Whether it brings nostalgic tears or a huge sigh of relief, the kids will be heading back to school soon. Day after day, they will return home with heads full of knowledge and bags full of paper, trash, and leftover lunch. Rather than a go-with-the-flow reactionary methodology, take advantage of the freshness of a new season, and earn an A-plus in organization this year by implementing some (or all!) of these organization tips.
Craft a Morning Routine
Waking up late and feeling rushed is an easy way to start the day on the wrong foot. Contrary to popular belief, routines are not boring. They provide stability and clear direction for every member of the household and define expectations, which effectively sets the day up for success.
To create breathing space in the morning routine and get ready and out the door, wake up as a family 30 minutes earlier than necessary. Each member can use this extra time as they see fit: finishing a homework assignment, reading a book, meditating, or exercising are all viable options.
Instill an Evening Routine
Similarly, an evening plan is key for helping everyone wind down and relax after a long day. It is important to give students free time and space for play or hobbies, but that must be balanced with the completion of schoolwork, chores, and important events like family dinners.
Involve the entire family in creating a schedule for evenings with a clear bedtime goal all parties understand. As each day has slightly different needs, make your evening schedule flexible with general markers to hit, rather than exact timelines. While a clearly defined order of events will not make every bedtime battle disappear, it can help tremendously.
Make a Master Calendar
One surefire way to drop the ball is to try to remember everything without writing it down. Outside of noting dates such as sporting events and project deadlines, other items need to be planned and added, such as who will be taking and picking up the children from school and whether that lot falls to a parent, neighbor, childcare provider, or school bus.
While an online calendar is certainly convenient for adults and older students to view and manage, a paper calendar will allow the younger students to see their upcoming week at a glance. Make the calendar fun for them with colorful pencils and stickers and, until it becomes a habit, frequently remind them to use it.
Find a Drop Zone
There is no easier way to fuel frustrations and quickly dirty up the kitchen than to have coats, school bags, and shoes littered on and around the kitchen table. If tripping over the same school bag over and over again does not sound like an ideal way to begin your evening, make it a priority to create a dedicated space where these items belong, like a hall closet or mudroom wall near the entry.
Make sure the space is kid-friendly, meaning realistic for a child to maintain. If your child is not a fan of putting away jackets on a hanger, opt for a hook instead. Make sure their drop station is at a kid-friendly height as well; it will be lower than you might prefer but will help your child.
Even in the digital age of iPads in nearly every classroom, school papers still have a funny way of worming themselves in and taking over a home. Between permission slips, notifications, worksheets, and prized artwork, a seemingly innocent sheet of paper or two will grow into a sizable problem quickly.
The easiest way to combat this is to look through and sort papers daily. Teach every child to systemize their papers: items not needed can go directly into a recycling bin near their drop zone. Sheets an adult needs to review, homework, or project papers can go into a hanging wall file.
If your student is a budding artist who brings home many masterpieces, work with them to scan and digitize each piece. Choose favorite originals to keep and display, and recycle the rest, or gift it to willing relatives. Printing a book of scanned artwork yearly will be much easier to keep up with and enjoy.
Create a Lunch-Packing System
Nearly every parent has felt the stress in the morning that comes from a frantic last-minute scramble for lunch or the dreaded snack battle in the afternoons. Curb the tension by spending a few hours devising a lunch and snack system that will save arguments and time.
Start by rethinking how the fridge is set up. Invest in bins that can house grouped items together and clearly label each one. Fill your refrigerator with easy grab-and-go lunch choices in each bin, such as pre-made sandwiches, crackers with assorted toppings, hardboiled eggs, or salads (pack the dressing separately to avoid soggy lettuce). Make sure there are fruit and vegetable options readily available whether you opt for roasted veggies or a portable piece of fruit like an orange or banana.
Allow each child to be responsible for packing his or her own lunch each morning. They also should take charge of unloading their lunchboxes and placing items in the dishwasher each afternoon before grabbing a snack. Snack items can be similarly pre-made and labeled; carrots and individual portions of hummus, slices of cheese with toast, or peanut butter and an apple are healthy, protein-fueled snack options that will keep your child full until dinner.
Sort Out Laundry
A well-organized laundry routine will help prevent those panic moments where a student (or parent!) has nothing clean to wear. However, for most people laundry is a chore that is tolerated at best. Rather than spend entire weekends laundering and folding clothing alone, devise a system that allows the entire family to join in on the chore.
If doing all the laundry one day a week works best for the household, have every family member pitch in and help by bringing their laundry to the laundry room, stripping beds of linens, and gathering towels. Children can also be responsible for putting clothing away; even young children can match socks and sort whites from colors.
A preference for smaller daily laundry loads requires a different plan. Each person could have a certain day to do his or her own laundry or be responsible for a certain laundry-related task. Create the laundry routine as part of your daily or weekly family life, and the chore will become much less tedious.
Be Project Ready
Despite best efforts, it has happened to the best of us. Nine p.m. rolls around, and a child casually lets it slip that they have a project due in the morning. Rather than a frantic drive to a store in pajamas, be prepared.
At the beginning of the school year, toss some extra items into your shopping cart that are useful in situations like this. Have a stash of supplies on hand like poster board, markers, glue sticks, and construction paper. Tissues and hand sanitizer for the winter months are other items that are great to have on hand.
While it can seem daunting to implement change, it is worth it. With a little extra effort, everyone will be set up for A-plus success!