From Chaos to Order: Don’t Let the Challenge of a New School Year Wear You Down!
The hot summer days are dwindling, and the nights are getting cooler. Is there any doubt that another school year – with all its activities and hectic pace – is on the way?
But don’t be overwhelmed by the challenges of a new school season. With the right attitude, getting your family and home back-to-school ready can be fun and stimulating. Let’s get started with these simple steps.
1. Organize closet space in kids’ bedrooms – A clutter-free kid’s bedroom may be too much to ask for. However, an organized closet is very doable… and exciting, if the children get involved in the process. They can help decide what stays in the space and what goes in the donation bin. Children can fold shirts, sweaters, night clothes, socks, and other clothing items and store them in drawers and shelves. Jackets, hats and scarves can hang on hooks on the back of doors. Remember to label or tag storage bins and other containers on the shelves for easy identification.
Left: As easy as ABC: Organize closets in such a way that getting dressed for school goes fast and smoothly. If your child wears a school uniform, the partition in the closet will work well to separate school wear from regular clothes. Right: A combination closet/study space features built-in shelves for folded clothes as well as see-through storage bins to identify accessories, toys and other belongings.
Choose clothes for the entire week and store them in a day-of-the-week organizer to help younger boys who may still find it a challenge to coordinate school outfits.
2. Install shelves and bookcases – Now that clothes are all organized, what about books? The same rule for the clothes should be applied to their books, too. Make a pile of books that you are ready to donate to the local library or a school. The rest of the books – especially classics and other collectibles – can be arranged neatly in shelves and/or built-in bookcases for their growing “library”.
It’s also a good idea to have several accessible storage areas to put books away. You can use a book caddy or a simple wicker basket for the current reading/favorite list; and shelves for the display books and others to be reread at a later time.
Bookends: A child’s bedroom in a two-story, five-bedroom European-style country home plan features two very neat and kid-friendly built-in shelves filled with books, toys, and novelties (House Plan #161-1030).
Not only is a book caddy unique as a storage place for children’s current favorites, it de-clutters the space by keeping books off the floor.
3. Create study/work spaces – From the bare essentials to the elaborately decorated and painted, there are several ways of creating study/work areas for your children. For families who have limited space (like apartment dwellers), the dining table becomes a “homework zone” between the time the kids get home from school and dinner time. Children do their homework in a relaxed atmosphere and get feedback from their parents and each other.
A kitchen island/dining nook like this one in a four-bedroom, three-bath Ranch-style home plan works as a study/homework area for kids who want a change from the traditional desk/chair study space (House Plan #141-1043).
A “home office” adjacent to the kitchen is also a wonderful place for a study corner. The child can work on projects and school assignments – in close proximity to a parent who can supervise and provide valuable comments. For older children who need to concentrate on more demanding projects and school work, a designated area in a bonus room, family room, or large home office is ideal.
And sometimes, all you need is a simple alcove in a child’s bedroom equipped with a desk, chair and all the essential school supplies. You can also build a desk inside an open closet. Put in a chair, a lamp, and shelves for books, and your child will be all set.
Left: A work space – with a desk and chair – in a three-bedroom, two-bath Ranch-style home plan can be an ideal study corner (House Plan #141-1134). Right: A secluded corner with a desk and chairs in the bonus room of a two-story, four-bedroom Craftsman-style home plan can be converted into a study space. Throw in a laptop, a lamp, and some shelves underneath the desk – and your child’s in business! (House Plan #153-1781)
Makeover: Transform a clothes closet into a very private and quiet study room for your child. Use the upper shelves for books, and complete the desk area with all the necessary school supplies.
4. Clear the mudroom – If you have a mudroom, clear it to create storage space for backpacks, shoes, winter and rainy weather gear, sports equipment, and other paraphernalia. Be sure to have hooks for jackets and shelves for storage containers – if there are no cubbies in the mudroom.
Provide hooks for backpacks and jackets. Let your children choose a favorite color for their storage containers; and instruct them to put away belongings neatly into the bins so that they don’t make the mudroom “clutter central.”
