that many people give us clothing and other items, but keeping up with going through it all is hard. Just keeping track of 8 people’s things is hard. I feel like I am on a never ending quest to simplify. I want quality time with my kids and every time I am “dealing with stuff” it makes me a little mad, like it is robbing me of time with my family. What can I do better? Do you have any nuggets of wisdom?"


I know exactly what you're saying.  As you pointed out, we too turned our garage into our schoolroom and though we had one less child than you, we were in about 1600 square feet, three bedrooms, too!

It sounds as if a lack of organization isn't the problem.  I could tell you little tricks that worked for us (under-bed boxes, industrial shelving in the garage, clothing stored by size and season, etc.) but I don't think that's what you're asking.

What you're really asking is, how do I get my life back?  How do I release myself from all this stuff management? Short of selling it all and moving to The Mosquito Coast, I don't know that I have an answer for you.  It frustrates me to no end, too.  Honestly, when I feel like I spend more time managing stuff than children, I know it's time to declutter with a vengeance.

We've done a couple of practical things:

1. Clutter basket. Top of the stairs.  I toss everything that is left out into the basket and it's the kids' responsibility during chore time to clean it out daily.  If they don't, I have the right to throw it away.

2. Massive decluttering about once a year.  Last time we told them that if they collected 100 things, we'd have ice cream after dinner.  200 and we'd take them out for ice cream.  500 and we'd take them for ice cream and a movie.  Trash didn't count.  Amongst the 10 of us, we managed to find 500 things to get rid of.  Astounding.  And this is a home where cleaners come in once a week!

3. No new pieces.  My husband, in his wisdom, put a moratorium on any toys that came in pieces.  Legos and Brio trains are the exception, but this means we don't buy marble sets (that one gives me a headache just looking at it), or anything that says "120 pieces".  Oy.

Other than that, Andi, I have no great secrets to share.  I have learned to live with more kid clutter than I care to, and I look forward with relish to having a home that stays tidy except when the grandkids are there.  I love my teens and don't look forward to them leaving, except for the absence of their stuff.  I can't wait for their stuff to go!