Get your family organized

Start the school year off right

It's happening. The kids are back to school, the temperature is dropping slowly but surely, and I see mums and the occasional pumpkin popping up on people's front stoops. Whether you are a fall lover like me, or are more like my partner, who considers fall the end of all things living as we slide toward winter, we can no longer deny that it's coming.

Along with the change in weather comes the busiest time of the year for many families. Early mornings getting ready for the day bump up against after-school activities, and all of a sudden, it's time for dinner and homework and bedtime routines, only to rise and do it all again the next day. And somewhere looming in the not-so-far distance is the massive lift of HalloThankMas and all the tasks and business of the upcoming holidays.

Even for a fall lover, it can feel a little bit overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few small things we can do once to help our families feel a bit more organized and prepared for the busy days ahead.

Hang it

Install some hooks for your kids' hoodies and jackets in order to keep these items from getting lost and to keep them off of the floor. This doesn't have to be anything fancy; in fact, I find that big Command hooks work great for kids' items because they are adjustable and durable.

Contain it

Consider where kids will stick backpacks and lunchboxes at the end of the school day. You may have storage in an entryway or a mudroom. The entrance to our home dumps right into our kitchen, so no such luck, but we have baskets in the dining room in order to keep backpacks, lunchboxes, school iPads and library books all together and easily accessible day to day.

Archive it

Back to school means back to papers and projects coming home. It is perfectly understandable to slide some of these graded papers right into the recycling bin, but in the case of items you'd like to preserve or keep, you'll need a system. Some families opt for digital storage, and there are no shortage of apps and sites to choose from. The analog option is a large file box or file folder tucked away someplace hidden but convenient. Resist the urge to keep everything, and clean it out from time to time as you may be surprised about what you've chosen to keep year to year.

Separate it (or them)

Multiple kids probably means multiple homework assignments. If your kids are younger, they may opt to do homework near a parent or caregiver so that they can ask for help. If your kids are sharing a dining room table, you may notice that they have more fun pestering one another than getting straight to it. Consider a tri-fold poster board as a temporary separation space for kids doing homework next to one another. Your kids could even decorate their side of the board with helpful resources like multiplication tables or other educational charts or pages.

Charge it

Family life in 2023 most likely includes managing devices such as iPads, phones, headphones, laptops, smartwatches and the like. Spend some time researching, purchasing and organizing what chargers you'll need and create a central charging station for you and your kids' devices. A central charging place saves a lot of wire-y hassle and your students' teachers will thank you for not sending uncharged tech to school.

Save it

School projects are coming – be prepared! My son's kindergarten teacher used to have something called a creation station in her classroom. Inside of her creation station tub, she kept interesting paper scraps, pipe cleaners, stickers, pom pom balls and other rogue art and crafts supplies. If you have a preschool or elementary student, you probably have some of these supplies floating around already. I suggest scrounging them up and putting them in an accessible box so that your student can use your home creation station to fancy up a poster or a diorama as needed. It'll save you an expensive last-minute trip to the craft store.

Sign it

Have a singular place for papers or forms that need to be signed and returned to school. You can use a folder, a bulletin board or simply tack these to the fridge, but make sure everyone in the family knows where to put any school paperwork.

Enjoy it

It can be easy to get lost in the busyness of this season, but don't forget to look up at the changing leaves and take some time to relax with friends and family during this fall season.

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer in Springfield. She is contemplating mums for her front steps.

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