• Jo Hall

Stress Free Back to School - start as you mean to go on

Whether you've got school age kids or not, the beginning of September/back to school is a great opportunity for a fresh start. This 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 a 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 books your child no longer needs. eBay or donate text books, 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 fill? Does it need repairing or altering? Find and allocate adequate storage space for uniform, sports kit and all other 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, with this in mind, try to keep new purchases to the minimum. Can school uniform be repaired? If you lack not 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.

It's worth spending time labelling all your child's uniform and other kit with their name before term starts. Particularly in secondary school, it's so easy for things to get lost and most schools consider it the child's responsibility to take care of their possessions, including finding missing items.

Before buying a whole new set of stationery type equipment, make sure you check what you have in your house already that could be used again, spending any money saved 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, avoiding stressful last minute decision making and worrying about whether or not you have the right ingredients.

For packed lunch inspiration have a look at The Lunchbox Doctor (including a video collaboration between Lunchbox Doctor and Less Is More on "plastic free lunches". For advice on kitchen organisation and meal planning, read my previous blog How Cluttered is Your Kitchen?

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, you can plan your journey ahead of time on your smartphone using Waze.

If you have any more tips for stress free back to school/work we'd love to hear about them in the comments below.


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