10 things to do now to get organized for back to school!

final back to school collage
It’s that time friends!  July is winding down and August is right around the corner.  Are you cheering or crying!?  I always have mixed emotions about school starting again.  Ready to regain some structure and productivity to my days, but not excited about homework, packing lunches and always being on the go!  This summer has been so low key and I have loved every minute of it.  My kids still have a few weeks of summer left, but since I like plenty of time to get on top of things before the new school year hits I decided to make a list.  Of course I did.  :)  As a former teacher and lover of having all things in order, back to school organization is one of my favorite topics!  I even spoke about it on the news a couple of years ago but I seriously hate my hair in that clip so feel free to skip the news segment and read on!  I’ll cover everything below. ;)  Time to share my current list with you!  These are the 10 things I do every summer to get prepared for a new school year.
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1 – Clean and organize your office/homework space.  Confession.  My office does NOT look like this right now.  In fact, it’s so messy you can’t even see those shiny white counters.  This is where my kids do all of their school projects and homework so getting it whipped back into shape is my #1 priority before school starts again.  Time to clear away all of the summer messes and get back to business.  (I’ve even been doing a bit of decorating in this space despite the chaos so before and afters will be coming soon!)  Do you have a set office space or area in your home where your kids do their homework?  Now is a great time to start getting it in order!  If the kids do homework at the kitchen counter, maybe it’s time to clear out a nearby drawer for homework supplies.  Speaking of supplies..
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2 – Get school/craft supplies organized.  This goes right along with organizing your homework/office space.  I always buy new crayons, markers and pencils for the kids in August.  Something so fun about starting the new school year off with new supplies!  A fresh start.  Can’t you just smell the sharpened pencils!?
**”Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils…”  Does You’ve Got Mail pop into your head every time you think about newly sharpened pencils?  No?  Just me?  :)
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If you don’t have an office and your kids do their homework at the kitchen table a homework caddy like the one I just share in my shopping trip to World Market post is a great idea.  You can easily pick it up and move it to where ever your kids are located.
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In our current house I keep additional school/craft supplies in a cupboard in my office (we just cleaned out those coloring/art books on the bottom row today to whip this cupboard back into shape!).
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In our previous house I was short on storage so I kept our school/craft supplies in a cupboard in our kitchen.  Who needs pots and pans!? ;)  If you don’t have a set space for supplies like this and you feel like they are a mess all over your house, now is a great time to consolidate everything!
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3.  Clean out kids’ closets and plan a way to organize school outfits.  About a month before school starts I always go through my kids’ closets.  I pull out clothes that are too small or they aren’t wearing much to donate and take a good look at what they really need for the next school year.  This is always so helpful to do before we go shopping for new school clothes.  If I’ve just gone through my girls’ closets, I’m not as tempted to buy an 11th pair of leggings.  ;)
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For years I’ve had my girls pick out their clothes for the upcoming week on Sunday.  This saves so much time and drama for us in the mornings!  If you have girls no further explanation is needed. :)  Because my girls have room in their new closets I use these dividers from Land of Nod to organize their school outfits.  Love them!  Each slot is labeled with a day of the week and I have my girls pick out their clothes right down to their socks and a headband for their hair.  No drama = a happy mom.  :)
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In our previous house where closet space was an issue we used ziplock bags and hangers to organize school outfits.  If your kids don’t wear uniforms and you are picking out clothes each day, a system like this is a great way to streamline your mornings.
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4.  Clean the mudroom or create a mudroom!  It’s time to organize the space where your kids dump any and all things from school.  As moms we all know how frustrating it can be to have everything dumped in the middle of your floor!  Don’t have a mudroom?  Now is the time to get creative!  Hang hooks for backpacks and find a good location for shoes.  If there is a set place for the kids to place their things from school at the end of the day it will save you from multiple piles and the over use of Tylenol.  :)  (Mudroom pictures and details here.)
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In our previous house we didn’t have a mudroom so I used a wall of our garage to hold shoes, coats and backpacks.  There are SO many creative things you can do to create a make shift mudroom in your home.  This was one of the best things I did to clear out clutter in my kitchen and entry in our past house.  A make shift organized mudroom is a true game changer!
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5.  Create chore charts to help with before and after school routines.  I’m going to tweak these a bit for next year, but last year our chore charts really helped me keep the kids on track.  This took so much pressure off of me!  I didn’t have to remember every little thing they needed to get done every day and I didn’t have to be constantly nagging them to complete everything.  If they wanted to watch TV or play outside I’d simply say “did you finish everything on your list?”  No more nagging mom.  It’s all on them!  :)  You can read more details about our chore chart system here.
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6.  Organize all of the paper.   Moms all know that once school starts there is suddenly an ocean of papers flooding your house every day!  It’s insane really.  SO much paperwork.  Add that to the paper piles we already have for work and life and sometimes trying to keep track of it all just feels overwhelming.  Now (BEFORE the piles come rolling in) is the time to think about your paper systems.  Do you have a system in place that works?  Or do you need to figure out something that will work better?  I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and I’ll share how we are organizing paper in my office as soon as I finalize my new system.  Here are a few ways we’ve organized paper/school work in the past.  (My above file folder has been used for magazines and then later to store my girls’ school work and important papers I needed to complete or save.)
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I’ve used file folders to hold special school work I want to save before it goes into my kids’ albums.
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For larger items we used these rubbermaid storage bins that slide under my girls’ beds.
saving kids' art work
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Special work that is “in progress” (mostly their own drawings) are kept in labeled file boxes.
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Then we have separate red file boxes that hold special keepsakes for me and my husband that are from the kids.  (You can read more details on how I save and organize kids’ artwork and keepsakes here.)
Having systems like these set up before school starts will keep the paper piles from accumulating all over your house and taking over!
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7.  Set up a calendar system that works for the whole family.
family calendar
In previous years I have just picked up a cute desktop calendar from Target and used it to write our family schedule so everyone can see it.  (A different color for each family member.)  This calendar didn’t include all of my appointments, mostly just the kids’ schedule so everyone in the family knew what activity was going on each day.
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We used this was when our schedule was a bit more manageable.  As the girls have gotten older and now we have three kids’ schedules to keep track of I just couldn’t fit everything we needed to remember on a calendar like this!  I’ve finally gone paperless (sort of!) and use an app I love called Cozi.  (I spoke more about it here.)  I do print out my weekly schedule every Sunday from Cozi because I still like to see things laid out in front of me on paper vs. on my laptop or phone.  I’ll never give up paper lists, but this app has definitely been a lifesaver for us.  Whatever your family calendar system is, have it in place before the school year starts!
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8.  Get prepared for school lunches.  I have to admit this is one of my least favorite things.  Packing three lunches each day wears on me quickly!  I try to convince my kids to eat school lunch but they like and eat my lunches better.  This year I’m determined to streamline the process and have my kids help more with their own lunches.  I’ll let you know how that goes!  For now I’m researching good lunch boxes for next year (trying something different!) and gathering fun lunch ideas to try.
cookie cutters
One trick I use a lot is cutting my kids’ food with cookie cutters.  Doesn’t take long and it makes the same boring food a bit more fun to eat.  Trust me on this one!  Your younger kids might not eat their watermelon in squares but if you cut it into a teddy bear?  Suddenly lunch time just became a lot more interesting.  :)
school lunch ideas
Putting food on sticks is another way to make food look more fun to eat!  You just have to make sure the sticks don’t become swords after the food is gone.  Clearly my son was younger when I used to do this and I didn’t have to worry about such things.  Ha!  :)
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9.  Wrap up any other loose ends that need to be taken care of before school starts.  Do you need to buy school supplies or new shoes or backpacks for the kids?  Do you need any allergy/medical forms signed by the doctor?  Do your kids need haircuts?  I’ve had years where I’ve put all of these things off until the last week of summer and instead of enjoying that time with my kids I’m running around like a crazy person trying to get everything ready.  Now I start earlier and little by little get my random back to school to-do’s finished so that I can play with my kids the week before they start.  A much better end to the summer when I’m on top of things!

