20+ back-to-school (or off to college) tips to keep you and your family organized
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
It's back-to-school and back-to-college season, so we wanted to share our favorite Neat Little Nest organizing tips and ideas to help you and your family ensure a smooth back-to-school transition this fall whether you kids will be learning in person or online.
embrace a morning routine
Morning routines can set you up for a very successful day. While each day is different with the tasks, action items, and events varying, having a routine helps provides structure making it easier for your mornings to flow more smoothly. To dig in more, check out our blog post on the power of routines.
select outfits one week at a time
One way both you and your kids/teens can save time in the morning is to choose your outfits one week at a time. One way you could keep selected outfits organized is to hang the outfits in a section of your closet with hanging tags labeled for each day of the week or like they did here on mamanotes blog. If you don't have hanging space, you could clear out one drawer or a shelf in the closet and divide it up for the different days of the week.
post a schedule where everyone can see it
Our family does have an electronic calendar with each member's activities listed for all to know, but we've found it extremely helpful to have a physical schedule in the kitchen as well to keep us on track. While we use a chalkboard planner for our family, there are a range of options for you to choose from that could fit your personal style.
hang a school checklist for younger students
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. 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 the template above for free.
snag a free student planning binder for older and college-bound kids
If you have older kids or college-bound kids, you might want to snag a free student planning binder to have them try out to keep their schedules and homework organized. One free planner I saw and liked is from the Shining Mom, link here.
create a breakfast station
One way to increase self-sufficiency with your kids is to create a breakfast station where they can grab and make breakfast for themselves. You can set aside one shelf in a lower cabinet or even a drawer to do this, just make sure it's organized at kid height.
organize and stock up the pantry
Having an organized pantry helps in so many different aspects of your life from meal planning to meal prep to school lunches and beyond. If you haven't organized your pantry already, 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 be ready by the end of the weekend.
If you have a child headed to college, consider assisting them in making a mini pantry in their dorm or apartment so they can access quick meals and snacks easily.
meal plan one week at a time
Planning your meals ahead of time can save the headache of having to think of a family meal on the spot after a long day of work. I recommend planning meals based on the activity level of the kids for the week. If a framework helps you plan like they do for me, check out the Neat Little Nest weekly success planning printables.
organize the entry or mudroom before school starts
In their role as gateways to a home, mudrooms and entries are transitional spaces where a home’s resident(s) can shrug off backpacks, bags, purses and jackets and remove footwear before entering other parts of the home. Depending on an individual house’s design, they may also function (and usually do) as catchalls for hats, mail, pet leashes, and a landing zone for sports equipment. Organizing these spaces before school starts helps you start the school year fresh. For more tips on how to do this, you can read our blog post breathing new life into your entryway.
organize old school supplies before buying new
The local stores will have you convinced that you need to buy everything new for the upcoming school year. I'm here to tell you that it's just not so. Before you head off to buy anything new, take stock of what you already have. Our Neat Little Nest post on decluttering and organizing school supplies can help. Same goes for college-bound kids. Resist the urge to buy your college-bound kid piles and piles of supplies.
organize and stock the backpack
Organizing and stocking the backpack takes on a new turn this fall with COVID-19. So in addition to making sure backpacks have a stash of pencils, post-it's and folders, make sure to make a spot in their backpack for hand sanitizer and a mask (or two).
organize tech for mobility
One way to optimize that mobility is to use a grid to hold your electronics in place. This way, you can pack them up when you're finished. This is a wonderful organization tool for college bound students as they can take it with them to the library, lecture hall, dorm or other study area.
create a homework station and/or caddy
School work will continue to look different in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If your kids will be physically returning to school in the Fall, having a homework station at home can be helpful. If your kids will be learning virtually or following a hybrid model, creating a more permanent learning station will be important. You can read Neat Little Nest's top tips in our blog post focused on at-home learning tips.
For college bound kids, a homework station will also be essential and should include a flat surface for writing and good lighting. Likely more important is mobility, so we've curated some of our favorite tools to create mobile work stations.
create a "home" for library books
Got library books? One way to help your kids from losing those books is to designate a bin or shelf just for library books. Making a simple label for a basket or shelf is all that you need to create their home. With so many label-making options available, the options are endless so get creative!
be ready for incoming keepsakes
Back-to-school season is the perfect time to create a memory box if you don't have one. It's simple to create and saves you stress during the school year. The supplies you need are a plastic file tote, hanging files and the Neat Little Nest labels. To personalize the bin even more, you can fill out and add All About Me printables to the bin each year.
College kids also collect a lot of momentos, so designating a small bin in the dorm room or the apartment for keepsakes makes packing up easier when school is finished.
file fold clothes to save space in drawers, while packing and when doing laundry
File folding clothes is a helpful way to display and organize your clothes in your drawers, but it's also an amazingly space-efficient way to pack clothes for college-bound kids as well as makes it easier to put clothes away from the laundry basket. Read our Neat Little Nest blog post on the art of folding that includes a how-to video.
make laundry mobile for college-bound kids
If you have a child going off to college, help them select a hamper that works well in their room, but can also travel well to the laundry area/room that is likely a walk from where they live. I've curated some of my favorite mobile laundry hampers.
create a make up station or mobile make up kit for your teens and young adults
Bathroom sinks can become very cluttered when they are the holding place for numerous face products and make up. One way to simplify this organization is to create a make up station for their room by a mirror and create a mobile make up kit. See our favorite make up organizing products in the Neat Little Nest shop.
simplify the cleaning caddy for college bound kids
If you're helping your college bound child create a cleaning caddy, take the less is more approach and get cleaning products that do double duty (or triple or more!). One bottle of a castile soap can be used to wash your hair, your body, your dishes and the kitchen sink. A reusable dusting wand makes back stock product unnecessary. A 2-in-1 lightweight vacuum makes cleaning up small and larger messes easy. See our favorite cleaning supplies.
follow a "don't put it down, put it away" philosophy
This philosophy can be easier said than done. Younger children will need help and reminders to learn this as well as good examples set by their parents. This can also help college bound children as they will be able to concentrate better on studies when they can easily find their things when they need them and have enough space to learn.
reset your space each week
As a professional organizer, I'm often asked what is the one thing I do to keep my home organized and tidy. My answer is usually the same - The Weekly Reset. By resetting your house (or dorm room or apartment) back to baseline each week, it helps set you and the people you live with up for success for the week ahead. Read our Neat Little Nest blog post on the weekly reset and download a free checklist to get started this week!
take the pressure off
If you're feeling excess pressure to get everything done before the first day of school, take the pressure off by giving yourself some extra time to finish it all. Prioritize the tasks that must happen before school starts and set the other important, but not urgent tasks aside until later in the Fall.
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