Here are my top 10 back to school ideas and tips that can help you have a smooth transition from those laid-back summer days to the school year ahead for you, your kids, and your home.
I don't know about you, but I'm just about ready for the kids' school to start back in some ways, and in other ways I wish I had even more summer days left with them.
But no matter how I personally feel about it, the days just seem to be marching by, don't they?
Soon enough my kids will be heading back for another year of school, and that will mark a new set of challenges in our home.
We've got to get back in the swing of things around here, getting ready for each school day, keeping up with homework and after-school activities and extracurriculars, and continue to keep the house under control.
We've also got to get used to new routines both at home and in the classroom, and get comfortable with the new schedule.
To do all that, and not feel like things are spinning out of control, here are some of my best back to school ideas and tips we can all use:
One of the hardest parts of the school day comes right at the beginning. You know what I'm talking about, right?
It's always a bad start to your day when you and your kids are rushing around trying to get yourself and everyone else ready to go before the bus runs or you have to get out the door.
It can be a flurry of packing lunches, signing homework or permission slips, scarfing down breakfast and not having enough time to brush teeth properly.
That's no way to start the school day.
Instead, when I actually take the time, the night before, to do as much as possible that needs to get done for the next morning everything runs so much more smoothly and my day just seems to be better.
You can get ideas for things that can be helpful in an evening routine for yourself, or for your kids, in this article.
Of course, not everything can be done the night before.
That's why the second of my back to school ideas for a smoother transition between summer and the school year is to also develop a morning routine to get done those things each morning that need to be done before getting out the door.
Most likely this routine is a bit different than the one you had over the summer with your kids at home all day. I know it is for me.
To help with the transition, I try to get the kids and myself to start the routine a few days early, just to get the swing of things and get them ready to be ready on time in the morning once classes begin.
You can get lots of ideas of things that you might want to include in your morning routine here, for both yourself and your kids.
In addition, here are 5 tips to help kids get ready for school in the mornings.
Days of the week closet organizer available
from Amazon.com [Click here to purchase]
One of the things you and the kids have to do in the morning is get dressed. This next back to school idea can help streamline this task each morning.
In our house deciding on outfits can suck up way too much time, especially with some of the creative but often questionable color and pattern choices my kids will choose if given the chance.
Therefore, getting their outfits together the night before can be very helpful. Then, they just have to grab it and put it on, no drama, no fuss.
If you really want to be on the ball try getting a five day closet organizer, for example, such as the one shown to the left, and put together an outfit for each day of the week.
I will admit, though that while this idea works great for little kids who don't yet care what they wear to school, it won't work at all for your older ones, at least if they're not involved in choosing the outfits. (Although you could do it for yourself and really streamline your mornings if you wish.)
This idea has actually been so popular here on the site I've made it one of the Declutter 365 missions, and lots of people have sent in photos of how they do it for themselves in their own homes, for their kids or themselves. You can check out the article on laying out clothes the night before to make getting ready in the morning easier here.
Rubbermaid LunchBlox containers, available through
Amazon.com. [Click here to purchase]
If you pack your kids' lunches this can be a big time suck or can be done quite easily, depending on how organized (or not) you are about the process.
I suggest creating an area in your pantry and another in your refrigerator for school lunch supplies, so you (or your kids) can grab what you need quickly when packing up your lunch either the night before or the morning of school.
It can also save time to have things already packaged in individual servings, either purchased that way or divided and separated after you come home.
Further, make it easy for your kids to carry a nutritious lunch to school by stocking plenty of appropriate containers, ice packs and other coolers, and thermoses, such as in Rubbermaid Lunch Blox containers (click the link to read my review).
Over the door
One of the things that can keep our family from getting out the door on time in the mornings for school is rushing around gathering up all the things we need to take out the door each morning.
Not only should you gather all this stuff up the night before (as mentioned in Back to School Ideas #1 above) but you should create a "launching pad" for all these items so they're consistently kept in the same area each day and are easy to grab in the morning.
In regard to school, one of the most important things to make sure is in the "launch pad" are backpacks.
In my house we have lots of backpacks, some for sports practices and some for school, and I can easily trip over them if they're not in their designated spot.
