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Back to School Organization

It’s that time friends!  August is here and summer is winding down.  Are you cheering or crying?  We have a little bit of both going on around here.  :)  Whether we are ready for summer to end or not, the new school year is quickly approaching and we want to be ready for it, right?  Right.  I had so much fun sharing back to school organization tips on the news.  As a former school teacher and a lover of organization this happens to be one of my favorite topics!  Below are my best tips for back to school organization.  So sharpen your pencils and get ready for class.  :)

1} Half way through the summer (or right now today!) write a back to school checklist that includes everything you need to do to be ready for the first day of school.  I like to break my list into two sections:  THINGS TO DO and THINGS TO BUY.  Here are a few examples of things you might include in your list:

If you have your back to school check list written early you can take your time working on it throughout the summer and not feel rushed/stressed trying to get it all done the week before school starts.  Been there.  Done that.  Don’t want to do it again.  :)

2}  Clean out kids’ drawers/closets.  The beginning of the school year is a great time to go through your kids’ clothes.  Donate clothes that are too small and assess what they need and don’t need for the new school year.

This is a great time to organize your own closet too!  For no other reason than it will make you happy every time you walk in it.  :)  (full post on my closet organization here)

3}  Be prepared with a variety of school lunch ideas.  If you pack a sack lunch for your kids, spend some time in the summer searching for and trying new sack lunch ideas.  There are a lot of fun and creative alternatives to the typical PB and J sandwich on-line!

One of my favorite ways to mix things up is to use cookie cutters to cut different food into fun shapes.  The cookie cutters I shared on the news I picked up at Target.  Food just tastes better to kids when it’s in the shape of a butterfly, dinosaur or car, right?  This takes very little time and adds some interest to your child’s lunch making them much more likely to eat their food.  Which is always the goal.  :)
Another fun trick is to cut up fruit/veggies/cheese and put them on a stick.  My kids love to eat their fruits and veggies if I serve them this way.  Much more exciting than just a sack of apple slices and you are able to give them more of a variety of food too.  Bonus.

And of course, while we’re talking school lunches, don’t forget the napkin notes!  Take a quick minute to jot a little hello and I love you to your child on his/her napkin.  It will brighten their day.  :)

4} Create ways to simplify your morning routine as much as possible.  Do as much as you can the night before!  Pack lunches, get homework and backpacks ready, lay out breakfast dishes and clothes for the next day.  Involve the kids in this the day before!  They can help get their own things ready for the following day.  If you are leaving with the kids in the morning have your things ready to go also.

My favorite way to simplify our morning routine is to plan outfits ahead of time.  It works best for us to plan clothes a week in advance.  The girls lay out their outfits and we use ziplock bags labeled with each day of the week to hold accessories.  It only takes a little prep time on Sunday and saves us from a lot of morning drama throughout the week!  (full post on our system here)

5}  Control the paper!  We all know that once school starts the amount of paper that starts coming home is insane!  Don’t let it pile up!  Set up something in your house (file folders, a magazine holder, anything with slots in it) to hold important papers.  I have used file sorters in the past but lately have been using my magazine holder (from Ballard Design).

I like to have a place for paper that “needs action.”  These are forms that need to be signed, the b-day part invite you need to RSVP to, etc.  Anything you need to do something with goes here.  The next slot is for forms to save.  And then I just like to have a place to keep papers for each child.  I’m going to figure out different way to set this up in my new house so I can include child #3.  :)

Another way to control the paperwork coming home is to set up a homework station.  Having a set place to store and organize all of the kids’ art supplies and homework has been a life saver for us!  Find a drawer/cupboard – anything that works and create a place to keep paper, pencils, and any other supplies your kids need for homework each day.

And the final way to organize your paper is to have a system set up for special work/art your kids bring home that you want to save.  

I use a crate and file folders that are organized by the season (fall, winter, spring) to hold special work until I have time to put it in my kids’ albums.

6}  Use a large calendar to keep your family  schedule on track.  

I just bought this fun desk calendar at Target – so cute, right?  And I’m so excited to use it next year to organize our schedule.  I have my own separate planner and Kenny uses his iPhone, so this calendar will mostly be used for the kids’ schedules.  I’ll include things Kenny and I have going on any time it affects the kids.

I bought five different colored highlighters and gave us each a color.  My idea of a fun evening?  Organizing our schedule on a cute calendar with colorful markers.  :)  Now Ellie, for example, can look at the calendar and find all of the purple to see what she has going on.  No excuse for forgetting a library book on library day anymore!

 I copied a past month from our last school year to share this calendar on the news.  I’m not going to include every day things like school, Kole’s therapy, etc.  Just the extra appointments and activities.

