Back to school season brings a lot of changes. No more lazy days of summer. In our home, we have children at every education level (elementary school, middle school, high school, and college) so keeping track of all the different open houses, class schedules, bus times, and extracurricular activities is practically a full-time job!
Over the years I’ve found a little organization goes a long way towards keeping us on-track and unfrazzled during the school year. These are my tips on how to get and stay organized for the school year.
First and foremost, it’s important to establish routines. Mornings and evenings are hectic with everyone coming and going at different times and with lots to do in a very short amount of time.
I have daily to-do lists for each member of the family (divided into morning and evening tasks) that I laminated and keep posted in our command center so we can check off items as we complete them each day and then wipe clean each morning. This gives the children some independence and responsibility and frees me up from chasing all of them around to make sure they’ve made beds, brushed teeth, packed lunches, etc.
Routines also make like less stressful, which is really important when other stressors like work, school, and responsibilities continue to stack up. Routines add stability and comfort. So, even if you have a different activity every day of the week, try to routinize the constants (e.g. wake-up time, homework time, bedtime).
Even if we have to have dinner later because of soccer practice, we have the same routine for setting the table, clearing the table, and cleaning the kitchen afterward. In addition to our daily routines, we have a routine weekly family meeting after Sunday dinner to coordinate the rest of our week.
Despite my best efforts to establish an office-like space for my children to use for doing homework, inevitably, they end up doing it at the kitchen table because they want to be around the rest of the family while they work.
When I realized that was actually a good thing, I stopped fighting the system and instead created a school supply caddy that we pull out and set on the table when they do homework. I’m not saying this is the world’s best system, it’s just what works for us.
No matter where you have your kids do their homework, I do believe it’s very important that you establish a space for it and equip them with what they need. I keep the everyday essentials in the caddy and also keep a stash of necessary items that are used less frequently (e.g. posterboard, index cards, construction paper) so we aren’t dashing to the store at 8 pm for a project due tomorrow morning.
I could not function without our command center. This is where we consolidate all of our schedules, appointments, ideas, and information.
I am sure there are families out there that can stay on top of their busy schedules without a command center, but my family is not one of them. If an event doesn’t get written on the command center calendar, I will probably forget it and miss it.
If one of the kids tells me we are out of bread, I won’t remember to buy it at the grocery store unless it gets added to the grocery list in the command center. It’s also a great sanity saver since my children now know they can go to the command center instead of yelling through the house to ask me if the next wrestling match is home or away or what day Grandma and Grandpa are coming to visit.
Clutter is a constant battle in my home and it only gets worse when school starts. The kids start to bring home dozens of pieces of schoolwork, projects, and newsletters.
Plus, in our haste to keep up with our busy daily lives, we neglect to take the extra few seconds to put things back where they belong. Consequently, before we’ve reached October, the house is starting to look like a small tornado blew through it.
Like most things, true clutter control takes due diligence and perseverance. That’s not my parenting strong suit so I rely a lot on systems that help make it easier for all of us to contain our messes without requiring me to nag everyone everyday or spend most of my day running around the house tidying up after them. Here are my favorite clutter-busting tips:
- Keep a “donate” bin in each child’s closet for clothes they outgrow and items they no longer want/need
- Have a “put away” bin in a central location that everyone must check (and remove their items) before bedtime
- Create a keepsake bin for each family member to put in treasured projects (or photos of them), awards, and special mementos
- Set up folders for each member of the family to keep forms, invitations, and assignments.
- Designate a spot for backpacks and jackets
- Create a family binder to contain important documents in a small, portable format
I’m a visual person so I organize in ways that are visually pleasing to me (i.e. the command center). This is what led me to color code my family.
It started with assigning each member a different colored ink for the family calendar and then using that same color for their folders. Then we started using these color assignments for other things.
To keep the kids from using every single drinking glass we owned every day because they never knew which one was theirs and thus had to get out a new glass, I bought colored tumblers so they could each use just one (which they could easily identify by color).
When the Easter Bunny visits, the kids can easily identify which basket is for whom thanks to the colored grass in each basket. Jamie Sullivan from Cawfee Talk has her kids color coded too and she has bins that she keeps by the door into which she’ll put any items (backpack, sports equipment, piano books) each child needs for that day’s activities.