Plus, if you can keep these items off the ground, such as with the over the door backpack rack shown to the left, you'll save a lot of floor space at the same time.
Please note I touched on this idea of keeping items ready at the door in the Mudroom and Entryway Organization Challenge, and we'll touch on it later in the Organized Home Challenge, which focuses on some specific back to school ideas for your home including the launch pad and the homework area (see below for more on that idea).
Once you've got your mornings under control, there is still the matter of the rest of the school day to contend with.
Before your kids ever even head out for the first day of school you'll need to stock up on back to school supplies, and I love to hit the sales to make sure I get the best deal possible.
One way to save time and money at the same time is to strategically work these back to school sales to get additional kids' art supplies and home office supplies that you need or want for your home at the same time.
Now, the point is not to clutter up your house with stuff you don't need, but you can save some serious cash by stocking up during these sales, especially on basics like crayons, markets, dry erase markers, notebooks and school binders.
Remember, you need supplies for your kids at school, but also some supplies at your home for them to use when doing their homework each afternoon or evening too. To help you with this I've created a back to school supplies list for your home (which includes a free printable), which lists what supplies you need to have at home for homework and school projects.
In addition, I've also created a home office supplies list (which also has a free printable) that lists all the necessary supplies for your home, to make sure you stock what you'll really need.
Once you've got all your school supplies check out these ideas for how to organize school supplies for at home use.
Once you're home with all those supplies take the extra time to label anything you would be upset to have get lost and not easily identified for return.
If you've got kids you know this is one of the most important back to school ideas I'm sharing, because kids are always laying things down and forgetting where they put them.
Fortunately, schools have lost and found boxes, but it can be difficult to dig through all the stuff to find what is yours.
Make it easy on yourself and others by letting everyone know whose item it is without too much guesswork. Then, you're much more likely to actually get your expensive stuff back.
You should label all school books and other supplies, as well as expensive clothes (such as winter coats), backpacks, and even shoes.
One of my favorite places to get labels of all types that are both durable and cute, is Mabel's Labels.
Here's a back to school idea I learned the hard way, because I used to not do it. I used to rely on my kids to keep their backpacks organized and tell me about the things I needed to know about, read and/or sign.
That is a reasonable request for an older child, but not necessarily of a kindergartener, at least when they're first getting going with school. Instead, do it with them for a while to train them to do it on their own later.
After missing announcements and having homework lost or not turned in, I began helping each child go through their backpack each day after school while we discussed what happened during the day.
If you do this daily it doesn't take very long at all, keeps you from missing stuff, and trains your children how to do it themselves so when they are older they can keep things organized and under control with less supervision and intervention from you.
Here's my article with more tips on how to declutter your child's backpack, and how to make it a habit!
Going through your child's backpack, to help organize and declutter it daily, is just one component of a good after school routine for your kids.
Here's my article listing the 4 components of a good after school routine for kids that you can work on at the beginning of the school year.
The ninth of my back to school ideas is to create a designated quiet homework area in your home so your kids can get their homework done without too many distractions, and with all the needed supplies close at hand.
I think this is so important I've created an entire challenge, Create A Homework Area Challenge, all about both the launch pad and the homework area.
At its core this area for your kids to do their homework in doesn't have to be elaborate, and further doesn't have to be exclusively for homework. Our designated area is currently the kitchen table, which we make sure is cleared off for after school homework, with supplies stored nearby at the ready.
It's no wonder some calendars don't start in January, but instead start with August -- because that is the start of the next school year, and it feels like a new beginning for everyone, not just kids but parents too.
While getting your kids back into the swing of things, why not get yourself into some better habits too?
If you're ready to have an organized house, but don't know where to start, I encourage you to join the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. Plus, if you've already joined the 200,000+ who've also started, go ahead and recommit to doing a couple more of the challenges!
Further, if you need to declutter your home too, along with organizing it, make sure you also begin the Declutter 365 Missions, which is a full year of 15 minute daily decluttering missions, which are designed to roughly correspond with the weekly challenges and get your home decluttered slowly, over the course of the year.
So, those are my top 10 back to school ideas. I'd love to hear yours too, so please tell me your ideas and back to school tips for keeping yourself, your kids and your home organized below, in the comments.
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