Don’t hate me because I’m ready for Back-to-School: Confessions of a professional organizer.

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It is now the 1st week of August and I am sort of gloating when I write; I have most of my ‘Back-To-School’ shopping done!  Please don’t hate me, I did say most of it, not all!  Let’s not forget I still have to label everything and move on to the children’s possible clothing needs.  I have to evaluate what the children will be doing as far as extracurricular activities, sports, music and plan the driving schedule, possible car pool scenarios, etc.  What about doctors appointments, dental, eye appointments and whatever else I’ll try and cram in before school starts back up again.

I am a mom of 4 kids, Jonathan 19, Gregory 16, Rachelle 9 and Max 8.  My husband François is on the road quite often for work leaving me to manage the household.  A lot of pressure is on me not just because I have 4 children, husband, work in and out of the home, but because by trade I am a professional organizer!  I am expected to be perfect!  Guess what?….far from it. I have finally come to accept that it is ok to not be perfect….well sort of.  Can any mom, whether you are at home or at the office relate?  We are expected to be extraordinary multi-taskers and we try and keep trying until we find ourselves worn out, exhausted and forgetting to even look after ourselves. We beg for maids and nannies to drop out of the sky and save us.  Not going to happen! So now we have to come up with some ideas to make life a little simpler, drop half of our to do lists (I’ll have a hard time with that one) and focus on enjoying time with our families more (that will be an easy thing to do).

Now that you know a little bit about me and my imperfections, here are a few tips to help us all get ready for the onslaught of September.

Back-To-School Tips From A Professional Organizer:

Command Post

Moms know that well run families must have a command post.  I’ve said this for years, so how do we do it? Give yourself permission to find a space in your home to manage your family and your household.  Have all the tools you will need there; for example, computer, paper, phone, pens, pencils, document holder, erasers, tape, stapler, bulletin board, in/out bins, dictionaries and whatever else will make your life simpler as the school/work season re-starts.  Don’t forget a good quality chair and lighting is important. Garbage/recycling spot to quickly dispose of those finished papers. More Time Moms calendar has been my choice of calendar for at least 10 years if not more.  As you all know the space on the calendar allows to plan the schedules for many people and the stickers make it fun for the kids.  Please write everything on the MTM calendar with a pencil, as we all know nothing is ever as we planned.  Expect to erase and write in something else periodically or in my case often.

Prepare Early:

I like to get as much of the ’getting ready for Back-To-School’ done within the first couple of weeks of August. The last couple of weeks are there for the unexpected.  Most importantly I usually try my best to make sure that we all vacation one week before school starts up again, so we all feel relaxed before next years journey. I do try to establish the sleep routines that week even though typically speaking we parents are always supposed to be maintaining their sleep schedules.  Not real life!

School Supplies:

As for school supplies, check to see if you can reuse some of last years supplies before you go out and buy new ones. For example, pencil crayons, I now have about 2000 pencil crayons.  Get the kids to get the basic colors together sharpen them and put them in the case, chances are they are already labeled too. Buy the rest of the supplies label them put them all in the school bags, put aside or away and go onto the next task. I can’t emphasize enough that you buy the supplies within the first 2 weeks if not earlier.  Sometimes the stores run out and you end up have to waste time running from store to store to find  that hilroy 11806 book.

Kids’ Study Area:

Where are the kids going to study? Keep in mind the needs of the children.  Do they need quiet, do they need help, do they need supervision?  This will help when choosing an ideal spot for your child. If not the command post, then have you picked out a spot where they can have all the tools needed at their disposal? You don’t want them getting distracted searching for a glue stick or pencils?  If it is the dinning room table then have all the tools in a bin or basket that can be brought every time they go to do their homework.  If your child is missing even some of the supplies necessary to complete homework, they will be less motivated. Every time they stop to find something, they are stopping their flow of work.

Lunch Supplies:

Is your kitchen ready for all the homemade lunches?  What do you give them for lunches? Applesauce, cheese sticks, yogurt, juice boxes, raisins, etc.  Are the kids old enough to start making their own lunches?  If so let’s make it easy for them.  Pick a spot in the kitchen where all the specific lunch food goes along with the napkins, plastic utensils.  If you’re uncomfortable with the use of plastic utensils then purchase an inexpensive set of cutlery that you will allow the kids to take to school.  Insist they bring the utensils back but if they lose them then you won’t be too upset since they weren’t part of your good set.  When you are dealing with food also plan on using a space in the fridge for the lunch specific food and emphasize to the children that this is for their lunches and not to be snacked on at home. Sometimes that works. Put up the school menu for those days and moments that happen to all of us…. running out of time.  Try to have enough change, money for these cases put aside ahead of time.

Doctors Appointments:

What about  the appointments for the kids are they due? Can they wait for a future ped day?  Are ped days convenient for you? Are their teeth so yellow that really it is time to see the dentist now?

Clothes:

Their clothes; are they appropriate, do they need uniforms, do they need mending? This is a great time to organize their closets and rooms. Get rid of the obvious clothes that are too small, broken and unused toys. Choose the best way for your family to dispose of these items, whether is be donating to charities or having a garage sale.  Starting the school season off with an organized room for most children is a relief and is easier to maintain once the schedule builds up.

Daycare and Extra-curricular Activities:

Have you set up the daycare plans, what about music, what about hockey or other sports your kids want to be involved in? Homework programs and tutors are they all lined up?  Then we have to ask ourselves, are we over scheduling our children.  Is there enough down time?  What do the kids do in their down time?

What About Mom?:

You know your family best, you know how you handle the family’s schedule best. But,  what about us moms?  What are we doing for ourselves at this time? Think of a few things that you can start doing for yourself in your day that would make managing everyone else’s lives that much more pleasant! I think maybe a massage daily would be good, ok not realistic but maybe giving myself permission to have a nightly soak in my bath before bedtime would work instead of cramming in that last email response. Although for some a cleaning person or window cleaner is not realistic, sometimes just getting one in occasionally is enough to bring up our energy levels!

I’m excited to be as prepared as possible for the on coming school year so that I can go up to the lake that last week of August.  I look forward to sitting on the dock, soaking my feet in the water, but most importantly I look forward to just having stress-free time with my family roasting marshmallows around the campfire.  This is what will motivate me to finish getting ready for ‘back to school’! How about you?

Gayle

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