Organize Your Home For ‘Back To School’
By now, kids have pretty much settled in to the new school year.
But have parents settled in to the daily grind?
Erika Gentner, who owns a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based professional organizing business, says a lot of moms will soon find out.
"Usually, it's after (their kids) go back to school because they realize, 'My house is in shambles,' " says Gentner, who owns Dependable Divas (dependable-divas.com) with her mother, Kerry Rehberg.
Having a house ready for the back-to-school crunch makes everyone's life a little easier. But professional organizers say convenience is only one perk. Being organized also teaches your kids valuable skills.
"That's probably one of my Number 1 goals as a parent, to teach them to be organized and responsible," says Gentner, adding that September and November are especially busy months for her business.
Here are ways to get your family ready for fall:
1. Leave extra time. Parents need to rework their schedules to leave time for the inevitable last-minute morning dramas. "The more organized you are as a parent, the easier it is to get your kid out of the house in the morning," says Carolyn Woods, owner of Tidy Tikes Household Organizing in Gilbert, Ariz. Just like the kids, put your clothes out the night before and make sure you have time to help them.
2. Master the calendar. A master calendar, preferably an erasable whiteboard calendar, in a prominent location is a must. Gentner color-codes hers, assigning each person a pen color. Pottery Barn sells the Cadillac of master calendars, a modular "Daily System" set. The magnetic whiteboard calendar costs $54, but the whole system offers everything from a phone-recharging station to a matching linen bulletin board. Woods tells clients to keep a magazine holder nearby for the school calendar, the kids' sports schedules and other print-outs of important dates. She also suggests having a bulletin board nearby to organize odd-size items such as invitations, and a supply of Post-It notes.
3. Create a hub. Kids need a place to stash their backpacks and important papers after school. Gentner recommends assigning one area for backpacks alongside baskets for each child and parent. The baskets work as "in and out" boxes. Kids can leave their permission slips in their parents' boxes for review, and parents can put them back in the kids' boxes after they're signed.
4. Remember lunch money. It can be hard to keep track of school-lunch payments, especially for more than one child or school. This online tool may help: When you register at mylunchmoney.com, you can schedule one-time or repeat payments, check your child's lunch balance and get reminders when your account is low. Make lunches the night before and keep a supply of healthful after-school snacks, such as fruit with dip, in the refrigerator.
"Get them ready as much as possible on Sunday, so when they come home from school, they're not eating junk food," Gentner says.
5. Schedule appointments. Check the calendar for fall and winter breaks to make dentist appointments. Woods suggests designating a trigger date as a reminder. "Tie it to some other event in your mental calendar," she says. "I always have my dentist appointments near my birthday."
6. Track progress. Find out if your child's teacher or school makes his or her grades available through a Web site such as snapgrades.net. The service keeps parents up-to-date about their children's progress in a way that's faster and more detailed than quarterly progress reports. The site is password-protected and encrypted, and it can be checked on an iPhone.
7. Store artwork. Gentner says one of her clients came up with a novel way to store her children's artwork for the year: pizza boxes. Stash all those odd-size art projects in them. Periodically, or at the end of the year, take digital photos of all the art, then save only the best in an artists' portfolio. Woods also takes a digital photo of a few special homework papers and creates a photo book for her child to remember each grade. Shutterfly.com, snapfish.com, mypublisher.com and blurb.com are easy-to-use Web sites for creating personalized photo books.