It’s finally summer holidays and the last thing you want to think about is preparing your child for the new school year. The good news is you can create a less-panicked, more organised school year with these five simple strategies, but the key is to start right now!
News flash: The back-to-school season doesn’t start in August. It begins now, when lessons learned and challenges faced are fresh. To begin on the best foot, take on these five organisational projects now — not when school starts at the end of August.
Clean out backpacks and go through school supplies
This seems like an obvious suggestion, but I have put off doing this task until a week before the new school year began. I was unpleasantly surprised. I found a summer-long assignment in my son’s backpack in the first week in August. Empty your kids’ backpacks, sort through the stuff, and run the backpack through the wash.
Now is also a good time to discard worn-out school supplies and to put all of the reusable items in one location. It will save you time during the year if you designate a spot in your home as your “school supplies store.” Also, recharge the calculators, and get ready for back-to-school sales.
Sort through and organise your kids’ clothes
Summer is a great time to mend uniforms and clean out kids’ closets. Listen when your kids tell you why they don’t like certain types of clothing. Are they too tight, too hot, too stiff, too scratchy? Younger kids choose clothing for comfort, not for style. Determine the “feel” your children want their clothes to have, and buy items that they will wear.
Organise school awards, papers, and artwork from last year
Managing school papers and artwork from last year is a challenging task. Here’s a plan for tackling it:
Step 1. Sort each child’s papers into neat piles.
Step 2. Look through the papers with your kids. Listen to their stories, and find their favourite pieces of art. The purpose of looking over these things is to enjoy the memories.
Step 3. Save their favourites and display them. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest and fastest is to put favourite items in a binder, using sheet protectors. A deluxe, D-ring, two-inch binder will hold 100 sheet protectors, allowing you to save award certificates, written papers, and artwork in the same binder. Creating a binder will take two to four hours per child. Items that are too big to save in a binder can be photographed or reduced on a colour copier.
Simplify your kids’ toy collections
Organising your child’s toys is a task that is usually on a parent’s summer to-do list. Keep these tips in mind when you do:
1. Let your kids play with the items you want to get rid of one more time. The toys will get more wear out of them and entertain your kids on a long rainy day.
2. Get rid of toys that are below your child’s ability level first. If your child is over age five and is attending all-day school, he or she will likely have only two or three “go to” categories for toys: Lego, video games, board games, baby dolls, stuffed animals, cars, trains, balls, art materials, magic items. Have each child choose his or her top three categories, and sort all of the toys into piles on the floor. The toys that do not fit in those categories can be donated.
3. Find good storage solutions for the toys you keep. Now that you know which toys your children want to keep, organise them. I recommend purchasing a customised organiser for your child’s favourite toys. If they love Lego, buy a Lego organiser.
If there are no organisers available, create a toy zone. Each type of toy needs its home. Here are some examples:
- Baby dolls, clothes, feeding supplies, and baby furniture belong in the child’s bedroom.
- Trains go in the toy room / family room or under the train table.
- Matchbox cars go in the child’s bedroom in boxes, on the racetrack, or displayed on a shelf.
- Art supplies go in a kitchen cabinet and should be shared by everyone.
- Stuffed animals go in the toy room / family room to be shared by all.
If you are looking for a physical storage solution, I think the most versatile option is a shelving system divided into 14-inch cubes. These are sold at IKEA. They come in a variety of configurations and colour choices. I recommend one for each child’s bedroom and one for each communal play area.
Lisa K. Woodruff is the founder and CEO of Organize 365, a company that helps busy women get their home and paper organised in one year. Her book, How ADHD Affects Home Organization, explains the qualities of the executive functions of the brain, and how to organize your home despite struggling with one (or more) of those functions. Find more about Lisa at organize365.com.