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bus to schoolBack-to-School time may mean the kids are out of the house, but it also means that they are bringing more stuff into the home. Permissions slips, notebooks, gym uniforms, text books all need a place to live. So do those new fall wardrobes, stocks of school supplies bought to last the entire year, and odds and ends like sports equipment and school spirit paraphernalia.

The only way to keep every surface in your home from turning into a dumping ground, is to create an organized system for storing and accessing all these different items. Since every family will have different needs, each organizational system will be unique. Here are a few things that can get you started organizing for the school year.

Create a “supply closet” — This does not have to be an actual closet. It could be a designated cupboard in the kitchen or laundry room, a drawer in the guest room, a small bookcase, or you may want to purchase a rolling cart or wall cabinet specifically to store all those pens, erasers, notebook paper packages, and packets of kleenex your kids will need this year.

Make a morning checklist for each kid — While older kids can make their own lists, it is a good idea to give small children input as well. The list should include everything from brushing their teeth and eating breakfast to collecting specific school items into their backpack. A dry erase board in the kitchen or hall where each child can mark off their list or giving each their own note pad helps remind them that it is their responsibility to complete the list.

Organize clothing by the week — This is better for smaller kids and pre-teens, but you may be able to convince a teenager to do it too. Every Sunday, figure out what clothes will be worn every day to school. Ideally you should create a hook, hangar, or cubby system where all the items for each day can be grouped together, including socks, belts, and other accessories. This way the child doesn’t have to spend any time in the morning trying to decide what to wear and you don’t have to spend time helping then find where a specific shirt or pair of jeans got left.

Treat school as a job — Take all that paperwork associated with school and organize it as you would in an office. Create a calendar, filing, and “to do” system for handling all this information that works for you. Some people rely on wall calendars while others prefer smartphone apps. Some use wall sorters while others have a dedicated file drawer or box. Find what works for you.

school lunchboxImplement a food system — Lunches, lunch money, and snacks all need to be organized to make school mornings less stressful. If your kids take lunch, then plan out the meals as you do the clothes, and create space in your kitchen, specifically the fridge and pantry, to store the meal-making items. After-school snacks should have a separate place to live and your kids should have clear instructions about what they can eat, how much, and when. If your kids buy their lunches, create a system for doling out lunch money so that it fits your budget and you know they are spending it on other things.

Build on these ideas to create systems and processes that work for your family. And don’t worry if school has already started. There is no reason that you can’t introduce new systems or adapt existing ones whenever you want.

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