Sanity-Saving Tips for Parents as School Starts

A little organization can go a long way now that school bells are ringing

At last we (Moms) can rejoice!  The school year has officially begun and our children are no longer sitting around the house whining that they are bored and hungry.

The busy hustle and bustle of school, soccer, piano, ballet, and every other crazy activity under the sun has begun. Backpacks and shoes once again line our hallways. Lunch boxes wait to be emptied just to be refilled the next morning. Our vehicles turn from summer vacation transportation to home offices, locker rooms, and a restaurant. The calendar fills up so quickly that play dates are scheduled three weeks out. Just when we thought we couldn't take another moment of summer…. Here comes Frantic Fall.

The craziness that comes with kids going to school is much like a horse race—a lot of slow walking in a circle until they unleash you at just the right moment.  With several kids involved in different activities, homework, housework, jobs, church, it can be stressful trying to manage your family's time. Since it isn't recommended to give 5 year olds their own Blackberrys, we need organization plans that actually work.  So we should start from the top of the income chain down.

If you are a parent in today's age, you need a smartphone.  Why would you even TRY to live without one? Don't be that Mom who can't Google Justin Beiber (who is that kid anyway?) or check Facebook anytime, anywhere!  You should want to know exactly what happened at the sleepover last weekend. And with teenage kids, texting is a necessity. My husband doesn't even remember to take out the garbage without a Blackberry calendar reminder. You and your spouse can sync devices and share calendars to make scheduling a breeze.

For those too young to own a Smartphone, a good ole' fashioned calendar works just fine. You know, the paper kind, that hangs on the wall. For teenagers, they should be responsible for posting all of their activities on the calendar. If there's a mistake, it's on them. For the 12 and under crowd, a little help is necessary and color coding is the way to go.  I recommend using a different colored pencil for each member of the family. Elementary children love to keep track of who's where, when soccer practice is and can alleviate stress on little ones. Preschoolers can use stickers for activities and special events.

Keeping kids backpacks and lunchboxes together is like herding cats. Storing them in one designated area is an absolute must. Not knowing where a backpack is on a school morning can send anyone into a panic. Several good options are over the door hooks, a coat rack at a child-friendly height, or a door purse strap. When lunchboxes come in from school, quickly dump the trash, pop the ice packs in the freezer, and rinse it out. Leave the lunch box in the dish drainer until it needs to be refilled.  

Maintaining an orderly car can also help stave off insanity. Although, my minivan usually looks like a bomb exploded in it after a full day with the kids. Empty cups, ballet shoes, paperwork, and library books can be found in it at any given time. To keep your car manageable, it's a good idea to keep a small trash bag in the car or a larger one inside your garage. When you fill up your gas tank, take a quick second to toss junk mail, cups, garbage. I also try to keep cereal or granola bars in the car to avoid expensive fast food trips. Once kids are old enough, make them responsible for taking their items out of the car. 

As we enter fall, just a few seconds here and there can really add up to significant time savings. No one likes to send their kids off to school after a frantic morning. Every evening, lay shoes and clothes out, load up backpacks, and pack non-perishables in lunch boxes.  Check tomorrow's schedule one last time before bed and you should be all set. You'll find that a little organization can go a long way toward bringing peace and productivity to your home.



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