Who fancies getting organised for returning to school? A week or so off the end of the summer holidays (in England anyway) how about we aim to get our sh*t together and feel a bit more on top of things?
I’m a major geek when it comes to organisation and time management (hence running a course called Organise My Entire Life ). But even by my own standards I’ve found the juggle involved in continuing to run a business, have enough time with the kids and now starting to think about what needs to happen before ours go back (all whilst 32 weeks pregnant) a bit full on.
What I definitely don’t need right now are any beautiful looking Pinterest worthy organisation hacks that only make me feel like an inadequate parent and even less creative than I thought (!?) I’m kind of more about easy wins in reality, perhaps not as pretty but that actually work and won’t cost a small fortune or hours in time creating something nobody actually uses in the way I intended. Because my house does not even nearly resemble anything on Pinterest!
So if you are up for a real parent’s guide to getting organised for returning to school then here goes…
- Create a place to store and keep all the school / nursery paraphernalia
I don’t know a parent who isn’t at times found shouting, “COME ON” every ten seconds in trying to get out of the door in a morning. Scrambling around for a lost book or realising there are no spare pants in the nursery bag just as you get in the car.
A bit of extra organisation can really help here and getting it in place now before you’re back in the thick of it will make you feel extra smug.
First up, look at where you are keeping everything related to school / nursery – which needs to be easily accessible and consistently in the same place. This is key I think if you are going to get into any sort of routine where your kids are involved in the process.
We have pegs on the back of a cupboard door where each of their school / nursery bags hang. This way, THEY are responsible both for unpacking and then repacking them on a morning. We also have all coats, hats etc reachable.
I know this isn’t always possible but the more you can establish a routine which doesn’t just depend on you the better. Obviously, this works best for school aged kids but our youngest has been getting herself sorted in the morning since she was about two, largely because she wanted to at that age and I mean you might as well channel that exceptionally challenging independent streak into something useful. And also because her older siblings led the way so she had no choice. That as well.
On the side we also have a tray which holds all school books and homework type stuff which is for THEM. So not letters and school admin that we need to action, that’s a whole different thing (anyone who has already done Organise my Entire Life will know the UFF – ultimate family folder – works amazingly for paperwork and family admin).
But things like reading books, spellings, homework etc. If you’re not into homework yet then even letting them put pictures and things they’ve made in here at least creates a holding place before you pop them in the bin. JOKE. O.k half joke, before you admire them over tea, pick the best ones to put up somewhere and then have a conversation on the importance of recycling. Something like that anyway.
This hasn’t happened overnight and it did take a good few weeks (o.k months) of reminders (we still remind to be honest) but now they will both check this tray and make sure they have what they need in their bags. They all know that at 8.30am when we ask politely / shout “time to go” what that means. And it stops us frantically searching under beds for spelling test books at 8.40am by which time we were often late and stressed and angry at life. Oh and it also stops things just being dumped at the door on the way or landing on the kitchen table of doom. So it generally feels a bit clearer and calmer all round.
We bought plastic stick-on hooks from Homebase for a few quid because neither of us are good with a drill, and have trays a bit like these ones that were from Wilkos for a fiver. This is by no means an affiliate post (you probably gathered that).
Where and how you decide to keep this stuff is up to you and clearly depends on your house but I promise putting some of this in place ready, prior to a morning, makes such a big difference.
And if you are just starting school or a new childcare arrangement this can be a tiny thing to introduce before they get there which provides a bit of routine and structure that most kids do like. After all it is the unknown which often feels so scary.
- Revisit or create morning routines
I know some parents swear by laying out clothes the night before, others bring them downstairs and they get dressed after breakfast.
Whatever works for you but my tip would be to try and get this into a routine so that everyone knows where to find what they need and what is expected by when in a morning. Consider what your routines were previously, what worked or what needs to change. Or if this is all brand new then what you’d like them to be. Of course, it won’t all go to plan, life isn’t like that, if you have a baby they will always need a nappy change just before you leave the door. Only this will only happen on the days when you are already running late, on other days where you’re on the ball they won’t poo once. Not once. No need.
Don’t just stick with routines that don’t work because it is what you’ve always done. When my husband took over the child care reigns and I went back to work full time last year he totally mixed up the routines I had and, as much as I hate to admit it, they worked far better. It made me realise I’d been sticking with something that had worked once a long time ago, or maybe never, just out of habit.
After nagging our oldest two to get dressed every morning he implemented a ‘breakfast upon completion of tasks’ regime. Turns out when they slope over to the table in their jammies and are told that only those dressed with teeth brushed are permitted to eat, they are quite quick to do so with no nagging required. Who knew.