5. Use the entryway – So, your home has no mudroom. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with shoes, backpacks, books, and jackets strewn all over the floor. Make adjustments to the entryway – and transform it into a makeshift mudroom. Whether it’s a front or rear entrance, prepare that space by nailing hooks on the wall for jackets, hats and other gear. Place baskets and other containers on the floor for shoes, socks, and extra footwear. If you don’t want to tack hooks on your walls, install them in open shelves that have spaces for bins and drawers.
No mudroom? No worries! The entryway of a two-story, four-bedroom Country home plan has an open shelf with hooks for jackets and backpacks. Storage baskets can be moved to the bottom shelf for easy access (House Plan #153-1904).
6. Get school supplies organized – How do you keep track of all the scissors, rulers, erasers, paper, pens, and crayons that are part of your children’s school routine? From plastic cups, jars, to silverware holders and portable shelves, parents have been creative in organizing their children’s school supplies – and making certain that these essential tools are readily accessible when the children are doing their homework.
Left: Keep pencils, pens, glue, crayons and scissors handy and organized by storing them in a silverware holder. Right: A portable shelf is another way of keeping school supplies in one place. Use tins for pencils, magazine files for art paper, and baskets for post-its, scissors, highlighters, and tape.
7. Establish a communications center – Choose an area or corner that’s in plain sight of everyone in the family as the main message/communications center. This is the place where paper work, schedules, assignments, reading lists, family, and school activities are gathered for review and completion. The communications center can be the pantry door, a wall outside the dining room or kitchen, or even behind the front door.
It can be as simple as a calendar on a wall, a bulletin board, an erasable chalkboard, or something as elaborate and detailed as you want it to be – with hooks for file folders, small message boards, and other supplies.
A simple chalkboard calendar is a tremendous help in keeping everyone in the family on track.
A full-blown family communications/message center on a wall contains a calendar, hooks to hang important file folders, wall bins, and a little shelf with a container for pens and scissors,
8. Set up a Breakfast/Snack/Food Station – While the kids sit down at the dining table for their breakfast, you can work at the kitchen island (if you have one) or a countertop to pack their lunches. If the kids are old enough to get their own breakfast, be sure to stock up on cereal, milk, fruit, juice and other healthy on-the-go food items in drawers and fridge shelves that they can reach.
The spacious kitchen island and countertop in a two-story, four-bedroom Prairie-style home plan provide a perfect lunch-packing area on busy school mornings (House Plan #108-1791).
What do you do with hungry kids who want snacks when they get home from school? Easy – set up an accessible go-to area for their snacks. Arrange bins filled with healthy snacks in the fridge, cupboard, or pantry. Knowing that snacks are waiting for them when they get home can also discourage your children from eating junk food.
Left: Check out these drawers filled with healthy snack items for after-school treats. Right: There are lots of drawers and cabinets that can be assigned as snack stations in this very roomy kitchen of a two-story, four-bedroom Contemporary-style home plan (House Plan #168-1088).
9. Put the kids’ bathroom in order – With some imaginative arranging, you can have your kids in and out of the bathroom in no time. First step, categorize and sort items – toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash); hair brushes, combs, hair accessories, gels, sprays. Put them in separate storage containers and keep them in bathroom cabinets. Bath and face towels, soaps, shampoos, and conditioners can be stored in shelves – so that supplies are readily replenished.
Sorting your children’s bathroom essentials and making them easy to reach can minimize the time they spend in the bathroom in the morning.
This well-organized bathroom features a built-in shelf with an abundance of cubby holes for toiletries and bath essentials. Towels and other necessities are stored in removable bins and lower “cubbies” – within reach of younger kids.
10. Stick to a daily schedule – From sleep to meals, give your children some time to ease into the back-to-school routine. Experts advise re-acquainting children to school mode at least two weeks before that school bell rings. If you allow children to stay up a bit late in the summer, you can now reinforce earlier bedtime and wake up hours.
Meals, homework, after-school/extra-curricular activities and sports must also be scheduled accordingly to keep the household organized.
Remember that a new school year can bring exciting possibilities. Spend the time to prepare your home and children – and experience some back-to-school fun!
Footnote: The lead image in this article is a clever collage of various school supplies for going back to classes, put together by the Union Chapel Elementarty School, Park Hill School District, Kansas City, MO. For more information, click here.