Just as you were getting used to later nights and slower mornings, it’s time to head back to school. This year, give yourself a break by starting out ahead of the game. A little bit of organizing can go a long way towards cutting down on the stress and scramble that happens once classes and extracurricular activities are in full swing, starting with these sanity-saving ideas.
Tidy Up Drawers
Before the school year starts, enlist your kids’ help to organize their clothes. Empty out their drawers and weed out anything too small or overly worn. Before replacing the clothes in the drawers, purchase a set of drawer dividers to create self-contained compartments within each drawer for items to live. Drawer dividers are the perfect solution to keeping T-shirts separated from the long-sleeve variety, and socks separated from underwear.
Make a Weekly Checklist
Hang a chalk or white board in a central location in the household (like the kitchen) and each week, write on it the main events (piano lessons, soccer games, birthday parties) and to-dos (buy a birthday present). Color-code items depending on who’s doing what, so it’s easy to see in a glance exactly what’s going on with each family member during the week.
Organize Important Papers
Back-to-school always triggers an onslaught of forms to be signed. Set aside a folder near the front door for important school papers. Think of it as your family in-box and let family members know to place school-related documents there. Once forms are signed and completed, clip them together and tack them to the fridge. Kids can pick up papers from there and have the responsibility of getting them back into backpacks.
Troubleshoot Problem Areas
Kids can’t find socks? Buy a dozen in the same cut and color and put them in a clear container right by the front door. Along the same lines, designate places for common school supplies, sports gear and even things like hair ties (and keep them well-stocked), so you’re never hunting for necessities at the last minute.
Make a Weekly Menu
On the weekend, map out and shop for two to three dinners (or more) for the upcoming week so all supplies are on hand and ready to go. Double up the recipe so leftovers will last for a couple of days or can be frozen for future meals. Things like soups, chili, some pasta dishes (such as lasagna or baked ziti), sauces, even breaded chicken freeze well (just be sure to store them in leak-proof containers). You can also pre-chop veggies, fruits and herbs so they’re easy to add to meals or snack on during the week. Make breakfast simpler with big batches of muffins, pancakes or waffles that can also be frozen and reheated on demand.
Set Up Snack Stations
Designate areas in the kitchen and fridge for snacks and school lunch staples to ease the morning rush. In the pantry, set aside a shelf or bin and stock it with clear containers of various sizes that can hold the family’s favorite easy-to-grab snacks, such as granola bars, popcorn, dried fruit, applesauce packs or pretzel bags. In the fridge, a drawer or several storage containers can become a one-stop lunch shop with things like sandwich bread, deli meats, cheese sticks, pre-cut fruits and veggies (these storage tips will help them stay fresh), juice boxes, and peanut butter and jelly.
Make Lunch Prep Easy
When you’re rushing around trying to get yourself and your child out the door in the morning, anything that saves you minutes is gold. This leak-proof sandwich container is the perfect answer for packing and protecting sandwiches. It slips easily into a backpack with no mess, and you can re-use it again and again. If lunch is looking more like last night’s leftovers, place rice on one side and grilled chicken on the other with this two-in-one divided container. Seal the lid, place it inside a lunchbox or slip it in her backpack and your child is good to go.
And speaking of lunchboxes, if you need a little menu inspiration, check out these fun, healthy kid lunch ideas.