School supplies on a white background

The kids are headed back to school. You know what that means − backpacks, textbooks, homework, school lunches and more will be invading your hallways and counter tops.

Try as you might, controlling this chaos can be a losing battle. But containing it, you can do. The key to success is to have spaces for all the items that are easy for the kids to use. Check out the tips below.

1. Food. Set aside kid spaces in your fridge and pantry for lunch and snack items. Have containers to store like items. Getting rid of box packaging helps kids grab and go, plus you don’t end up with empty boxes in the pantry.

2. Supplies. Having one space designated for school supplies helps the whole family find what they need. When you’re shopping this year, buy a little extra lead, folders and pencils. Store them with your index cards and other school-related supplies. This will spare you from making emergency runs to the store. The location of the supplies can be anywhere as long as the kids have access. A space close to the homework area works best.

3. Activity gear. Off-season activity gear needs a central location throughout the year. The worst feeling is when the first game is about to happen and you can’t find your child’s shin guards. Creating a drop zone (a bin in a hall closet works well) for off-season uniforms, shoes and gear is a game-changer.

4. Backpacks. After school, backpacks will land in the easiest place. Be prepared for this. It might be the floor by the door or the kitchen counter top as the kids grab a snack. The key to surviving the backpack clutter is to have some boundaries. Give the kids a chance to land, relax and regroup after school. Let them settle into their homework. Then have a time that items need to be picked up and ready for school the next day. For little kids who don’t have much homework, their backpacks can be picked up, ready for tomorrow and placed on a hook by the door before dinner. For older kids who might need more time for homework, maybe before bedtime works better.

5. Homework and papers. Spelling lists, reading logs and study guides all need a home outside of the backpack. Younger kids may have weekly study items like a spelling list. Have a clip or magnet for hanging the list for quick retrieval during the week. Older students will need to hang on to study guides and other papers. Create a small hanging file box for their papers. You can have a file for each class so they can easily store and retrieve their papers as needed. The best place to keep the file box is in their study area.

Maintaining these spaces is key to success. Create a routine to help your child stay organized. Ask lots of questions about what they’re keeping and why. Then help them find a place for the needed items. Young kids might need daily help but as they get older they will become more independent.

Our goal as a parent is to give our kids the tools and to coach them on how to maintain their organization. School supplies and spaces are a great practice ground for lifelong organization skills.

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This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of the Momaha Magazine.

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