It’s that time of year again! It’s time to shift your mindset and get your kids and your home ready for back-to-school. Last year was a tough school year all around. Kids were remote, then went into school part-time, then they were out again…wash, rinse, and repeat. Unpredictability makes it really hard to feel organized, so it’s not a surprise that a lot of us may be feeling anxious for this school year.
One of the best ways to ease your anxiety is to get a feeling of control. The easiest way to get that feeling of control is by putting in place the systems, planning routines, and morning routines that will help you make the transition a little easier. Before you dive in, remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to home organization…and back-to-school organization is no different. With any tips and tricks that you may find online, you always have the put them to work in a way that works for you and your family.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Set A Morning Routine and Put It Into Practice Before School Starts
The best way to begin constructing your morning routine is to sit down and think about the things that have created morning anxiety in the past. When thinking about those things that generated anxiety, also think about what would have made those things feel a little less stressful. This becomes the basis for your morning routine.
For example, if corralling backpacks when it’s time to leave is a nightmare, one idea is to have a staging area near your exit door. Then after school, when homework is done, the backpacks go back to their designated spot in the staging area where they are ready to go in the morning. Remember, it takes time to build a habit, so this might not work the first time or even the fourth, but over time it will become a habit.
When it comes to morning routines, the best way to make them work is to start them the night before. Things like making lunches, packing backpacks, and picking out clothes can be done in the evening and not left to the morning. You can be really creative and get them all done over the weekend. I once saw a tip online where the family made lunches for the whole week on Sunday. That may not work for everyone…but it worked for them. It’s up to you to come up with creative solutions that will work for you and your family.
Once you have your routine mapped out, put it into action before the first day of school. This will help alleviate the shock that the first day of school usually brings.
Create Snack and Lunch Making Zones
Speaking of making lunches, setting up a lunch zone in your fridge and pantry can be a lifesaver. Keep all the lunch-making supplies together…meat, cheese, mayo. You can even get a clear fridge bin and put it all in there. This way you just have to pull it out and make sandwiches. Apply the same rule and make a pantry bin with the things you need…peanut butter, jelly, snacks.
Don’t forget to include your kids in the process. It’s amazing when you finally get the kids able to make their own lunches. When my son started making his own we created a formula for what to include. Lunch had to include: a sandwich (or the equivalent leftover), a crunchy (like Cheezits or chips), a fruit, and a snack (usually a granola bar or fruit bar). If lunch included one from each category then his work was done.
Be Prepared for Papers and Emails
When it comes to staying organized, folders and binders are not just school supplies for the kiddos. The amount of information and papers that are filtering in from the school on a regular basis is enough to make any parent a hot mess. In order to corral this info, set up an email folder structure that will help you stay organized. Then, as info comes in you can move it to the correct folder. Every year I set up the main folder named with my son’s grade; if you have more than one child, just add their name. Then I add subfolders that help to sort things a little more. An example:
> Ninth Grade – The Mayor
–> Class Specific
–> Grades // Attendance
–> Newsletters // School Misc.
–> Volunteer Time
While email folders are super handy, so is having a physical folder where you can put things that need attention or need to be gone through. Think about where school stuff gets dropped when kids come home (this is where that staging area comes in handy) and add a drop space for this stuff as well. A basket or bin works great for this…kids put stuff in, parents go through it and get rid of what is not needed.
Most parents face the inevitable question of what to do with all the papers, pictures, and keepsakes that come along with the year. Decide how you are going to collect and what you are going to save, and set up your system in advance. I personally use a binder system, so I set up my binder at the beginning of the year and try to keep on top of it. Good news…the amount of paperwork seems to decrease with each grade.
Have a Homework Station
Set up a grade-level specific homework or workstation. Designating in advance the spot they will work is huge! Setting the expectation of where the kids will work, be it a desk, the kitchen table, the patio, or a blanket fort in the family room, will make it easier to get homework done.
If you have younger children, set up a homework caddy that can easily be pulled out when needed. Have things like markers, pencils, paper, and rulers on hand and easily accessible. Depending on your child(s) grade and their school situation this will dictate what kind of items you should keep in your caddy.
Check out examples of school organization tips on my Pinterest Board by clicking here.
Once you get these back-to-school organization basics under control, you are ready to dive into some additional planning like evening routines, calendar management, and more. Be sure to check back for more tips to make a smooth return to learning.