Getting All That School Clutter Organized

School has been in session for more than a month and we are just now getting into a groove.  The first few weeks are always a flurry of understanding new expectations, which can feel chaotic.  Now, with several weeks under our belt, we’ve finally got some good systems in place that are relieving the overwhelm.  I asked Kendall Gilbert of MORE SPACE to share her five keys to creating an environment with MORE SPACE for your family to flourish.

 

1.Create a Designated Area to Store Backpacks: By now we have a better understanding of what stays at school and what comes home daily.  Establishing a specific area to house the items that come in and out each day can relieve initial frustration upon walking through the door after a long day of school, work, etc.  We call this the Drop Zone because it’s the entrance to the house where everyone drops whatever they are carrying.  If there’s a space allotted for each person to place these items, visual chaos can be avoided.  Here are a few suggestions when setting up this space:

    1. Hang hooks at age-appropriate heights so everyone can access them.
    2. Allocate a bin for each person to store backpacks and gear if hooks are not an option or more storage space is needed.
    3. Make sure hooks or bins are near the entrance your family uses. The idea is to make backpacks and gear very accessible so kids can grab what they need on the way out the door. It also allows you to retrieve important papers, dirty lunch boxes, etc. when you need to quickly get to them.

For more information on how to organize your Drop Zone, check out Clear the Clutter | DROP ZONE

2. Establish a System for Lunch Prep: Whether lunches are packed at night or in the morning before school, it’s usually a dreaded must-do that takes more time than anticipated and leaves the kitchen a mess.  Making these three adjustments can save time, energy and relieve the visual overwhelm.

    1. Create a storage area in your kitchen to house prepackaged snacks for lunches. A couple of baskets/bins in the pantry and a small bin in the refrigerator work perfectly.
    2. Make a week’s worth of single servings for your kids ahead of time. After the weekly grocery run (usually done over the weekend) reserve 15 minutes to portion out a week’s worth of single servings in snack bags and place them in your bins.  I typically fill a bin in my pantry with 10 small bags of salty snacks for each child, each day.  Then, I dump the granola bars out of their box and into the bin.  The yogurt cups come out of their cardboard packaging and go into the container in the refrigerator that’s designated just for lunches. Fruit and veggies can be prepared the same way and left in the refrigerator bin.
    3. Create a storage area specific to lunch containers and bento boxes. This makes lunch supplies easy to find instead of fumbling through shelves of Tupperware lids to locate what’s needed.

Having designated food and supplies at the ready to quickly assemble lunches cuts down on the kitchen chaos whether you or your littles are making lunches.  Here’s a quick video tutorial on Lunch Box Prep.

3. Make a Fun Homework Area: After a long day at school homework can be quite the challenge to accomplish.  Having an area dedicated to the task can make it less overwhelming and help kids focus better.  Here are two ways to keep this area simple and conducive to that needed “heads-down” time.

    1. Have School Supplies Nearby: Fill a colorful, portable craft cart or a few fun bins with frequently used school supplies.  This allows supplies to be contained for visual ease, quick to find and easily shifted in and out of a study space.  My aqua blue cart includes:
      • Mason jars filled with writing utensils (pencils, markers, erasers, highlighters and dry-erase markers)
      • Dry-Erase boards, rulers, pencil sharpeners, extra paper
      • Fidgets like popovers, playdough and clay to help with studying.
      • Allocate a specific area, free from distractions, to do homework. A kitchen or dining room table is a great space that allows kids to work and positions them close by you for help if it’s needed.

4. Specify a Space for Family Calendars: While the school year provides a great rhythm to the days and weeks it can be difficult to keep track of commitments, especially when multiple people are involved.  To simplify communication, create a central calendar where everyone can see and add to the schedule as needed.  This can be as simple as having a large, paper calendar located in the kitchen for everyone to see or using an app like Google Calendar.  Regardless of what’s used, one calendar designated for everyone to see cuts down on overcommitting and miscommunications that can add unnecessary stress.

5. Develop Small Habits to Clear the Visual Clutter: Most of us want our house to be a refuge, a place to rest from a very noisy world.  Ensuring our homes are visually calming can establish a rejuvenating space that brings life after a busy school day.  Adopting these four, small habits to keep a tidy house can cut down on that visual overwhelm and contribute to a peaceful home.

    1. Keep Dirty Dishes Out of Sight All Day Long: Take 5 minutes to unload the dishwasher in the morning.  Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher throughout the day.  You’ll be so glad you don’t come home to a sink and counter full of dirty dishes.  Wash them at night and start the cycle over the next day!
    2. Keep Your Weekends Free: Take 5 minutes to do a load of laundry a day.  Throw a load in the washer in the morning, put it in the dryer later that day and fold it in the evening.  When the weekend arrives, you can plan something fun to do instead of having mounds of dirty laundry to clean.
    3. Start Each Day with a Clean Slate: Each night, take 10 minutes to walk through the living spaces in your house (living room, kitchen, etc.).  Put away items that need a home, wipe down counter tops and turn off lights, electronics, etc.  You’ll be so relieved to begin the next day with a clean slate.
    4. Avoid Added Stress with a Meal Plan: Take 15 minutes during the weekend to determine meals for the week.  It’s one less thing to think about at five o’clock when kids are melting down.

 

Kendall P. Gilbert is the creator and founder of MORE SPACE, tactical tools for the busy girl.  With a background in strategic space planning, she is convinced prioritizing what’s most important can bring rest to our homes and our lives.  Kendall offers paper tools, home consultations and workshops to empower women to relieve the visual overwhelm, finding MORE SPACE to thrive.

 

 

 

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