Depending on how old they are you could always do a visual reminder of this too. An illustrated checklist can add a bit more fun to the whole thing and help little ones in particular feel proud and in control of their world. Or for older kids making it into a sort of reward chart whilst good habits form. I’ll be honest we never got round to doing it though and it isn’t really necessary. You can get printables if you’re not one for making your own…
- Do a uniform check NOW.
We all know the armegeddon that is navigating Clarks in the next few days. Parents channelling 6 weeks of pent up frustration at their demanding kids into actual shoulder barging when there isn’t a size 13 in the ONLY shoe that their now equally angry kids will even contemplate putting on their feet.
Yet we’ve probably all been there in leaving it too late to get the uniform sorted and it then taking twice as long when you have to visit three supermarkets just to find a pair of PE shorts that will fit. And what is with black PE pumps? Why would they be a completely different size in every single shop. We could open a small shop for these, just let me know what size you need, I can literally do anything.
So, here is your five minute warning (oops, back into morning routines there for a minute). If you are returning to school work out what you need (I’d try not to guess, we all get a bit lax at the end of the year (I hope), we found our eldest was wearing PE trainers about three sizes too small). Don’t forget shoes. Make a list and decide exactly when you are going to head out or get online and buy it. Or whoever else you share the responsibility with, a prompt to get a partner involved in this if applicable, don’t take it all on yourself because it is just easier that way. I mean you are probably right but that won’t help shift the dynamic, if indeed it needs shifting…
And leave yourself time to do a try on and revisit as well. See earlier point about ridiculous sizing. Do it. Do it now before it’s too late.
- Make one single list of anything else you need to do before returning that would help you feel more together. Write down who and by when each thing is going to happen.
Here are some prompts on things we considered:
- Organise the pack lunch cupboard and re-stock anything required if applicable. We have Tupperware rather than cling film (trying to do our bit for the environment) so have a cupboard which houses all of this plus lunch boxes, water bottles etc. Yes it’s largely just shoved in but it’s all in one place at least. Stock up on anything you need and make sure it is all sorted and ready. You could get ahead of the game and write down some new ideas for healthy lunches and then at least for the first half term you can feel smug before moving back onto the usual reliable options. O.k maybe the first week, let’s not get carried away.
- Re-stock water bottles depending on how disgustingly grubby they are.
- If they are just starting school go back through the list you are often given by school and double check you’ve done / got everything.
- Buying a couple of books around starting school / managing emotions to help our youngest who is starting school nursery for the first time. She loves Topsy and Tim so we have one of those at the ready.
- Head to Wilkos or Amazon or the supermarket and stock up on new stationery if necessary.
- Organise your first few weeks back ahead of time
This isn’t just one for getting organised for returning to school, this is one for life!
Create a sort of central hub if you will for everything you need to know that is going on and needs to happen.
I’m not talking about a physical place in your house (though this might be for you), for us it is more about using one simple planning tool and allocating a time to have the conversation and prepare in advance for what we have going on.
It is the one thing I swear by and the only way we’ve found to stay sane and together and not forget everything and anything. I mean things still get dropped sometimes but I’m not sure how we ever managed without it. With three young kids (one more on the way), both working part time on different days and times and all that comes with that, we have to share ownership of how our house runs.
You can of course use whichever organisation tool you like. Perhaps it’s sharing Google calendars or some sort of app (you can tell I’m a paper girl through and through) and talk through this every week. Perhaps it’s a physical calendar that goes on your wall with columns for each day and person, that you sit down and review. Maybe a blackboard or something else visual.
This is taken from the full course which also includes the ultimate family folder with tons of other planners for recipes, monthly tasks and more.
The key is this though, whatever tool you use it has to be completed and reviewed on a weekly basis. We sit down on a Sunday and talk through our week. Who has what going on, what everyone in our family needs, what we don’t want to forget, what days we are working, even what exercise we are doing. Obviously this will be different depending on what goes on in your life. When we miss one of these because we are away or have guests or whatever then it really feels out of control and a bit chaotic.
That is a bit of a long blog post but hopefully it’s given you a head start on getting organised for returning to school in a few weeks and / or some ideas on how to get organised generally.
If you are up for some more on this front then you might also like that we have just launched a FREE Organise My Entire Life – 7 day de-clutter challenge. We’ll be starting this together on 16th September but you can sign up and join in at anytime. You can also join the Facebook group or the mailing list (sign up at the bottom of the page) and you’ll be first to hear all the details. As part of the challenge you’ll also be able to download a copy of our weekly planner and I’ll be sharing tons more advice and tips on getting organised more generally, it should be fun!
Right, off to finish off tip number four ourselves,