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Organizing My Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Stash

So, you've decided to shop for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes year round, and pack a few-great!! ...but what do you do with it all year? Well, this is what we're trying this year.

We are hoping to pack around 50 shoeboxes this year (it's not about the numbers, but the children, which is why I don't often share our number, but for this post I thought it would be helpful).  And we tend to pack similar things in all our boxes-they're not identical, but have basically the same-same hygiene supplies and categories of school supplies, but different colors, games, toys, coloring books, etc.  So, to start organizing this year (this is kind of my first year organizing the stash) the first thing I did was make the lists from what my family has told me they wanted to pack.  I also took an inventory of what we had left over from packing last year and hadn't sent as fillers or have gotten since we packed.  Then I made a budget spreadsheet and assigned a price to each item based on how much I thought we'd spend on it.  Then I put in how many we needed based on the list, and how many we had in stock to be sure our budget would cover it.  It looked good. So we decided to go ahead with the goal of 50.  And shared the list with everyone, so we know what we're shopping for.

We happen to have a spare room in our house that isn't used often, so we decided we could lay out the bankers boxes and tubs of supplies in there, and when
someone comes, just pop the lids on the boxes and stack in a corner of the basement or garage we can do without while they're here.
Tubs of balls and stuffies.

Some tubs/boxes hold items for all age boxes together-stuffed animals, hygiene items, etc.

Some are separated: clothes, toys, etc (there's a list at the bottom of this post of the ones we currently have if that's of interest/help to anyone.)  Plus one tub to put our new items in. 

 So, when we get home from the store, or finish a craft, we just pop them in that tub (after taking a photo to share with my blog readers), then when we have time, we take it out tally it (more details on that later) and put it in the appropriate box/tub.

Last year we tried Google Sheets to have an excel sheet of all items so everyone could see/record in real time, but...it didn't work on the smart phones as well as we'd hoped, sometimes we tallied when we bought, sometime when we put in the boxes, it got confusing.  So, this year we just made tally sheets which record up to 50 items in a line, that way it's easy to see how many you have of an item, even if it's hundreds (like pencils) as every two lines is a hundred.  We can easily see what we need more of.

I'm trying to every few months check the stock lists against the shopping list and send out an update email of the shopping list noting "Already have" or "getting close", so we all know what to look for.  And family members will text me with questions of what we still need.  Also a couple

  Each age/gender group we pack for has it's own page, as well as joint pages for things like hygiene & school.  Here's an image of the sheet we use, as well as an examples of a partially filled in page.

We put a check mark at the end of the column when we get enough of an item.


To be tallied/put away
Containers (bags, pencil cases, etc)
2-4 Girl clothes, etc.
2-4 Boy clothes, etc.
10-14 Girl clothes, etc.
10-14 Girl sewing kits, ect.
10-14 Boy clothes, etc.
Stuffed Animals/Dolls
Themed boxes in progress


Stationary, Photos, stickers, envelopes, etc
2-4 Girl toys
2-4 Girl dishes, etc.
2-4 Boy toys & bonus items
2-4 small fillers
10-14 Boy toys & bonus items
10-14 Girl's solitary toys & crafts
10-14 Girl's social toys and games
10-14 Girl's Misc
10-14 small filler items (tops, mini card games, etc.)
Sound/Music items (whistles, flutes, etc)
Hot wheel cars
My theme box to do
Mom's  theme box to do
Flashlights & batteries
2-4 School supplies
10-14 School supplies
Misc School supplies
Lined paper

I hope this helps someone, if you're planning a packing party, check out our posts about the packing party we did with children at our church a few years ago.  I'll try to do a post later this year about how we prep for our family packing party (as that's quite different with a few responsible adults than a lot of young kids).  Update:  The post is up here:  Our Family Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party.  If you have any questions, please just ask!

Happy Organizing & Packing!


Linda K said...

You are more organized with your lists than anyone I've ever known in my long life! I'm very impressed. My kids & I don't work from a list. We tried it and failed so we decided to just have fun with this. We pick up clearance items (quality stuff only) that we know kids 10 to 14 yrs old will use. Aside from the basic toothbrushes, combs, paper, pens, pencils, erasers, small balls, etc., we don't give identical items to every child. One will get a (hand sewn) tool apron w/tools while another will get a fishing kit.
Our OCC stash is stored in a bedroom closet with shelves top to bottom. Medium sized plastic bins are lined up on these shelves & labeled. We TRY to keep everything neat and orderly, try being the operative word!

Sarah said...

Haha! Thank you Linda! I come from a family of listers and my sister and I ran our church's Awana club for about a decade in our twenties, so we got more into it! Sounds like you have a good system going!

J Rodney said...

Oh my, look at all of that organization. I'm impressed! And you've got so many things to send off, you really are amazing.

Sarah said...

Thanks JRFrugalMom!

Catina said...

I started packing boxes as most moms -- with a box for each young child. We have since moved up to about 10 per year. I typically use duct tape to decorate now rather than wrapping, but the bright colors are beautiful, so I might change next year.
I have used several pages on your site for the past few years and thank you for posting all your 'work'. I like the Goggle Sheets, and I might give it a try to see if it works any better for me.
I have more space since moving and may turn the area above the garage into storage this year, but I'm not very good at couponing. I'm also going to bring up the idea of sewing for OCC during the year with our Quilters for Foster Kids group. We'll see... Your organization is wonderful for year round shopping and I will be back to this page more often after the holidays. Cheers!

Unknown said...

Where have you been all my life? I'm in charge of OCC at our church, and we are aiming for 500 boxes this year. We started with no space for storage at all, so the first few years everything was at our house - everywhere! Last year we were given a full room, which has turned into about half a room with others needing space for stuff as well. I've purchased 36 clear plastic totes - 16 gallons, I think - and sort into categories by age and sex. I also have the smaller shoebox-size plastic totes for things like pencils, pens, combs, erasers, glue sticks, etc. I'm not naturally organized, so it is always a work in progress.

The shoeboxes we fill on our own at home take up space as well. I have a bookcase in our walk-in closet for the girls' items, and hubby has his boys' items on a top shelf. However, as we add more items through the year, we always seem to run out of space. Maybe our spare room will end up hosting these boxes, but we have a lot of company so I'm not sure that's a good idea.

Thank you so much for your blog. What a blessing full of ideas!

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