Photo: Michelle Manske via Henry & Higby

They say a parents’ work is never done and with back to school around the corner that saying will definitely be even more true. In many ways, the end of the work/school day is really just the beginning between making dinner, signing paperwork, monitoring home work, cleaning out backpacks, putting art projects away and gearing up for the next day’s after school activities. And, while we can’t stop the chaos, we can give you a few tips for managing it and answering the school age question—what do I do with all the stuff that comes home after school?

  • Find a Dump Zone: The best way to start taming the chaos is to create a dump zone. It may seem obvious but the fact is that having one area in your home where the kids can put their stuff when they come home from a day at school or play will make a huge difference. If you don’t have one now, create one—preferably near the door they use to get in and out of the house—with (ideally) a bin and a hook for each child to use for their school stuff. This will cut down on the questions about where their things are and should help make wrangling them in the morning go a bit smoother.
  • Storing After School Gear: As kids get older and start doing more after school activities, you need to find a spot for sports gear. Ideally the dump zone (see above) would work for this gear as well but it isn’t always the case particularly in small apartments and as the gear and the kids get bigger. If the gear is too much for a spot near the front door, spend some time finding a spot elsewhere in the home to store it—a shelf at the top of the closet, under the coats in the coat closet, under the bed if that space isn’t claimed yet or even a hook in the hall. Until it has a home it will likely be thrown on the floor and in the way of the rest of the family.
  • Creating a Command Center: A large part of taming the chaos is handling the paperwork coming in from school, from doctors and after-school activities. This is where having your own personal dump zone—a parental command center so to speak—becomes important. A space with a paper tray or hanging file for each member of the family and the supplies you need to deal with it (think pens, stamps, staplers, etc.) so you can keep the paper moving along.
  • Archiving Art: Kid artists can be quite prolific so getting a handle on the art coming into the house on a daily basis can be a job in and of itself. Decisions need to be regularly made on how to display it, store it and archive it. We recommend getting your child involved in the decision making process each week and have them help pick the three pieces of art (or four or two—whatever your preference) that they are going to keep and which are going to be photographed before being removed from the home. Thankfully there are also a plethora of services available now for archiving art so you can create a book that can be referenced down the road. Check out these options for archiving your budding artists greatest hits so you can clear some of the clutter at home: ARTKIVECanvsly, and Art My Kid Made. For more in-depth artwork storage ideas, check out this story.