As a busy mom, I understand the stress that comes with each new school year. Setting up routines and systems to manage multiple tasks is a great way to get everything under control. Here are some ways to help make the school year a breeze.
Avoid communication breakdown.
Designate an area in your home for a family calendar. Any high-traffic area like the kitchen, mudroom, or entryway will work. Assign everyone in the family a color to make it easier to see who’s doing what when.
Get on top of paperwork.
While it may sound overwhelming, the key to managing paperwork is to process it on a daily basis. Keep it simple by setting up an inbox where kids can drop off forms, announcements, sign-up sheets, and anything else that needs attention. If your inbox is set up near the family calendar, important dates and events can easily be added. Once you’ve noted the information, recycle the flyer or take a picture with your phone for future reference. Don’t forget to delete it after the event has passed! A small desktop file with a folder for each child can be used to keep track of papers that need to be referenced on a regular basis. These can include reading tracking forms and cookie sales sheets, as well as any signed forms that need to go back to school.
Manage homework time.
Setting up a dedicated spot for homework will help establish this task as an important part of your child’s daily routine. Make sure it has good lighting, a clean surface, and a comfortable chair. If the spot has multiple purposes, like the kitchen table, set up a homework caddy. A small container containing regularly used supplies including pencils, highlighters, scissors, tape, and glue, can be put out of the way as required. Set a timer to keep homework sessions on track.
Be prepared for after school activities.
Instead of constantly emptying and repacking duffle bags for each school activity, consider keeping multiple totes. A separate bag for sports practice, band rehearsal, and dance class will make getting out the door a snap. As an added bonus, you will eliminate those frantic last minute searches for a missing glove, slipper, or sock.
Make lunches and snack time easy.
Help kids put together own lunches by stocking easy-to-grab items like juice boxes, carrots, and granola bars in separate bins in the pantry, refrigerator, or cupboard. Snacks can be kept in another basket. Make sure things are within easy reach for smaller children. Take individually-packaged items out of the packaging to save space and take stock of inventory quickly.
Be your own museum curator.
A lot of parents feel they need to keep every piece of artwork that their child brings home. If you treat everything like it is special, then nothing is special! Deal with the many piles by keeping it all together in a large bin. Once a summer, go through everything from the past year and only keep the five or six items that your child likes the most. Don’t feel bad about throwing away the others. Chances are your child won’t even miss it, especially if you hang a couple of the more cherished pieces on the wall using a simple shadowbox. Take photos of everything else and create printed books or photo albums.
Pick one or two areas that cause you the most stress and start there. Incorporate other solutions once these are working smoothly. Consider getting your kids to help you when setting up household systems and routines. They loved to get involved and are often more willing to keep things organized if they’ve had the opportunity to provide their input.
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Michelle Kinney, MLS