Just like a fresh box of crayons, the new school year is ripe with possibility—the possibility to create something new. Fresh crayons and fresh starts—it’s a wonderful time of year! Take advantage of the clean slate in front of you by bringing some simple organizing strategies into your home, making the transition back to school even more invigorating. Sound like a plan? Let’s go.
Establish fresh routines.
What’s working well in your daily routine…and what could use a pick-me-up? If mornings are chaotic (or just not your prime time of day) consider taking care of as many daytime preparations as possible the night before. Layout clothes. Pack lunches. Set out the breakfast dishes and cereal. Pack the backpacks. And so on.
Make your new systems kid-friendly so your young helpers can help you get things checked off your to-do list. (The more help you have, the more time everyone has for fun.) For example, carve out a spot on a low shelf in the pantry to store lunch boxes and lunch making supplies. Then, have your helper be responsible for putting away his empty lunch box at the end of the day or even packing lunch. Install low coat hooks so your child can hang up his own coat and backpack at the end of each day.
Create a homework station.
If a task is simple to do, it’s more fun to do. Homework is no different. Decide on the best spot in your home to set up homework central. Take into consideration how involved you need to be with homework and your child’s style. Does he focus better with people around or when working on his own? Is he better suited to sit at a table or curled up on the couch with a lap desk? Once you have a
place picked out, corral together handy homework tools and supplies into a nearby bin, cabinet or drawer. Stock up on age appropriate supplies such as pens, pencils, erasers, paper, crayons, markers, a ruler, a calculator, a dictionary, basic craft supplies and a pencil sharpener. Ask your teacher for ideas on supplies to keep on hand throughout the year to avoid last minute trips to the store for special supplies.
Create a system for school papers.
There are two types of papers, those you need to take action on and those you’re keeping for future reference. Designate a convenient spot for items you need to act on or refer back to throughout the school year. Items like classroom rules, schedules, class lists, and teacher contact information will be right at home in the home management binder (and best yet, you’ll know right where these important papers are when you need them.)
For schoolwork and artwork you want to keep, I suggest a two-tiered approach. First, purge unwanted items as soon as they come in the door. Collect the possible keepers into a small storage bin. Go through your bin using a regular time interval that works for you, like once a week, once a month or once a quarter. Keep in mind, the more you accumulate, the easier it will be to keep fewer items—the best pieces will stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, if dealing with a big pile of paper is overwhelming to you (I’ve been there, too!) it may be simpler to go through your bin more frequently. For school papers and artwork you’re keeping indefinitely, a simple three-ring binder can house a year’s worth keepsakes in one simple, tidy system.
Do your homework everyday.
That’s right Mom, you have homework, too. You know, all those papers that come home in the backpack each night? Homework. And it’s yours. Once you have your paperwork system set up, create a homework routine to help you and your kids stay on top of everything. Pick a time that works well for your energy level and fits with your other after school obligations—and then dig into those backpacks and get going. Take action on any paperwork that requires your attention. Sign and return permission slips. Add important dates to the family calendar. Pitch school work you no longer need…and accumulate those you want to hold onto for posterity sake into your collection bin.
Your communication hub can include a family calendar, colored markers, pens and pencils, and a notepad for taking down phone messages. Consider color coding your family calendar by assigning each family member a color. If you’re a visual person who needs to see things to remember them, consider using a bulletin board for posting messages, invites and your calendar, or take advantage of your built-in magnetic board known as your refrigerator door. Keep phone messages neat and tidy by using a family message book, a covered composition book used to keep a running tab of phone messages and notes.
Create a put-away bin.
Keep household clutter at bay by corralling items into a put-away bin. Assign one for each family member, or collect everything into a single bin, and take turns on put-away duty. Clearing out your bin each and every day will keep clutter at bay.
Remember not to forget.
Create a simple system by the door to help you remember your new routine or special items you need to take with you each day: gym shoes on gym day, violin on music day, and snacks on snack day. Hang a bin or basket by your door to corral the items you need to remember, or create a fun little “don’t forget” door hanger with a built-in pocket for your daily checklist.
With these simple strategies, staying organized all school year is as certain as a fresh box of crayons on the first day of school.