Benjamin Franklin said, “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” And you know what? He was right.
Getting organized is typically one of the top New Year’s resolutions amongst Americans. We long for peace amongst our chaos. We long for clean amongst our clutter. We long for a place for everything and everything in its place. But this thing that we long for takes time to create and implement. Fear not my friend, NFHF is here to help!
We parents of sons and daughters with disabilities and/or diagnoses live a life full of stuff. Medical equipment. Sensory toys. Feeding tube supplies. Medications. Diapers. Medical supplies. Formula. Medical Records. Trach supplies. Special Education records. Disability services records. SO MUCH STUFF!
Where do we put it? How do we organize one pile of papers from the next pile of papers? What do we do with this mountain of diapers we’re sent every month? How can I keep up with her current IEP? Where in the world is his last MRI scan the doctor sent me?
I’m here to give all you parents, like me, a few tips on how you can start the New Year organized with some things that work for my family and others. It is my hope that you can implement one, a few, or all of the tips listed so you can start earning your extra hour ole Ben mentioned above!
-I highly recommend buying a filing cabinet (search Facebook marketplace or check out your local Goodwill for an inexpensive gently used one) to store your records. One drawer for medical, one drawer for disability services, one drawer for school, one drawer for medical equipment user manuals, and so on. Purchase a pack of hanging file folders for each drawer and organize by year. (Also keep report cards, certificates, drawings, school work, etc in here!)
-I am a big believer in having a binder for IEP/504 plans AND a medical one should you need it. You can grab this handy dandy binder as you run out the door to the next IEP meeting or to the next GI appointment. We have templates created for you HERE and HERE!
-Cubby shelves and foldable bins are my favorite way of organizing supplies in a bedroom. Each bin holds a different item (diapers, feeding bags, syringes, etc). As you get more of that supply, you refill it.
-Over the door plastic shoe organizers are another great option to store supplies, or toys!
-Bookshelves keep foldable bins and binders in the same place every day and give you a place to keep other needed items rather than on the floor. Again, look on Facebook marketplace or a consignment shop for a gently used one.
-Plastic drawer bins keep small (or big) things together and allow for easy access. We use a small drawer bin for my son’s gtube button buddies, thermometers, pulse ox, and other items that are needed on a daily basis.
-Utilize closet space as best as you can with more bins/plastic containers. Keep it clutter free by cleaning out clothes, shoes, etc a few times a year.
-Use wall space, if possible, by installing wire shelving to serve as storage space with more foldable bins.
-If you have an attic space you can store extra supplies like diapers and other items that don’t need much of a controlled temperature in big plastic bins. This will give you more space in the bedroom which is always a good thing!
-Hang a clipboard or whiteboard on the wall for upcoming appointments, needed supplies, etc for an easy way to keep track of things coming up or needed. As soon as you see you are running low on something, add it to your list.
-While some equipment has no other place to go besides on the floor next to your child’s bed, or another designated place, some items like suctioning machines, humidifiers, nebulizers, and other small equipment can be placed on a rolling heavy duty utility cart at the head or foot of the bed (if you have enough room). This gives you easy and quick access to the needed equipment at a moment’s notice. Keep the cart clean and organized so it doesn’t get cluttered with other supplies that belong elsewhere.
-Create a “medication station” by assigning a place in your home where you’ll keep all your child’s medications and sterile supplies. My son’s station is in our kitchen where we have assigned a top cabinet and drawer to the task. Everything in this cabinet drawer is just for his medications and supplies so nothing can get confused with another family member. A small three drawer bin is great for keeping syringes and other small supplies.
-Bins that serve as seats AND storage are always a plus in my book!
-Utilize an emptied out bean bag chair and fill it with all those stuffed animals or extra pillows!
-Use Ziploc bags to keep all those puzzle pieces or Legos as Ziploc bags take up less space than boxes and bins. Be sure to write what is inside that bag or put a picture of the puzzle/masterpiece inside the bag for future use!
-Rotate toys with the seasons by having your child place the items they aren’t playing with lately in a bag or bin that you will then store in a closet, attic, or under the bed. Be sure to thoroughly explain to your child that you aren’t getting rid of these toys, but letting them take a “rest” for a few months before taking them back out and switching with other toys. This has worked fantastically with my kids!
-Purchase an over the door plastic shoe organizer for all those tiny toys like Barbies, race cars, animals, figurines, etc!
-Utilize wall space with hooks and round laundry baskets for holding other toys that have previously lived on the floor!
-Keep a bin or duffel bag with items your kid needs and/or enjoys for long trips, unexpected delays, or just any ole day. I keep diapers, wipes, extra set of clothes, list of medication/diagnoses/physicians, and a few toys in our van duffel bag. (These items must be able to withstand the extreme temps being in your vehicle year round.)
Organization takes time, some money, and commitment in the beginning. Start with one thing and work from there. Don’t bite off more than you can chew (or afford) and get overwhelmed. Start small and keep going until you’re satisfied. Once you’re finished you’ll love your new organization system but most importantly you’ll have more time to spend with those you love.
Do you have other organization tips? Please share them with us!
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, organized and serene 2019!
NFHF Executive Director