8 Tips to Get Your Family Back-to-School Ready
Sweet summer seems to fly by so quickly every year, and then BAM -- it’s fall. As I’m writing now, I am feeling a cool summer breeze with a hint of fall crisp air coming through my screens. How does this happen? There is one part of me feeling sad because our summer seems so short and I love the warmth, sunshine and fun activities. Then there’s another part of me (the working parent side) which is shouting from the rooftops because we can all get back to a consistent routine. With the change in weather and routines comes a need to get organized.
As you read this, you may be nodding your head. You know the drill — swapping shorts for sweaters, buying new clothes to replace the outgrown stuff, picking up strewn backpacks and sneakers in the foyer, and oh yes, conquering sports laundry and school papers!
Your stress level may be rising, and you just want to return to your easy breezy summer routine. I get it! I’m here with a few solutions to help get organized for fall and all that comes with it. These solutions are all tried-and-true tips tested over time, so you should not feel like you need to accomplish them all at once. Rather, take one at a time. Little victories are huge motivation. Trust me on this.
Here are 8 tips to get your family back-to-school ready:
1. Evaluate and purge summer and fall clothing
Now is the time to review both your summer and your fall wear — both for you and your kids. For your summer clothes, purge anything with holes, stains, doesn’t fit or you/your kids no longer like. Be honest with yourself. If you love it, keep it. And if it’s a maybe, pass it forward. When sorting your clothes, use post-it notes to categorize each pile. Pile names should be:
- Keep (wear now…there are still some warm late summer and fall days)
- Save (if your saving for a younger sibling)
Put your “keep” items neatly back into your closet, box up any “save” items, create a bag for the donations and a box for consignment and label that box with a “January 2020” date — typically that is when you can begin consigning. If you live northwest of Boston, Buttons & Bows, a consignment boutique for children and women, begins accepting spring and summer wear in early January. See a complete list of what they accept.
For fall clothes, I recommend doing the same thing. Some clothes from last season may no longer fit, be in style or something that’s enjoyed. Get rid of it! If you have fall and winter consignment clothing, get them to the consignment store in August! For jackets and coats, take the time now to wash or dry clean, if they weren’t in the spring.
2. Hang and fold
Now that you’ve evaluated what stays, goes and perhaps what you need to buy — it’s time to organize. If you hang clothing, clean out excess hangers and buy consistent hangers. Those wire dry cleaning and plastic hangers can quickly become unruly in your closet. I recommend slim velvet hangers. If you fold clothes, take the time to fold them all! And if you have kids, create a system that allows them to take more responsibility over their clothes: for instance, labeling drawers so that they can find and put away their own stuff. The goal here is to transfer some responsibility (and your time) from you to them!
3. Prioritize your laundry. Get a “Fast Track” bin
As it relates to clothing, laundry is another area that seems to pick up in the fall. In the fall, we are wearing heavier clothing, so it fills up the hampers more quickly. In addition, if you have kids in fall activities, laundry is more frequent and urgent. Have you ever dug through a dirty hamper 30 minutes before a soccer game for the game-day jersey? It’s not pretty. Say no more — I have a hack for you: the Fast Track bin. It’s a small bin that sits on top of your washer for time-sensitive washing. This is where your family members can put their regularly worn items for washing: think the leotards, sports jerseys, game socks. No more stinky game-day gear!
4. Create a command center
Have you ever tripped on a back pack? Perhaps followed by a pair of shoes? It seems as if kids just shed their stuff as they walk in the door from school. Reduce the likelihood of “shedding” by creating a command center. A command center is a designated spot where kids can drop (and find) their backpacks, jackets, shoes and papers. This could be in a mudroom or a foyer. If you don’t have either, find a spot in your home near an entry/exit point where you can hang a few hooks and place a few baskets. Designate a hook or two and a basket for each family member. In our home, we turned an office into a makeshift mudroom. With just a few hooks, a shoe rack, and a 9-bin storage cube, we now have a place for everyone's jackets, backpacks, hats and mittens. By creating a designated spot for each person, it creates accountability and a “home” for everyone’s stuff. To be real, kids may not put their things in the designated spot on the first try, but eventually they get into the routine. Repetition is the key!
