Back to school time can be stressful for everyone, especially parents. These organizing tips will get your house ready for back to school so you start the school year prepped, ready, and feeling stress free!
Whether you had a crazy summer full of vacations or are a full-time working mom who cobbled together camps to get through the summer, you probably need to transition your house from summer mode to school mode.
These organizing tips will help you get your house ready for back to school, and if you do nothing else you'll be ready for backpacks flying, surprise field trip forms, and random days off in October.
1. Create a command center
Every home needs a landing spot for all the business of the day. It's a place where you'll immediately hang up your keys, store the mail, and hang the dog's leash. AND where your kids will unload everything from the school day. Trust me, you DO NOT want backpacks to make it all the way to the bedroom. Unless your kids are teenagers, you will want almost everything that goes to school to live in the front of your house to prevent lost papers, missing sweaters, or rotting food at the bottom of the lunchbox.
Decide which items will be stored in the command center, and create space for each. At our house, we have hooks for backpacks and dance bags, an inbox for papers from school, a hook for jackets, and a basket for shoes.
Setting up this spot a few weeks before the school year starts is the best way to get your house ready for back to school and your kids settled into a routine with you. They can start to practice the habit of dropping everything once they get in the door.
What goes in your command center?
Here's what is located in my command center:
And here's what is inside the white cabinet:
2. Set up an in box AND an out box
Every paper that needs your attention needs an easy place to land.
• the inbox must be right inside the front door
• it should be accessible to the kids
• the system must visually prompt you (as in, it has to be SEEN)
I have seen all kinds of IN box systems, but what they are missing is the OUT BOX.
You'll need an OUT Box because once you see the paper and sign the form, you'll need a place to put it that form so your child can take it to school.
Otherwise, you have an inbox that becomes an outbox too, which means rifling through papers to figure out if you've signed everything. And I have a rule in my house, which is that I only look at paper ONE TIME, so once I look at it, I have to do something with it and put it in its proper place. This saves time and sanity.
So, set up an In Box-Out Box system that works well with your family.
In my house, I have a set of three clipboards. One is an in/out system for the Girl, one is for me, and one of the clipboards is a holding spot for things that need a visual reminder (like save the date cards).
The clipboard clip is the in-box. And on each clip there is a binder clip that is the out-box. Things clipped to the top of that binder stick out visually so I know there's something to take with me or send to school with my daughter.
The week before school starts, set up the in/out system you're creating for this school year and start talking to your family about how it's going to work.
Schools typically start sending you stuff in August, so there will be plenty of inbox items in the weeks prior to school for you to use to practice. Getting your house ready for back to school requires this!
3. Create a file folder system
Any back to school organizing system is going to help you deal with all that paper. Set up a system of file folders, ideally right at the door near the in/outbox, to store important papers.
In my house, I have a hanging file folder system on the wall by the front door. This is where I put most of the paper that comes into the house.
Some of these folders are temporary holding places for documents that have a real home in a binder or a permanent file, but having a folder by the front door allows me to process all that paperwork right away.
In my system, I have folders for bills, tax write-off receipts, coupons, a file called "to file" which is for papers that belong in the home or finance binder (stored in my office), and three folders for my daughter.
One is for her work, meaning artwork, report cards, and school work that I'd like to save for sentimental purposes. (I have been collecting all the myriad ways she has signed her name since she started writing, and I can't wait to someday frame them all together).
Another file is for her school, meaning rosters, calendars, uniform lists, and phone numbers. When I need to look something up, I automatically know it's here. (Tip: don't put things on the fridge like this unless they're a copy. They always get lost).
When you go through your in boxes, many of the papers will have to go out again, and others will need to be filed. This file folder system makes it easy to do all of this right in one place.
4. Update all your calendars
My most frustrating moments during the year are always when I've missed a random school day off and have to arrange last minute child care. Back to school organizing involves pre-empting these frustrations by doing a little prep work ahead of time.
To get your house ready for back to school surprises, get all those school dates on ALL of your calendars. I put school days off when I still have to be at work in BOLD in my calendars so I don't miss them.
It's also a great idea to inform other family members of important dates right at the beginning of the year too. If you're a two-home family, make sure the other parent knows the dates right away. Grandparents, babysitters, and other caregivers should get any pertinent dates too.
At the beginning of the school year, I always start my "BABYSITTING LIST" of dates I need coverage for. It lives on a sticky note on my computer's desktop and when I find childcare I bold the date. Now's the time to set up your system for child care BEFORE you have to scramble last minute.
I think any calendar system will do, but I like my write-on, wipe-off paint chip calendar that you can make with your favorite colors and a few large artwork frames!
5. Create a homework station
One clear sign summer is over is homework returns to your family.
Create a spot for homework that helps your child get their homework done first thing when they come home.
Whether this is the dining room table or desks in their rooms, summer probably has done a number on those spaces. Clear away the summer projects and get the space ready for work.
A homework caddy with pencils, pens, sharpeners, sticky notes, and tape helps define the space and get everyone excited about the shift to the school year. (I know not everyone is as excited as The Girl and I are about sticky notes, but do your best).
6. Create a library book station
Chances are, your child will be bringing books home from school. Couple that with the books you own AND library books from the local library, and there's bound to be some confusion.
In our house we have a designated space for library books. You can read all about our systems for the library, and maybe adopt a few of your own.
Our rule is that books from school stay in the back pack. Sometimes we will read them before bed, but they have to go back to the backpack to avoid confusion.
Same with library books, which live in a special bin in my daughter's bedroom.
At the end of the evening, before bed, encourage everyone to pack up for the next day, putting books into the right spaces.
7. Create a car caddy to make your life easier
Some of the toughest back to school organizing challenges happen in the car.
Create a caddy with pens, an extra notebook, glue sticks, scissors, and markers. You never know when that project needs sprucing up or someone forgets their binder. A notebook can last the day in a pinch so you don't have to go all the way home.
If your child is grooming challenged, putting some mouthwash, a hair brush, and some wipes in the car in case someone forgot an important part of the morning routine. 🙂
For me, it's forgetting (again!) to bring snacks when I pick her up. Or some snafu has us leaving late and no time for breakfast. (Many of our emergencies involve food, yes.)
Some of the toughest back to school organizing challenges happen in the car.
I have a stash of snacks in the car that she can't see but that I can distribute when we forget breakfast or she's hungry. If she could see and reach them, she'd eat them all on the way home and ruin her dinner. But having snacks available can be really helpful when the lunch you sent wasn't up to snuff and she's STARVING.
Get your house ready for back to school early!
Now's the time to get started getting your house ready for back to school. You want to start building these routines into your family's schedule and setting yourselves up with great habits.
Chances are the school will surprise you with a field trip notice only one day in advance, or your child will "lose" their best sweater in their backpack, but this year you'll be ready for ALL the challenges a school year can bring!