You've said it before: I'll be organized this year before school starts.
When your kids are about to embark on another year of books, supplies and choosing outfits, preparing for the year ahead can seem daunting.
Getting organized ahead of school starting can go a long way to alleviate (or at least reduce) stress, make it easier to keep your stuff together, and help everyone focus on their goals for the academic year.
Pick a couple of small changes that will make each day run much smoother. For example, get ready for tomorrow before you go to bed tonight. Schedule 30-40 minutes at night to pack lunches and backpacks, lay out your clothes, and decide on accessories. Will your kids need anything extra for class or after-school activities?
Review your calendar at the beginning of each week and focus on what is coming up - meetings with your manager or study group, after-school activities or dinner with your parents.
Homework requires few distractions. Designate a work area for your children. In that area, or near it, use a bucket or basket for supplies: a few pens/pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, sharpies, paper, stapler, tape, white out, a ruler, etc.
Generally, two categories of paper need saving: the papers that require our action or attention and those that should be kept for reference for future use. If stacking paper is your style, use a stacked tray and add labels. Choose a filing system that will help you stay organized.
Be cautious of choosing a system just because it looks cool. If you won't be able to maintain it, it's not the right system for you.
Store schoolwork and artwork with sentimental value in an under-the-bed bin. At the end of each school year, keep three of the best and toss the rest. Or better yet, take photos to add to desktop wallpaper art.
Regardless of how many people you have living under one roof, stay on the same page with a family calendar. Some prefer a digital one online, whereas others like a physical calendar in a common area that everyone can see easily, like on the refrigerator.
Experiment with a few calendar systems until you find the one that works best for all involved. It should include appointments, chores, emergency numbers, etc.
Become acclimated to the new schedule before you have to start it, including getting ready the night before. Wake your kids earlier the week before school starts so the first day doesn't come as a complete surprise. Make waking up early fun by planning a full-day activity where everyone has to get up early as if it were a school day.
Keep your calendar handy as you meal plan and write your grocery list for the week (and stick to it). We waste a lot of time and head-space thinking about what to make and what to eat on a daily basis.
Other easy tips to save time include eating leftovers for lunch, scheduling the time to do the laundry and not wasting time looking for a lost sock. There's no rule that socks need to match.
"Zone" weekly and daily activities into bags. Gym bags, soccer bags, bags for dance, baseball, swimming, etc. Add something unique to each bag to help quickly distinguish it from others. Keep the bags close to your exit door for all the activities throughout the week.
Keys, jackets, backpacks, shoes, purses, etc., need a place to go when you walk in the door. To manage incoming mail and permission slips, make the most of the wall space with a shoe bag-style organizer that can hold all kinds of different things. Label the pockets so everyone in the family can find what they need.
This is where you leave your "don't forget" list or anything you'll need for the day. Add low-hanging hooks for backpacks and small jackets.
Keep separate folders and bags with labels to identify the contents. Toss or recycle clutter and paper as soon as it's no longer viable. Use a box or bag near the front door for items to donate and fill it regularly. Remember that you don't have to keep everything that comes into your space.
There are lots of little changes you can make that will add up to big family savings: Sell back old textbooks, purchase online books and re-use office supplies just to name a few. Set up a carpool to save gas, pack your lunch and don't go back-to-school shopping without a list (and stick to the list). Remember, your local dollar store carries notebooks, folders, erasers, and even simple calculators for far less than large retailers.
Dr. Regina Lark is a professional speaker and entrepreneur who holds a Ph.D in Women’s History from the University of Southern California. She is also a professional organizer and founder of A Clear Path, which provides physical, emotional, and psychological support to people who wish to clear clutter and chaos from their lives.
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