So you’ve cleaned closets, bought a calendar, organized your home office and found a place for shoes and back packs to land.  Kids are set for school.  What about you?

10.  Make a plan to use the most of your time while kids are in school.  Regardless of if you stay home with kids or work outside of the home, we all want to use our time wisely and to have more productive days.  Here are a few past posts on things that help me stay organized once class is in session!
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My Time Management Binder is still working great for me.  This is where I dump my brain daily and keep all of my ever – growing lists organized.
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Last January I made a plan to organize my home (or most of it!) in a year.  I’ll admit this hasn’t been a huge priority this summer, but once kids are back in school I am going over my list and picking up right where I left off!  Did you make a list with me?  Fall is a good time to get back on track.  If you didn’t, Fall is also a great time to make a new 12 month plan!  Often September feels like a fresh new year to me even more than January does.
week-ahead-prep
My Friday afternoon week ahead prep sessions SAVED me last year!  I couldn’t believe how much more productive my weeks were once I started doing this.  You can read what I got in the habit of doing each Friday to prepare for the upcoming week here.  
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And last but not least, my 5 best tips for managing your time better.  I highly recommend reading Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.  Or at least read my favorite 5 tips from that book and go from there.  :)

Whew!  There you have it.  10 things to do now to get you and your kids organized for back to school!  I hope these tips are helpful!  It definitely helps me to review them every summer and to plan ahead.

