The back to school shopping commercials started before school even let out! Each year I tell myself this will be the year that I will be on top of things. This is the year that I will not find myself in the aisles of Target with crying school age children, or is it the parents that are crying? Last year I bought my youngest son’s school supplies downtown Minneapolis the day before school started because I forgot in the midst of moving my middle son to college. I am here to say that was a big mistake.
So learn from my mistakes and use these five easy steps for getting your kids organized for school:
1. School supplies: The stores are now stocked with all the school supplies they’ll be getting in for the season.
- When to go: Now is the time to go while the selection is the greatest and the sales are hot. Avoid – at all costs – shopping on weekends or weeknights during the supper hour. The best time to go is an hour before the store closes. This forces you to get in and get your shopping done without the hassle of crowds. Another great time to shop is right when the store opens. If you have a kid who must have the latest and greatest, you have to go now – do not delay! Try breaking your child of the habit of always having the latest and greatest because if they always receive the latest and greatest, they come to always expect it. Here’s an idea: how about buying their school folders and notebooks in their favorite color instead of what is trendy?
- Backpacks: I buy good quality backpacks for my kids at Lands’ End (http://www.landsend.com/), and they last for three to four years or longer. My junior in high school is still using the one I bought him in kindergarten! Granted, I have boys, and they don’t always require the hippest trends, but the backpacks I bought for $50 each haven’t cost me anything for the past ten years because…get this…the backpacks don’t fall apart, they aren’t trendy, in fact they are now seen as retro!
- School clothes: When I was a kid, I got my yearly clothes budget at the beginning of the school year, and that was it. I had to make it last unless I picked up extra money babysitting. Now kids are inundated with clothes year around: Christmas, birthdays, Easter, fall clothes, winter clothes, summer clothes…clothes, clothes, clothes! My best advice is to not buy any new pants until at least October. With the way kids grow, you want to make those pants last as long as possible. Until October, most kids can still wear shorts or skirts to school. Buy a handful of new shirts that gives them the feeling of getting new clothes. By waiting to do the majority of your clothes shopping until October, you’ll be able to find those “post back to school” bargains that the stores are trying to get rid of in order to make room for…you guessed…more clothes.
3. Create a system for the paper clutter now: Do you know where you are going to put the lunch menu, papers you want to keep for their memorabilia box or put in a scrapbook? How about ALL those cute art projects?
- School menus, treat schedules, team practices and other schedules: Tape them on the inside of a kitchen cupboard. This allows easy access without the clutter on the fridge.
- Memorabilia box: Purchase a large Rubbermaid container that either can contain one year’s worth of papers or all of the elementary years’ worth of papers. When the keepers come home, you now will know exactly where to put them.
- Art projects: Have an area of your house where you display the art projects. Keep them on display for a few weeks, and then “rotate” them out, putting in new ones. What to do with the old ones? Either place them in a memorabilia box or purchase a large art portfolio to place them in. Another great idea is to create your own art portfolio out of tag board with three of the ends taped shut. You could create one for every year. Better yet, take pictures and discard!
- Worksheets and tests: Use this easy test to determine if you should keep the daily papers that your child brings home: if it brings a tear to your eye, keep it; if not, toss it. For example: your child gets an A+ on a spelling test after he/she has been struggling all year to learn the spelling words. This is a keeper! Your child brings home coloring sheets or other busy work that is assigned; toss it. The first time he/she wrote his/her name: that is a keeper. The good news is that by the time they enter middle school, the paper clutter dwindles to a trickle, and then by high school it suddenly becomes nonexistent… and then you wonder if your child is really going to school each day or hanging out at the mall.
- Establish a homework zone: Where does your child best study at? As a kid, I liked doing my homework in front of the TV. My mom did not understand that, and we battled constantly on that issue. If your child gets good grades and doesn’t struggle in school, let him/her do homework in front of the TV. Maybe your child needs absolute silence to study. Find a quiet place in the home where homework can be completed without the distractions of siblings and other family members. Maybe your child needs to be moving all the time. Find a good rocking chair or stability ball for him/her to have movement while completing school tasks. Just remember that each child is different, and just because it works for one child does not mean it will work for another. Be flexible and patient so that both you and the child can have a good school year.
- Set expectations: Let you kids know now that when they walk in the door, they should hang their coat and backpack up and bring you all of the papers to sort. Do you have a child who needs to do homework as the first thing upon arriving home? How about the child that needs to eat as it seems like school lunches were not that appetizing that day? There is also the child who just needs to let his/her brain unwind by doing nothing but veggin’ in front of the TV. I heard there is also the child who comes in and practices his/her musical instrument every day….I have not seen such a child so I do not believe this to be true. Some children do better waking up early and getting the homework done or practicing the musical instrument in the morning. The key is to figure out what works best for each of your children and then communicate what you expect so that the routine can begin as quickly – and run as smoothly – as possible.
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
Melissa is a Professional Organizer living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!