Sunday, March 20, 2011

Neatness and Order - the Paper Clutter Cure

We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous 'act of knowing'... (Vol. 6, p. 99).

This statement is made by Charlotte Mason in reference to the intellectual habit of attention but just what about that monstrous quantity of printed matter itself? I attended to books and things in a previous post on Homeschool Organization but there are picture narrations, written narrations and brush drawings, programs from the Shakespeare play, tickets to the art museum, not to mention bills, junk mail and the latest issue of the Home School Court Report. In short, paper clutter. This is where we have to delve further with Charlotte into those habits of decency and propriety - neatness and order.

Charlotte tells us the mother of a family whose drawers are chaotic, whose possessions are flung about heedlessly should not carry all the blame, that the habit of disorder was allowed to grow upon her as a child, and her share of the blame is, that she has failed to cure herself (Vol. 1, p. 130).

Landing Strip - Before.

Follow me if you will as this mother cures herself of paper clutter. We'll begin at the front door, or more specifically that place known in today's culture as the landing strip. This is where we sort the mail when we enter our home. We also keep our favorite bird guides here as it is next to the window where our feeders hang. Yes, there was order but it certainly lacked that good effect Charlotte speaks of when addressing neatness.

Neatness is akin to order, but is not quite the same thing: it implies not only 'a place for everything, and everything in its place,' but everything in a suitable place, so as to produce a good effect; in fact, taste comes into play (Charlotte Mason, Original Home Schooling Series, Vol. 1, p. 130).

Landing Strip - After.

The field guides and binoculars are in a wooden box, a tray holds a letter opener as well as any out-going mail. The previously exposed papers are now neatly tucked out of sight in an accordion file. The entire file transports to my desk when it is time to pay bills or file papers.

There is a section for each person's incoming mail, bills and papers that require filing or shredding. The purple envelope holds any tax-related documents coming through the door.

Now we head to the desk and those little scraps of paper that find themselves scattered about. A clipboard for the dad holds his current research on hot water heaters and an iTunes card he's in the midst of using. Mine catches anything that needs to be entered into the calendar, my master chore list and any other bits. Please note the can't.believe.I'm.really.going Living Education Retreat registration.

I also keep our schedule and scope & sequence on a clipboard that travels with me as we school from room-to-room. The children each have their own clipboard to hold scratch paper for doodling at home or in the car. Made of particle board, ours come from the local dollar store and make for inexpensive watercolor boards as well.

A giant clipboard holds our blank and labeled maps on the wall and keeps them from getting bent. The whole board comes down for map drill.

We are a bit sentimental about scattered toys and faded nosegays, and all the tokens of the children's presence; but the fact is, that the lawless habit of scattering should not be allowed to grow upon children (Vol. 1, p. 129).

Our children's drawings even outweigh Legos when it comes to tokens of their presence. We're able to reign the clutter in by providing a basket of scratch paper under the coffee table and Moleskine Cahier [kaa yáy] Plain Notebooks in various sizes. The spacious pocket inside the back page holds loose inspirations. The notebooks are incredibly thin and durable - once they've been filled up they go into archival storage (ie my office closet).

The really special pictures, like Luca's relief prints, find themselves in a frame or as samples in our boys' school portfolios.

Those of you with highly trained habits of attention and observation may recognize "Tornado in Pastels" from Hodgepodge Mom's pastel tutorials.

If narrations are not on the computer, they are kept neat and orderly in a standing file box along with handwriting samples and exams. At the end of the school year the papers are culled for the portfolio with the left-overs being recycled.

Whether required by your school district or not, a portfolio is a great way to keep examples of your child's narrations and tokens of field trips and other outings. Putting together the portfolio is our children's responsibility and part of their multiplicity of interests, usually taking place on rainy days in the summer. Happily, such handwork strengthens habits of neatness and cleanliness (see "The Value of Art Training and Manual Work," Mrs. Steinthall, Volume 8, no. 7, 1897, pg. 414).

