How a Pro Organizer Preps for Back-to-School Season

back to school

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For kids, it seems like summer is gone in a flash. For parents, well, it can seem a little longer. Regardless of your perception, the calendar doesn’t lie: It is time to get ready for back to school. If you have done this routine before, you know that there is more to it than buying notebooks and colored pencils. Setting your students up for a successful school year takes planning. Organizer extraordinaire Shira Gill shares her process for transitioning from summer fun to the classroom.

Phase 1: Clean It Out

Gill, who has two children, says her method actually starts soon after school lets out for summer. She does what she calls a “big sweep declutter” from the just-ended school year, inspecting her kids’ backpacks, school uniforms, lunch boxes and thermoses for wear and tear and usability. This is a good time to throw away all of the papers and miscellaneous clutter in kids’ backpacks and to identify books that might need to be returned to the library.

If the backpack is still usable but no longer a good fit for your student for whatever reason, donate it. Same with school uniforms. Those without stains that are in good shape but that your child has outgrown can be donated or passed down to a younger sibling, if that fits your family’s situation.

Put Kids to Work

Cleaning things out and sorting the trash from the things to be used next school year can be a daunting task, especially if you have multiple children. Don’t think you have to take the entire project on yourself! “Make the kids as involved as possible instead of doing it for them,” Gill says. “Have them take out their clothes and make piles. Have them go through their backpack and write their own list of what they think they need.”

Taking this approach teaches children autonomy and responsibility and makes them feel like they can do things for themselves, Gill says. 

Phase 2: Shop Once

Many schools have lists of needed and most-used supplies available for parents. Some students might need to order certain books before classes begin. Last minute is not the time to tackle these tasks!

Take the school’s list and the list your child made and merge them. “Make one concrete shopping list, then go about a week before school,” Gill says. “Then kids know they have their backpack and lunch box and supplies ready.” This is another great time to engage the kids themselves. Let them take the lead on some of the items to add a little expectation and excitement to the back-to-school transition. 

Make Food Easy

Mom (or dad), you do not have to pack everyone’s lunch! Hand that off to the one eating it. “You should have a shelf in the fridge that is low enough for kids to pack their own lunches,” Gill says. “I set up a lunch drawer or cabinet that kids can reach that has everything they need for making their lunch.”

She sets up a designated bin and labels it something like “kids snacks” or “lunch snacks” to make the rush out the door easier on school days. “You can make it really easy on yourself by giving your kids leftovers or something for lunch and then telling them to pick two things from the snack basket, and their lunch is done,” Gills says. Think fruit, fruit leather, crackers, things like that.

“My kids are so picky so I tell them ‘You each need to come up with five lunches that you will eat,’ then I make sure we have all the supplies for those stocked,” she said. “Having grab-and-go, ready-to-roll treats ready to eat makes it super easy to pack up in three minutes.”

If you want to get even more creative, ask your kids if they would like to create a custom-made trail mix. “Get things from a bunch of bulk bins and then put in a big canister,” Gill says. “Then they have their own fun trail mix that they can scoop into a container for school. Just have the mentality of thinking ‘If my kids can do all this at school, how can I make things ready for them to get and be organized at home?’“