If you're like me it feels like September came out of nowhere. In less than two weeks it will be here, and that means Back to School! During the summer I try to maintain some sort of control out of necessity (three kids=at least minor organization) but adding in a new preschool schedule for Lev and getting Finn on the bus on time means a major Organization Overhaul. Now, don't let that scare you. Let's ease into it together with these top tips to get your organized. Some of these I employ right here at Mamatoga Headquarters, some I found on Pinterest and cannot WAIT to try out this fall. 1. My top tip that I discovered last year was the Sunday Night Wardrobe Pick. Sunday turned into the big laundry day, and while I put it away Finn and I would pick out outfits for every day of the school week. I would check the weather (sometimes you find the need to add on a hoodie but mostly it was spot on weather wise) and would line up Finn approved outfits. No disagreements about which clothes he wanted to wear (or did NOT want to wear), we would compromise ("handsome pants" picked by me, Spiderman shirt picked by him) and I would fold every item, including socks and underwear on top, and slide it into a clothes organizer labeled with each day, that way he would just wake up, change clothes and meet me downstairs ready to go. (ps, you can also just pick up a 5 shelf clothes organizer at Target for this, leaving the weekends free for your child's own clothing inspirations...)
2. Create a Command Center. There is nothing worse than the mad rush as the bus is heading towards your stop as you are scrambling to find sneakers, the backpack, the hat, whatever that elusive item is that will derail your entire morning. After MANY instances of that happening here we set up our little Command Center. In our garage's mud room area we have a bench with a large mirror complete with hooks and next to that some labeled baskets and a boot and shoe tray. The kids know that when they get home the backpack goes on their hook, the jacket goes next to it, shoes go on the tray and that's where they stay. Hats, mittens, scarves all get put into the basket and just to make sure every night I check it to guarantee it's all where it should be. Whatever your space allowance is you can still have one drop off area for school stuff. The hooks are low enough that the kids can hang stuff and get stuff off themselves and once they get into the routine it makes the mornings so much smoother. Have little ones that can't read yet? Use photos instead of name labels to help them get to know where their stuff goes.
3. We have a second Command Center inside, and that one is all about papers and calendars. There are tons of great options here for organizing school papers including some make your own, and it can be incredibly simple. You can choose a binder, grab a three hole punch and insert stuff in as it comes in, make an in and out folder/bucket, or just a few folders labeled with months. The main point is to have one place where is ALWAYS goes, so when your looking for that permission slip you know there is only one place it could have gone, crisis averted. Need an easy way to hold on to their school artwork? Check out Artkive, my newest obsession...
4. Have more than one child? Embrace color coding! Right now I'm all about the pink and green. Lev is pink and Finn is green (just starting Jack out on blue) and we've gotten the color coding thing down to our hangers. Toothbrushes, cups, hooks, labels, storage bins, all come in color here. Even on our dry erase board we've got green for Finn's activities, pink for Lev's and a couple other colors in the mix so at a glance you can get a feel of what the day or week will bring. Now that Lev is bringing home more school papers I've got her folders all lined up and color coded and ready to go.
5. Plan lunchboxes and meals ahead of time. Find out your weekly lunch menu ahead of time (check out these great bento ideas for fall here) and prepare what you can the night before. Want to ramp up the preparedness? Set out the breakfast dishes once dinner is cleaned up, there's one more step you can skip in the morning rush.
6. Try a kid friendly alarm clock! For little ones just starting to get acquainted with time these kiddo alarm clocks can be a fantastic tool. This sweet alarm clock helps kids to not get out of bed too early with an alarm option for older kids (this one has a sweet bird chirping sound followed by a rooster crowing, nice and gentle for little ears). A simple picture helps them to recognize when it's still time to sleep and when it is time to get moving and start their day.
7. Lastly, you all know I love charts, and a morning routine chart has been great because Finn can see what jobs he has done and what he needs to do before heading off to school. Customize your own or print one off here (there's a free one I've posted about before right here). It took some reminders (naturally!) to get him on board with the chart, but it really has been a super time saver. When he was younger I used a picture only one, then transitioned to a picture and words one, and this year we are doing only words to help him with reading AND to stay organized and on schedule.