While getting ready for the back-to-school season is certainly exciting, making the switch from summer-mode to a more intense schedule tends to be a bit overwhelming. Manic mornings can lead to stress and frustration, but it doesn't have to be that way. To find out how, Lively spoke with several professional organizers, so read on to hear their top tips and hacks for ditching the chaos, getting everyone out the door without a hitch (no lunchbox drama here!) and making this back-to-school season a more seamless experience for everyone.
1. Make Mornings Easy
There's no doubt that getting everyone back into an early morning routine after those summer months is no easy feat. "If getting out the door in the morning is a job within itself, set up a morning grab-and-go breakfast station for the kids," suggests Jamie Hord, Founder of Horderly. We love her idea of using lazy susans to store different types of breakfast foods or bars, so each child has something at the ready. She adds: "You can also use lazy susans in the pantry, or perhaps drawer dividers to separate snacks, or even create a snack drawer — this will make packing lunches super easy!"
2. Organize Your Car
Another handy tip from Hord is to make sure your car is organized to handle everything and anything from a trip to the grocery store to dirty soccer gear — she points us to this foldable trunk organizer, which she notes is "perfect for containing and storing bulkier items in your trunk."
3. Create a Checklist
Hectic mornings when you're trying to shuffle everyone out of the house can also equate to forgetting a thing or two. To help avoid that happening, Sharon Lowenheim, NYC-based certified professional organizer and Founder of Organizing Goddess, recommends having a clear list of what needs to be added to your child's book bag before leaving the house. "Lunch, keys, equipment for after-school activities, etc. — having these items written out in advance will take away some of the stress of getting your child out the door," she notes.
4. Prep Outfits
Caroline Solomon, who is a NYC-based home organizing expert, tells Lively it's always a good idea to prep outfits for the week. "On those especially rushed mornings, it pays to plan out all your kids' outfits on a hanging storage organizer — say goodbye to those early morning clothing piles!"
5. Consider a Cute Wall File
Create a central dropbox for all those important papers. "With all the papers that require your attention, such as permission slips, grade cards and school activities, it's important to give your kids one central location to drop these into," says Jen Van Buskirk, family organizing expert and Co-Founder of The Neat Boutique. "I love this wall file from The Container Store because it's minimalist, sleek and takes up no counter space!"
6. Find a Home For All That Beautiful Artwork
While we're on the topic of paper, there's nothing like seeing all that fun, creative artwork your kiddos bring home, but it can easily contribute to a bit of clutter without some kind of organizing system, says Solomon. She continues: "Corral everything into one accordion file like this one — at the end of the school year, if you're feeling ambitious, transform those works of art into one super neat photo book!"
7. Stock Up On Easy to Reach Healthy Snacks
Make after-school snack time foolproof by keeping a stash of nutritious options on the lowest shelf of your fridge. Some easy snack ideas from Solomon include apple sauce cups, string cheese and pre-chopped fruit and vegetables. "I'm a fan of using Stasher bags, which are reusable and dishwasher-safe," she adds.
8. The Mudroom Refresh
>Ah, the mudroom. "This high-use area can get crazy when school starts and needs a full refresh to set your family up for success," advises Van Buskirk, adding that only essentials belong in this area. "Do a thorough decluttering of all worn, unused or outgrown items and set them in the car immediately for donation drop off — then curate your mudroom with the most frequently used items." She adds that it helps to set boundaries for your family, for example, each parent and child gets three pairs of shoes, one jacket and one bag in this area (everything else should be stored in the bedrooms).
If your living space doesn’t have a mudroom, Hord notes you can still designate a "drop zone" — which can be as simple as a wall with hooks and a shoe mat — for the kids to hang their coats/backpacks and remove their shoes without items landing all over the house. She adds that the drop zone is also a great place to stash any items you or the kids may need the next day, so nothing is forgotten.
9. Use a Caddy
Caddies can come in hand for all kinds of items and Solomon mentions one idea is to stock an entryway caddy full of extra masks and hand sanitizers to grab on the way out to school. Another suggestion is to use caddies to separate bathroom items. "If your kids share a bathroom, give each of them their own caddy for items like hair brushes and toiletries to avoid any early morning squabbles," Solomon says.
10. Create a Homework Station
Our final tip involves homework. "Designate a spot where kids can keep weekly spelling/reading lists and add some general supplies to complete homework," says Melanie Schmidt, a professional organizer with Freshly Organized. Hord adds you can use bins and baskets, and/or lazy susans to store items like paper, notepads, writing utensils and other supplies the kiddos may need to complete their tasks. If homework is a big production in your house, she notes you can even set up a rolling cart for each child, so he or she knows where all their school essentials belong.