If you are a parent to a school-age child or children, Back to School Week is a huge week for you. It’s exciting, scary, expensive, stressful and thrilling all at once. And it completely tests your organization skills.
If you are a parent who struggles with organization, starting a new school year can be really stressful, because it means new schedules to keep track of, new contacts to remember, new items to store (e.g. backpacks, school supplies) and a whopping number of To-Do’s to remember (e.g. snack duty, buy posterboard, sign permission slips). If you don’t have a good system in place for these things, you and your kids suffer the results of being late, forgetting things and neglecting responsibilities. Not a good feeling.
So here are some ideas for setting up a system for tracking all of those things:
1. You will need to buy:
- A set of stackable in-trays. You need one tray per child plus one for school notices. Label each tray.
- One clipboard per child plus wall hooks to hold each clipboard. This will be for holding their homework. Label each clipboard.
- A whiteboard for tracking To-Do’s
- Consider buying a wall calendar. If you don’t use a wall calendar, set up a calendar in your phone or computer or purchase an appointment book. You MUST have a calendar in some form to track schedules and to-do’s.
2. Designate a spot in your house as a command center for everything related to school. Usually this is a corner of the kitchen counter, but it could also be a table in the entry way. You will need flat space for the in-trays and wall space for the clipboards, white board and wall calendar, if you decide to get one.
3. At the end of the school day, teach your children to put their schoolwork in their in-tray, school notices in the school notice tray and clip homework to their homework clipboard. If this is too much for your kids to remember, start by having them put everything in their in-tray.
4. Then every evening, you go through their schoolwork/paperwork and sort it. Schoolwork that is worth saving stays in their in-tray. (I always recycle worksheets and anything that isn’t their best work.)
5. Read notices from the school. Enter any important dates they mention in your calendar. Also enter any To-Do’s they mention on your white board. Recycle the notices after doing this. If you may need to reference them in the future, put them back in the school notices in-tray.
6. Sign permission slips, report cards, and anything else that needs to be signed and put those back in your child’s backpack that same evening.
5. At the end of the school year, do a final sort of the kids’ in-trays. Put the schoolwork worth saving in long-term storage. Recycle all school notices and everything else.
The key to this system working is YOU working the system every day, no exceptions. No system on the face of the planet simply works by itself. YOU have to set aside the time to actually do something with all of those papers, to-do’s and important dates. It’s about creating that routine and practicing it over and over and over.
If you haven’t set up a routine like this before, it may take a few weeks of continually practicing it before it becomes automatic. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget to do it. Just remind yourself that this is new for you, and try it again tomorrow. Eventually, this routine will become a habit for you and you and your family will reap the benefits of FINALLY feeling like you are staying on top of things.
If after a few weeks, you find you cannot stick to this new routine, you may want to seek out the services of a professional organizer like me. I have lots of experience creating household routines for families that are tailored to their habits and needs, and I can create one for you too. Click here to find out more.
Let me know how this school system works for you. If you have questions or suggestions for improving this routine, please enter them in the comments below so everyone can benefit. Happy Back to School Week everyone!