ADHD · Getting Organized · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 918: Evolution

My shameful secret (okay, fine, it’s neither secret nor am I particularly ashamed, but it makes a great opening, no?) is that I’m fabulous at organizing things and creating systems, but I can’t maintain those systems to save my life. I’d make a great personal organizer on TV—swoop in, figure out what people need, make it all organized and pretty, and then leave.

For years—but especially since I was diagnosed with ADHD and I accepted the utter futility of trying keep track of things in my head—I’ve been searching for the holy grail of organizers. I tried apps, reminders, and Trello before I landed on bullet journalling last March; so far it’s been pretty successful, in that I’m still using it most days.

Organizing the kids’ school tasks has been a similar challenge, and we’ve been through quite a few systems in the two and a half years since we started homeschooling. First we had these weekly checklists:

Then at Mr. December’s request, we went to a schedule-type system with magnets for each subject (so we could move them around at will):

The magnets became a bit of a pain to use, so we removed them and just used whiteboard markers to fill in the schedule:

Eventually, however, even that became too high-maintenance for me, and for a couple of months we had no particular system in place. It was… not ideal, to say the least. N in particular needs to know what’s going to happen and what he needs to do.

So this year I decided to go extremely low-tech and low-prep (because really, preparation is the problem for me; I can do almost anything on the fly.) I gave each kid a spiral-bound notebook (colour-coded, of course) to keep on their respective (colour-coded) clipboards. We use it like a bullet journal—every morning I create a checklist of tasks; the kids check things off as they do them, and I use arrows and other symbols to indicate when a task needs to be pushed to the next day. The clipboards are hung on the wall—easy to see, hard to lose.

Three plastic clipboards (one blue, one green, one pink) hanging on hooks. Each one has an open spiral notebook in its grasp, open to a page with a checklist.

It’s not the prettiest organizer, nor is it the coolest. But it takes me five to ten minutes every morning and requires zero prep, which makes it way easier to maintain. The kids seem to like it; Mr. December likes it; and so far, it’s working for us.

Getting Organized · goodbye clutter! · hackin' it

Day 909: Clutter to the Rescue

School today was a bust. N is the only one of us not feeling ill right now. K, R, and E were excused from academic work today, and I tried but failed to work on our yearbook.

I spent some time in the Makery with R (who was making decorations for the sukkah) and E (who was finishing sewing up the stuffie she designed yesterday.) Looking around at all the things that still needed doing (as one does) I paused when I saw the tape bin—overflowing, as always, and disorganized, as always.

How could I mount the rolls on the wall so that we could see them all and easily take them down? Something like a paper towel holder would make the latter a little too difficult. I wandered into the storage room to see what I could find.

I found two of these:

They’re pot lid organizers from IKEA. I’ve never used them for pot lids, so three of them have been gathering dust and taking up space in the storage room since 2018. But maybe if I mounted them on the wall, like coat hooks…?

Too lazy to look up my photos of the walls before they were drywalled (to figure out where the electrical wires are before I started drilling into them,) I decided to mount the organizers on the side of a wooden storage unit. Then I loaded it up with 25 rolls of tape: packing tape, pipe thread tapes, carpet tapes, shiny HVAC tape, florist tape, painter’s tape, and a dozen different colours and patterns of duck tape.

As it turns out, it was a good thing I let those organizers clutter up my storage room: they came in handy, didn’t they? Something to think about as I work on purging our home of unwanted stuff…

Getting Organized · goodbye clutter!

Day 897: When the mice are away…

Mr. December took the kids to the CNE today (his dad and brother went too.) They left the house twelve hours ago and I’m pretty sure they haven’t actually left the exhibition grounds to come home yet. I suspect they’ve had a fabulous day of rides, candy, rides, funnel cakes, some more rides, slushies…

(Gosh, I hope nobody vomits tonight. Are we all in agreement that Mr. December has to clean up any puke resulting from today’s gluttony?)

Anyhow, I’ve had the house to myself all day. So what did I do? What indulgences did I allow myself?

I guess I did enjoy some pleasures, if you consider the dopamine hit from getting rid of unneeded clutter a pleasure. I started by going through a bunch of drawers in the basement rec room that were just used to hide things when we needed the place to feel neater. A lot of stuff went straight to recycling; there’s also a big box of papers and art projects for the kids to go through for things they want to keep. I think we’ll need a big bonfire to deal with everything they reject.

My “party box” has been overflowing for several years now, so I finally sorted through it and organized all the party stuff in the now-empty rec room drawers. Incidentally, if you know someone in the Toronto area who wants Power Rangers, Paw Patrol, or Pokemon birthday party stuff (napkins, tablecloths, hats,) let me know. I want it all out of my house.