As the disorder of paper clutter is remedied and I enjoy five minutes of going through the mail at our landing strip, or set my digital timer for fifteen minutes of filing, I think of Charlotte Mason's clock - the one that compares to the habit of order in the nursery or the home school, eventually resulting in great care and attention to detail without great effort and drudgery. Requiring only occasional winding, ticking away of its own accord, it sounds with the harmonious ring of a simpler life (Vol.1, p. 130).

For more posts on habit training, visit the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival. "Education is a Discipline" will be hosted by Simply Charlotte Mason beginning March 22. To see lots of Before and After shots of Paper Decluttering, visit Simple Mom's Project: Simplify - Paper Clutter


Melissa said...

Everything looks all wonderful and amazing! :)

Laura Lou said...

Richelle, I LOVE that clipboarded map! You MUST tell me where you got it! I mean it.

Now teach me how to organize my books and how to attend that retreat with you.

I meant that, too.

Nancy said...

I agree that your "before" pic was really not so bad! But the "after" is, amazingly, much better.

This quote has me thinking-
"Neatness is akin to order, but is not quite the same thing: it implies not only 'a place for everything, and everything in its place,' but everything in a suitable place, so as to produce a good effect; in fact, taste comes into play"

A good effect and taste. Hmmm.

Thank you for helping me start my week with thoughts about neatness. That sort of thing makes me rather happy, strangely enough. Well, that and the fact that I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'RE COMING, EITHER!!!


Richele said...

@Laura - The maps come from and are $2.95 each. Labels cost .95 but are priceless to me with young boys as it's geography, not a handwriting lesson. If you shop by March 31, use code spbk0311 for 10% off.

We salvaged the giant clipboard but I think they can be found for about $10. I'd have an entire wall of clipboards if I could.

Thanks Nancy and Melissa for your encouraging words. I'm learning.

Renelle said...

You have done an amazing job. I do'nt have paper clutter but I desparately need to work on a way to do a homeschool portfolio. Not sure what to do there. I have to register again in June and need to get cracking. Blessings, Renelle

See Jamie blog said...

I LOVE these organizational ideas! Wonderful!

rachaelnz said...

I didn't do a post on discipline for a reason!! I am a typically "messy creative", althougth I LOVE it when the home is tidy and neat. Your "before" would definitely satisfy me as an "after".
Thanks for your ideas though, I will attempt to use some of them. I have been using a clipboard for bills and things lately.

How wonderful to be able to go to the Living Education retreat!! Anybody want to shout me a trip from New Zealand???
Have a great time!

Carletta said...

I love these ideas! I have a huge problem with staying on top of paper clutter. I never thought of putting the mail into an accordion file as soon as it comes in. I will definitely implement some of these suggestions. Thank you!

amy in peru said...

WOWEE-zowee! I LOVE this post and I haven't even read it yet. I just skimmed and can't wait to delve in... I want to write my discipline post before I read all the other posts though, so it might be a couple days ;)

Amy @ simply necessary said...

I'm with rachaelnz...there was a reason why this was not my season to participate in this particular CM blog! (You can find that reason at my blog...I'm tired of being supermom right now! LOL) Nonetheless, I love this post. I will be reading all the discipline posts as I need them greatly. My house is so disorderly at the moment!!!

Melissa said...

A wonderful post! Thanks for sharing.

bluej said...

Thank you for challenging this generally orderly mom to move from order for the sake of order and incorporate tastefulness into my orderliness.

Nadene said...

Wonderful achievement! I'm sure your family will appreciate the systems you have put in place!

joyfulmum said...

oh dear, I really need to read and reread this post (embarassed grin)!
I am a work in progress but CM's words were encouraging to me: "a mother of a family whose drawers are chaotic, whose possessions are flung about heedlessly should not carry all the blame, that the habit of disorder was allowed to grow upon her as a child, and her share of the blame is, that she has failed to cure herself" I am working on curing myself:)
thanks for the amazing tips on reducing paper clutter!

shredding San Antonio said...

These are indeed wonderful tips in reducing paper clutter in our homes and offices. These measures are truly effective in maintaining organized living and working spaces. Thanks for sharing.