By Charmean Neithart, Houzz
We start getting ready for back to school about a week before the first day of school. Every year brings new challenges, with schedule changes and routine adjustments, not to mention ever-evolving mask policies and COVID-19 safety protocol. The carefree vibe of summer means we need a transition time to ease back into the regimen of the school year.
I try to be organized for the first day of school not because it comes naturally — trust me, it doesn’t — but because children are better imitators than they are listeners. I have found that when I am organized, my children follow suit and pick up on ways to stay organized by simply watching me. After years of practice, I think I’ve got some tips that may help your own school year get off to a good start. If your kids are about to begin a new year, start your engines; it’s go time. If they’ve already begun, there’s a lot you can still do.
Closet & Storage Concepts, original photo on Houzz
1. Clean out closets. If your kids are still school age, they probably grow out of clothes quickly. Go through closets and drawers and weed out too-small clothes; give them to younger siblings or donate them.
2. Organize shoes. I like keeping shoes near the point of entry in my house. A shoe rack or custom cabinet works great for organizing shoes for everyone, so you can avoid the “Where is my other shoe?” dilemma once and for all. Also, getting everyone in the habit of taking off shoes as soon as they enter the house will do wonders for your floors.
Hardrock Construction, original photo on Houzz
3. Prepare the entry point. If you have clutter or a disorganized flow where the kids leave and arrive home from school, it’s time to clear it out. That 60 seconds that kids have just before they leave is critical for them to remember everything they need for the day.
4. Lay out clothes. This habit took a while for me to develop, but I swear by it. Do your clothes selection the night before and get everything ready so that you’re not searching for your brown belt or green sweater at the last minute. Your kids will pick up on this habit if they see you doing it.
Traditional Entry, original photo on Houzz
5. Post the schedule. At the beginning of the new school year, there will likely be schedule changes. Post the new schedule somewhere by the door to help kids — and yourself — get used to the new weekly routine. Include practices, classes, and appointments.
6. Stock the pantry. A well-stocked pantry is a must. Most people have to make weekly runs to the market. However, you can stock some items to save a little time. Cereal, peanut butter, bottled water, and brown paper lunch bags are just a few I am always reaching for.
Monkey Bars Garage Storage Systems, original photo on Houzz
7. Clear out the garage. An organized garage will help most families stay on track. If you have to grab sports equipment, raincoats or a bicycle to get to school, make it easy on yourself and have these items ready to go. Most towns have local trash pickup services. Check online for trash collectors that will come straight to your house and take discards or facilitate donating items. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are always looking for gently used items.
8. Gas up the car. This is the one errand that always eludes me. Try to avoid having to gas up first thing in the morning when the lines are longest and your time is shortest. Make a note to gas up the night before to avoid the stress of running on fumes on the way to school.
Hamilton-Gray Design Inc, original photo on Houzz
9. Prepare the mail area. As soon as school starts, the paper trail begins. I have found it helpful to separate school mail from regular mail, because so much of school mail requires a response or something to fill out. Stock up on envelopes and stamps, and get ready for the mail avalanche.
10. Sort books. Just as with clothes, kids grow out of books. The good news is that books are so easily donated or given away. Keep any books that have sentimental value and clear out those the kids have grown out of.
Bachmann Construction, original photo on Houzz
11. Teach kids to hang up their things. This is such a valuable lesson for kids and has a great impact on their day. Feeling disorganized can be confusing and upsetting. Help kids start their day off confidently with a designated area for jackets and backpacks.
12. Stock the first aid kit. Smaller kids will predictably come home with boo-boos. I know my youngest son still likes a Band-Aid from Mom. Stock up on bandages, cold packs, and antiseptic spray.