It’s finally time to go back to school! Can’t you just smell those freshly sharpened pencils, San Diego? After a year of non-traditional schooling and disrupted routines, we have tips to help your family get organized for a smooth transition into the new academic year.
According to North Park resident and Professional Organizer Ryen Toft, Founder of Simply Luxe Organizing, labeling is a highly effective psychological hack. It can train the brain to maintain organization. Creating a great system in the bedrooms and common areas will reduce stress during the back-to-school transition.
“Labels take the thinking and decision-making processes out of tidying up and deciding where things should go, allowing you to focus on more important things in your day,” she says. Toft says parents should encourage kids to participate in household tidying. “If they are more visual or can’t read yet, add photos to your labels so they still get the system down.”
KonMari the Homework Spot
Make sure the kids’ homework space has a completely different energy from their distance learning space. I love the KonMari method (developed by Marie Kondo) because it focuses on what’s worth keeping, rather than what needs to go. Start by clearing everything off the desk. Strip the bulletin board clean and empty drawers. Next, hold items one-by-one and ask whether they spark joy or fill a need. Anything that doesn’t pass the test gets a quick, sincere “thank you” as you toss or donate it. When this process is complete, only items that are truly needed and appreciated will remain. Organize these things in a way that makes everyone feel calm and inspired.
Declutter Art Supplies
After a summer of engaging in creative art projects, there are bound to be some dried-up markers in the stash. Enlist the kids to help find them. First, remove the obviously broken items. Then, run a quality check on everything else. Have the kids make rainbow pages with rows of different colors, so they can find and remove unusable markers, highlighters or pens. Once the big sort is complete, make a list of supplies that need replacing.
If an organizer would be helpful at this stage, check out the super affordable Tjena desk organizer from IKEA. It’s made of recycled paperboard, so kids can add their own colorful design. Toft recommends organizing in ROYGBIV order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
“This color coordination is aesthetically pleasing in any area of the house and immediately elevates a space to look more put together,” she says. “Your kids will recognize the rainbow pattern and want to contribute as well, teaching them about colors and sorting along the way!”
Nothing kills the vibe in your living space faster than a pile of backpacks. Make sure each child’s schoolbag has its own hook, shelf or cubby to return to at home. Since kids like to unload their stuff the moment they cross the threshold, it’s best to pick a spot as close to that door as possible. We originally thought backpacks should live in the closet by the front door, but my kids enter through the kitchen. Packs spend less time on the floor now that we’ve installed hooks in the pantry. Go with what’s easy and makes sense.
Check Lunch Containers
Now is a good time to make sure all the lunch boxes, water bottles and reusable snack bags are kept in the same spot. It’ll make lunch prep easier. Next, do a quick quality check on items that have gone unused for a while. If everything looks good, take a moment to label each item with your child’s name. A Sharpie will do the job or find stylish custom labels at www.minted.com.
Refresh the Wardrobe
Take a good look in the kids’ closets and remove anything damaged or dingy, keeping an eye out for quality items that don’t get much use. “As your kids grow out of clothes or phase out of different interests, there will be plenty of items that can be donated,” Toft says. “Empower your kids to be a part of the donation process, inviting them to spread joy to other children.”
Note if the kids need additional items, including socks and underwear. If your kids are like mine and wear flip-flops all summer, check that their favorite sneakers still fit. No time to shop? A personalized styling from www.StitchFix.com/kids is a painless way to fill gaps in a child’s wardrobe. Tell your online stylist which sizes and styles you need, then receive a box in the mail with 8-12 items to try on. Keep what they love and send the rest back.
Update Your Command Center
Parents need an organized space for the family. A home command center should include a monthly family calendar as well as an “inbox” or clip where kids can leave items requiring parent attention. Consider keeping the chore chart and weekly meal schedule here as well. I keep a running grocery list in this area, where the family can add foods we need on the next shopping trip. They rarely remember to do this, but I remain hopeful!
For more organizing ideas from Ryen Toft and her team, check out www.simplyluxe.org and follow on Instagram @simplyluxeorganizing.
Anne Malinoski is a contributing writer and mom of two boys. She and husband Steve are both enthusiastic organizers.
To read our article about a children’s book collaboration between tidying expert Marie Kondo and local author Salina Yoon, visit www.sandiegofamily.com/for-the-kids/book-multimedia-reviews.