After a no homework summer, going back to school can feel like a shock to the system. Parents are faced with a litany of chores, from transporting children to washing sports uniforms to cooking dinner. Getting organized makes a big difference in reducing family stress, says MC Stewart, founder of Organization of chaos in Baton Rouge.
Stewart, a former teacher whose children are now in their 20s, says families will be amazed at what a few simple home systems can do. “When my kids were younger, I was this working mom who had to go out with everything ready at 7 a.m.,” says Stewart. “I learned to be really organized because I had to. As a teacher, I could see how stressful it was for families when they weren’t organized.
Here are five of Stewart’s road-tested back-to-school tips:
1. Designate an area for homework and supplies.
Have the kids choose a place to do their homework, even if it’s the kitchen table, and make sure their supplies are in the same place as well. “A three-tier rolling storage cart works great,” says Stewart. “Make sure you have everything they need before you start, so they don’t waste time looking for things.”
2. Use filing boxes for papers.
Even in the digital age, parents have to keep track of many child-related papers, including permission slips, class agendas, certificates, and keepsake art projects. Drag all of these items into a filing box, one per child. At the end of the year, throw out expired items and keep the things that make sense.
3. Keep a family calendar.
An accessible group schedule is essential, whether it’s a traditional schedule taped to the fridge, a dry erase board, or an app that anyone can download. “You need a place where kids can see the big picture and understand what’s ahead of them,” says Stewart, who recommends family calendar app, Cozi. “I would tell my kids, if I don’t see it on the calendar, then it doesn’t exist.”
4. Establish routines.
Deploying the same good habits every morning, afternoon and evening can prevent a lot of problems, says Stewart. For example, establish an evening routine that includes packing lunch boxes, sports uniforms, homework, and bedtime outfits to save time in the morning. An afternoon routine might consist of finishing all the homework before jumping to the screens. “You can even print out your routine, put it in a protective sheet, and post it on the fridge,” says Stewart. “And have the kids mark off each task when they’re done.”
5. Provide the car with snacks, water and other essentials.
Many children eat breakfast early at school and when it is time to leave they are hungry. Keep a cooler or cooler bag provided with bottles of water frozen the night before, protein bars, fruit, and other snacks kids can eat on the go. Wipes and paper towels should also be part of the car’s tool kit.
For more information, find Chaos Organizing on Instagram at @chaosorganizing.
This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of 225 magazine.