Having a calendar like this is a great way to help your family see what’s going on each week!  Just one more way to keep everyone on track and things running smoothly.  
Whew!  That was a book.  :)  I hope a few of these suggestions gave you some ideas for you and your family.  Happy back to school organizing everyone!
xoxo, Erin
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22 thoughts on “Back to School Organization

  1. I just made my list! My oldest is starting kindergarten and my middle kiddo is starting preschool, so life if about to change! I do the exact same thing with our calendar! I just ordered my new Erin Condren calendars {I’m slightly obsessed with them!} for the school year. I thought I was on top of things, but looking at my new lists, I better get to work :) Always love the organizing posts! ~gina

  2. Great post! I think I commented before that I use a wall magazine holder for my kids schoolwork and it works really great. I keep mine organized by child and within each slot is 4 file folders (Action, Schedules, Project Life keepers, Extracurricular). So that is a way that you would still have room for Kole! This system worked really well last school year for keeping papers off the counter.

    We actually have a whole month of summer left and I’m not wishing it away! I do enjoy our 3 month break but sometimes it feels like there is so much “Back to School” talk starting in July that the pressure to get going sort of interferes with our summer!

  3. Thanks Hanna! You are always so sweet to comment!

    Yea for Kindergarten Gina! Get a box of tissues ready. :) I need to try the Erin Condren calendars – I hear great things about them!

    I hear you Lynnsey! It’s good to be on top of things but summer is SO nice. It’s always a bit sad when it ends. Thanks for the great idea for my magazine holder! Love the way you organize yours!

  4. I agree with Lynnsey, the early back to school talk and the pressure to get going can interfer with living in the present and just enjoying summer. We still have 4 weeks left and I don’t really like to start getting prepared for school for another week.

    The tips are very helpful though.

  5. How cute is that chevron calendar?!! I don’t have a spot for one or even necessarily a purpose since I use my iPhone, but I feel like I need one.

    Hope all the moving stuff is going well, Erin! Posts such as these make me miss your blogs! Thanks for taking time to share ideas amidst your chaos.

  6. The kiddos started back here this past week, and the supply shelves are about empty at the store!! The moms here could have used your post a month ago!! LOL Elie is loving her new school.

  7. Great ideas Erin!!! Do you buy the bulk of the clothes right before school starts or throughout the year? I’m just curious about how you guys do it since you always have the same weather! :)

  8. Thanks everyone!

    Anonymous – I buy the bulk of my kids’ clothes now for the new school year. They get a few new things to wear for Christmas and a I usually get the girls a few new dresses for summer but now is definitely when I stock up the most! :)

  9. Great Ideas Erin!!! I love your blog posts. One question, what do you do with all of the leftover bread/fruit/cheese when you use the shape cutters? Also, once they choose the clothes, do they ever change their minds come Thursday or Friday? How do you deal with that? I’ve got to find a Chevron Calendar! I love it!!!

  10. Congrats on another great TV slot Erin! It’s always so great to watch and hear you deliver your fab tips! I need to get out of a lunchbox rut… I don’t think my girls are too old for some cookie cutter cheese, and they would definitely love fruit on a stick, and thanks for reminding me to put more notes in – using a napkin or paper towel is a great idea xx p.s. I agree with an earlier commenter – I could so see you doing your own show :)

  11. Love this! Still just under a month until back to school here in Vancouver, Canada! I am a teacher too and love all these tips! Trying to get my two littles out the door to before school care so my students aren’t waiting at my classroom door is a daily feat! These tips will help, especially the outfits idea now that my 3.5 yr old is becoming a little fashionista! Love your blog!

  12. Thanks Rhonda! A lot of times I’m cutting up the fruit shapes during breakfast so I feed the leftovers to my kids! Sometimes I eat them as I go. :) And yes – my girls TRY to change their minds about clothes but that’s half of the reason I came up with the bags and laying things out a week in advance. The rule is that whatever we have planned out they HAVE to wear. No negotiating. I have to be so strict about that or we are back to the same place of spending 20 minutes every morning debating clothes. Sounds like you know exactly what I’m talking about. :) And the chevron calendar was from Target! So cute!

    Julie and Paula – you are both too kind. Thank you!

  13. I couldn’t decide which picture to pin! This post is so helpful, and the way that you arranged everything is so aesthetically pleasing and easy to access. Also, I wish my mom had made my lunch with those cool cutouts!


  14. Great organizing tips! The color-coded calendar was a life saver when my kids were little. Instead of using highlighter pens though (which was an extra step for me), I simply used different colored pens. Each family member had their own color.
    Keep up the great posts!

  15. Your organisation posts always leave me grinning. I just LOVE labels on everything, and you make me want to go and relabel all my stuff!! :)

  16. Had to stop at target the other day just to get the cookie cutters.Can’t wait to use them in a couple weeks for school lunches.Alos I love how you organize the kids clothes for the week.We have clothes organizers from Lillian Vernon that hang in the closets with each day of the week but they take up alot of room so I may switch to your way,Do you use new bags every week? or do the hold up for awhile?

  17. Thanks so much everyone!

    Linda – that’s a great idea to just use different colored markers/pens!

    Amy – yea for cookie cutters! My bags lasted the whole year last year! We labeled new bags for this year. But that’s the nice thing about the bags – so easy to replace if one rips!

  18. I am trying to get ready for back to school and found this post in a google search. LOVE IT!! I will definitely be using some of your ideas, especially the cookie cutters!

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