Back to School Organizing

Today was our first day back to school. We didn't actually go anywhere, but we did get back into gear, mentally... starting with organizing our learning space.

Recently, my hip friend, Sondra told me about a teacher at her son's school who had an empty room for his students on day one. Their first assignment was to help "build" their learning space. The kids then felt ownership of their space, plus they had set it up for their own optimal learning. Since I had not yet organized the kids' workspace for the school year, I thought it would be a good idea to get them involved. We cleared away all the clutter from our learning zone. We tore through boxes of books and put music and art supplies in place. We consolidated lab materials into one big science box. Not until we had everything in some order could we begin our day of learning. 
Clearing the Mental Clutter
Another friend reminded me why it is that I can't concentrate or be productive amidst clutter. Aside from the fact that I have a "silver/gold alchemy" (long story), we as humans work from a place of instinct. In the days of living in jungles and forests (and I know that some of you feel like you still do live in a jungle or forest), we survived by clearing brush and paths in order to hunt, flee, or not be burned down by crowded brush. When we get that creeping-in feeling in our homes, we want to respond from our reptilian mind and clear out our jungle. Until that happens, we may feel unsettled and incapable of any productivity. I, for one, become paralyzed by clutter.
A Room of Our Own
Or a garage, anyway. We have limited space in our townhome, which can sometimes cause a lot of unneeded stress and anxiety, especially when it becomes overrun by stuff. Our garage serves as sort of a basement; half storage, half play. We have to make sure that those halves stay in their designated areas. In the space that we have set aside for learning, the kids have a comfy couch, a large butcher board table, and a desk & hutch to serve as a bookshelf and work prep station. All over the walls, their art is displayed. Above us, a fan light spins, keeping the area comfortably cool. The kids sink into the couch with a lap desk or sit at the table with a desk lamp. As long as we stay on task, I'm flexible about where they sit to learn. 
Maintaining a clear basement-like space in a garage comes with some challenges. Luckily, I've become obsessed with tossing junk. It happens when you run out of room to hoard things. Unfortunately, there are some things I can't throw out.
Keeping It Together
As I've mentioned before, we are homeschooling through a state sponsored program. Therefore, we have to meet all state guidelines according to that program. One of the requirements is that I need to keep all of the kids work. ALL of it. You know how your kid will come home with a backpack full of tattered papers and you just dump them all out after going through the starred papers and art work? That's one thing I can't do. I need to keep the papers and work samples organized for our quarterly face-to-face meetings with our designated teacher. Every year, I look for new cute stuff to hold their work with... you know, because I'm a geek... and geeks love school supplies.  
I was recently invited to an Office Max webcast. They told us that they had products to keep kids organized, so I said, Heck yeah... sign me up! I would love to keep my kids mentally decluttered! They work better that way. Before the webcast, we received a box of samples of the new Schoolio Von Hoolio line. Super cute!! See for yourself:
We'll be using the bird and cupcake composition book as her math journal. The purple heart three-ring binder will hold her science work, starting with our weather observations. The clipboard with the funky little owl holds her daily work. And the 7-pocket expanding file will hold all of her completed work. The rest will be used in some capacity, I'm sure.
Now I have to go back to Office Max to get some not-so-girly stuff for the Little Prince.
Could YOU Use Some Mental Decluttering?
I have a copy of "Enough Already!" by Peter Walsh, the professional organizer from TLC's The Clean Sweep (who is also the guy behind the coolest office supplies ever, the [In] Place system). If you'd like a copy of this book that focuses on clearing mental clutter to become the best you, leave me a comment about how clutter has gotten the better of you and why you've had enough already. I'll choose a winner at the end of the week.
Good luck!