Now all of that planning ahead has made me suddenly crave ice cream.  It is still summer after all.

The list can wait a few minutes… right?

:)

Happy back to school organizing everyone!

Friday Favorites – a shopping trip to World Market!

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you all had a good week.  So excited about my Friday Favorites post today!  I decided to take you all shopping with me.  Fun, right?  Do you like to shop?  I love to shop.  I’m a good shopper.  My husband loves this about me.

One of the last three sentences might not be entirely true.  I’ll let you figure out which one.  :)

Anyway.  Like I said, I love to shop.  But I also love living in an organized home without clutter and items I don’t really love or need.  So ever since I moved into the new house and started decorating I’ve developed a new shopping method.  If I find things I really like but I’m not sure if they will fit or work or if I’ll still like them tomorrow, I just snap a picture with my phone.  Then I can go home and measure or figure out where the item would work.  If I think something will be a perfect fit, I can go back for it.  This method also helps me to know if I really love something because if I do, I keep thinking about it.  If I forget about it.. wasn’t meant to be.

Lately I have been loving World Market.  (This post isn’t sponsored by them btw – I just really love that store!)  It seems like a few years ago World Market was hit and miss for me, but lately I go in there and I want one of everything!  I have to work hard to contain myself.  On my last trip I took so many pictures that I was laughing!  I practically photographed the whole store.  I thought I’d share some of my favorite finds along with a few favorite items that I had pictures of in the past and then they eventually ended up coming home with me.  :)

{affiliate links used}
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The first thing I spotted was this farmhouse chalkboard.  I’m going back for this.  I LOVE the frame and I found a fun spot for it.  I keep thinking about it so I know it’s a keeper.  :)
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Love this “Life doesn’t have to be perfect..” sign.  It’s a good reminder for perfectionists.  Not that I know any.  :)  I was actually thinking about how fun it would be during December when I have lots of reds throughout the house.  Is that a weird thought for July?  Still debating this one.
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I’m loving these gray wood candleholders.  Thinking they might be fun on my mantel in the formal living room?  Or in my bedroom.  They are a great price so I think they’ll end up coming home with me on my next trip.
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World Market is my favorite place to find fun bath towels.  I think their towels look like they are from Anthropology but for a fraction of the price!  I have these Mosaic bath towels.  (This is an old picture!)  I bought them for my bathroom and then ended up getting mint rugs and went a different direction with color, but I love the pattern and we use them all the time.
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These Katia Sculpted bath towels were tempting me this trip.
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See the towels in my bathroom right now on the left?  Those are from World Market too.  They don’t have them in the store or on-line anymore and I’m bummed!  I want to pick up some extras because they match my rugs so well and we use them every day.  They are favorites!  Hoping they come back.
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Of course you know how I feel about this wooden bottle caddy!
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Perfect for art supplies!  Or a million other things.  I used it at a BBQ a couple of months ago to hold plastic utensils and napkins.  You could also use it too hold and open bottles like you are supposed to, but where’s the fun in that?
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I’m so in love with this 3-shelf wooden rolling cart!  They also have one with 4 shelves.  It would be perfect in a home office area to organize craft supplies or papers or just about anything!  I don’t have a place for it.  Kinda sad!
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But here’s a fun wooden organizer I DID have a place for!  I loved these so much they had to come home with me – no “debate picture” needed.  :)  These are the wood and metal Sebastian 2-level tray.  Three of them fit perfectly for this space by the window in my office!  I’ve been decorating this room and have a few things to finish before I share some progress.  But it’s coming along!  I’m thrilled these trays not only have the industrial/farmhouse look I love, but they will also be perfect to help organize all of the endless paper piles we have going on in this space.  Wood and metal 2-level trays for the win!
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I really liked this hexagonal metal clock.  I actually love all of the World Market clocks!  They have a fun selection right now.
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These Ryan Pedestal clocks also caught my eye.  Great for a bookshelf.
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This Love the Journey sign was in my cart for a while and then I decided to make sure it would fit for the gallery wall I’m working on before I buy it.  Still need to measure, but I hope it works because I really like it and it’s only $16!  We love to ride bikes and I’m always telling my husband that life is about the journey (he’s a destination type of guy) so it has some meaning too.  :)
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Can’t express enough love for these Clear Barcelona Vases!  I have two of them already and I’m thinking of picking up one more to group the three together.
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Another favorite I’ve shared before are World Market’s Blossom Flowers.  All of their faux flowers are great, but the blossoms are my favorite.
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I have the “green velvet plum” blossoms (far left) which is funny because they don’t look green at all!  They look ivory.  Not sure how they came up with that name.
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Here they are on my table in one of the Barcelona Vases.
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A set of two is only $16!  I like odd numbers for things like this so I used three in this vase.
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I’ve always loved World Market’s kitchen towels!  Aren’t they fun!?
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I also ADORE these stacking mugs.  They come in so may fun colors and patterns!  Cute present for a coffee or tea drinker.  They make me happy.  :)
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Of course two of my long standing favorites are this Mason Ceramic Cookie Jar and the matching Ceramic Utensil Crock. So inexpensive and they add such a fun pop of color in my kitchen!
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They were fun to decorate with in the Fall.
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And in the summer.  :)
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We still love our World Market popcorn bowls.  I gave these to my girls last year for Christmas with American Girl Doll DVD’s and popcorn inside.  Such a hit and we use them every weekend!
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I had to snap a picture of these French Bistro side chairs and the matching counter stools.  I really like them both and I discovered them after I’d already found something else for our house.  These have such a fun look for a great price!  I think when I’m ready for a new look I’m going to get the counter stools for our kitchen island.  I love the clean lines and they look comfortable.  As comfortable as you can get on a wooden stool.  :)
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Of course you all know this Marcelle Tufted Ottoman is a favorite of mine.  It’s on sale right now for such a great price!
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It was one of the very first things I bought for my house!  But it didn’t work in my family room and to be honest, it doesn’t fit great anywhere.  Ha!  But I love it so I’m going to make it work somewhere!  Just give me some time.  I’m tricky like that.
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This is a peek at World Market’s Modular Kitchen Wall Storage Collection.  You have to check out the on-line picture of everything put together.  Be still my heart!  This is an organizer’s dream!  Functional and SO pretty.  I’ve thought about putting it on my pantry wall but I don’t really need more storage.  But I want more storage.  If it looks like this.  :)
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I also adore this wood and metal Teagan desk!  And it’s on sale for only $299!  And I’m looking for a desk/console for my bedroom!  But this is too big.  :(  Hoping one of you will buy it.  Because it’s so much fun.  And that will make me feel better.

