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Principal Lu Ann Jacobs embraces fourth-grader Harley Hackett, alongside fifth-grader Samuel Kimbril, as students were welcomed back for the first day of school Thursday at Wilson Focus Elementary School in Omaha.

If you find yourself running late and shuffling everyone and everything into the car — all while praying you didn't forget anything important — it can only mean one thing.

School is back in session.

For many families, heading back into the school-year routine from a summer one is tough. It very likely paints an entirely different picture than their ideal morning routine — one of everyone scouring the entire house for a missing shoe, missing keys and wondering where that permission slip went. Don't forget the accompanying barking dogs, screaming kids and, of course, your own inner dialogue that includes some choice words never to be repeated by your children.

However, back-to-school time doesn’t have to mean back to stress. With a little planning and organization, your school mornings can go off without a hitch. Below are some tips.

1. Lay your children’s clothes out the night before. This may sound juvenile, but it answers the question of “What should I wear to school?” Plus, there will be no rushing against the clock. If your children are old enough, let them do the picking and incorporate it into their evening routine. Heck, you may even want to try this one out for yourself.

2. Plan your meals out for the week every Saturday or Sunday. Spending a little time up front on planning will provide an immediate return on your investment during the week. Once your menu is planned, make a grocery list and get everything you need for the upcoming week. That way, cooking dinner each night will be a breeze because you already know what's coming and have everything on hand. There will be no more swinging by the grocery store on the way home from work with hungry kids in the car.

3. Deal with school papers as soon as your kids get home from school. Sure, the papers that come home in your child's back pack seem harmless enough — until you need a form that is nowhere to be found. You'll spend forever searching through every pile of paper in your house looking for it. Instead, I recommend sorting school paperwork into three categories — needs action, reference and important. File each of the categories in a folder or bin. Anything else can be recycled.

4. Have a shared calendar and grocery list. Whether you are an old school pen and paper family or prefer digital alternatives, make sure you have a calendar and grocery list visible to all members of the family. This will allow for increased collaboration and decreases the chances of miscommunication about who has an extracurricular activity when.

5. Prioritize your to do list. Each night do a brain dump of everything that needs to be done. Instead of getting overwhelmed by your long list, prioritize it. Circle the one thing that is critical for tomorrow and focus on that task first. Continue to work on the rest of your list in order of priority. Whatever you don’t get to is non-essential (because you’ve prioritized) and can be delayed or delegated.

Going from flowy freedom in the summer to the structure of the school year can be tough, but planning ahead and putting routines in place can ease that transition. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." So start planning a stress-free year now for you and your family.

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Haley Rogers is a professional organizer and women’s life coach. She uses her personal experiences of decluttering along with her Type A and structured personality to help others simplify their homes and lives. She often taps into her professional experience of advising and project management to keep her clients motivated and on track. Find more about Haley here.

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