Back-to-School Organization

Organization is key for avoiding stressful school mornings. Back-to-school doesn’t just mean buying and organizing a list of school supplies. It means returning to hectic mornings of lost papers, clothes drama, and empty lunch boxes. Cut the chaos and try a stress-free (or at least a little less stress) morning by starting the back-to-school season a kit of organizational ideas for those manic mornings.

A Man or Woman with a Plan

Create a checklist for each child. To create your own checklist, look at your regular morning routine and try to streamline it. Ask yourself questions about your routine; “What does your morning routine look like? How could you make it faster, more efficient?” Once you identify your most time-consuming activities, you can schedule accordingly.

For younger children, try using pictures – brush teeth, eat breakfast, get backpack.

Turn Back the Clock

Simple changes can make a big difference in getting out the door in the morning, and one timesaver is right at your fingertips. Set all the clocks in your house 10 minutes ahead. It may sound silly, but it really can work.

Professional organizer Sherry Brown says underestimating the time it takes to do something is a common mistake people make. “You may think that it will take 10 minutes to get ready and get out the door when it will actually take 20 minutes.”

Best Foot Forward

If you don’t have a plan, you could end up sending the kids off to school in their Sunday best. Sherry recommends letting the kids pick out five outfits on the weekend and placing them on five hooks, hangers, or shelves – one for each day. And don’t forget about picking shoes and other accessories.

The kids can get dressed in a flash because there are no clothing decisions to make in the morning.

Chow Time

Getting lunches ready can be a big problem to tackle in the mornings. One solution is to take clear, shoebox-sized containers and create spaces in the refrigerator for kids’ lunchbox supplies. Do the same in the pantry. Then when it’s time to pack lunches, everything will be in one place. And by putting things like cereal or chips in clear containers, you’ll know when you’re running low, rather than discovering in the morning when you’re rushed.

Paper, Paper, Paper

School entry may require documentation from immunization records to report cards from the previous school year. Athletes need proof of medical examination. A little preparation can prevent frantic last-minute searches for a birth certificate or registration confirmation.

Call your child’s school or check the school district Web site beforehand to find out what paperwork will be required–then find it! You won’t be sorry come registration day.

As for all the field trip, sports and permission slips that tend to pile up, sign them immediately and put them back in the kids’ backpack, don’t let them pile up. You can use an “in” and “out” box for older kids. Kids put any important papers in the “in” box, you check them as soon as you get home, sign them, then place them in the “out” box.

Be sure to create a Central Calendar. You’ll need a family calendar to track after-school activities, school programs, doctors appointments, and volunteer work.

Post the family calendar in a public place. Use magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or tack it to a bulletin board. Keep a pen handy to add important dates.

Add a pocket for school lunch menus, class assignment sheets, sports practice schedules. When the room mother calls for field trip volunteers, you’ll know at a glance whether you’re free to join the group on the bus that day.

Make a practice run

How will children get to school? The first day of school is no time to find out it takes ten minutes–not five–to walk to the nearest bus stop!

Before school begins, make a practice run to get children to the school on time. If they’ll walk, help them learn the route they’ll take and note the needed time. Car-pooling? Make sure the dry run accounts for early-morning traffic! Bus riders will need to be familiar with the location of the bus stop; print and post the bus schedule to prevent a missed bus.

With some planning, your morning routine doesn’t have to include pulling your hair out.

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