Ahhhh, can you hear it? Stop. Listen closely. Is that the sound of an empty house? Oh my goodness! Are you actually at home – alone? That’s right folks. The kids are back to school and that morning cup of coffee hasn’t tasted this good in almost longer than you can remember.
Thank you Fall for showing up – right in time to save us from completely losing any semblance of sanity! While you sit for an extra 5 minutes, enjoying the sound of silence and taking another sip-o’-joe, you may begin to look around.
What you are looking at is the aftermath of summer:
Amidst everyone else’s debris, there are some of your own items that need attention, yet it’s hard to know which and where they are. Here are 3 suggestions from a Professional Organizer and mom of three grown children:
Take these three small steps and enter Fall confidently prepared to harvest the rewards of the season.
I saw every day as both an opportunity and an obligation to teach them about the world and life. From their first day home, I started talking to them about the beauty of nature, moral values and behavior, how to treat others, and why we lived the way we did.
Since I am wired to be the kind of person who becomes a professional organizer, I found life to be more messy and chaotic than I would have liked, and I had a sixth sense that it was only getting worse. And because I assumed my kids were wired at least somewhat like me, I knew they would one day benefit from knowing things like how to:
I wanted to teach them to enjoy and beautify the necessary activities of life instead of resenting them as an evil to be avoided until the last minute. Since education was a top priority, getting ready for school in an organized and happy way was part of that set of values.
And ending each year was a time for blissful relaxation: cleaning up together without hurry or deadline, purging and re-beautifying anything that was left in a mess. No matter what else might have been planned for the summer, down time to regroup and re-organize was also built in. No getting up and dressed in a rush. No obligations to any one or anything, just restful down time. We would snack and shop and play and bake at leisure. We would watch TV and clean up no-longer-needed schoolwork. We would update wardrobes and clean out drawers and closets.
Files would be created for any materials that might be needed the next school year. This was a time to take stock of materials and decide which products and systems worked well and might want to be repurchased in advance. We knew lists would be sent from school outlining what each teacher wanted for the next year, but we purchased whatever we could in advance to minimize time in the last-minute crowds. The girls and I did it all together in a spirit of leisurely family bonding and creativity. School, work, home-maintenance …these were all the ongoing art projects of living, enjoyed in an atmosphere of “eat dessert first.”
We always planned more private down time again before the beginning of school to gather focus and shop for remaining materials. We didn’t just race home from out-of-town the night before school, hoping someone would lend them a pen. We had been all but ready long ago!
There was nothing punitive about it; it was presented and experienced as a form of relaxation. To this day, when my daughters and I visit and want to relax at home together, we find something to improve. We joke that nothing tops a beautiful organizing product or system, or the joy of getting things done in advance.
OK, folks…it’s August. Any day now, the mail will arrive with teacher assignments and the excitement (and anxiety) of the new school year will start to bubble up!
While the kids won’t go back to school for a few more weeks, we all know the
planning for the FDOS (“First Day Of School”) starts much sooner, behind the scenes… The work done here will set you (and your kids) up for a successful transition from summer to school! Check out my Do’s & Don’ts…they save me the first day headaches…every year!
The relaxed bedtime routine during the summer can be a FDOS killer! One small adjustment, each day, in the week or two leading up to the start of school can ensure success. Start rolling back their bedtime by 15-minutes each night. Continue until you reach your desired school year bedtime. Later, when it’s time to get up at 6:30am, they are already adjusted. Bodies and brains are ready to go, move, learn!
Don’t sit on those must complete school and medical forms. Save yourself the 11th hour scramble…If your kids require ongoing medical monitoring (think daily meds or allergy related epi-pens), contact your school nurse at least 3-4 weeks prior to the start of school. There will be forms that need to be filled out by your physician before the start of school.
Summer clothes rule on the first day of school. Look back through your FDOS pics…most likely shorts, skirts, dresses, tanks and tees…I only buy a few things and then buy clothes when they do need them, closer to October. Give yourself a break and put Fall shopping on the back burner for now.
Create a homework station. Quiet, calm, comfortable and consistent is what you want. Pick up some extra supplies for your kids’ homework station…items you might not have around the house. For my twins, I purchased extra protractors, rulers and a dictionary. I knew that they would need them at home as well as school. Bonus: it eliminates the, “I left my protractor at school” excuse. Set them up for homework success with a “homework caddy”. Stock it with pencils, glue sticks, crayons, rulers and anything else they may need to get their homework done. I also make a color coded file for each of them that stays at the homework-station. When they come home, they put any important papers, that need to be reviewed, in their folder. Everything they need….is within reach.
School makes kids hungry! And they need good fuel to keep their bodies and minds moving. Give them easy access to healthy snacks (for lunches and after school) by prepping your pantry. I prefer to use clear bins so they can see what’s inside and they can grab and go. The clear bins make also make it easy for me to see what’s inside so I know when to restock. I can also see what they are eating and what they aren’t.
