When I think of BACK TO SCHOOL, the first thing that comes to mind is BACK TO BUSY. I have to ask myself…”Are you really ready for this?” I’ve become accustomed to summer with its relaxed undertone. I’ll miss its bonuses and benefits: spontaneous outings at the pool, mom & daughter lunch dates that exceed an hour, vacations, flexible sleep-IN options, late breakfast/no lunch perks, picnics, water parks, family time, etc…
The reality is that summer can’t last forever, so in the process of mentally preparing for Back to School/Busy, a few descriptive words automatically fill my mind to help prepare for what’s ahead:
Alarms, Back-packs, Baths, Books, Breakfast, Carpools, Early Mornings, Filing papers, Good-byes, Hugs, Kisses, Laundry, Lunch-boxes, Piles of Paper work, Sanitizer, School Zones, Schedules, School Shopping, the list goes on & on….
As a mom, if my home is dysfunctional, it adds a layer of crazy to the naturally busy school days. Knowing what back-to-school holds, I’m focusing on certain areas of my home which need a little tweaking to help make the school year run more smoothly. Below are NINE simple ways to approach the first days, weeks, and the upcoming year of school:
#1 – Clutter from the Classroom
Classroom paperwork fills my countertops faster than anything else. As a mom who spends numerous hours in the kitchen, I don’t want to see papers on my counters. This has been a nagging problem in our home – so I’ve created a Mobile Filing System. I wanted something accessible and easy for the kids to insert papers before I filed them away. This is how it works:
- I purchased a 5-Tier Pants Hanger for $5.99 at Home Goods.
- Punch two holes in decorative folders and reinforced with paper re-enforcement circles.
- Use sturdy Paper Rings to attach to tiers. Hang on the side of a cabinet, command center wall, child’s door, etc.
Each tier swings off from the back, therefore, each child has a folder; perfect for quick deposits after a long day at school. I wanted a solution that was not obtrusive, gives the child ownership, practical and affordable. This easy solution accomplishes all that I was looking for.
#2 – DIY Caddy
At homework time, we often have just a small window of time to accomplish it all before dinner and extracurricular pick-ups and drop offs which have to be done. It’s a delay and a deterrent not to have the utensils needed to work, therefore, I’ve created a ‘homework caddy’, an attractive and affordable solution for their work space to help solve this problem.
To create your own, visit my tutorial!
#3 – Control Schedules with a Command Center
Family schedules get crazy with multiple children, especially when the kids vary in ages. Add extracurricular activities to the equation and you have a very hectic schedule. We keep everyone in the loop with a chalkboard command center. The calendar is a central point of reference for the family & works well to control all the moving parts.
PRO-TIP: We have tweens with phones. Instead of utilizing them for ‘text only’ we ask them to insert the family calendar into their phones with reminders weekly. This helps everyone be on the same page, as well as, teaches a bit of responsibility.
#4 – Menu Planning
Menu planning has saved us so much time, money, and stress during our busy weeks. The biggest benefit is that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner, or answer the question “What’s for dinner?” from the kids. Everyone knows what to expect.
On Sundays the planning begins with the grocery shopping. Some families utilize a menu planning service. One of my favorites is eMeals.com which plans your weekly menu and grocery list, according to your grocery store of choice based on the weekly sales. Families have saved on their grocery budgets immensely by using this service.
PRO-TIP: Read more about healthy meal planning on a budget here.
#5 – My Secret to Dinner… a HELPer
Recently we’ve started allowing a child to help with each meal. This has been a great help, as well as a fulfilling experience for whomever is assigned to that particular meal. Originally the goal was to assign additional help with dinner and to teach the girls some of the family recipes. It’s turned into something much more special; time spent together in the kitchen that creates sweet memories.
#6 – Chores/ Responsibility Chart
Kids have SO much to do during the year. Daily responsibility can be missed: feeding your animals, taking out the trash, putting on deodorant, brushing teeth, etc. Stay organized throughout the school year with these printable chore charts + daily responsibility checklists by Crystal Wilkerson.
#7 – RE-purposed desk to Laundry Table
Laundry has been a tough chore for our family. Clothes landing on the couch, multiple loads per day, lost socks, sibling clothes disputes, etc. Multiple schedules, sports activities and frequent wardrobe changes = a laundry challenge.
Back to school calls for a laundry solution. Recently I’ve given an old desk a new purpose. It’s helped with clothes not going from dryer-to-couch, but from dryer-to-folded-to-table. Having a space for clothes to land & fold has made a big difference in my laundry routine.
Each family member is responsible for picking-up their folded clothes and putting them away.
I use a wire basket to capture socks. The basket can be taken off and soaks are matched during a TV time program or breaks throughout the day.
#8 – Wall Tree
A place to hang school paraphernalia is essential. I use a wall tree we’ve purchased years ago. There are multiple solutions for many families; in the future we’ll use hooks for a cleaner home décor solution. For right now, this gets the job done.
#9 – Catch the Clutter
I love this metal drawer solution from the Container Store! Each family member has a drawer to check daily. The rule of thumb is if your drawer is full, it’s your responsibility to put away the items.
First day of school is one of those bitter/ sweet life moments. Watching your children pass a big milestone in life, pulls your heart in places that are both proud, as well as, sobering. A new grade level, new experiences, old friends… seeing your kids grow up before your eyes, year after year, are just parts of the back-to-school process and routine.
My hope is that everyone has a wonderful year; having those critical areas of your home tweaked with functional solutions helping your school year run a little smoother.
Benita Hampel blogs about home & life organization over at The Wizehouse. A former engineer, she’s blessed to be a WAHM, wife, and aspiring entrepreneur. She’s a lover of DIY, the DE-cluttered life, sewing for her girls, and creating systems which bring ease & energy to on-the-go family living! You can see more of her home organization tips on Pinterest and by following her on Twitter.