The Clutter Whisperers
Back to school!
After a really crazy, uncomfortable, challenging and often frustrating year and a half, many of our kids are (finally!) going back to school in person.
As exciting as this is, it’s often a very stressful time for parents! Getting school supplies, backpacks, prepping for after-school sports and activities, there is a lot to do.
Here are some proven tips to organize the whole process and de-stress your upcoming school year.
Get your supplies list from your school now. Many are on-line, some you have to wait for the first day to see what that particular teacher wants in their classroom. Amazon.com, Staples, com, Officedepot.com, Target.com and Walmart.com are going to be your best friends. As soon as you know what your kids need, order everything online.
School kids can be part of the shopping process, and pick out their notebooks, favorite pens and markers by choosing them online.
Whatever you do, try to skip the in-store shopping experience! The lines, the stress, the impulse buying, (“Mom - I’ve got to have THAT pen!),” worry of not finding the exact kind of notebook you need, while the kids get hungry, tired and cranky - this is a recipe for a major headache and potential meltdown.
As a veteran mom of the Back to School wars, I can tell you this is to be avoided at all costs!
Create a system now to manage the onslaught of paper ahead of you. You know you’ll have to deal with certain categories of paper – forms to fill out, forms to file, homework to do, homework to return, announcements, written papers/tests/reports and artwork to put somewhere.
Set up a command center near the door you use the most, where there’s a place for everything that’s easy to identify and access.
Keep in mind you’ll need short-term and longer-term storage! There are lots of ways to do this! Some of my favorites* include –
Desktop file system – file folders are actually sleeves to keep together little papers and things that might fall out of a regular folder. Everything is very easy to see and can be color coded, and it visually looks kind of nice.
Total Desktop Organizer – Has shelves for vertical notebooks, horizontal cubbies for sorting papers, and drawers for essentials such as pens, markers, paper clips, post-its.
6-Drawer Storage Chest - Has double latched 12" x 12" cases to keep papers and small items together, and a built in organizer top
IKEA Storage Shelves – My current favorite, as the shelves have lips and can be easily slide out to work on, then slid back in to manage paper clutter. You can put labels on each one for instant recognition.
Organizer File Box with Lid – These can be stacked, which is useful if you have more than one child to deal with.
Any storage system faced with dozens of papers every week will soon get overloaded, which is where most of us end up and start piling things on any available surface!
So you need to have places for the non-essential, non-current things to live. If you prep for this in advance, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort later.
Get some Sterilite plastic boxes and label them – Art Projects, School Reports, Memories. At the end of each week (or, OK, the end of each month) go through your command center and file papers in the appropriate boxes. Memories include things like, medals, certificate, pictures, ribbons and other non-paper items you want to save.
Then the command center is ready to receive the next batch! And at the end of the school year, you can sit down with your student and decide what you really want to keep, and take pictures (or scan) the rest for posterity.
Schedules and Calendars.
Having a central family calendar is essential, even if you already have an electronic version. Having info in one place that everyone can see, check and change as needed makes for better overall communication and coordination.
There are lots of ways to do this, from the simple to the fancy. Choose what best fits your budget and décor.
The most effective calendars are in a place that everyone passes by frequently – usually in the kitchen near where you hang coats and back packs. CAUTION – only choose the dry-erase option if you know you’ll keep up with it! And consider a multi-month option.
Younger kids may end up doing their homework in the kitchen or dining room. Regardless if you’ve set up a lovely desk in their bedrooms, somehow they always seem to end up in the kitchen!
Prepare for this by having homework supplies on hand – pens, pencils, calculators, rulers, whatever they’ll need. You may want to have a bookshelf where they can keep school books (if they don’t use them electronically). And maybe a power cord to accommodate laptops.
A little prep now will save you hours of searching for lost papers and the stress of not finding them.
Have a great year!
* These are just suggestions, choose at your own risk – I offer no guarantees or warranties for these items. And I don’t receive any recompense, these are simply things I would use myself.