Ready for Back-to-School? Try Our Organizational Hacks!

As the summer days wind down, families are preparing for the back-to-school season.

How do you organize your home and day to make this transition run smoothly? Perfection should never be the goal, but simplicity can be. The more you simplify your household and daily tasks, the faster you can get to the fun part of spending more time together. To help your family, we have compiled a few suggestions to kick off the new school year from toddler to teen.

Toddler: Simplify for a Smoother Morning

Where to Start? Your laundry piles! One way to reduce the laundry workload is to simplify and declutter your toddler’s closet. Before the school year begins, go through their wardrobe. Let go of anything too small or uncomfortable. If you are feeling sentimental about an item, think about how this item might benefit another family. Having fewer clothing items will make getting ready in the morning easier, and your child can even participate when you know everything fits them. Capsule wardrobes are trendy for adults, and you can find many examples online of how a few items can make multiple outfits. Consider this same concept for your child. Create a capsule wardrobe of staple items that mix and match easily.

Make an Evening Routine. Another way to ensure everyone gets out the door on time is to set up an afternoon or evening routine to prepare for the next day. When dealing with a toddler or young child, rushing around often causes them to dig in their heels and take twice as long. Stay a step ahead by laying out your toddler’s outfit from head to toe for the following day, or organize a week’s worth of outfits into large-size Ziploc baggies labeled for each day. Pack lunches and snacks the night before. Prepare their breakfast for the next morning. A smoothie can sit prepared in the refrigerator, or overnight oatmeal is an easy breakfast hack. Make sure your tote, purse, or bags are ready to go, and you know where your keys are located. Although this may add some work to the evening before, routine prep will decrease the stress in the morning when you are short on time.

Have a Little Fun. It’s important to make time for quick snuggles or morning kisses to start the day off right. Make getting ready a game. “How fast can you get ready today? Can you beat yesterday’s time?” Play upbeat music in the morning and dance as you make breakfast. Get up earlier and stretch together or take a nature walk with the dog. Make-believe that your car is a pirate ship, or you are flying to outer space. You may not have the energy or time to do this every morning but try to add a little joy whenever possible. This change in mindset may transform your mornings from stressful to using this time to make memories.

Elementary: Keep Your Cool This Back-to-School!

Let’s Start at the Front Door. Set up an organized solution that is easy from the moment they walk through the door. Instead of frantically searching the house for missing items, a landing area with a series of hooks can hold backpacks, lunch boxes, and coats. A few simple baskets marked with each child’s name can hold shoes. Don’t forget any special items, like a class project or a change of clothing, by grabbing a brightly colored post-it note reminder and sticking it to your front door or backpack in this area. Or create a master checklist for your kiddos to double-check before leaving each day, so nothing is forgotten. And never lose your car keys with a hook specifically for them!

Better Yet, Keep It in the Car. Let’s face it, sometimes the family car feels more like an Uber. Declutter your car and organize it with a trunk organizer. Save time hunting down sporting equipment, uniforms, shoes, ballet slippers, band instruments, etc., by packing the trunk organizer every weekend before your busy week starts. And pro-tip: Save one slot of the organizer for yourself. Fill it with everything you need for the gym or an afternoon walk or run. This way, you have what you need to make a quick workout fit into your busy day between carpooling.

Another great organizational idea for the car is to create pre-made kits for your family’s needs. Using a small clear makeup bag or Ziploc bag, fill one with tech items, like spare phone or tablet chargers, a flashlight, and batteries. Create one with first aid necessities and items for your little athletes, like bandages, antiseptic wipes, antihistamines, and tweezers. And a third can hold homework and school supplies, like extra pens and pencils, a calculator, and a small notepad. Label each kit and always keep them in the car.

Technology to Keep You on Track. Download a family calendar app to keep everyone’s schedules straight and easily color-coded. At a glance, you and your family can see an agenda of activities, meetings, school schedules, practices, and sports games. Plus, the app allows for shared reminders and editable shopping lists, to-do lists, and chores—all in one place. To reduce clutter and paperwork in your home, the ArtKive app or Keepy app will scan and save your children’s artwork, school projects, or awards into a digital scrapbook.

Teens: Have an A+ School Year with These Hacks

Bathroom Organizer. Let’s face it; the teen years mean more time getting ready in the bathroom. Instead of watching your kids fight over the hairbrush every morning or scramble to get ready, keep your teen’s morning essentials organized in a bathroom caddy kept in their bedroom. The caddy can hold everything they need to run smoothly in the morning, like hair products, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and any medication or vitamins. Before your teen gets ready, they can grab their caddy and head into the bathroom with everything they need in a flash—no panicking or fighting when everything is in one place.

Organized at a Glance. A planner can keep your teen’s academic, extracurricular, and social schedules dialed into one spot. A good planner should include a calendar with month-long, weekly, and daily views with a place to keep a list of their classes. The month-long view can be constructive in giving your teen a broad view of their activities and how to plan for long-term projects and goals. A wall calendar in your home dedicated to their activities can also make it easy for them to see the entire month at a glance.

Some teens may prefer digital planners but encourage them to focus on the full-week and month views for better planning, so they don’t just look at their daily tasks. And organizational apps like Remember the Milk or Evernote can help your child remember deadlines and get reminders.

Watches, timer apps, or a low-tech egg timer are powerful organizational tools to teach your teen time management. Teens can use these to keep track of the time it takes to complete a specific task and use this information to budget for the next time.

Extra Motivation. Parents and teens sometimes need a little extra motivation to get them through the week. Instead of feeling guilty about stopping for a quick breakfast muffin or morning drive-thru coffee, budget for and purchase a gift card at your favorite coffee shop at the beginning of the school year. To create a bonding moment with you and your teen, get guilt-free lattes together every Friday to celebrate the school week’s end. Incentivize them to get good grades by adding money to the gift card each quarter based on their report card.

Don’t Forget! You’ve got a tough job of keeping yourself and your family organized! Organize a little time in your day for your personal needs, like touching base with your support system, working out, meditating, reading a book, or indulging in a quick nap. You can better care for your loved ones when your needs are met.

Share your back-to-school photos on Instagram. Tag @dreamdinners. We look forward to seeing your smiling family photos!