You've said it for a long time: This year I'll be organized before school starts! Whether you are the student or your kids are about to embark on another year of books, supplies and choosing outfits, you need to get ready for the year ahead. Preparing for school can go a long way to alleviate (or at least reduce) stress, make it easier to keep your stuff together, and help you to focus so you can reach your goals for the academic year.
1. Create a routine for the new school year. Decide upon a couple of routines sure to make each day run a lot smoother. For example, get ready for tomorrow before you go to bed tonight. Schedule 30-40 minutes at night to pack lunches and backpacks, lay out your clothes, decide upon accessories. Will you kids need anything extra for class or after-school activities? If you work and go to school - go over your calendar at the beginning of each week. Focus on what is coming up - meetings with your manager or your study group, a trip to the grocery store, dinner with your parents. Take it all in to mentally prepare your body, mind, and spirit.
2. Create a Homework Station. Homework requires few distractions. Designate a work area for you or your children. In that area (or near it, if using the kitchen table) use a bucket or basket for supplies: a few pens/pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, sharpies, paper, stapler, tape, white out, a ruler, etc.
3. Keep track of important paper. Generally there are two categories of paper that need to be saved: the papers that require our action or attention, those that should be saved for reference for future use. If stacking paper is your style, use a stacked tray and add labels
Choosing a filing system is hit or miss. Not everyone process information the same way. Go online and search "filing systems." Be realistic. No matter how cool it looks, if you don't think you can maintain it, stay away from it. If you lead with the right side of your brain, you are likely to need an "out-of-the-box system." But choose something because the paper will flow into your space for the rest of your life! Schoolwork and artwork with sentimental value can be stored in an under-the-bed bin. At the end of each school year keep 3 of the best and toss the rest. Or better: take photos to add to desktop wallpaper art!
4. Create a family calendar. Whether it's just you and your loved, or a passel of people living under one roof, stay on the same page with a family calendar. There are probably as many file systems as calendar. Online or on the refrigerator. You know who you live with and what may or may not work. And, similar to file systems, experiment with a few calendar systems until you find the one that works best for all involved. The calendar can include appointments, chores, emergency numbers, etc.
5. Nighty-nite and Good Morning. Become acclimated to the new schedule before you have to start it. When you incorporate the task of getting ready the night before, plan the evening accordingly. Wake your kids earlier the week before school starts so the first day doesn't come as a complete surprise! Plan a fun daylong activity with your family when everyone has to wake-up early as if it were a school day.
6. Save time: Keep your calendar handy as you write your grocery list. It'll help you remember when you're eating out or at home. Stick to your grocery list. We waste a lot of time and head-space thinking about our nightly grocery runs because we've run out of one thing or another. Eat leftovers for lunch. Schedule the time to do the laundry [5 steps: sort, wash, dry, fold put-away]. Don't waste time looking for a lost sock. Stick it in a bag and move on.
7. Re-purpose plastic or cloth grocery bags: "Zone" weekly/daily activities into bags. Gym bags, soccer bags, bags for dance, baseball, swimming, etc. Add something unique to each bag to help quickly distinguish it from others. For all the activities through the week, keep the bags close to your exit door.
8. Create a space for keys, jackets, backpacks, shoes, purses, etc. to deposit the moment you walk in the door. To manage incoming mail and permission slips, make the most of wall space with a shoe bag-style organizer to contain a lot of different things. Label the pockets so everyone in the family can find what they need. This is the space where you leave your "don't forget" list or anything you have to take with you when you leave for the day. Add low-hanging hooks for backpacks and small jackets.
9. Avoid Clutter. Keep separate folders and bags with labels to identify the contents. Toss or recycle clutter and paper as soon as it's no longer viable. Use a box or bag near the front door for items to donate and fill it regularly. Remember that you don't have to keep everything that comes into your space!
10. Organize savings. Sell back old textbooks, purchase online textbooks, re-use office supplies (how many pens and folders are enough?). Se-up a carpool to save gas. Pack your lunch. Don't go "back-to-school" shopping without a list (and stick to the list!). Look for the biggest bang for your buck: The 99¢ Only Store carries notebooks, folders, erasers, and even simple calculators.
This is a Guest Post by Regina Lark. Regina Lark is the owner of A Clear Path: Professional Organizing and Productivity.
She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org - or – 760-849-4997