Get Organized to Make Back-to-School Time Easier
Make the process of going back to school an elementary task with this simple checklist to help you prioritize and prepare.
Schedule time with each child to take a wardrobe inventory. Toss damaged goods and decide which wearable but too-small items can be passed on to younger siblings or donated to charitable organizations. Before hitting the stores, make a list of pieces needed and set a budget. If those over-the-limit boots or jeans are really must-haves, kids will know in advance that they’ll have to save up to buy them.
The great thing about the school’s supply list is that it usually details exactly what’s needed. The downside: it doesn’t remind you about the three calculators your kids already own. To curb unnecessary purchases, send your kids on a room-to-room scavenger hunt to see what they can find and check off their lists. If a supply list isn’t digital, take a picture of the physical list and keep it on your phone. This way, if you’re out shopping and spot a back-to-school sale, you can quickly verify what you still need. One item every middle- and high-school student should have—requested or not—is a good academic planner. Look for one that features large pages for recording assignments and after-school activities, with plenty of blank space so kids can fill in free-time pursuits as well as long-range events such as family parties, vacations and weekends away.
Bring order to drop zones.
Every home needs a dumping ground. Whether it’s a mudroom, entryway or hall closet, the essential components are the same—enough hooks to hold coats and backpacks, racks or trays for shoes and a bin for each family member to store smaller items, such as sunglasses and gloves. Consider assigning a different-colored bin to each family member. Or, for a more uniform look, try matching containers labeled with kids’ names.
Keep kids’ clothes hampers in a user-friendly spot like a corner of their room or the bathroom. To save time on gathering and sorting, install large hampers in the laundry room. On wash days, ask family members to empty clothes from their individual hampers into the bins.
Streamline the morning bathroom routine by hanging a see-through over-the-door shoe rack to create space for kids’ hair tools, lotions and whatever else clutters counters.
Carve out a place for kids to do homework, keeping in mind their study-habit likes and dislikes. A desk next to the bed can provide extra storage as well as double as a nightstand. But if your daughter prefers working on the bed, consider giving her a lap model. For kids who’d rather sit at the kitchen or dining room table, try a rolling cart with drawers for materials. When you want to tidy up, it’s easy to move it into a corner or closet.
Simplify lunch packing by compiling sandwich ingredients—cold cuts, condiments—and juice boxes in a container that you can quickly pull out of the fridge. Use another bin for bread and snacks. If you buy, say, pretzels in bulk, empty them into smaller, see-through containers. Once you’re ready, take everything out and set up an assembly line. Insulated to-go food containers and reusable sandwich bags streamline the packing routine.
Keep kids from trashing the kitchen by setting up an after-school snack station. Leave a tray on the counter with everything they’ll need for a quick bite, such as granola bars and fruit. This can also help late-risers get out the door in the morning. And store snacks at eye level in cupboards or the fridge so kids can find what they want without rummaging.
Create a hub.
Put a big desk-pad calendar next to a large bulletin board to create a command center for your family. Keep track of each family member’s activities with different-colored pens. Tack up school lunch menus, directories, chore charts and anything else you refer to frequently.
Designate a surface near the bulletin board—a desk, table or countertop directly below is ideal—for handling day-to-day paperwork. Set up a filing system with stacking letter trays where permission slips, school notices, assignment sheets and mail can be stashed. Try to sift through it at the end of each day. Organize paperwork you need to keep throughout the school year—or longer, such as directories and report cards—in a folder for each child.
Set out a basket for keys, loose change and other small items that are unloaded as each family member walks through the door. You may want kids to park phones here, or in a central charging station, during homework time.