I NEED SOME BACK TO SCHOOL ORGANIZING TIPS! MY HOUSE IS PHYSICALLY CHAOTIC!
Pencils. Papers. Socks. Lunch. Papers. Gluesticks. Snacks. Folders. Papers. Backpacks. Shoes. Schedules. Paintbrushes. Papers. Jackets. Books. And have I mentioned PAPERS?! No matter the grade of your daughter, I’m sure over the next 9 months, she and you will accumulate a mountain of papers; some you will immediately dump, others you will need to fill out and return, and many you will not have space to keep around but they will riddle you with such guilt that they will remain in your home, strewn about, causing you daily anxiety.
Once you deal with the paperwork overflow, you still must get lunches prepared, backpacks filled, homework assignments completed, afterschool snacks readied, children and adults properly clothed each day, and still schedule in quality family time.
My apologies for overwhelming you, but please accept my apology with these FIVE tips for organizing the physical space in your home to minimize that daily stress and maximize your school year enjoyment!
1. Walk around your house. Then, sit down and think. And then, walk around your house again with others and sit down and think again.
Yup. You read that right. I’m not jumping into offering you micro-specific ideas for organizing the physical space in your house. I’ve never seen your house. And I’ve never lived your actual daily routine. So, the first “tip” here is to take a tour of your own space. Walk around your house and take it all in. Check out the organization of your kitchen, the flow from your front door to the living room, the layout of your children’s bedrooms.
Now sit. Create a list of all of the things your family needs to complete daily. Does your daughter take lunch to school daily? Does she need to have cleats, her uniform and a hair tie for soccer after school two days a week? Does she need a computer for homework everyday? Does she bring home art projects on a weekly basis? Does she need a quiet spot to complete her nightly reading assignments? Once you have created your list, sit down as a family to re-examine what your daughter’s school needs are for this year.
2. Create zones that help your daughter’s daily routine. Once you have created your list of school needs, as a family, take another walk around your house for a second time. This time, however, think specifically about the flow of your child’s day. Once that alarm bell dings in the morning, what does she need to do in between waking up and starting her day at school? Does she get dressed first? Does she immediately brush her teeth? Is eating breakfast the first thing she does? What does she need before heading out the door for school? Where can she find her backpack? What items typically go into her packed lunch?
Use this information from your walkthrough to consider her specific needs and help her to create functional zones around the house. Notice the key words - HELP HER. Every parent’s goal is to raise children to eventually become independent. In order for that to happen, give her opportunities to be involved in processes that affect her.
Sketch out those physical zones your daughter might need. One example might be a homework zone. Together, you two may decide to create a space that includes the pencils, calculator, paper, and rulers that she needs in a basket that lies under a large calendar in which to write important deadlines. Next to her basket of supplies, you two may find that a hook on the wall is the perfect space for hanging her backpack. Because she often has papers that need your attention, you may decide to have a couple of boxes available nearby - one box to be filled with papers that you will need to sign or otherwise deal with, while the other box will be for items to be archived. Don’t over-complicate the zones. Only create zones that work for her and that she needs, don’t any useless zones that would just add clutter to your house simply because you found an example of them on Pinterest!
3. Create zones that help you, as the parent, with your daily routine.
Now that you have zones in place for your daughter, consider doing the same for yourself. Similar to your daughter’s zones, create spaces that make your work easier and more accessible for you. Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Do you have your coffee in the pantry, coffee pot on the counter, filters in a drawer, and your sugar on the shelf? Can everything be placed, instead, in a gorgeous basket that is easily reached when needed? Can your morning routine be simplified if you created a space for your next day’s outfit?
4. Limit choices!
Dump it! Do a back to school cleansing. This is particularly helpful tip when it comes to looking at your and your daughter’s wardrobe. If your daughter is faced with so many clothing choices each day that she finds herself sifting through her t-shirts for several minutes before being able to choose one, then it’s time to let go of some items that no longer, as organizer guru Marie Kondo would say, “bring her joy”. Help your daughter go through the items in her wardrobe that no longer fit or that she simply no longer will wear. Though you may feel reluctant to get rid of items you spent good money on, if she isn’t choosing to wear the items, they aren’t getting put to any use and are taking up precious moments each day as she has to sift through those unwanted items. Do the same for craft supplies needed for school. Dump the crayons that are too small to use, dried out glue sticks, and the snacks you’ve set aside that she refuses to take to school.
5. Don’t “set it and forget it”.
It would be so great if everything could just be set to “self-drive” mode. But, I’m afraid, it can’t. And, even if it could, we are living beings, our lives and therefore our needs are constantly changing. Your sixteen year old daughter won’t need the same physical set up as your five year old kindergartner. So, when considering the changes you will be making to your physical space and the organizing you are doing to ensure a calmer school year, create a schedule that includes regular times for checking in on your organizing. For example, every Friday after school, check your upcoming weekly schedule to be sure your current organization allows for a workable week and consider whether you need to make further physical changes.
Or, should your daughter begin a new activity, you may need to adjust your system; if you add ballet to your schedule twice a week, you may want to create a “ballet box” in her room so that all of her needed items are conveniently located together so that she can independently prepare herself for class. A new, long-term school project may require a clean spot in the family room be available to her for several weeks as she continues to work on it. Similarly, once basketball season has ended, it’s time to clear up that sports zone.