Back to School Tips for Families

Friday, July 29, 2016

Whether you’ve got kids that need school supplies or just love the mountain of paper, pencils, notebooks and folders that fill stores at this time of year, August is a great time to take advantage of sales and get organized for the new season. If, like many people, you vow each year to get your paperwork under control and to develop a system to manage your personal calendar and your household, take a hot and humid August afternoon and stay in air conditioned bliss while you tackle the project.

Back to school tips

Think about all the “hot buttons” that spell chaos in your home during the school year and try to address them now, before your schedule gets overloaded with school, soccer and band practice.

  • Remember the mad rush at Target and Office Depot to get the right school supplies after the first day of school? You can probably get started on that list and reduce the stress if you get some supplies ahead of time. Good Housekeeping magazine has generic school supply lists by grade level to get started. Just save your receipt in case you need to exchange things once school starts.
  • Don’t forget to shop for “at-home” school supplies that your kids need for homework and projects. Paper, pens, pencils, erasers are the basics, but you know you always need a poster board or two at the last minute, so why not get a few now?
  • Create a “command center” for your household. If you’ve got the space for a mudroom with cubbies and charging stations, that’s ideal, but even in a smaller home you can take a corner of your kitchen, family room or a closet to designate as the place to put up a corkboard for calendars, some hooks for keys and a wall-mounted file holder to manage the stream of papers that seem to follow school-age kids.
  • Develop a homework station. If you’ve got room for a special area for homework and homework supplies, that’s easiest, but if the kitchen table is the best place for your kids to get their work done, pick up a plastic caddy and fill it with homework supplies to make it easier to set up and then clear up when it’s dinner time.
  • If mornings dissolve into fussing over clothes, consider developing a new system of planning outfits a week at a time and placing them in a special drawer or section of the closet. Letting your kids make some of the choices ahead of time can ease the morning rush. While you’re prepping that system, go through your kids’ clothing and create toss, donate, clean, repair and ready-to-go piles so you know what you need for the new season.
  • Reorganize your kitchen and your refrigerator to make it easier to pack lunches. Instead of searching high and low for the right thermos and reusable plastic container, put them all in one cabinet where you can see them. Designate a drawer or shelf in your refrigerator for lunch items, too. While you’re at it, create a similar system for after-school snacks to make that afternoon transition easier.

Home organization tips

If your home doesn’t revolve around the academic calendar, the end of summer can still be a good time to refresh your household’s systems. Some of the same issues that plague households with kids, such as morning routines, lost papers and missed appointments, are issues in adults-only households, too.

  • Revamp your morning routine. Organize your clothes for the next day – or even a week at a time – can reduce the chances of getting flustered or turning up for work in unmatched socks. Create your own “command center” for the morning with keys, a charged smart phone, your briefcase and anything else you need for the day all organized in one place instead of scattered throughout the home. If you bring your lunch to work, you can use the same tips as those for parents above: organize your cabinets and your refrigerator to ease the process.

Daily mail and weekly accumulations of notes and lists and papers can quickly deteriorate into a messy home and, worse, missed appointments or missed payments. Take an afternoon to figure out the best place for paperwork and to think about whether you want a paper calendar or to sync your smart phone’s calendar with other members of your household. Buy some new office supplies so you’ll feel more enthusiastic about staying organized. Once your system is in place, take a few minutes each day to open and sort your mail or other papers.

Decluttering your home can make you feel more in control of your life. Embrace the back-to-school season as a time when you can tackle an area or two of your home and get organized even if you don’t need a binder and a pencil case.

Michele Lerner is a freelance writer with more than twenty years of experience writing articles and web content for newspapers and magazines on topics related to real estate, personal finance and business. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post,,,,,, The Washington Times, NAREIT's Real Estate Portfolio, and numerous Realtor association publications. Her latest book, "New Home 101: Your Guide to Buying and Building a New Home" and her first book, "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time" are available now at or from