Updated: Dec 13, 2020
With June and July behind us, we've officially turned the corner to back-to-school season. For many parents, this back-to-school season is one filled with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, parents welcome the more consistent routine that comes with kids heading back-to-school. On the other hand, parents can feel overwhelmed by the volume of things they need to get ready before school starts. And, if getting everything ready wasn't enough, we need to say goodbye to Summer in the process.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, dig into my top 10 tips to help you declutter and organize your space, time and mind so you're ready for back-to-school season.
Take inventory + organize school supplies
Before you do any shopping, gather up all of your school supplies and take stock of what you have. Take stock of your paper, pencils, notebooks and other school supplies like backpacks and lunch bags. This step is critical. Without taking stock, you are likely to overbuy. While you are taking stock, make a list of the items you've learned you need through the process.
If you haven't designated a spot where school supplies live in your home, now is the time to do that too. Creating a home for school supplies makes it easier for you and your family to find what you need when you need it and when the supplies are scattered throughout the house, it is difficult to do.
Organize breakfast for self-service
Our role as parents is to teach our kids to be self-sufficient. One way to do that is to have them prepare their own breakfast. To set them up for success, designate a spot in your home where breakfast items live. Choose a space that is at a kid-friendly height and use bins and labels to showcase what goes where.
Simplify lunch-packing with prep
Many parents and kids alike have a love/hate relationship with making lunches. One way to simplify getting kids out the door on time in the morning is to simplify making lunches. One way to do that is to designate a spot in the kitchen for lunch bags and lunch packing items. This makes it easy for little ones to grab what they need.
Another valuable tip to simplify lunch-packing is by prepping food ahead of time. This can be as simple as getting all of your snack bars into a snack bin to pre-portioning fruits and vegetables for the week to packing the night before so it's ready to go in the morning. Whichever option works best for you and your family will take a little of trial and error, but one thing is for sure - a little lunch prep will go a long way to making the morning routine go a little more smoothly.
Declutter the kid's closet before you shop
Before you buy any new back-to-school items, I recommend you and your child declutter their closet and/or dresser before you do anything else. The first step is to take everything out of the closet/dresser and put it on the bed. Then, one by one select the items that you wish to keep and discard the rest (donate, hand down, recycle). While decluttering, write a list of the items you need for the upcoming school year.
Embrace weekly planning to prep your mind
If you and your family are having a hard time getting out the door each morning and you seem to be in a constant state of rushing, it might be time for you to embrace weekly planning to prep (and calm) your racing mind. One way to do that is to simply take the time each week to write down the major activities and meals for your family so you have a plan of action.
This way, when your mind begins to wander and race, you can simply refer back to your plan of action and get back on track. There are many ways to plan a week ahead from a digital calendar to an analog planner. Whichever you choose, pick one place one and plan to stick with it long enough to form a habit of weekly planning. According to European Journal of Social Psychology study conducted by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, it takes about 2 months to form a new habit, so give yourself some time to learn and practice this new skill.
As a bullet journal fan, I use a mix of the Neat Little Nest bullet journal template pages found along with simple bullet journal daily planning.
Set up a family calendar system
If you have an active family life, setting up a calendar system can be a life-saver. After years of trying different systems, we have landed on an electronic calendar along with a weekly chalkboard in the kitchen. They electronic calendar has all of the different activities color coded by individual and everyone in the family can access it. The weekly chalkboard in the kitchen highlights the lunch needs and weekly meal plans along with high-level notes for the family for each day (eg. mom is with a client, dad is working late, etc.)
Every families needs are different, so what works for one might not work for another. Continue to give different systems a try until you find one that works for your family. And remember, you'll want to give it a couple months of using the system to determine if it's working and a strong habit has formed to create a routine.
Designate a home for backpacks
If you've ever run around the house in the morning looking for backpack before the bus arrives, you know the value of that school item. One might argue that the backpack is the most important item a student owns. With that in mind, it's only fitting that this item should have a "home" in the house so your child knows where to find it when they need it.
And of course this means that they will need to be encouraged to put the backpack away in the same spot each day. And just like with adults, it will take repetition for children to form a habit of putting their backpacks away each night after school.
Encourage independence with checklists
It's hard for many adults to remember more than a few steps, so it's no surprise that it's difficult for children as well. If you're goal it to raise independent children, you will need to have them learn how to manage their tasks and time in the morning just like you and I.
One way to help them is to create a checklist of expectations for them before and after school. This way, when they are off track, you can gently nudge them back to the checklist rather than yelling orders for what to do next until they're out the door. You can download a free template that I use with my youngest here.
Be ready for incoming papers
If you haven't already created a memory box for your kids. Back-to-school season is the perfect time to do so. It's simple to create and saves you so much stress during the school year. The supplies you need are a plastic file tote, hanging files and labels. You can find a list of products following this link to the Neat Little Nest store.
Get a jump-start on the morning
Often a great morning starts the night before. By getting a solid bedtime routine as well as prepping as much as possible the night before can make a huge difference for how smooth the morning goes. Things you and your kids can prep include setting out the outfit for the next day, packing your lunch and organizing your back pack.