It’s hard to believe that another school year is well underway. This is always a hectic time, for parents AND kids, and most of us start out with the best of intentions. We’re going to keep the lunchboxes in check, backpacks free of half eaten sandwiches, know where all the hats, gloves and mitts are, and keep track of the homework, right through until June, right?
It IS possible! The key to establishing a good routine and staying the course, when it comes to being organized, is to start that way. Here are some practical and easy-to-use suggestions to make sure that your good intentions remain real.
Inventory the “Stuff”
In order to keep things organized, you need to know what ‘stuff’ needs organizing. After the school year starts, you’ll have a good idea of what the kids are going to need and what they don’t, so you can make better decisions about what needs to be in the front hall closet and what can be stored for later on in the year.
Go through current school supplies and clothes you still have from last winter, as they might be useable again this season. Winter coats don’t always need to be new, unless their arms are hanging out by inches!
Save money on clothes for winter and spring by organizing a neighborhood clothing swap. Set aside gently worn items that the kids have outgrown or no longer wear and swap clothes with other families in your neighborhood, school, or church.
Delay school clothes shopping until at least October. Retailers oftentimes offer deeper discounts after school has started. Buying clothes in off-peak seasons will also save some money. For instance, buy winter clothes in April when stores are making room for summer stock.
Always keep an eye out for specials and deals. Social media is a good place to monitor for deals from your favorite stores. Make sure that you are watching their sites for pop-up sales and discounts for the things you need or need to replace, throughout the year.
A solid routine, once acquired, can make all the difference for getting things done and not losing essential items!
Set up an organization system for school clothes to avoid mad scrambles for finding each piece. Get your child’s closets organized so that outfits that are appropriate for school and the current season are front and center, matching tops and bottoms are hanging together, and all the necessary accessories are handy and have their own space in the closet.
Get into the habit of going through their clothes regularly—say, every three months or so—to see what they’ve outgrown so that you can donate those pieces. This is also a great time to make sure that the clothes they’re wearing currently are seasonally appropriate; you can put out-of-season clothing away in another closet designated for this, or into the back of their existing closet, rotating them forward as needed.
A successful routine also includes having your kids pick out their school clothes and pack their knapsacks the night before. This will help avoid the morning scramble and inevitable “I have NOTHING to wear” shriek from at least one child! It also avoids a frantic phone call from the school because someone has forgotten an essential assignment or book report! It’s important to involve your child in this process, as it is a great way to give them some control over their morning routine.
Along with books and clothes, get into the habit of preparing lunches in advance. Preparing these ahead of time and popping them into the fridge eliminates stress and rushing in the morning, allowing more time to actually enjoy breakfast. The same goes for after school snacks: portion them and place them in the pantry for kids to grab as an after school treat. If your kids are doing it all themselves—making lunch and so on—get them started on the good habit of doing it in the evening. It makes mornings so much more pleasant for everyone!
Do they need sports gear at or after school? Establish a routine where soiled gear is placed in a laundry basket (instead of left in the bag), gear is stored in an appropriate closet, and everything is ready to grab and go the morning they need it. Instead of folding and putting away athletic clothing that is needed regularly, get some storage baskets or bins, one for each child, that stay in the laundry area. The kids can put the dirty stuff in them, which you now know are priority, and can pick up the washed jerseys, socks, etc., from the basket or bin the night before they need them.
Having a routine for doing homework helps with getting it done efficiently and with a minimum of distractions. If you can create a space that is designated for homework, you can keep it stocked with whatever they’re going to need, and even keep an eye on things getting done, rather than video games being played!
Give each child a place for important school materials. A basket near the front door is a great way to make sure that any extras that aren’t kept in the knapsack are easy to see and grab. House keys, for example, for older children?
Activities and Schedules
Having a family calendar or noticeboard that everyone can see and have access to will help everyone know who needs to be where and when. Whether digital on your technology and shared with the family, or old school paper and pen or whiteboard, creating a monthly calendar that has family-focused events like games, teacher conferences, and winter concerts will help keep everyone on track. Review the calendar once a week, with everyone present, so each person knows where they need to go and when.
If you’ve never done it before, this is an idea worth considering: carpools. A solid carpool system can be a saving grace for overwhelmed parents with kids who need to get places after school. Setting up carpools with parents who have kids going to the same school or activities just makes sense and will lighten the load for everyone.