“Back to School” rings harshly in the ears of most parents. With the return to the predictability of the school schedule comes the stress of getting our kids up and out the door on time in the morning with everything they need for school and activities, and back in the door and in bed at night with homework done, ready to head out the next morning. Never happens, right?
A little organization goes a long way, and this does mean “a little.” As a Professional Organizer, I sometimes want more organization that my child can deliver. It helps me to remember that, whether or not we realize it, our kids work hard to keep it all together at school, sports, and other outside activities all day long.
According to Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist, lecturer and author who serves on the scientific advisory board of Parents Magazine, your child’s messy room isn’t a problem as long as your child is happy, positive, doing well in school, and otherwise well-adjusted. “She’s exhausted,” Mogel said. “She’s near compulsive about her work and reading her teachers’ minds and her coaches’ minds and she holds herself to the highest of standards. Her room is where she lets go. The one place where she lets herself be unfettered and relaxed.” (Heidi Stevens, Balancing Act, ChicagoTribune, July 9, 2014).
So work for a happy medium — the little bit of organization that will make things easier on both of you. Collaborate with your child — don’t tell — to create just enough order for her that will help her be effective and not stressed. Suggest options: Ask her whether she’d rather do homework in her room, at the kitchen table, or the dining room. List 2-3 of your ideas for helping her stay organized, and let her pick the one she wants to try first. It may take a few tries. When my daughter was having difficulty making sure she had her homework with her to give to teachers, a brightly-colored, large envelope-type folder finally did the trick. ALL her completed homework for every class went in there at night, ready to turn in the next day. Eventually, she found something different that worked better as she got older.
Here are a few more ideas and inspirations for getting organized for Back to School:
Create a Back to School Command Center
1. If you have the space, add a bookcase with enough space to have several bins and baskets per child for everything they need to ‘get out the door.’
As featured recently in Martha Stewart Living magazine, this one has enough space for shoes at the bottom and wire baskets for water bottles, caps, and last-minute items as you’re running out the door. (wire baskets available at The Container Store and Brookfarm General Store).
If a bookcase is too big for the area you have, try a bench with cubbies.
Two very different price points, with a similar function: Both have a seat for removing shoes. The bottom cubby is a great space to keep shoes, etc., and the top cubby is ideal for a small basket for papers that need to be reviewed, returned, etc.
Hint: Keep some things in the car every night, like a sports bag. It’s easier to put 5 pair of socks and a couple pairs of shorts/shirts in it for a whole week’s worth of practices/games than to have to remember it and lug it in and out every day.
2. Mount a hook above each cubby for each child’s backpack.
3. Above the hook, mount a magnetic whiteboard for each child.
This is the place to list what your child needs in order to be ready for school. It can also be a great place to list homework or activities for each day. The Martha Stewart Wall Manager System can be customized to your specific needs with a wide variety of options and accessories.
4. Keep a basket or bin stacked with individual snack packs so your kids can grab what they want as they head out the door — or keep a smaller box in the car for after school/sport snacks.
5. Create an easy-to-maintain Homework Zone.
If your child prefers doing homework at the kitchen or dining room table, just make sure it’s easy to quickly clear the table for dinner. A utensil basket for is a great place to keep homework supplies like pencils, markers, glue stick, scissors, etc. (buy two of everything — one for school and one for home). A second, larger basket or bin makes it easy to store papers and books during dinner, and keep each child’s work separate.
Need more help than this blog?
Try my Back to School Blitz — 5 hours of professional organizing to get you and your kids organized for Back to School / Off to College — only $275 — a savings of $50!
Stay tuned for ideas and must have’s for getting your college child ready and organized for dorm life this fall!