I also went through our Hannukah box and organized it; devised a way to store the sleeping bags appropriately (hint: don’t store them in their stuff sacks, it ruins them); and reattached a cupboard door that fell off ages ago.

The tedium of decluttering got to me after a while, but I feel like I made some good headway. Had I been feeling 100% I probably would have taken out the kayak this evening, but I think I need another day to recover from this cold.

ADHD · DIY · Getting Organized · goodbye clutter! · Keepin' it real

Day 896: Minor Improvements

I’m feeling a bit better today—better enough to have started decluttering a few of our homeschool materials cupboards, but not better enough to finish the job. So, as with most of my decluttering efforts these days, the room looks worse now than it did when I started. Hopefully I’ll have the energy for that last ten percent of the job tomorrow.

But I’ve recently (last week or the week before) managed a couple of very small projects that have been significant upgrades to our space. I was looking specifically for things that would take less than twenty minutes to do (so that I couldn’t get half-done and leave a mess) and found myself two problem areas in the kitchen.

Problem area #1: Meds in the drinkware cupboard

Three of the six of us in this house take prescription medications regularly. Two of those three have multiple daily meds. I started keeping mine in the cupboard above the little sink, and soon all the medications had converged on that one square foot of shelf space. There were two problems with this: first, that there wasn’t quite enough space for all the glasses and mugs we had; and second—and much more importantly—our meds were just sitting there for anyone to see (and take) when they opened the cabinet to get a glass.

Now, I know my kids, and I know they can be trusted not to take any medications without talking to me first; but my kids have friends, and I don’t know those kids quite so well. As they get older—and taller, thus able to reach this cupboard—I start to worry about teens who want to use drugs for off-label purposes (ADHD drugs are particularly likely to be abused.) It’s just not appropriate to have all those pill bottles in plain sight.

I found my solution with a minimal amount of searching, and when the package arrived, it took me under five minutes to install. Now we have two of these lovely pull-and-tilt organizers, and the shelf space belongs to my cups again.

Problem #2: Water bottles everywhere

We’re drowning in water bottles over here. We’ve each got a collapsible silicone water bottle; we have a couple of promotional bottles the kids won’t let go of; and there are a few tall insulated travel mugs as well. They’ve never had a proper home, so they usually congregate on the drying rack at the kids’ sink, like this:

A bunch of water bottles and travel mugs cluttering up the countertop.

I thought about it for a while and decided to use a wine rack to hold this random mess of bottles. I ordered two wall-mounted wine holders and screwed them into one of the dividers in the kitchen hutch, right next to our coffee machine (it took about twenty seconds to do.) I like this solution so much that I’ll probably buy one or two more and mount them on the underside of the counter, just to the left of the ones you see here:

close-up of wine racks mounted in a kitchen cabinet, used to hold water bottles.

I’m pretty pleased with these two improvements, and far happier than I am with the outcome of this afternoon’s declutter. But I’ll take my victories where I can get them—with minor improvements like these—and keep on fighting the good fight on all those larger, multi-day projects I know I have to do.

Getting Organized · Homeschool · lists

Day 892: The School Year

In answer to everyone’s favourite question: yes, we are homeschooling all four kids again this year. It’s a decision we’ll make on a year-by-year basis; if they want to go back to school at some point, we’ll support that. For now, though, I have a homeschool term to plan—and I’d better get on it. We start in ten days.

Stop me if you’ve heard this already. Mr. December and I have agreed that from September to December, we’ll have a whole term of homeschool uninterrupted by travel (there is a week-long trip in the works, but nothing major.) R wants this because she wants to be near her friends; I want it so that we can commit to weekly activities like music lessons and homeschool co-ops. It’s hard to be part of something or to make progress in music if you’re constantly coming and going.

Now the challenge is to plan all the things I want us to do in those four months so we don’t get to mid-December and say, “Whatever happened to our dream of…?” In that spirit, here’s a brain dump of the things I’d like to see done:

  • Weekly outdoor homeschool meetup
  • Weekly homeschool co-op (small group learning/recreation)
  • Weekly music lessons
  • Field trips (twice a month, maybe?)
  • Hikes/rambling through the woods
  • Music theory
  • Hebrew language
  • Bar Mitzvah preparation for N
  • Poetry teatime (we did this two years ago; this past year it fell by the wayside)
  • Poetry memorization/recitation (because I think it’s fun, so gosh-darnit, everyone has to do it)
  • Cooking/baking
  • Volunteering

Oh, and also literature, Latin roots of English, history, geography, science, and math.

There. That’s not so bad, is it?

ADHD · Getting Organized · goodbye clutter!

