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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 10 things to do now to get organized for back to school!
white dutch door
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..
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?  :)
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.
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!).
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!
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.  ;)
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.  :)
new school outfits new school clothes
organized outfits
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.
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.)
garage mudroom
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!
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.
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.)
I’ve used file folders to hold special school work I want to save before it goes into my kids’ albums.
art work storage
For larger items we used these rubbermaid storage bins that slide under my girls’ beds.
saving kids' art work
Special work that is “in progress” (mostly their own drawings) are kept in labeled file boxes.
organize and save kids artwork and keepsakes
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!
family calendar2
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.
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!
napkin notes
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!  :)
back to school checkllist2
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!
time management binder2
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.
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.
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.  
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!

xoxo, Erin
Join the Conversation

22 thoughts on “10 things to do now to get organized for back to school!

  1. What a fantastic list full of things to think about doing before the mad rush of back to school! Thanks, Erin for helping us stay on top of things! :)

  2. Oh my goodness, this is the best post! Makes me giddy and totally anxious all at the same time :) I’ve got to finish up my list and to-dos. And finish reading that Eat the Frog book. And a million other things!!! As always, I LOVE your organizing posts :) xo

    1. Thanks cute Gina! I know.. I have so much I need to do! Wish we could work on our lists together. I’m tempted to read that book again myself! It’s full of so many good tips! Excited for our Sept. plans! :) xo

  3. Great tips.:) This is the first week of the school holidays here.

    Even tho I don’t have children I can pass these tips on to others, or direct them to your blog.

    Another couple of tips I have is to get children into a routine of getting up & going to bed a week or so before school starts, that way it helps them to have a routine & also makes sure that they’re not too tired when school starts again.

    Most children here wear school uniforms, so the problem of what to wear to school every day is solved. Still brill tips tho with how you organise their clothes.

    It’s strange to think that if El was over here she’d be going up to secondary/senior school. She goes up to junior high next year – & young womens – next year doesn’t she?

    It’s great that you are having relaxing school holidays, sometimes some children’s holidays are so jam-packed I don’t know how they cope.:)

    1. Thanks Julie! That’s a great idea to get them back in the routine a week before school starts. It’s always hard to get back in the habit of going to bed and waking up earlier! Yes – El will be in Jr. High and Young Women’s next year! Just thinking about it makes me want to bawl! :( Time flies by too quickly.. Enjoy your day! xo

  4. Hi Erin! What a fabulous post! It makes me want to start organizing right now!! I had to chuckle at your You’ve Got Mail reference – that is one of my all-time favorite movies and I quote it all the time!!!

  5. Erin, great post. I love your blog and adore your entire house. We are planning a renovation of our entire first floor including our kitchen and your kitchen is my very favorite I have found in months and months of research. You have excellent taste and we share a heart for organizing. Quick question: do you know what paint color your kitchen islands are? We are doing basically the same color scheme. I live on the East Coast but I wish I could hire you to help me with my decorating and organizing!

    1. Hi Kitty! What a sweet thing to say. Thank you! So kind of you. You made my day. :) My kitchen islands are “Chelsea Gray” by Benjamin Moore although we painted it twice and I think the second coat was a bit lighter. But we started with “Chelsea Gray.” :) Good luck with your renovation! So exciting! xo

  6. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to keep track of our teenager’s work schedules on the calendar, now they both have jobs. Your highlighter idea is brilliant! We had thought of each of us using a different coloured pen–but this will be so much easier! Thanks for that.

  7. Oh my goodness…I’ve just spent entirely too much time on the laptop!! I read all of this post (which was awesome, btw) and clicked through most of your links and read those posts, too. We have the artwork conundrum, too. My little girl (age almost 7) is constantly giving me paintings, drawings and “books” she makes at home – plus all the school stuff – and now she’s gotten her little brother into arts and crafts…

    1. Oh my word Lindsey.. it’s so overwhelming! Paper everywhere! I’ve been working on my systems a bit this summer and will share them at some point. Hang in there! And keep your head above the paper! ;) Thanks cutie. xo

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