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Storing Extra Materials

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If there's one thing you learn very quickly when managing your Montessori home school it's that you can become overwhelmed with stuff in a heartbeat.  I find myself constantly purchasing work to keep ahead of the kids.  I also tend to rotate areas like the practical life shelves frequently.

Here are a few of the top lessons I've learned in storing extra materials.

1 - Ensure Your Core Materials Are Visible

When I first found myself with more than I could fit on my shelves I dealt with the issue in a standard fashion.  I purchased a number of plastic bins and groups all of my material together by area (math, sensorial, etc).  While it took care of the problem, I quickly forgot the detailed contents of each bin.  Reviewing the contents meant pulling out all the bins and digging through them.  I went so far as to write my materials on index cards.  While that may work for some people, I'm far more visually oriented.

I have since revised my system.  My father put large shelves in the storage closet.  I then purchased some medium sized open baskets.  They are large enough to hold several works but not so large that smaller items get buried.  So far it is working wonderfully.  I can easily open the closet and see everything.

It's hard to see from the picture but the shelves continue across the entire span of the closet.  I wasn't able to get a good picture of the items in the corners but I don't have any issue seeing them, especially during the day.

2 - Store Specialty Topic and Seasonal Items Together

As tempting as it is to keep items sorted strictly by subject area, I've had the most success by storing seasonal, holiday and specialty themes together.  Since I tend to go looking for these themes when needed, I haven't had the same issue with storing them out of sight.  I repurposed my original storage bins and now use them.  They are kept at the bottom of the closet.  I don't have them labeled but as an example, one holds Christmas items such as the mini tree/ornaments practical life activity.

3 - Keep the Items You Rotate Most Highly Accessible

In the early days, my shelf rotations could easily take an hour per week to accomplish.  I blame part of that on my extreme need to over manage things.  However, some of it was due to the difficulty in accessing the needed items, especially practical life material.  To help with this issue, I put several sets of plastic drawers in the adjacent closet.  And I apologize for the clutter.  This closet also houses what remains of our former office.

I realize it's hard to tell from the photo but this primarily contains practical life and small science items.  For example, I have one drawer that holds cleaning supplies such as brushes, polishing cloths and sponges.  Another drawer hold implements such as spoons, tongs and chop sticks.  My science drawers hold items like thermometers, magnets, prisms and a compass.  I keep small spoonables such as mini-pompoms in a drawer in baggies.

I have a good sized collection of bowls and such.  I have placed them in fabric bins at the top of the language shelves above my manuals.

Here is what the contents look like.

The other works that I need quick access to are the infant/toddler materials.  I tend to spend the work period plopping down various works for the little guy, hoping that something sticks.  For that purpose, I added a desk organizer to one of the extra desks.  I use it to hold infant items.  This prevents me from having to open the material closet while the kids are in there.  Now that all the materials are visible everyone scrambles to ask for their favorite!

There's a small glimpse into our storage solutions.  In the future I'll delve into other storage challenges such as books, cards (and cards upon cards), miniatures, worksheets and general teacher supplies.
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