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The new school year is a bonus clean slate – it works kind of like the New Year to spark change and get us to make better habits.
With kids in school, it can be a really tricky, overwhelming season: new classes, parties, activities, and all of the STUFF that comes with it! Today I’m sharing some of my best tips and tricks to stay super organized and create better habits – whether you’re single, have little kids in school, or working, I hope you can utilize some of these ideas in your own life to make life run more smoothly!
Keep prepacked bags for activities and sports
I love my LL Bean boat and tote bags for sports and activities. Instead of keeping socks and shin guards in the sock drawer and cleats with shoes, we keep all of the things for a sport or activity together in a tote. Once we get home, throw it in the laundry (you can even use a mesh bag to even keep them together in the wash for super easy sorting!), and when it’s clean again, it goes right back in the bag. Using this system also cuts down the need for spares – if you know you wash things and put them back right away, you don’t need three extra pairs of ballet tights floating around!
Make a get-ready station near the door
We always think of leaving our shoes by the door so kids can get them on in a rush before leaving the house. I also like to stash a caddy with our girls hair brushes, detangler spray, and bows on our first floor bathroom. This way, we aren’t trudging back upstairs after breakfast to get their hair done, and I can quickly tuck it away when we are finished using it. I like this clear acrylic container to keep things neat.
If you have boys that don’t need much hair prep, I know other moms who keep socks in a basket by shoes, organized by child. This eliminates the up-and-down parade in the morning and makes the last few minutes before leaving easier.
Create a drop zone
Make a place for everything. Easy enough right? In the winter, mittens, hats, snow boots, and the like are the bane of my existence. I’m so excited for my husband (cough cough, nudge,) to build us a bench with storage for all of these seasonal goods. But you don’t need to have built-ins to create a drop zone: hooks work perfectly for jackets and backpacks, a basket on the floor easily corrals shoes, and a wall-mounted basket or even another boat and tote bag keeps mittens and other small items at the ready.
If you want your kids to use the system, be sure they know where everything goes by marking it clearly or practicing with them, and most importantly, by keeping everything at their level so that they can access it easily.
Standardize your lunches
I love having a standardized lunch and my kids seem to appreciate it, too. Studies have shown that eating the same thing for lunch each day boosts energy and productivity – presumably because there’s one less thing to spend mental energy deciding on, and your focus isn’t drawn to the question, ‘What’s for lunch?’
Standardized lunches don’t need to be exactly the same, but following a format saves lots of time and mental energy. We love using a bento box for packing lunches, and one of our favorite meal cube has a compartment perfect for a sandwich, plus two separate compartments for smaller snacks. This could look like: nut butter sandwich + cheese + fruit + crackers or pretzels + water. There’s room for variety in there, but you have a mental checklist to work off in the morning, and know exactly where everything fits in the lunchbox.
Just say no to paper clutter
Birthday invites. Bake sale flyers. Report cards. It adds up into massive paper clutter if you don’t create a system to organize it. My system is very simple. It either gets copied on my calendar… or in my recycling bin.
Anything that needs a response (permission slips, RSVPs) do that same day and send them back to school or in the mail the next day. Letting things linger on the counter makes a heap of clutter and increases the risk you’ll forget it altogether. For everything else, mark it in your calendar or take a photo on your phone to remember details, then toss the paper.
While you’re at it… ruthlessly unsubscribe
I realize this is not specifically related to the new school year, but it sure comes in handy right now: unsubscribe. I actually made unsubscribing from unwanted facebook groups and emails a new year goal for myself, and it was so liberating.
I think we are all a little afraid that if we unsubscribe, we will miss out – but really, the important stuff won’t fall through the cracks. You don’t need to be a part of every moms group or keep receiving all the library emails, and with less in your inbox, your attention will be drawn to the incoming mail that actually is important.
Meal prep at the start of the week
Prepping meals ahead of time is such a time saver for me. The last thing I want to do while brushing my girls hair and getting everyone out the door is putting together a lunch or washing veggies for snacks.
I prep all of our fruits and vegetables right after grocery shopping. I use a home made produce wash (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and water in a glass spray bottle, keep refrigerated), spray on produce and let sit for a minute. Rinse thoroughly and gently pat dry, then cut, slice, or dice your produce to the sizes you’ll need throughout the week and store in clear containers in the fridge.
For example, I dice up onions and peppers to be used in omelets throughout the week and store them in a small container. I also keep our washed and cut fruit in separate little jars, ready to be doled out in lunches or snacks with minimal effort!
Create a place for cherished momentos
I realize I just told you to be ruthless in throwing away paper. But! Kids make a lot of cute stuff and every year they will bring home projects, awards, and other things you’ll really want to hang on to. After a little time on the fridge gallery, we move our favorites to a pretty storage box.
Having a designated spot keeps things from getting spread out throughout the house and becoming clutter, and it also puts a limit on how much we keep. We can appreciate the projects of our children without saving them all, and if something doesn’t fit in the box or we want to remember it but don’t necessarily want to hang onto it, we take a photo and put it in our yearly photo album.
I hope these habits help you to stay more organized this school year, cut down on clutter, and help everyone get out the door with less fuss.
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