The end of summer often means the end of more relaxed routines, at least for those with school-aged children. It’s been a long time since I went back to school—don’t ask how long!—but I still remember that back-to-school excitement. Buying new school supplies, new outfits, and finally, my sister and I rushing out the door on that first morning. Back to school is always crazy—it’s unavoidable!
While my daughter isn’t old enough for school just yet, I know that getting back into the swing of things will be much easier once you figure out a great way to keep your home organized for the school year.
Ultimately, if you aren’t pulling your hair out, and you can avoid any last-minute scrambling, I’ve done my job—here are some of my best back to school tips.
The To-Do List
Save your sanity in trying to remember every little thing you need to do, by making a priority list. Write down the must-do things before school starts, such as any school supplies you need to purchase and any activities with looming registration deadlines. Follow that up with a second list of everything else you can think of to make the next couple of months easier on yourself and your family.
Organization & Inventory
Start out with a clean slate, it’ll be so much easier to keep it that way. Papers will pile up, along with coats, backpacks, shoes and sweaty sports gear—but, if you have a designated place for everything you’ve just upped your organizational odds. Also, before you buy anything new, be sure to check to see what your kids already have before buying any new school supplies and/or clothes. In the spirit of decluttering you should get rid of anything broken, extremely worn out, too small (unless they’re good for hand-me-downs), or stained beyond repair.
Next, make a list of exactly what it is your kids need and do your best to stick to it. Schools will also sometimes provide a list of needed supplies for the year to come making your job a little easier. Having a defined list when you hit the store means you’ll more likely buy only what’s on it which helps you save money—bonus! Or, you can wait a week after school starts and get everything when it’s been marked down (#savvy).
Sanitize High-Contact Areas
These past couple of years have been all about hand-washing and disinfecting high-touch areas. It’s essential to step up the sanitizing ritual with the new school year, particularly if your children are heading back to the classroom. Our hands end up touching so much throughout the day. Be sure to disinfect doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, handles, and any area you know your family often touches.
I’m sure we have all gotten used to washing face masks, so this is just a reminder to make sure your child has a clean one every day. It’s best to have at least five face masks so that you can throw them in the wash at the end of the school week. When laundering, they should be washed separately from other clothing, in hot water with regular laundry detergent or vinegar.
Get a Calendar
If you haven’t already, hang a magnetic dry-erase calendar in your kitchen to keep track of everyone’s activities. Have a different colored marker for each member of the family so you know who’s up to what at a glance. When you schedule piano lessons, skating practice, or get notices about field trips or bake sales, add them to the calendar immediately. I also suggest getting a 12-month calendar to keep track of things happening in later months and transferring them to the dry-erase calendar.
The Homework Zone
Especially as they get older and get more homework, it’s so important for kids to have their own study area—and I’m not talking about at the dining room table (I say that to protect the sanity of parents too)! If there’s a place in their bedroom for a desk, cool. Otherwise, the family room, living room, or office (ideally a room without a television) also works. If the desk doesn’t have drawers or shelves already, consider an organizer to sit on top of it. And, if you have space, a bookcase is an excellent addition because it creates more storage with room to grow!
My love for pegboards knows no bounds, and that goes for over desks too. They’re awesome for creating extra storage space for small items like pens, paintbrushes, and pencils. You can even hang desk lamps from them! Go that extra mile by painting it your child’s favorite color.
Encourage your kids to take charge of keeping their homework areas neat and tidy. Enabling them with the right tools to organize artwork, projects, and report cards will cut down on clutter around the house. For super-organized parents, create color-coded files for each child for homework, keepsakes, and important papers. This also makes schoolwork quicker to find and at the end of the school year, it can be sorted through to easily pick out what gets kept and what gets recycled.
It’s kind of crazy how easily the front hall closet becomes a dumping ground for… well, everything. Here’s how I clean and organize ours. Voila—room for jackets and backpacks! Or if you have a large hallway or mudroom you can even install cubbies, with hooks for jackets and backpacks, a place for shoes, musical instruments, and sports gear. You could also use plastic bins or baskets with labels to keep toys and books organized, or a special shelf just for school supplies. If kids have a specific spot to put everything, odds are they’ll use it more often and you won’t be tripping over their stuff anymore.
Tackle Chores as a Family
Turn everyone in your house into a team player by getting them involved with chores and organizing. This will also help foster childrens’ feelings of responsibility for their household. Start with easier tasks for the youngest, and more challenging chores for the older ones. Incorporate rewards for completing chores as a way to encourage participation.
A Few More Tips
I love hanging clothes organizers. Use them to layout your child’s outfits for the week, one outfit per shelf.
Do lunch prep a week in advance. Prepare things that will keep for a while (veggies, fruits, cheese, crackers, etc.) in individual containers or baggies so all you have to do the night before, or the morning of, is make sandwiches.
Give older students a stain-remover stick to throw in their backpack for pre-treating lunch and ink stains.
What is your back-to-school cleaning routine? Let me know in the comments below!