Back to School! - 5 tips for a stress free start to the new academic year
Whether you've school age kids or not, the beginning of September, as the days start to get shorter and the leaves on the trees begin to change colour, is always a great opportunity for a fresh start.
This updated blog focuses on back to school, but the ideas for getting organised and putting processes in place to make day to day routines easier, apply equally well to those starting back at work after the summer break.
Start with a clean slate - set aside a day to declutter and organise your kids' bedrooms. If you do this before the end of the school holidays, once term starts, it will be so much easier for your child to be able to sleep well, find the things they need each day for school and keep their room tidy when time is more limited. Get rid of the text books and fiction that your child no longer needs. Sell them on eBay or Ziffit, or donate them to local school libraries. Exercise books can go to recycling (if they're not needed for revision next year).
If you go through the decluttering process with your child, they'll feel more in control of what stays and what goes and you'll be teaching them good habits for the future.
If they're not changing schools, get them to try on their school uniform. Does it still fit? Does it need repairing or altering? Pass on outgrown items to school "newly new" uniform sales.
Find and allocate adequate storage space for uniform, sports kit and all other school equipment. Once the room is organised, come to an agreement on how a tidy room will be maintained going forward, think about linking this to pocket money as an incentive. Talk about the benefits of having a tidy room (quicker and easier to get ready every morning/items required for the day less likely to be left at home). Discuss and manage expectations on whether or not you'll be willing/able to drop forgotten items in to school.
For more tips on staying organised - Seven Habits of Organised People
Repair and reuse what you can, before buying new - we all need to be taking more responsibility for the effect mass consumption is having on our world and school uniform is a huge contributor to textile waste in the UK. Can school uniform be repaired? If you lack confidence in your own sewing skills, seek help from a professional such as The Zipyard. If uniform has been outgrown, who do you know with kids at the same school? You may be able to pass yours on and/or find someone who's finished with a larger size.
Many schools hold regular pre worn uniform sales, check your PTA social media pages for details. If all else fails, buy new, but buy a larger size/longer length so that it lasts longer, kids grow fast and hems can easily be adjusted.
Before buying a whole new sets of stationery and similar equipment, make sure you check what you have in your house already that could be used up. Spend any money saved by not buying new, on an end of holiday trip to the cinema, or ice cream treat instead.
What's for Lunch Charley? - this is an obscure reference to one of my favourite books when I was at primary school (no one else has ever heard of it!).
If you or your child takes a packed lunch every day, now is the time to start planning for them. Make a list of favourite healthy lunch options (involve your child in coming up with ideas) and pin it to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door. Plan for each lunch on rotation and use this to create your weekly shopping list. Doing this advance preparation will save you time, reduce waste and avoiding stressful last minute decision making (and worrying about whether or not you have the right ingredients!).
Test journeys and timings in advance - don't leave journey planning and timings to chance on the first day. It'll be stressful enough getting everyone organised and out of the house after the long break as it is, without the added anxiety of knowing whether or not you are going to get to the right place on time. Walk routes in advance (with your children as they tend to walk slower!) and time how long it takes you. If you're driving, plan your journey ahead of time on your smartphone using Waze.
Clear a space for homework - think about where in your house, your kids are going to do their homework. Will it be at a desk in their room, or at the kitchen table so that you can supervise? Wherever it is, the space should be calm, free from clutter and distraction. It should be well organised, with everything they need close to hand. Kids workspace requirements change, as homework load increases each year, so the system you had in place last year, might not work for the school year ahead. If you have more than one child, are they going to be studying in the same room, or separately? Planning and setting up workspaces in advance will reduce squabbling and stress once they've started back.
We'd love to hear more tips for a stress free start to the new term, please add them as comments below.
Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser
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