The post below is a copy of the article I wrote for the online publication of Seattle’s Child, where I publish bi-weekly articles on home organization. To see a complete list of all past articles, please visit the Reclaim Your Home section on Seattle’s Child. See this article on the Seattle’s Child website here.
Back-to-school is always an exciting and, let’s face it, exhausting time of year. With new clothes and supplies to be purchased and a new routine for the whole family, things can get chaotic pretty fast.
In this article I’ll share some tips for making back-to-school, and the entire school year, run a little more smoothly.
Every Day, A Fresh Start
Mornings with school-age kids can be hectic. I can’t be the only one who has sent their kid to school late with mismatched socks!
My solution is to make sure all the essentials you need to get your child out the door has its own place. That means:
- Backpacks and lunch bags
- Homework, school projects, permission slips
- Shoes and boots
- Coats, jackets, umbrellas, and cold-weather gear
If your home has a mudroom or other spacious entry way, lucky you! A little organizing may be all you need.
Photo source: Houzz – Cory Connor Designs
For starters, I find that it really helps to give each person their own designated space. Naturally, make sure hooks and cubbies are height appropriate so even your littlest ones can learn to be self-sufficient.
Pro Tip: Keep a message board by the door for important reminders (e.g., Monday piano lessons) or sweet notes to send them out the door with love.
Photo source: Pinterest
If you don’t have the luxury of designated entry space, you don’t need a ton of room to make one of your own.
Consider hanging a staggered row of hooks on a bare wall for an easy solution (Command Hooks) with a spot for shoes and boots below. Baking sheets covered with stones or cooling racks are a cute, crafty way to keep muddy shoes off your floors.
Photo source: Martha Stewart
The Great Paper Pile-Up
Before you know it, the kids will be coming home with a stacks of papers and treasured artwork. Much like assigning a spot for each person’s backpack, it helps to have a designated spot for each child’s papers, too. I just love the wall-mounted, magnetic magazine pockets by Three By Three. Get one for each child plus an “in” box for papers that need to be looked at or signed.
Photo source: Three by Three
(For longer term storage of special art and school work, check out my previous article: Storing School Year Projects.)
Kids these days are BUSY and someone has to keep track of where everyone is supposed to go. My favorite method is a family calendar that lives right along side the paper and homework space. You may still be the commander-in-chief of the schedule, but as your kids get older the family calendar will help them take responsibility for their social, school, and extracurricular life.
Photo source: It’s Always Autumn
A Workable Space
Every child has unique needs for homework and project space. Some might need peace and quiet while others need a little activity or the motivation of mom looking over their shoulder to keep them on track. Consider what works best for your child. While there are no set rules, giving kids separate space often works the best.
Photo source: BHG
To avoid distractions or melt-downs over lost scissors, keep school and art supplies easily within reach. I love the idea of using containers that you already have on hand to store anything from crayons to erasers to colored pencils.
Photo source: Etsy – BradensGrace shop
Food for Thought
Unless your child buys lunch every day, chances are you have lunch boxes, baggies, thermoses, and cutlery spilling out of your cupboards. To stop the sack lunch insanity, designate one cupboard for all things lunch and label categories clearly.
Photo source: Uncommon Designs
I also like to have a designated set of utensils that is just for lunch and lunch prep (no sharp knives or pokable objects) so your kids can assist in lunch making responsibility. At the end of the day, have your kids empty out their lunch boxes and put things back where they belong. No more stinky milk cups!
Photo source: Amazon Tulz Utility Spreader
There’s the Bell!
The most important part of all of this back-to-school prep? Making sure your kids are on board with this vision for smooth-sailing school days. Label designated areas clearly and review with the whole family so everyone is on the same page. You might even practice prepping a school lunch and have a picnic out on the lawn.
Back-to-school is a transition, and transitions can be hard when it comes to kids. Go easy on yourself. Even if you implement just one or two of these ideas, you will likely find that next season is that much easier.