The start of this school year is going to be a unique one for us. Our new house isn't due to be finished until a week and a half after the boys go back, so we will be in our temporary apartment as the year begins, which has the organized, type A side of me freaking out a little bit.
The thoughts going through my brain have sounded like... "How will I get everything organized?! How can we possibly start to settle into routines when we're not even in a permanent place yet?! And even when we are in a more permanent place, there's all of that unpacking to do! Our lives will be in upheaval!"
Melodramatic much? 😉
When I really sat down and thought about it though, I realized that there are really just 5 core systems that we need to have in place to stay organized for the school year, and if I have a plan for those 5 areas, we should be good to go for the year.
5 Simple Systems that Will Keep Your Family Organized
When Connor first went off to school, I think one of the things that surprised me most was the amount of paperwork he brought home-- it was craziness! I quickly learned that I needed a system to deal with his papers in an organized way, so we made a plan.
Each day when he got home, we would take all of the papers out of his folder. Anything that I needed to keep temporarily (like forms to fill out or announcements, etc.) went into an "inbox." For a while we used a folder system in our command center for this.
Any "special" artwork that Connor was especially proud of made its way to a little display in our toy area, which I would change out every few weeks. Everything else (which was the majority of the paperwork) went in the trash/recycling.
When I was ready to take down papers from the display, again the majority of them went into the recycling bin, while the super special ones went into a yearly folder that I keep in a file box in the Cs' closet. Both boys have their own folder for each year of school, and throughout the school year I try to collect about 20 of my favorite pieces of work for each of them. This gives me a nice sampling of their work for the year without leaving me overloaded with papers.
You can read more about our system for organizing kids' paperwork in this post.
2. Bookbags, Coats, and Shoes
Another area where I realized we needed a system was the boys' bookbags, coats, and shoes. When they first went to school, the hangers in the coat closet were too high for them to reach, so every day they would get home and dump all of their stuff in our entryway.
And every day I would get frustrated with the mess.
We ended up doing a little closet swap, creating a mini mudroom area that included hooks that the Cs could easily reach. I also placed a small basket in the nook for shoes. Then each day when they got home from school, the boys knew that they needed to hang up their coat and bookbag and put their shoes in the basket. It was a small change, but it ended up saving me a lot of frustration!
You can read more about how we created our mini mudroom in this post.
Clothes seem to be another area where systems of organization are important, especially during the school year. Picking out outfits with my boys can be a struggle (and I imagine that it might be even more difficult if I had girls-- I know my sister and I gave my mom a fight most days growing up!), so I tried to make it as easy as possible for everyone involved.
First, I keep most of the Cs' clothes folded rather than hung because they are easier for the boys to access themselves. We've been using the "filing" method of folding clothes for nearly a year and a half now, and I love it because we can easily see what's in each drawer.
In the boys' drawers, I try to separate their items by row. So long sleeved shirts will be in one row, "nicer" shirts will be in another row, t-shirts for gym days will be in another row, etc. This makes it easier to give them choices for the day, and I've found that we have a lot less arguments over what they're going to wear.
You can read more about how we organize and fold our clothes in this post.
Caleb will be in pre-k this year, so he doesn't have much homework yet, but Connor is heading into second grade, and he will definitely have work to do each night. Donnie and I struggled to get a routine down with homework when Con was in Kindergarten, but by first grade, we had it down pat.
Donnie and I each had two days of the week where we knew we were responsible for managing homework time. (Connor usually didn't have homework on Fridays.) Typically we'd give Connor about a half an hour of downtime to unwind when he got home from school. Then we'd have him pull up a seat at the dining room table, and he'd work to get everything done before dinner. Since he knew what to expect and had a routine, it wasn't a struggle to get him to do his homework every night.
5. Morning and Evening Routines
And speaking of routines, morning and evening routines have always been a huge help when we're trying to keep our household organized! (You can even get my pretty morning/evening routine printable in this post.) There is a lot to do to get everyone out the door on time in the mornings, so it's really helpful when everyone knows what they're responsible for.
Before the school year starts, we try to sit down as a family and establish when we will pick out clothes, when we will pack lunches, when we will have bookbags packed up, who will be in charge of breakfast on which days, etc. Every family's routines will probably look different, but setting expectations and getting on the same page right at the beginning of the year has always been a huge help for us.
Now, there is no one "right way" to be successful in each of these 5 areas. Our family's needs, timing, and phase of life is probably completely different from yours, so our days will look different too. I've found, though, that if I take the time to think about and create an intentional system for the 5 areas I talked about in this post, our school year goes a whole lot more smoothly.
We spend less time looking for lost items, we have necessary paperwork handed in on time, we know who is responsible for what, and we're able to work together much better as a family to minimize chaos in our household. So though the beginning of this school year might be a little non-traditional for us, we can be prepared and have a plan in place to help it go as smoothly as possible!
I'm not the only one thinking about getting organized for the school year! I'm delighted to be joining my friends Christy and Amy of 11 Magnolia Lane who are hosting the back-to-school edition of Operation: Organization this week! Be sure to pop around and see the other bloggers' smart ideas, and get ready to be organized for back-to-school!