Back to School DeclutterAug 24, 2023
As summer's more spontaneous, carefree days come to an end, I find myself eager to return to a regular routine and more predictable schedule.
Nothing will reflect my readiness for this transition from summer to fall more than the mudroom of my home. This week my entryway will be transformed as I replace wet pool towels, sandy flip-flops, racquets, and frisbees with backpacks, new "school shoes" and the family calendar.
It seems by the end of summer, many parents are excited for the return to the regular routine the school year brings (even before I was a parent the shift from summer's unpredictable schedule to fall's routines was always welcome). But heading back to school can also come with its own stress—both for the kids and parents. Early mornings, back-to-school activities, sports practices and games, rushing kids out the door, adjusting to new teachers and classmates, and even new schools for some kiddos, can be a lot!
I've found one way to help yourself and your family start the school year on the right foot is by decluttering and organizing your home. Here are a few suggestions to get your home ready based on what I've found helpful over the years:
1. Clothing Check: Sort through your kids' clothes. (Does anyone else feel like kids grow more during the summer?) Donate or pass down items that no longer fit, and make a list of what your kids need for the upcoming season. Even if you don't buy everything today (and we often recommend not buying anything until you really need it) having a list of what you think you need will get it off your mind.
2. School Supplies Inventory: Take stock of the school supplies you already have before buying new ones. I tend to find some of what I sent to school last year returned never touched or barely used. Dispose of dried-out markers and broken scissors, and create a checklist of what's needed.
3. Toy Check: Make both physical and mental space for the school year by decluttering toys your child has outgrown or no longer plays with. If your child is old enough, you can explain the concept of donating to others who might need them. If not, make the decisions for your child. If you're unsure if a toy will be missed, consider placing it in a box in the garage or a closet. If no one asks for it in the next few months, you can probably donate it without anyone noticing! For more tips on organizing and decluttering toys, click here.
4. Create a Homework or Imagination Zone: For big kids designate a clutter-free area for homework. Keep supplies like pencils, erasers, and paper handy. A neat workspace can help with concentration. Or if your child is too young for homework, create a cozy spot or nook with art supplies and their favorite books so they can unwind after a big day at school.
5. Lunchbox Clear-out: Go through the lunch box containers and water bottles from the previous year and decide what to keep and what to discard or recycle. Check for items that need replacement and discard worn-out ones. If you can, invest in stainless steel lunch containers that last longer and are healthier (plastic may leech toxins, particularly if worn out). Here's what I use for my son (these have lasted for four school years so far): this Stainless Steel Sectioned Lunch Container, this Insulated Lunch Bag, this Insulated Stainless Steel Thermos, these Stainless Steel Snack Containers, and dip containers similar to these.*
6. Artwork Archive: We often suggest doing this at the end of the school year, but if summer went by and still you haven't had a chance, this can be a good opportunity to go through and decide which school artwork to keep. You can't keep everything, but preserving a few pieces can be special for your kids. You can also consider photographing their art before letting it go. I often include the photos in my annual photo album while my sister sometimes makes albums of just artwork. For more tips about organizing and decluttering your children's artwork, click here.
7. Bookshelf Revamp: Make Space by organizing bookshelves and donating or storing books that are no longer age-appropriate. I've found that often my son's school wants the books we no longer need, so consider asking your teacher or school librarian if they accept donations.
8. Sports Equipment Swap: Although it won't happen right away, over the next few months our outdoor activities will change with the weather requiring a swap of equipment like bikes with skis When storing summer equipment, make sure it's in good shape and give it a clean before putting it away. As always, let go of, or hand down, anything that your kids have outgrown. If something's broken, decide now if it can be fixed or you need to discard it. Don't waste time and space storing something that you won't be able to fix or no longer need.
9. Morning Routine Simplicity: Streamline your morning routine by setting up an organized area for backpacks, shoes, and jackets. This makes getting out the door smoother. And consider creating one spot for all the lunchbox containers so you're not searching in the morning. For tips on how to create a peaceful morning routine while getting your kids out the door on time, click here.
Best wishes to all the parents and kiddos for a joyful, peaceful, and rewarding school year ahead!
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