Ready to run for the hills? No need. The transition from summer to school is an exciting, if chaotic time that is made easier if you have some good solid organizing systems and habits in place.
Here are a few tips for staying sane during back-to-school season:
(1) Have a central location where you can process mail and other incoming papers and information. Think of it as The Information Processing Center. It’s helpful if the Center contains these items: a desk, calendar, shallow tray for incoming mail, basket for recycling, shredder, file cart or cabinet, and office and bill-paying supplies.
(2) Go through mail daily. This prevents paper pile-up. Use the RAFT acronym for dealing with incoming paper. R = Refer it to someone else (your spouse, etc.). A= Take action on it. Pay the bill, make the phone call. F = File it. T = Toss/Recycle it.
(3) Set up camp the night before. Lay out your clothes and pack your own bag for the next day’s activities, including snacks, gym stuff, etc. Pack lunches and help your children load their backpacks and lay out clothing. This will make for a much more pleasant morning!
(4) Plan your day the night before. Write down your top three priorities for the following day. (Forget about self-defeating, never-ending to-do lists!)
(5) Put self-care at the top of your list of priorities and decide what that means to you. Does it mean hopping on your bike for a spin around the park? Meeting a good friend for lunch? If life goes well for you, it goes better for everyone around you, including your family.
(6) Carve out some quiet time for yourself each day, even if it’s 15 minutes, so that you can connect with yourself and what’s important to you. For more on this topic, see Silence: The Best Organizer of All.
(7) When you take down fall/winter clothes and store summer clothing, make the time to weed out and donate items that no longer fit you or will no longer fit your children when next year rolls around. Label whatever you store so you remember you have it! Canvas boxes are best for storing clothing items, as fabric needs circulating air.
(8) Start thinking of your closets as places for retrieval, not just for storage. Use higher and harder-to-reach spaces in your closet for off-season items. Use the easy-to-reach areas for the items you need to access on a regular basis.
(9) Put a plant or a vase of flowers on any flat surface where clutter tends to build up. It’s hard for clutter to grow where beauty lives!
(10) Finda local thrift store or charity that you love and make that your destination for gently-used items that are no longer in the love/use/need category. Pick a place that you can easily walk or cab your stuff to, or one that makes pick ups.
Remember that being organized does not mean having a home that resembles the pages of Martha Stewart’s Living, with nary an object out of place. Being organized means having a few systems and habits in place which free you up to spend more time with friends and family and less time wading through clutter or hunting for things you need.
A professional organizer since 1999, Eleanor helps busy Brooklyn moms de-clutter and make better use of desks, closets, filing systems, and more. She has been featured in The New York Times; Time Out New York; The Brooklyn Paper; Family Circle; The Sun Times Chronicle; and Fitness.