It’s that time of year again: back to school! And whether you look forward to it or you dread it, it’s a time of transition, which in my books is the perfect time to get organized.
Chances are over the summer you forgot all about the last-minute lunches, the calendar chaos, the nonexistent school notices and birthday party bedlam, but before you get a harsh reminder of all the stuff that you looked forward to getting a break from when summer started, take this opportunity to get organized.
Answers to the 4 Most Common Back to School Organizing Challenges
Back to School Organizing Challenge #1: Last-Minute Lunch Making
Were you in the habit of making lunches in the late night hours or frantically slapping them together as the kids are dashing out the door? Lunches not as healthy or homemade as you would like?
You work hard to put a nutritious dinner on the table, why not save yourself time and embrace leftover lunches? If your kids have access to a microwave or dinner works cold, make extra servings and pack their lunch while you are dishing out dinner.
If your kids are old (or brazen) enough to reject leftovers, they are old enough to make their own lunch. Put them to work while you are making dinner. Set a few parameters, but don’t be too controlling. They gain the responsibility; you gain back the time – win-win.
Back to School Organizing Challenge #2: Calendar Chaos
There is the school calendar, after school activities calendar, play date calendar, work calendars and the ever so hopeful parent social life calendar. How on earth to you stay on top of it all?
If you are low tech, try large dry erase magnetic board. Use tape to mark out the calendar days. Use color-coded magnets for regular activities, like doctor’s appointments, teacher meetings, sports practices/games, etc, and use dry erase markers to write in the detail. Hang it near your front door or another place where your family congregates frequently.
If your family is high tech, share a family calendar through Outlook or Google calendar. Make it everyone’s responsibility to keep their calendar entries up to date. Remember that if you use a medium more fun for your kids (low tech when younger, high tech for older), you are more likely to get them to participate.
Back to School Organizing Challenge #3: “My Mom Forgot to Sign…”
Are school notices going missing? Are school items getting deposited all over the house?
Establish a “drop zone” either in your entryway or close to it. Designate a specific drawer or cubby for school notices or important school paperwork and give each child their own drawer or cubby for emptying backpacks before the contents get scattered throughout your home.
Make it a routine for you to check the notice drawer daily/weekly and put it on your child’s chore list to clean out their own cubby weekly. If you can, also designate a spot or hook for each child’s jacket and backpack.
These drop zones will not only keep things contained at the doorway (preventing stuff from piling up throughout the house), but with everything in one place, should also help you get the kids out of the house faster in the morning.
Back to School Organizing Challenge #4: Birthday Party Bedlam
30 kids in a class, 15 kids on each sports team plus the kids in the neighborhood. If you start to add up the birthdays and the time it takes to shop for presents and cards (not to mention they money), it is easy to see how birthday party’s become a source of stress!!
Get your kids involved in making cards versus buying them. Either with paper and scissors or with one of the online services such as American greetings or Send out Cards. Not only will these cards be appreciated more, but it will also save you the time and money from having to pick them up from the store.
Designate a gift closet or drawer and keep it stocked. Kids tend to gravitate to similar interests, so take advantage and buy multiples in different colours/styles/types, especially if they are on sale. Be careful to not buy too far in advance as we know the tastes of our little ones can change quite quickly.
Engage other parents. Chances are you are not alone in your frustration. Brainstorm ways to make birthdays easier – like homemade presents, donating to a cause or having experiences rather than stuff that only piles up. Stop competing to be the “coolest” parents and work together to give your children fun and meaningful birthdays without creating stress and more work that no one has time for.