It's hard to believe it's already time for kids to be heading back to school, but alas the summer season is winding down. Since the return to school is almost upon us, we wanted to share Neat Little Nest's 5 strategies to help you and your family ensure a smooth back-to-school transition whether your kids will be learning in-person or online.
These strategies are ones that I personally know are extremely helpful in cutting down both the mental and physical clutter that can surround back-to-school time.
organize old supplies before buying new ones
Local retail stores will do their best to convince you that everything must be "new" for the upcoming school year, but honestly why dole out hard-earned dollars if you already have existing supplies that fit your needs? To save you both time and money take stock of what you already have on hand before purchasing new school supplies.
The first step is to gather all the school supplies you have in your home currently like notebooks, pencils, paper, sticky notes, index cards, et al and place them all in one central location. This allows you to visually see what you have, both in quantity and quality rather than guessing. Markers that have lost their color? Broken crayons? Pencil nubs? Obviously you can toss those. Here are some of Neat Little Nest's favorite organizing containers for school supplies.
If you are working from a school-issued supply list, check off what you already have and circle the items that remain as gaps so it is clear what is still in need to fulfill the list.
For more tips on this topic, check out our Neat Little Nest post on decluttering and organizing school supplies. The strategies in this post apply for students of all ages.
organize fridge + pantry for easy breakfasts, lunch-making and snacks
One way to increase self-sufficiency in your children is to organize high-use kitchen spaces like the fridge + pantry so it's easy for them to make their breakfast in the morning and their take-to-school lunch and allow for them to grab an after school snack.
Without a clear system that is labeled and maintained, kids struggle to know where to find things. And is often the case, when they are challenged with a task it can become a sore pain point for all parties involved. Spend your energy helping teach them to become independent and an active participant in their daily routines. These life skills will carry them far in their adult life.
One of the ways you can set them up for success is by creating a station where they can make breakfast for themselves and set up the pantry in an accessible way so lunch making items are at a reachable level for them. If you don't have a large walk-in pantry, set aside one shelf in a lower cabinet or even a drawer, just make sure it's organized at appropriate kid height. Fill a bin with a variety of kid-friendly snacks so that they can help themselves when they get home.
If you have a child headed to college, consider assisting them in creating a mini pantry in their dorm room or apartment so they can access quick healthy and nutritious meals and snacks readily.
If you haven't organized your pantry, the back-to-school season is a great time to do it. You can follow Neat Little Nest's seven steps to organizing your pantry and voila, have an uncluttered and functional space for one of the busiest areas of your home.
create a flexible learning space for virtual education and/or homework
It is likely that school work may continue to look different in 2021/2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If your kids will be physically returning to school, having a dedicated homework station can be helpful. If your kids will be learning virtually or following a hybrid model, creating a more permanent learning station would be important as kids learn best with a structured and consistent environment (whether at home or in the classroom).
The key is to create a space that can flex with potentially changing needs, so carts on wheels and bins to move items from one place to another is always helpful to keep it contained. For more tips to learning at home, you can read Neat Little Nest's top tips in our blog post focused on at-home learning tips.
For college bound kids, good lighting and organizational bins that fit their study space is something to include in your purchases. Likely even more important is mobility, so we've curated some of our favorite tools to create mobile work stations.
keep your family on track with an easy-to-update command center
If you have kids, it can be hard to keep track of all of their activities. What's worked well for our family is to have a mix of written and digital calendars working together.
We have a digital family calendar where all activities live that is color coded based on which family member or members need to be at the activity. This helps us keep track of daily, weekly and more longer-term activities and plans.
We also have a command center in the kitchen that shows a seven day view. I put the major activities on the calendar and color code them for each of my children. Having it in the kitchen allows us a quick glance as we head out. The calendar I've been using and loving for over two years is this one from Circle and Square Decor.
I know through my own trial and error that finding a system that works for you and your family is crucial. I also know that consistency is the biggest component of any system working. To that end, if you're trying something new, get everyone on board and try it for several weeks before determining what's the best one for you. Often, a learning curve can be steep but like anything with time and use comes greater ease.
optimize your home entry for stress-free departures and arrivals
The home entry is not only a gateway into and out of the home, but entryways can be places where clutter collects because so many of the home’s resident(s) are dropping their backpacks, bags, purses and jackets and removing footwear before entering other parts of the home. Depending on an individual house’s design, these spaces may also function (and usually do) as catchalls for hats, mail, pet leashes, keys and a landing zone for sports equipment. Because of their importance in the home and their tendency to collect clutter (and chaos), finding a process that works for you in your high-impact entryway can be worth the time.
For a more detailed post on transforming your entryway, you can read Neat Little Nest's blog post called breathing new life into your entryway.
As the dog days of summer wane and you and your family prepare for the start of a new school year, adding these systems and strategies into your daily structure can significantly streamline and ease the morning rush and mitigate the after school clutter that inevitably happens because life happens.
Want more back-to-school inspiration? Check out our 20+ back-to-school and college tips that includes links to some of our favorite back-to-school organizing items.
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