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Tips for an Organized, Stress-Free Back-to-School Season

by Christina Giaquinto, Professional Organizer and Brand Ambassador of Modular Closets

The back-to-school season can be a hectic time for parents, guardians, and kids alike, as it means everyone needs to be back on a daily schedule and homework, tests, and after-school activities are back in full swing. However, this doesn’t mean the school days need to be filled with stress and anxiety. With a bit of planning now, you and your family can enter the school year organized, confident, and relaxed.

In my experience as the Professional Organizer and Brand Ambassador of Modular Closets (DIY customizable closet units), I have discovered ways to make the back-to-school season more organized and less hectic for families. Here are just a few strategies for a stress-free school year:

Get the kids on a weekly sleep schedule ASAP: Yes, the kiddos probably loved having sleepovers with friends on random weekdays and staying up until the wee hours playing Minecraft during the summer, but now it is essential to get their sleep schedules back on track. The night before the first day of school, you wouldn’t want your kids struggling to fall asleep much earlier than they’ve been used to. So implement an earlier bedtime now so they have time to adjust to the new sleep schedule. Remember, great sleep hygiene is critical for academic excellence.

To make this easier, set a daily “bedtime routine” alarm on your phone that indicates when your kids should shower, get in their pajamas, brush their teeth, etc. to get ready for sleep. Then set another alarm to indicate when everyone needs to be in bed. I recommend keeping all phones, iPads, and portable gaming consoles in a container outside of their rooms so they won’t be tempted to go on them after bedtime. If you implement this routine a few weeks before school starts, this will give your children sufficient time to adjust to the new sleep schedule.

Lay out all school outfits the night before. Isn’t it the worst when one child can’t find their favorite sweater and another is running around trying to find a missing shoe right before the school bus is supposed to arrive? Eliminate this stress by laying out each kid’s outfit for school the night before. It will only take a few minutes to do and will help the whole family leave the house ready to conquer the day, rather than feeling rushed and full of anxiety. It’s wonderful to have the kids help out with this, as it aids in a sense of confidence and empowerment.

Set up an “out the door possibilities” bin. Wouldn’t it be so stressful if your family is getting in the car for the morning drive to school and then it starts downpouring rain? Then it’s time to make a mad dash to find umbrellas and raincoats. However, you can be prepared for any weather scenario if you set up an “out the door possibilities” bin in the garage or mudroom. In the bin, you can include umbrellas, raincoats, rain boots, sunglasses, chapstick, hats, etc. To be even more prepared, check the weekly weather report each Sunday and fill the bin with items that you know your kids will need on certain days.

Prep breakfasts and school lunches the night before. Making breakfasts and school lunches can easily be the most stressful parts of rushing out the door. That said, prepping them the night before will be a huge help in ensuring school mornings are a breeze. You can place cereal boxes, bowls, and spoons on the kitchen table, or set up a make-your-own toast station on the kitchen counter the night before to prepare for breakfasts. Or, mix a big bowl of pancake batter the night before so it is all ready for breakfast. To make school lunch prep a breeze, add non-perishable snacks and napkins to lunch boxes the night before.

Declutter your car once a week. Keeping your space decluttered and organized truly affects everything from your stress level, anxiety, and mood, to your outlook on life. This goes not only for your living space, but also for your car. Trust me, school drop-offs, pick-ups, and drives to soccer practice will be much more stressful if your car is filled with old homework papers, empty sports drink bottles, snack wrappers, stale food crumbs, and other trash. Make a concerted effort to declutter and clean out your car once a week so it is neat and tidy for the school morning drives.

Add a trash bin to your car. Going off of the last point, you can help eliminate trash and clutter in your car by placing a trash bin in your vehicle. This will make it easy for the kids to throw away their food wrappers, breakfast leftovers they can’t finish, and other trash that could accumulate on car rides to school or sports practices. Then you can easily empty the bin out once a week when you declutter your car. To keep any funky smells from the trash bin at bay, I also recommend adding in a car freshener that eliminates odors, but don’t use a car air freshener that uses strong scents to try to mask odors.

Have the whole family follow an “8-minute cleaning” rule each day. Keeping the house clean and organized doesn’t have to be a major endeavor—all it takes is eight minutes! Set a timer for eight minutes, and get the whole family to put items away and tidy up their rooms until the timer goes off. Whatever you all can put away in eight minutes is terrific. This is going to prevent your home from getting chaotic. Eventually, this will become a habit, and when it becomes a part of your family’s lifestyle, your home will never get out of control. The goal is not to put every single item away (of course, if that happens, even better) but the goal is to put whatever you can away within that time.

All of these strategies will help your whole family have the best school year yet.