Organized Treasure: Blog
Katie McAllister, Professional Organizer
As a productivity consultant and a homeschooling mom, I am well versed in the challenges of being at home all day with the kids. The adjustment to life at home can be really hard - not having adult conversation, not receiving the external "appreciation" of a paycheck, and learning to self-motivate can be daunting, discouraging, and even depressing at first. And by "at first," I mean 20 years of adjusting later, and I still have my moments. And some of those moments last for weeks!
And that is on a normal week, free from social distancing and closings, and health concerns. Homeschoolers often laugh about the fact that we get asked about whether our kids get "socialization". It is a very common question, because from the outside, it might appear that the current circumstances are everyday life for us. But most homeschoolers are heavily involved in Co-op classes, sports, clubs, field trips, drama, choir, and other activities. So, this time is a shock to our systems as well.
Which is why I am going to START with the encouragement rather than the advice (I thought I was going to do it the other way around, but this needs said up front!):
1. BE KIND TO YOURSELF: This is a hard adjustment and it is likely you neither chose it or had time to plan for it. If you have unproductive days, do NOT beat yourself up. Say something kind to yourself right now!
3. ACKNOWLEDGE THE STRESS - It has hit me a few times in the last few weeks just how stressful the world is right now. The unknown creates so much fear, and here we have a novel virus which by definition even the experts know nothing about. And the actions taken are changing everyday, so there is no real end in sight. Not having a need for a calendar for the foreseeable future is extremely disconcerting! Health, finances, employment, loved ones, toilet paper - these are items that may be affecting us more than we realize.
I had to stop scrolling Facebook when schools started closing.
A trip to the grocery store is not just the normal amount of physical exhaustion in collecting the needs of 5 people - to the cart, the belt, the cart, the car, the house, and FINALLY the freezer, fridge, pantry, and other storage zones... but a palpable emotional exhaustion from seeing the empty shelves, and the anxious faces of others.
Everyday symptoms are that much more stressful - as an essential employee, should what you believe is a normal spring allergy to include post-nasal drip and mucus clearing cough keep you home to protect coworkers (and possibly a population you serve) or is it worse to call out for something minor when there is pressure from your employer to take on extra shifts? Many teens work in stores and restaurants, so guiding them is a huge responsibility!
Caring for at-risk family members, entering hospitals, a trip to the pharmacy - things that were so normal a week ago can take a very different toll at this time. Tune in to your mind and body and note the stress points in your life. Recognizing the stress and the damage it might be causing you is a huge step!
So, moving on to some "Advice from OUR Homeschool Home": (realizing every family is unique - take what you like and leave what will not contribute to your family's rhythm):
1. WAKE UP AND GET READY FOR YOUR DAY - There is likely no need for an alarm, but it serves the family to keep to a daily cadence - a general wake up hour and bed time. When we stray too far from that daily circadian cycle, we start to feel "off" and sluggish. One day sleeping in can feel luxurious, but we are in this for the long haul, and need to find a productive normal in these weeks at home. Maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule is important!
Waking up doesn't count if you don't get out of bed, break your fast, greet the other people in the house, and do your morning chores. This can happen at a leisurely pace - we take 1-2 hours to ease into our mornings, and include time for reading or watching a quick show, my son sometimes gets in a quick 1/2 marathon (not my cup of tea, but... oh yes!! Linger over that hot tea or coffee!) No bus to catch or traffic to factor in, so don't rush it!! Find your own favorite routines and tempo, but DO get ready for the day!!
I have always found it best when there is a set time (often just 10 minutes!) when EVERYONE pitches in - a speed drill of sorts. We assign rooms, or number of objects, or small tasks. There is a visible success at the end. Everyone is in it together. Coupling a habit like this to another part of your schedule (like a meal time, a walk, or a TV time slot) creates a structure that everyone can expect each day. When my kids were much younger, "downstairs clean up" happened every day before "Screen Time". I NEVER had to announce it - Screen time started at 2, and by 1:45, "Downstairs Clean up" had been heralded by one of them and they were all off to the races!
We want to stay extra cleanly right now, so wiping down door knobs, light switches, faucets, remotes, devices, and toilets might be good tasks - even the youngest can help with this! So, plan ahead for the extra "living", and enlist all hands on deck to help with the extra cleaning!
We have some "big rocks" in our day - mostly meal times - that tend to have a start time attached to them (our bodies seem to like to eat regularly!) and in between them we have general goals of what needs to get done, and we just flow from task to task until the next big rock.
Tasks might repeat daily or weekly. They might be flexible or clearly assigned. They might be for relaxation or personal enrichment or actual "school". But they will leave you feeling better than another week binge watching Netflix or Disney Plus (again, one weekend bingeing a show is a fun diversion... a month is depressing)!
5. SUBJECTS and TASKS - ideas for what you might want to add into the flow of your family's days to leave you feeling accomplished:
*Most people focus best in the morning and focus wanes later in the day, so it is probably best to incorporate the most intellectual projects for the morning "sessions" with active, crafty, and downtime sessions in the afternoon.
*Goal Setting - Everyone take some space to dream about 1 month, 5 year, and 10 year goals. Brainstorm things to do this month that further each person's big picture. You might be surprised how the kids want to fill their own time!
*Reading - Lead by example here and choose some great books - fun, educational, a favorite from your childhood. It's easy to find books for the Kindle app and that works on iphones too! We also love Scribd.com for a selection of digital and audiobooks.
*Puzzles and Games - Sodoku, Kakuro, cards, chess, learn something new!
*Educational TV can be great downtime in the afternoons but get you thinking! (Documentaries, History TV, Classic movies or musicals, you can find almost any subject you love to learn more about!)
*Crafty - Bath Bombs, Painting, Origami, Learn Crochet, Sew Face masks for medical professionals you love, Bake, Make Friendship Bracelets, make a hilarious dog video, create a photobook on Shutterfly.
*Think of others - What could your family do for others? Bake for a neighbor? Call grandma? FaceTime someone who could use a smile? Post a funny video on Facebook?
*Declutter - hey, it's always a good time to go through a closet, the playroom, the kitchen and create some space!
I know I hope we will have some positive memories from this slower time together. I hope that someday we will say:
Remember during the Coronavirus when...
Embracing my love for organizing and the joy of encouraging others as we journey through the ups and downs together!
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