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back to school tips

Top 10 Tips to Get Organized for Back to School

By Stacey Feintuch

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Going from the lazy days of summer to the frenzy of the school year can be difficult for even the most organized people. New activities, new teachers, new schedules—it's not surprising that you're overwhelmed at the thought of keeping up with it all.
Don't worry. We're armed with tips to ease the transition from summer to school. And hopefully take the frenzy out of the fall.

Tip 1: Get a leg up on lunchtime.
That means stocking up on basics like brown bags, juice boxes and snacks when they're on sale. Take kids with you to the store to let them choose a few favorites. Assemble what you can over the weekend—bag pretzels, wash carrots, cut up celery sticks. That way, all you have to do is stash the items in the lunchbox the night before or the morning of school.

Tip 2: Spring clean—in the summer.
Something about the warm weather makes kids grow like weeds. Before day one, sort through your child's dressers and closets, removing anything that he has outgrown or that's worn. (Consider donating these clothes or passing them along to another child.) That way you're not fumbling around for pants at 7 a.m. because the ones you chose are too short. And you'll know what you need to buy. Then, lay out a few outfits for the week in a basket or an area of the closet. Discuss attire in advance with your child to avoid any wardrobe wars in the morning when you're on a tight schedule.

Tip 3 : Bump up bedtime.
It's been lighter out later so your child likely isn't going to sleep as early as she was when school was in session. To help kids return to their regular bedtimes, put them to bed five to 10 minutes earlier each night two weeks before school starts and, in the morning, wake them five to 10 minutes earlier each day. This gradual shift of the schedule will help their bodies get accustomed to going to bed and waking up earlier. And the first day of school won't come as such a shock.

Tip 4: Create a calendar.
Ballet on Tuesdays, soccer practice on Wednesdays, orthodontist next Thursday. To ensure that everyone knows what's going on, hang a dry erase board in the mudroom, near the kids' gear, on the fridge or near the garage. You can communicate what's happening that day or have a calendar outlining the month's activities, holidays and events (color coding by child if you choose to get that fancy). If everyone knows what to expect, it will make things easier to handle. If you have older kids with phones, you may want to take advantage of technology when creating your calendar. Input all dates and activities into a shared calendar using a program like Google Calendar. Then sync your devices so everyone is on the same page.

Tip 5: Give everything a place. 
Every item should have a logical spot where it's kept. Show kids where they'll be placing backpacks, jackets and shoes, whether by the front door, the door to the garage or elsewhere. Lunchboxes can go near the refrigerator so you can add any perishables before you head out. And remember to choose a location for your purse, keys and phone. Read more ways to get your morning in shape at Top Tips to Simplify Your Mornings.

Tip 6: Update medical information.
Long overdue taking Suzy for her physical exam and immunizations? Make an appointment at the pediatrician to get her checked out before school starts. Schedule her fall flu shot at the same time, too. This way, all paperwork will be updated in case you need to give it to the school nurse.

Tip 7: Do a dry run or two.
A week or so before the first day, have everyone pretend it's a school day. Get up, get dressed and head out the door as you would on a regular day. This mock event will help everyone get familiar and comfortable with the routine.

Tip 8: Stock up on school supplies.
Many schools provide lists of what you need to buy. Sort through what supplies you have to see what you need to buy. (Old school supplies like half-used glue sticks can be delegated to your home's homework station, outlined in the next tip.) Search for sales so you can get the most bang for your buck. Buy extras of anything you think you might want for your home like pencils and crayons. No list from the school? Stick with the basics so you aren't stuck with unneeded supplies or ask about the store's return policy.

Tip 9: Create a homework zone.
A desk, the kitchen table, the office—wherever your child will do his homework, stock a shelf, cart or drawer with pencils, sharpeners, glue sticks, scissors and other supplies he may need. That way, you aren't running out at 8 p.m. when an assignment calls for a red marker.

Tip 10: Set up a storage area.
If you have the space, give each family member his own shelf or hook to hang his coat, backpack and other daily gear. And do the same to help tame paper—give each family member a file folder. Fill it with artwork and important papers and clean it out monthly or during holiday breaks. At year's end, you can put your remaining favorites in a keepsake box.