Day 890: Plastic Bags

In my childhood home, we had a giant storage closet right at the bottom of the basement stairs. The shelves were full of opaque plastic shopping bags sealed with tight knots. You never knew what was in a bag until you had carefully unknotted it to look inside. Our Barbadian nanny, the creator of said knots, stored everything this way. She still does.

Maybe it’s a West Indian thing, because our current nanny, who is from St. Lucia, does it the same damn way. The only saving grace is that our bags are clear plastic, making it easier to see what’s in them. Easier, but not effortless: plenty of times I’ve wanted a particular jacket that wasn’t visible from outside the bag, and had to go digging for it among a whole pile of winter gear.

Those plastic bags were, and still are, the bane of my existence.

Today I started my campaign of purging and reorganizing the storage room. There were no fewer than six plastic bags full of various outerwear and winter gear; I felt twitchy just looking at them. No lie, they were actually the reason I wanted to reorganize so badly.

I started by pulling everything off the top three shelves in the unit, removing the second shelf (to do so, I had to remove the top shelf, too,) and installing a hanging rod. Then I sorted through the luggage I’d just moved, and made a pile of stuff to throw out (I’m not storing broken stuff anymore.) The rest of the luggage was put back, each piece standing on its side so it could be removed without having to dig it out from under other luggage.

Then I turned to those godforsaken plastic bags full of our winter stuff and gleefully ripped them open (no, I was not going to unknot the top, because we are never using these bags again.) I discovered a few things:

  • We have four snowsuits in a size seven. They don’t even fit my seven-year-old because she’s just had a massive growth spurt and is wearing anywhere from size 8 to size 10.
  • Oh, there’s another couple of random jackets in size seven. I have no idea why.
  • Mr. December’s rain jacket found its way into one of these bags, which is why we couldn’t find it in our crate of rain gear.

The best discovery by far was a remote control. Not just any remote, but the remote for our back porch ceiling fan! I’d been searching for it since we moved in after the reno, and had given up. It’s only procrastination that saved me from paying an electrician to set up a new remote (thanks, ADHD!). I’ve now affixed the remote to the wall beside the porch door so that it won’t get lost again.

My storage room is still a mess, but it’s getting better. Gloves and mittens have been paired up and stored in a clear zippered cube; hats and scarves too. Snow pants have been placed in zippered bags, labeled with their sizes, and corralled in a bin. The luggage is on the shelves and the packing cubes and laundry bags have a bin of their own.

And the jackets and coats—the ones that prompted this whole vendetta of reorganization—are on hangers, each one completely visible and easily accessed. And to protect it from dust, each item is covered with…

Wait for it…

A plastic bag.

winter jackets on hangers, covered with clear plastic bags.
DIY · Getting Organized · Kids

Day 833: Go on, Guess…

How many things do you think R forgot to take with her to camp?

Four: her water bottle, her pillow, her favourite stuffie, and her rain jacket.

It’s a good thing someone close to us (emotionally and geographically) was driving one of their kids up to camp today. Mr. December made a last-minute run with R’s favourite stuffed alpaca last night, wedging it into their mailbox for safekeeping.

“Do you think R even appreciates how we’ve gone out of our way to get her the stuff she forgot?” Mr. December grumbled as he got into bed last night.

“Not yet,” I answered sleepily. “But she will… when she’s got forgetful kids of her own.”

Time for a progress report, I think.

First, the knee: It still hurts (which it didn’t, you might recall, until the reinjury) but I’m able to put a little more weight on it when I’m using my crutches. Tonight I absentmindedly got up from the table my usual way (left leg first) and it felt WRONG. At least the knee didn’t buckle… but it’s definitely not ready to be self-supporting anytime soon.

Pic of my newly-organized command centre, with the supply drawer open to reveal the organized stuff within.

Next, the seated honey-do report: I have now decluttered the command centre, including the charging drawer (at least half of the cords in there weren’t plugged in—no wonder half of our chargers “didn’t work”,) my supply drawer, and the book return drawer. I wasn’t going to attack the upper part of the command centre, but I kept seeing “just one more” thing I could get rid of, and now the whole thing is organized.

I’ve also caught up on all the papers I’ve been shoving in a box since 2019. Did you know that the longer you go without filing your papers, the fewer you need to keep? It’s like magic!

DIY · Getting Organized · goodbye clutter! · Keepin' it real

Day 832: Honeydew in a Chair

I re-injured my knee last night. As I wailed to Mr. December later, I didn’t even do anything. I was standing there (with my crutches,) stepped back onto something small and hard (a toy, no doubt,) lost my balance, and automatically put down my left foot to catch myself. Ouch. The knee wasn’t especially painful before, but it sure is now. Mr. December has admonished me to rest.

