The beginning of the school year is a fresh chance to set new intentions not unlike those you set in your New Year's resolutions. Without proper preparation, you'll soon be swimming in a sea of supply lists, syllabuses, sports schedules, activity dues, and carpool arrangements, not to mention all of the day-to-day tasks like making sure your child doesn't go hungry and has clean clothes to wear. This year, make your resolution to turn your household into a well-oiled back-to-school machine by following these tips!
1. Create a High-Caliber Command Center
An organized command center is key when trying to keep track of a household's overlapping schedules. Depending on your needs, you can mix and match any variety of products, such as those featured in the Pottery Barn "Daily System" seen above. At the very least, you should have a calendar large enough to fit the important events of every member of the household, assigning a different colored pen to each person for easy identification.
Another important feature of a functional command center is a way to manage the flow of paperwork. Using a hanging wall file (as pictured above), assign an inbox and an outbox for important mail and documents such as permission slips, supply lists, and other papers that require parent action. Don't bother putting any junk mail into the inbox--just put it straight in the recycling bin.
Other common additions are reminder boards, shopping lists, and chore lists, but they aren't necessary in every home. When it comes to a quality command center, the possibilities are truly endless. Choose what makes sense to you depending on your needs, space constraints, and personal style.
2. Start a Simple Launch Pad
Many people choose to combine their launch pads with their command centers, but it doesn't have to be this way (and can honestly be a bit overwhelming at times). The most important thing about the launch pad is that each member of the family has a designated place for his or her in-season outerwear, footwear, and accessories.
Using a shelf and bench set like the one featured above is the perfect way to keep everyone's items sorted (adjusting the size of the system for the number of family members). Place baskets in the shelf cubbies to store seasonal accessories like hats and sunglasses, and hang coats and backpacks on the hooks below. In the storage bench, add baskets to hold in-season footwear. Any items that are currently not in season should be stored in a closet, while those that have been outgrown or have reached their expiration date should be donated.
3. Simplify Meal Prep
Planning and packing your family lunches ahead of time takes the mystery out of what to make the day of and saves you valuable time that can be spent doing the important things--like trying to get your kid out of bed for the 10th time in a row. Also, by putting so much forethought into the process, you can make sure that you pack all of the essential nutrients into the week, doing the food pyramid proud.
If that's "doing too much," as the kids would say, you might consider putting like items together in bins for easy repeat meals. For example, you might designate a lunch bin in your refrigerator that contains sandwich fixings and individually packed snacks. This saves you the time of searching through loose items that have invariably shifted around the fridge while someone was rummaging around for a snack.
You might also consider a service like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or one of the other innumerable meal prep services out there to take care of the dinner menu (at least 3 nights a week). Speaking from personal experience, it's really nice not to have to think about what to make every single night, decreasing the amount of time and energy put into grocery shopping (because, let's be honest, you have enough to worry about).
4. Put Together Outfits in Advance
If your child is still in the stage where you pick out clothes for him or her, this days-of-the-week closet organizer could be your best friend. You don't have to get as fancy as the product pictured above--any hanging organizer with five slots will do. Avoid putting together hurried, mismatched outfits by setting up five days worth of outfits ahead of time. You'll also never have the nasty surprise of realizing your kid is all out of clean underwear! If you really want to get ahead of the week, you can extend the same practice to your own closet with some simple closet rod organizers.
In short, the more you can do ahead of time before you are slingshotted into the hectic madness is that is the week, the less stressed out you will be. If something is driving you crazy, there's probably a way to organize around it!