Back to school organizing is not really what you may want to think about in July but in our neck of the woods, school starts at the beginning of August so if we don’t get our act together now, the first day will sneak up on us and we will be frantically shopping at Target at midnight buying binders and Sharpies!
Part of my post was written for Faithful Provisions based here in Nashville, though I’ve included those tips near the end of this post.
So let’s talk about getting organized for back to school. Think of it as your battle plan…what are the things that have been struggles for you in past years and what has been successful. This list is based on many common issues, only some of which may apply. Use what you can and let me know what your specific issues are on my Facebook page. Ask away!
1. Papers. You know a huge amount will come in this year, as it does every year. Luckily many schools are going a more paperless route but still, there’s the handbooks and the after school activity info and the homework and artwork….
So first, purge everything you can from last year. I usually keep work that looks like some serious effort was made or that show some real progress in growth. I keep report cards and notes from the teacher. I keep the ‘good stuff’. All of the non personal flyers and handouts and half hearted worksheets get recycled. The things I want to keep go in a memory box (artsy stuff) or a file (school records).
Second, create a paper management system for the incoming mass. See my post HERE on how to do that effectively.
2. Time. It gets totally crazy at back to school season. This is a great time to be sure you have a good calendar system in place for keeping track of who needs to be where when. Whether you are working parent or a stay at home/work at home parent, you need a way to make sure everyone gets to their activities on time with all their stuff. Consider a large wall calendar or chalkboard wall where you can note all upcoming activities and commitments. I have a chalkboard wall that I update weekly for after school activities. If you use smartphones or a computer, my recommendation is to use Google calendar to track your life. The benefit is you can not only have different calendars for different parts of your life (work, kids, home, etc) but you can share certain calendars with others. You only have to update once and it shows up on all devices that are linked. My own Google calendars include the Jenkins Family Calendar (share by my husband and daughter), my Liz Work Schedule (shared by my assistant), and my Liz Personal Calendar (just me). I can see all of them on my phone or my computer. Google has some great tutorials on how to use the calendar feature and I have found it to be super helpful in keeping my life organized.
Enter every activity or commitment immediately as they come in. I enter the entire school calendar as soon as it is available (half days, off days, parent meetings, etc) so I don’t have to wonder about that when I’m making my work schedule. Consider a file that holds a copy of dates or activities you may need to reference.
3. After school activities. Create a zone where all gear goes to live. I like to use duffel bags or backpacks to corral everything needed for each specific activity. My daughter has a volleyball Nike bag that holds her shoes, knee pads, volleyball, ball pump and her team apparel. Everything gets washed and placed right in the bag so there is no hunting for the black shorts and the team shirt on game day. I’ve set up bags for clients for dance teams, soccer, cheerleading, baseball, etc. Some of the gear can be large so often using a place in the garage can be helpful for those items – preferably wall mounted to keep them off the floor or using a specialized system.
4. Lunches. Create a lunchbox zone if you pack lunches for your kids. I use Container Store fridge bins to hold yogurt tubes and cheese sticks, and pantry bins for crackers, dried fruit and more. Have everything you plan on sending for lunches together in just one spot in the pantry or in the fridge. Pre-pack as much as you can on the weekend, or the night before, so packing lunch can be super easy in the morning. I even fill the water bottle at night and stash it in the fridge bin so I can just grab it in the morning. I also pre-pack any dry items in the lunchbox the night before. If your kid eats at school, be sure to set up the payment online if you can or get the check ready to send to school for their account. Do as much as you can ahead of time so you don’t have to stress about it later.
5. School supplies. Get on your school website and find that school supply list. In our neck of the woods, most stores like Target or Walmart have a little kiosk set up with most of the lists available as well. Keep the list handy (either in print or on your smartphone). First go through last years leftover supplies and snag what you can. Then either do one shopping blitz at the store of your choice (I usually just hit Target and get everything in one shot to save time) or pick up items on sale as you see them (more money savings though not so much time unless you will be at those stores anyway). Stash all the items in a tub or canvas bag until the time comes.
6. Out the door. Set up your ‘out the door’ station. This is a designated location for backbacks, duffel bags for sports and activities, coats, shoes, etc. All the stuff kids need every day that end up tossed around the house. This can be a mud room with hooks and cubbies, a spot by the entry that has been configured to work or an area in each kids room that is clearly marked and easy to access.
7. Clothes. Check out the school clothing situation. My daughter outgrew every single pair of pants she owned and we just had to make a frantic shopping trip so she’d have jeans for a horse camp she went to! Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out what fits and what doesn’t. I recommend (and I know this sounds painful but it IS necessary unless your kid doesn’t grow) that you have your child try everything on and either purge, or save for the next kid, anything that doesn’t fit, isn’t ‘comfortable’, or is stained/ripped/grungy. Make a list of what is needed including sizes, styles and preferred brands so you can be prepared if you come across a sale or great deal. Don’t forget about shopping consignment – I’ll be having a post coming up on that very soon.
8. Medical. This is the time to get that physical. You’ll most likely need it for either registering or for fall sports. Update the immunizations and get a copy for your records. Do it now because, as you may know, getting those coveted after school time slots is a beast. Get the teeth cleaned (and the hair cut while you are at it), visit the orthodontist, and take care of any specific issues your child may be dealing with (allergies, ADHD, etc). Fill the prescriptions, take care of any lingering issues and get all of your records in order.
9. Homework. Set up a homework station for each child. Generally I recommend this being in a common area and not in their rooms
unless they are older and very independent. You can set up the cutest and most functional setting in their room and they will still want to work at the kitchen table. If you can swing it, a desk or table in the main area where you all hang out is best. Use a portable bin, stacking drawers or desk drawers to keep supplies. In addition, if the child is using an electronic device for their work, it is much easier to keep an eye on what is happening if they are nearby.
10. After School Care. If you know you need after school care for your child, be sure to check out options and make sure you are signed up and ready to go. You don’t want to be scrambling the first week of school. If you haven’t already done so, contact the school or provider and get set up now so you can smoothly move back into your school routine.
This is a lot that needs to happen but take it one step at a time. Use this as a checklist, or create your own.
I know I’m getting going on back to school this next week so I can relax and enjoy that first day back to school. Here’s to a great school year!!