Take some time to enjoy the last days of summer leading into the first day of school. Plan ahead and save time, every day, for good quality family time. Remember that all of the emotions that you are feeling….the stress, excitement, anxiety, fear….well, your kids are feeling that too! Make your home and the days leading up to school a safe, calm, comfortable space to quell the Back To School nerves. Talk to your kids about how they’re feeling, spend quality time and enjoy each others company before the craziness begins!
Need more inspiration? Want to see these tips & more in action, at my own home? Click the link below for a sneak peek video into this professional organizer’s back to school setup:
At the end of the school year, there are three things that are a given.
Here’s help for all of those papers:
Just because your kid’s papers come home in one bag doesn’t mean there is just one single type of paper. There are a few different types of papers, and each one needs you to do something different to them. Let’s break it down.
Can you think of any other types of paper that you need to keep?
Don’t bother keeping school papers to pass down to the next kid. When their time comes, their teachers will have their own way of presenting a learning concept.
I recommend keeping recent school directories with #2 above and older school directories in #3 as keepsake items or not at all.
The half-pile I mentioned? I also end up with summer workbooks or skills packets. These might be things you buy or things that the teachers send home. They might include summer reading lists and reading tracking charts. Do yourself the favor of telling your kiddos about them, setting goals, and letting them work through them at a regular pace during the summer. We’ve had a routine of doing a couple of workbook pages each day. This year, we’re giving our kids a weekly packet to complete at their own pace. Either way, I’m grateful for the unused learning resources that the teachers sent home.
How long does it take to get through all the school paperwork? Realistically, it can take less than an hour per kid to sort into these categories and purge. It might take up to another hour to select and digitize the artwork that you’ve saved all year. If it takes much more time, you might be overthinking it. Your child — even elementary school children — can help you with this task. They’ll love telling you about all the amazing stuff they do at school.
If you haven’t unpacked that backpack yet, now is the time to dive in, sort the papers into the categories above, and reclaim your kitchen counter from school papers that have built up all year long.
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Can you believe another school year has come to a close? They just fly by. Although it’s the last thing on most mom’s and dad’s minds in June, come late August, preparing for ‘Back-to-School’ can be a hectic time to recon with.
As we begin the second month of summer, I want to share my annual routine in addressing this issue. Although, as you’ll see, I choose to get an early start; you still have the luxury of setting aside less than an hour to make the transition from summer to ‘Back to School’ stress and hassle free.
With that being said, I always use the last day of school as my barometer to get all my boys’ school supplies sorted, purged, donated, reorganized, and stored away until September. I’ve found few people that do it. Most wouldn’t even consider it. Believe it or not, being organized the first day of school starts with a little ‘to do’ list the final day of the current school year!
In our house, the last day of school signifies the official start of summer, and as you can imagine, in most every household, the excitement is palpable. Each year, I pick the boys up at school which allows me the opportunity to see how excited they are and the smiles on their faces when the bell rings and they charge out of the school. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye to friends, teachers, and classmates. Going out to lunch continues the euphoria, and this is where I set the expectation of going home and organizing their school supplies for next year. Realistically, who would want to contend with this the last day of school? But, from start to finish, it only takes about fifteen to thirty minutes.
The first decision is to ascertain if their school bag is still in good enough condition to weather next year. If so, it is cleaned out and stored in our coat closet until September. If not, it is cleaned out and put in our donation pile. Moving on, the purging continues with pens, pencils, pencil cases, rulers, scissors, crayons, markers, folders, etc. The rule of thumb is trash, donate, or keep. Trash is immediately taken out, donations are put in our designated donation pile, and anything that can be used in September is stored in the school bag for next year. If their school bag is being donated, then, the supplies are stored in either a zip-lock bag or container until September.
You’ve only just read this. Yet, aren’t you breathing easier knowing when Summer ends, ‘Back-to-School’ is on auto pilot? Have a happy, safe, and enjoyable summer.
Do you struggle trying to accomplish everything you want to get done in a week? Are you always asking yourself “where does the time go?” Are you always running late for appointments? Instead of trying to keep it all organized in your head, start a time management system for yourself by using a calendar (digital or paper, whatever your preference), a Day-Timer, or even an excel spreadsheet will work.
Remember school schedules? The week is scheduled by the day, classes with start and end times are filled in first and the remaining time is what you have left for the week. Start with your non-flexible commitments, such as; work, and then plan the other activities or tasks by the days and times available in the space you have left. Block out the amount of time each commitment, task, or activity will take and include travel time if necessary. This will visually put your time available to accomplish your tasks for the week “at a glance” and into perspective. This is imperative for getting a handle on your time management schedule. If there are overlapping commitments and a shortage of time available to get everything accomplished, you know it’s time to reorganize your week.
Keep in mind, you do need to sleep, so only schedule your time during your realistic waking hours. Each day follow your day’s schedule of events to know where you have to be and when. Then when emergencies crop up and they will, you will have a much better handle on where to reschedule the lessor priorities.
Don’t overbook yourself. Be realistic, allow for travel time and most importantly don’t forget to allow for “down-time”!