Another item that I have wanted for a long time that doesn’t work in my space is their Emerson Shelving.  I really love it and I’m looking for something similar but I need it to be smaller in depth!

I stopped in my tracks when I spotted this Metal 3-tier stand.  I think it’s a new item because I haven’t seen it in the store before.  And clearly I know this store!  Pottery Barn also has a similar Galvanized Metal 3-tier stand but it’s $69 and the World Market stand is only $39.  A better bang for your buck.
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But I’m holding off since I already have this 3-teir stand from Pottery Barn.  It’s ok to have two though, right?  Tell me it’s ok.

See!  This post was a book! I have so many favorites from World Market right now.  Hope my little shopping spree gave you a few decorating ideas!  I’m broke inspired every time I go in that store.

:)

Enjoy your weekend friends!

Outdoor Pergola and Fire pit

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Hi friends!  I’m back from Atlanta!  What a beautiful city.  Haven (the DIY/home decor blog conference I attended) was incredible.  Everyone was so friendly, the classes were amazing and I especially enjoyed finally meeting friends I’ve had for years on-line!  Blogging is a wonderful thing.  :)  I’ll have to do a recap at some point but for now I’m sharing our outdoor pergola and fire pit area.  These pictures have been sitting on my computer for a few months and if I’m not careful I’ll be sharing them in December when you all want to see Christmas trees, not outdoor pillows.  :) [Read more…]

Fashion Friday

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YEA!!  It’s Friday!  So excited for the weekend!  I haven’t done a Fashion Friday post in such a long time!  (You can see past Fashion Friday posts here.)  But I found some really fun things at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and have to share them with you!  The sale goes public today and it’s a good one this year.  I snapped this picture above a few days ago to share with you my typical wardrobe these days.  Honestly I have made a bad habit of living in workout clothes.  I exercise in the morning and then get busy and run around in gym clothes all day.  Now that things have settled down and our new house isn’t taking so much of my time I’m trying to make more of an effort to actually get dressed in something cute for the day!  You’d think that would be an easy thing..  :) [Read more…]