Get Organized for the School Year

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Six tips for a dreamier, tidier nest

Get Organized for the School YearWho says spring is the best time for clearing the clutter and welcoming order? Getting ready for school is as brilliant a time as any to create more order and feel more peace.

Sometimes I dread the process of simplifying. Then I commit and dive in and am astonished at how little time it actually takes or how incredibly huge the payoff is. Organizing your family and home ultimately saves you tons of time and energy, decreases your stress, and teaches your kids to live in a smart organized way. Here are a few ideas and expert advice to get your ducks in a row.

1. Simplify your space.

Revamp and de-clutter the house so it can be tidied up quickly. That means clearing clutter from tables and surfaces (even the floors—do you really need all those throw rugs?), storing away clothing items and outerwear no longer in season, and re-thinking over-furnished rooms. It is easier to vacuum or sweep wide open spaces free of clutter, and you may be surprised at how much better you feel when visual clutter is eliminated.

You don’t have to save the world in a day. Simplifying in small chunks is just fine. Samantha Buck, a professional organizer on, suggests setting a timer for yourself. She says “I like to set a timer for 30 minutes and work fast as I can to complete decluttering projects. You'll be amazed at how much you can get done by using the clock to challenge yourself.”

2. Create a file system.

The school papers, permission slips, homework, etc. can pile up quickly so a little preliminary planning will work miracles. Clearly designate a home for school-related stuff, and make sure each student has a binder or folder for report cards, phone numbers, sports info, handbooks, etc. It’s also a good idea to have a stash of school supplies in a designated area.

3. Trash last year’s school stuff.

Think about scanning or taking digital photos of your children’s artwork since those precious treasures can pile up and steal precious space. Hans Hofmann is credited with saying “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  Let this year’s stuff speak.

4. Store toys where you want them to be played with.

This is huge and relates to #1. It’s far simpler to tidy up the house swiftly when it is not strewn with a zillion playthings so insist they corral toys to zones you approve.

Often the problem is too many toys, Cynthia Ewer, author and editor of Organized Home, sees a toy library as the answer. She says, “Using a large lidded plastic storage container, large box or even plastic garbage bag, entrust a selection of toys to the ‘toy library.’ Store the container in an out-of-the way place for several months.”

5.  Address those closets!

This is a perfect time to purge closets since the kids will have a few new things to wear and be ready to part with some of the old. Don’t forget the beauty of hooks! Kids love ‘em, and they do the job.

Remind your kids that hangers don’t bite and that their clothes will stay wrinkle-free if they actually use them. Organizing expert Ewer says that toys and belongings used most should be stored on lower shelves or on the floor. Have a basket or shopping bag accessible in the closet for clothing and shoes to donate when they no longer fit.

6. Think again before buying MORE cool storage items.

Some of us think that to organize means buying lots of containers. Sure there are a ton of awesome storage options claiming to make our lives easier, but it’s important to question “Why am I keeping this anyway?” or “How often do I really use this?” or “Do I love-love-love this?” Most of the time, we don’t even know why we’re holding on to stuff and just need to purge.
Julie Morgenstern, organizing guru and author of “When Organizing Isn’t Enough,” says “The process of throwing things out forces you to recognize what your attachment is.”
Answering these questions will help you limit what you bring home so it won’t be necessary to invest in more storage items (or a bigger house!).
Good luck as you welcome autumn and with your family say hello to a tidier nest that works for all of you.

Homework Helpers
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A OneNote digital journal keeps all ideas neatly collected in one go-to spot.
Word—Co-authoring in Word makes teamwork seamless.
Excel—Sparklines quickly discover patterns and trends in your data.
PowerPoint—New video, music and photo editing make multimedia presentations pop.
Outlook Social Connector—Expand your social networks and stay up to date without leaving Outlook.
Free Ribbon Hero training game teaches you how to master the entire Office suite.

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Michele Ranard adores a tidy nest. She is a freelancer with blogs at and

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