No matter the time of year there seems to always be an extracurricular activity that children or teens are part of. Keeping track of all the items that go with each extracurricular activity can be absolute chaos at times. I can’t count how many evenings I’ve spent digging through my child’s stuff looking for a shoe or a book, panicking that we will be late if I don’t find this particular item.
It’s never one time of day, or even one item. Sometimes the chaos is first thing in the morning and other times it’s the middle of the day, and you are notified through a phone call from school. Those are particularly the most challenging. Late morning or early afternoon on a work day, and suddenly your child believes that you can drop everything to run home to dig for this specific item. Then of course you are expected to bring this specific item to them before the class starts or before the after school activity begins.
On one end of course you want to be your child’s hero, and let’s face it they are all getting older and there is a limited amount of time left to be their hero. On the other end, they are getting older and they need to learn those hard lessons to be responsible and remember to keep track of their own things. The dilemma strikes a nerve in every parent, and honestly I haven’t met a parent yet that would not run to their child’s rescue if they could.
That leaves parents in that role to always try to manage the stuff their child or teen needs at all times or leaves us trying to teach our child or teen to manage their own stuff. One way or another though, you are connected and the balance is dependent on you. How do we manage so much stuff, and not lose track of it with our child or teen constantly misplacing their stuff?
Until I run into a genie to grant me wishes I will keep trying to fine tune a system that works for me, my spouse, and my teen.
Over the years I’ve tried to organize items for activities to prevent the frustration as we get ready to go. There are several lessons I’ve learned through the process that are helpful, below you can find the lessons learned and some detailed descriptions of how to organize for activities like scouts, religious education, and sports. The overall goal for the organization shared here is to keep all the stuff that goes with one particular activity together, and nearby the door to make it easier for a family to get out the door stress free and on-time for activities.
The location you choose to organize stuff for activities is key to successfully organizing the stuff. If we were to organize the items for activities in the bedroom of the child it belonged to, we might never see it again. The reality of the item getting to the bedroom or from the bedroom to the activity is nearly impossible. Targeting a space too far away from the door you depart through for the activity is setting yourself and your child up for failure. Choose a location and space convenient for everyone as well as realistic for maintenance.
Once you have a location selected you will want to consider all the items you will be storing for activities, and select storage that will work for those items. For the storage in my location I used a closet that is right next to our front door, for large items like sticks and bats. To build storage into the space outside the closet I purchased an Ikea shelf and baskets that have served the purpose wonderfully. You can find links to shelving suggestions and baskets below the post.
Decide how you will separate out items, putting stuff for all activities in one basket can create chaos depending on how much stuff for each activity there is, and the size of the stuff. I chose to go with a basket for each non-sport activity, I did combine sport activities in one basket because the items are so large the shoes for each activity are still easy to find in the one bin. You will have to consider the stuff you have for each activity to find how many separate containers you need to organize the activities in a way that makes sense for your family.
Those three lessons (location, storage, and organization) are key to creating a stress free space to organize stuff for activities. To further understand how you can organize stuff for activities in baskets, below are detailed descriptions of the baskets we created for scouts and sports.
We have weekly scout meetings we attend that my son needs his scout book and uniform for. He often brings home papers or badges with him from the meetings. To ease the frustration of being ready for scouts I created a basket that fits on a shelf by the front door. This makes it easy for him to drop his book and whatever else comes home with him from scouts. The basket also helps when we are rushing out the door to scouts. Since the scout book, any papers, shirt and handkerchief are stored in the basket we always know exactly where everything is.
For soccer and basketball we keep a basket on the floor with shoes and balls stored in it. Next to the door we also kept a basket of string bags so when it was time to go we just grabbed a string bag and the ball and shoes needed for the activity. A trick I use to ensure we get out the door in time is to have your child put the shoes they need in a string bag when running out the door. Then they can put on shoes that are fast to slip into and use the car ride to put on the shoes specific to their sport. It is so much easier for kids and teens to be ready to go when all of the stuff for the activity is together right by the door. Having the basket by the door also facilitates putting stuff away when we arrive back home so items don’t become lost.
For religious education and library books you can keep a basket by the door as well. Religious education only has a book and papers so we share this basket with library books. For all activities we used 4 baskets and a closet to organize the stuff in a way that kept us stress free.
Overwhelmed by the clutter?
Let’s face it, all the stuff we need to get out the door with us is overwhelming. If this is the case for you, let’s focus on one piece at a time. Break the process down and make a timeline that works for you. Here is a proposal for you to consider how to space this process out into a realistic timeline that is manageable for you and your family.
Give yourself two weeks to measure the space and research the right piece of furniture or accessory or storage container to store your stuff in, and make a purchase. You do not need to buy enough storage for everything all at once. You can start with just a basket for soccer or just a basket for scouts, then wait until you are ready to make the next purchase. Be sure you are budgeting for these purchases as you go through your process.
You do not want to further overwhelm yourself by not budgeting or having storage bins or shelves around that you do not have time to put your stuff on or in.
In one week select a category like 1 sport or scouts and collect everything around your home that belongs in that category. You should enlist your kids or teens to help gather these items, since the stuff does belong to them. You will also be teaching them how to organize by having them help. Once you have everything collected within a category place it in the furniture or storage item you purchased for it.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have organized storage space for all your categories of stuff.
With better organization, let’s all hope for less frustration and a happier home.
Links to shelves and baskets to organize stuff for your family’s activities.