Are you the parent of school-age children? If you are I would like to talk to you about the end of the school year.
“What? Why? It’s August!” You may protest.
Don’t I know it, but that’s exactly why I want to have this chat. You may not remember last May. You probably blocked it out, and I certainly don’t blame you, but let’s look back. Did you stagger through the gauntlet of spring concerts, parties, field trips and teacher appreciation week only to find yourself coughed up on the shores of June exhausted and twitching? With your last breath did you swear, “Next year we are going to be more organized”?
Well, I’m sorry to remind you, it is August, which means the drumbeat of back to school is growing ever louder. I know there are some of you who can’t wait to get back on a schedule and get everything organized, but for many of us, organizing anything is a struggle! Don’t fret though, we’re here to help!
If you are struggling to establish order in your entire home, you may have a to-do list so long, it makes your head spin. Yes, organizing in other areas of the home builds the overall effect, but for now let’s focus on the task at hand and keep it as simple as possible. What are we looking at?
- Coats, backpacks and lunch bags
- Shoes or boots, mittens and hats (for those in cold parts of the country)
- A place for kids to do their homework
It may seem like a lot, but if you break it down, you really only need to get a few systems in place to have your children coming and going with ease.
Now of course a lovely and well-appointed mudroom is the answer to nearly all of life’s issues, but not every home has one. Don’t let that stop you from establishing some order.
Here is a spacious mudroom, but even if you took away the generous storage on both sides of the room, you could still work with that small wall to the left of the door.
Whatever space you have to work with, the most important thing is to help your kids learn to:
- Hang up their coat and backpack
- Empty their lunch bags
- Put away their shoes and papers
- Do their homework as soon as possible
Your job is find places for all those things. You may need to think outside the box, but you can do it.
A place right by the back door is ideal, but that may not work in your house. Look around and be creative.
With younger children it’s really important to have hooks at a level where they can reach things themselves.
This spot has everything: hooks for backpacks, folders for papers and a family calendar.
This was the system I had for papers at our old house, because I couldn’t handle a filing cabinet. Each of my kids had a basket, and I had one too. Papers I needed to read or sign went in mine, and school papers we needed to hold on to went in theirs. To the left was our tiny mudroom. To the right, just around the corner, I had a monthly and weekly calendar on the wall. There were three separate spaces, but this worked beautifully for us.
You may not have an entire closet free, but all you need is a couple of folders and a calendar.
Remember, function is the priority over form. Pretty folders are nice, but a safe place for papers is the priority.
In place of hooks, consider a row of baskets or totes. Assign one basket to each child. My messiest child hauled everything around in his backpack. We set a chair under his hooks and on it we placed a sturdy tote. He hung up his coat and hats. Kicked his shoes under the chair and threw his enormous backpack in the tote. It wasn’t as tidy as my other children’s spots, but it kept his things together.
Don’t forget the lunches. Part of your children’s routine should be emptying their lunch bags and putting them away — wherever you decide.
Finally kids need a place to do their work. This is a lovely loft dedicated for study, but not everyone has that luxury of space. Just think where it will work for your children to study. At the kitchen table? On the floor of the living room? In a small study nook? If you have more than one child, can your kids study in the same place?
Sit down with each child and figure out a place that works for him or her.
- The week before school begins, go over the routines.
- The night before have them set all the things they need in their places.
- The first afternoon home, stay on them to follow the new systems.
- Make the first week like boot camp with the evening and afternoon routines.
Stay upbeat and cheerful, and decidedly matter-of-fact. It may help to write a short list for the before-bedtime and after-school routines. In the early days, you may need to patrol things, but you’ll be surprised how quickly the habits take hold.
Take a little time now to get these systems ready and then go enjoy the rest of summer, secure in the knowledge that this year you really are going to be organized.
What about you? What’s your greatest back to school struggle? Comment below and let us know!