If you do nothing else to prepare for back to school, I urge you to at least give this a try: set up a School Zone. Doing this now (before school starts) will ensure a less stressful first week, create good habits for both kids and parents, and de-clutter your main house entrance all at once.
1. Find A Location
Pick a spot near your usual entrance/exit from your home - be it the front, back, or garage door. Make sure it has ample space for backpacks, shoes, sports stuff, and school papers. The floor is not this place.
2. Make It Accessible
If you have younger kids and want them to take responsibility for their own things (and you should), make it easy on them. Use height appropriate hooks, bins labeled with words and pictures, and simple systems that even a stranger in your home could follow.
3. Create TWO Bins For School Papers
Label an empty bin/basket for "regular" school papers that you or your kids can toss into easily. These papers are spelling tests, artwork, worksheets, and anything you don't need to take action on. They can safely remain in this bin until next summer's review and purging.
Label a separate bin/basket/paper tray for "important" school papers that you or your kids can again toss into easily. These papers are permission slips, notices, report cards - anything a parent would need to look at and sign/return to school/file away. Tell your kids the difference!
These two bins can be in the same school zone area by the entryway, or you can move the "important" papers bin to your desk, a hanging folder on the wall, or even the kitchen counter. The key is to make it important school papers ONLY, not coupons, mail, small toys, and other random junk. It should be EMPTY most of the time and that's how you know it's working!
4. Model Good Behavior
For the first month of school (seriously, unfortunately, I'm not joking here) do the routine with your kids just like the teacher at school is doing with their new room and procedures. Hang the backpacks, take the lunch box to the kitchen, sort the papers into their bins, put their shoes away, and make sure nothing is on the floor or out of place. Be prepared to revisit this routine for a refresher course after every vacation or big life change when they all of a sudden "forget" how to do it.
With designated homes in place for school stuff, the early morning scramble will get less hectic for sure. As the kids get more used to the routine you can try incorporating more and more, like adding in the mail or having them post the lunch calendar on the fridge themselves.
So get going, set up your school zone now, and practice a few times with the kids before school starts. They might whine but they'll appreciate the consistency and you'll appreciate the easy in and out the door process. An organized family is a much more joyful one, especially on the first day of school. Good luck!
Need more help? Check out our other blogs with tips about Getting Joyfully Dressed For School, How To Turn A Closet Into A Mudroom, and Quick Tips For Getting Out The Door Faster In The Morning.