The beginning of the school year brings great excitement and anticipation: A new teacher, new pencils, a new backpack (I’m a mean mom, so only every two years for my kids), new things to try and learn! But with the new school year also comes clutter and chaos and all the “JUST. CAN. NOTs.”
If the word “organization” sends shivers up your spine, rest easy.
I am no Claire Dunphy. I am completely and legitimately Phil. My spirit animal is Baloo from The Jungle Book. I score practically zero in the “Type A,” “red,” or “D” categories of those corresponding personality tests. I should be the last person writing a post about organization. Last year, however, when my firstborn was starting kindergarten and I had a 3-year-old (doing a 3-day preschool program) and a newborn, I had to learn to swim fast or be swiftly swept away by the crazy current.
The tips I am sharing are not novel. I wanted to keep it simple, though, because I have also learned that being organized and staying on top of things is a lot of work and takes practice. I want to encourage you to become disciplined with just these two basic areas, so you can feel less overwhelmed and win the coveted “Back to School Mom of the Year” award. I have mine sitting next to my “Safe Driving Award” from 10th grade Driver’s Ed class.
The morning sets the tone for the entire day, but the smoothest mornings happen by preparing the night before. Every family is different, so our routines are going to be different as well. Decide what is important for your family and figure out how to make it work.
Ours looks something like this: Kids play after dinner until it is 7:15pm. We alert them when they have 10 more minutes to play, which makes them think they get to stay up later (we can outsmart them for only a little longer, right?). Then they brush teeth and mommy and daddy alternate to which kiddo we read stories and tuck in for the night. *Baby is usually in bed by 6:30pm, but we are flexible if she isn’t for some reason and the big girls can stay up a little later until we can get to them. Routines are not meant to be broken, but adjusted based on changes in your family’s needs.
We make sure my 4-year-old daughter’s clothes for the next day are laid out the night before (see picture below). For my 6-year-old, we have her clothes hanging in matching sets in her closet. That way, she gets the “oh so very honored privilege” of selecting her own clothes in the morning without the result being a cross between Sofia the First and Madonna.
After the kids are in bed, I FORCE myself to do the following things, even when I. AM. EXHAUSTED: I get the homework folder signed and I pack lunches. I also do some routine evening household tasks, but that is for another day.
I enjoy the mornings with my kids much better if I am not frantically trying to get all of this done in the morning. You never know what the night or next day may bring with little ones (a surprise bath for the baby that threw up in her crib at 5am for example), so control what you can when you can so you aren’t waking up already feeling behind.
Speaking of mornings, I do like to wake up earlier than my kids. I wake up early not because I am a morning person, but because I am SO. NOT. A. MORNING. PERSON. I wake up so very, very grumpy. Waking up early allows me to be showered and dressed and drink ALL. THE. COFFEE. before I see anyone. This allows me to get control over my mood before the nasty rubs off on anyone else.
Stop it at the Door!
My mantra is if it isn’t important OR if it is important, leave it by the door! As we come in the door, we leave the things we will need to leave the next time, i.e. shoes, backpacks, purses, coats and any possible necessities like umbrellas. We have a very old and cheap shoe rack in our garage by the door we enter, as well as a rack to hang our bags and coats and a big Rubbermaid container for extra paraphernalia. We also have a shredder, so I can sort through and dispose of any unnecessary mail and paperwork before I enter the house. Stopping the flow of clutter into my home helps me focus on more important stuff. I also make sure to go through backpacks before we ever enter the house. If there is an item that needs attention, I deal with it right then. The fewer things I have to remember or hunt for later, the better.