It can seem that days go by more quickly towards the end of summer. Soon it will be time to switch gears and get ready for fall, including school, which for parents means packing away summer and making space for studying and all the stuff that goes with kids' many and varied school-year activities. But where to start?
The first step, says Katie Regelin, owner of Order Restored and a mother of three children, is to declutter. After developing systems that worked for her, she went on to create her company in 2017 to help others.
Despite lingering summery weather, there's no time like the present to start the process. "Now's the time to take inventory of what you have and what you no longer need," Regelin says.
Her recommendation: start with clothing and school stuff. "Having efficient systems in place to handle both of these areas is key to maintaining an orderly home, and getting kids involved in the process is important for follow-through," Regelin says.
Set aside time with your child — ages 3 and up are perfectly capable — to review their clothing, deciding what no longer fits, isn't needed, or has fallen out of favor, Regelin suggests. Items can be passed to younger siblings or donated. "Older kids may need a gentle reminder that if they want new school clothes they need to help clean out their closet," she says.
Decluttering includes going through last year's backpack and school supplies sooner, rather than in September. "Get your school's supply list early and watch for the sales," Regelin says. "This is also the best time to stock up on crayons, glue sticks, and extra pencils that can be used year-round or as stocking stuffers."
Once you've cleaned out, it's time to set up a system to help get and stay organized. "Keeping systems simple is one of the secrets to having kids maintain it," Regelin says.
So, recognizing kids may be more ambivalent about hanging clothes than you are, focus on other methods to corral clothing: dresser drawers, baskets or boxes that kids can help label. When clothes come out of the wash — Regelin does each child's laundry separately to eliminate having to sort them again — kids can be responsible for putting them away.
A place for schoolwork is important, and doesn't have to be a desk, Regelin says.
"I find most young children do homework at the kitchen table, so a nearby drawer or Mason jar for pencils, or rolling cart tucked into a closet with homework supplies works just fine," she says.
Older kids might need several dedicated spots for schoolwork, depending on the project at hand. "Focusing on the results and outcomes of the student projects should determine if the students' study environment needs to be modified," says Regelin.
Parents need to stay on top of the details, too, Regelin says, which can include snack lists, class schedules and IEPs. "A folder with each child's name on it can help corral weekly homework assignments, school projects and sports schedules," she says. Another suggestion: help everyone stay on track with routines, such as emptying backpacks of unnecessary papers in a recycling bin by the door as soon as kids' come home from school. Remember to tidy up homework areas and prep backpacks the night before.
"One last thought is to provide kids with incentives to do well in school," says Regelin. "For example, my friend's high school son knows "'if you don't get B's, you don't get the keys!'" That and lowered insurance rates for school-aged drivers can be a powerful motivator to get and stay organized, especially with good habits they — and parents — learn early on.