5. Take control of school papers — now and forever!
Kids bring home a lot of paper! And it can feel overwhelming. The question I hear often — what should I be keeping and how should I store it? I’ve got recommendations on both:
- What to keep: Keep papers that capture your child’s personality and development at that moment in time, perhaps it’s a paper that lists their favorite things, a story they wrote, or art pieces they’ve created that reflect their personality or talent. Write their name and dates on the back so you can remember when it happened, and also keep track if you have multiple children! Be sure to keep their school and class photos, any awards, and special letters they received from a friend or teacher.
- What to toss: Worksheets, tests and scribbled drawings
Ok, now that you’ve sorted, how do you corral all of those papers? There are multiple ways: my favorite being a filing bin. I’ve found air tight filing bins to be brilliant for sorting and storing papers. If you have a lot of art, I also recommend a photo book — Artkive offers a service, or simply scan and load photos of the art to Shutterfly and produce a cost-effective book. Lastly, frame that art! Nothing adds more personality to your home then art made by your family members!
6. Managing the daily flow of paper
Managing incoming and outgoing paper is intense. Along with mail, which may be piled up after a summer of fun, now comes school papers. For the daily flow of papers, create an inbox/outbox to manage the flow of incoming and outgoing papers. Think incoming worksheets, tests, art, and outgoing permission slips and homework. Keep that in your command center. There are a couple of different ways to store papers, such as a standing file folder or a traditional inbox/outbox letter file. In our house, we use a simple file folder where the girls can drop their “home/school folder”. I’ll review the folders’ contents and place it back for them to put in their backpacks. Some families may opt to have one file folder for each child. Whatever works best for you! Now, for any papers you decide to keep — you can store them in your school paper storage bin (see Tip #5)! Can a get a fist pump?!
7. Simplify school lunch
Packing lunch for school can be an area of stress for many parents. Who else has a particular kid? Or multiple kids with different palettes? I happen to know one myself…. OK, so before you even put sun butter to a slice of bread, evaluate the lunch situation, with these five steps.
(1) Make a list with your kids of what they like — go online or use Pinterest to peruse the options
(2) Based on #1 make sure you have the right containers for those lunches. Buy the thermos, or perhaps the bento box to make those lunches work.
(3) Clean out your lunch boxes and water bottles from last year, and if necessary, buy new ones.
(4) Stock up on freezer packs
(5) Decide your lunch making process — will you make them at night or in the am? Or will your kids be responsible for packing part of it? Set expectations with your family now.
8. Win the snack attack battle — with healthy snacks, no less
The snack attack is a real thing. Kids come home from school, and it’s as if they haven’t eaten in weeks. Similar to lunches, take the time to evaluate and plan your snack game. First, clean out your fridge and pantry. Remove those hard granola bars and stale crackers from June which your family has decided they no longer like. Clear out anything with expired dates and wipe down your pantry and fridge.
Now that you have a clean start, create a snack system. I personally love the snack system in our house! This is where you designate some spots in both your pantry and fridge where they can grab snacks. Use bins, drawers, and labels to designate those spots. In the fridge, store grab and go items like yogurt and cheese sticks and cut up fruits and vegetables and place in individual bags or containers. I also store individual packs of snacks in the pantry for kids to grab. This system comes in handy when we’re running to activities or hosting a playdate!
Now that you’ve read this far, are you ready to take on the school year?! Or are you booking another week of Air BnB at the beach? Here’s my advice: in either case — don’t stress! Slowly conquer back-to-school organization. Pick one area that you want to focus and own that! Then when you successfully accomplish that — move on to the next. I want to see your victories! Send me your back-to-school organization accomplishment by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sharing at @thelighterhome on Instagram or Facebook. You’ve got this!