Problem is, I don’t rest well. I sleep fine. I’m just not good at resting, putting aside expectations of productivity and just being. No matter my intentions, I always end up doing something.

I usually gravitate towards the more creative jobs, like building things, rather than administrative tasks and ongoing maintenance. But with my knee situation being what it is right now, I think I’d best not try to do anything too physical. That eliminates my plans for the front porch, garden shed, and kayak storage. So what’s an immobile woman to do?

Well, I started by making a list. Without one, I’ll just fritter away the days because it’s too hard to decide what to do in the moment. I jotted this one down last night, off the top of my head. It’s not everything I could do, but my “Honey-do (in a chair)” list is coming along nicely.

So far I’ve got:

  • work on homeschool yearbook
  • photo book catch-up (I’m a few years behind)
  • declutter command center **DONE**
  • catch up on filing (again, a few years behind…)
  • call people I haven’t spoken to in a long time
  • write some “back-pocket” blog posts
  • work on a quilt
  • curriculum planning
  • bar mitzvah planning for N
  • sketching
  • practice instruments
  • sew hook strip onto blackout liners for master bedroom (get someone else to hang them)
  • post on freecycle about free slides and wooden posts
  • spend a day in the basement, directing other people (kids, nanny) on organizing the makery
  • declutter school supply drawers
  • declutter and organize homeschool materials
  • submit healthcare receipts to insurance
  • make checkup appointments for everyone: dentist, optometrist, doctor, etc.
  • test all the charging cables and throw out the ones that don’t work
  • play board games with K and E

It’s not a short list; if I assume each one will only take me one day (not a full day, just a few hours on a given day,) this list should take me right through until R and N come back from camp. Hopefully by then I’ll be back to my more mobile self and ready to tackle the big stuff, like building a shed and taking my kayak out on the water again.

Cartoon of a honeydew melon sitting in a chair.
Fibro Flares · Getting Organized · Keepin' it real

Day 825: Cross-training

There are so many active things I want to do—biking, kayaking, swimming, trampolining—but I have a history of overdoing it in one activity or another, prompting a flare that puts me on the sidelines of everything. You all know how bummed out I get when I can’t do any of my favourite activities. I hope this is the summer that I finally learn to do a bit and then back off.

Here’s my plan: I won’t do the same activity two days in a row. And if I do something that’s hard on the legs, like biking or trampolining, I’ll try to do something that’s more arm-intensive, like swimming or kayaking, the next day. This week I biked on Monday, kayaked on Tuesday, and swam today (Wednesday, in case you’re reading this in the future sometime.)

It might be too soon to tell, but nothing bad has happened yet, so that’s encouraging. I just have to remember that even if my brain says “yes, please!” my body might disagree after the fact. I’ll have to dampen my “all or nothing” impulse and take a longer view: if I want to enjoy all these activities all summer long, I have to do it in moderation.

None of this is revolutionary thinking; athletes have been cross-training and taking rest days since before I was born. I’m just really, really slow to learn these things.

Image of a page in my bullet journal, with simple icons for each activity down the side and days of the week across the top.
I have one of these on the weekly spread in my bullet journal. Important rule: only one item per column.
Getting Organized · Keepin' it real · Travelogue

Day 709: One Page

You know those times when you email someone and say, “Here’s the file” and then send without actually attaching anything? I did the opposite today.

In preparation for our upcoming trip, I compiled a spreadsheet of all our flights and accommodations. Then I sent it to our parents. Even though the spreadsheet was one page in a larger spreadsheet file, I told Google to send the page as a PDF.

I coloured in the empty square in my bullet journal next to “spreadsheet of flights and accommodations,” thus indicating that the task was over and done.

And then my dad responded to my email:

“TMI,” was all he wrote.

Apparently our parents got the entire file, which includes 23 different sheets on the topic of our travels. The sheet I intended them to see is buried somewhere in the middle; so what they got was the opposite of a quick reference.

I asked Google to do one job—in this case, to export one page. Is that so hard?

Speaking of things that should be one page but aren’t, my bullet journal is already overflowing—and it’s only my second day using it.

I set it up the way all the instructions said to: a calendar overview of the whole month on the left page, and a “to do” list space on the right page. If I understood correctly, I’m supposed to write my tasks on that list, and then schedule them into the coming weekly spreads.

I don’t know if my journal is too small, my writing is too big, or my life is too busy; all I know is that my “To Do” list page for March has only two blank lines left.

I’m gonna need a bigger book.

Oblique close-up of a page in my bullet journal. All the lines are full except for two. Most of the items are unreadable.
This is my list for March. It’s not even March yet and already the page is full.