School is Back in Session
By Lauren Hurwitz
For many parents, dropping their child off for the first day of school is the best.day.ever. Peace and quiet returns to the home from 8:30am-3pm. The dream of enjoying a meal uninterrupted becomes reality, and oh yes, an education for junior is underway for the next 10 months. But just how to get the day started now that school is back in session is the tricky part. According to a survey from Sparefoot, “When the school year starts, 80% of parents feel it takes them longer to get ready in the morning than during the summer. And nearly one in three feel it takes more than 20 minutes longer.” With limited time to ensure you’re more than simply saved by the bell, parents around Westchester are looking for ways to make life before their first cup of coffee a bit easier.
Debbie Harwin, owner of I Need My Space in Mamaroneck, says the first step to getting organized is to put away all the summer items you’re no longer using. Whether you opt for clear or decorative boxes, everything must find a place. “Visual clutter leads to mental clutter,” says Harwin. “It’s what you see and wake up to in the morning and go to sleep to at night. It’s nice to just have surfaces that are clear and organized.”
In Harwin’s experience, the mudroom often needs the most work since it’s a shared space with tons of foot traffic. Give each family member their own dedicated spot within the mudroom for their backpack, properly fitting shoes, jackets and sports equipment for the current season. An ideal mudroom maximizes vertical space all the way up to the ceiling so you can add bins for items you will switch out throughout the year depending on weather like gloves, hats and scarves. Spend time going through all of apparel and equipment you and your children no longer need or have outgrown. No more, “just in case I need this for the future” moments! When in doubt, Harwin says, “Donate! There are plenty of people out there who are in need of these things.” Out of season items can be placed in the garage so that when you depart for the day, everything you need is easy to find. Better yet, when you return home, there will be an instant feeling of zen instead of chaos. And at the end of every evening, Harwin recommends making sure backpacks are fully-loaded minus the next day’s lunch – to avoid last minute packing in the morning.
Another step to staying organized as we embark on the most chaotic time of year is by creating a Command Center. Whether it’s in the home office or kitchen, a Command Center should highlight everyone’s schedule in an easy-to-read fashion and provide quick access to important papers. Harwin likes using a color-coded dry erase board to track where everyone is, and easily schedule future appointments. She also recommends the clear three-section vertical file organizer from the Container Store that enables you to put letter-size papers into files on an incline, so the papers don’t get lost behind each other. Many of her clients will create a file for each child so when papers come in, they can break up the sections between action files such as class lists, schedules, etc. You can also have a file for mom or dad with segments such as bills to pay, upcoming events, upcoming travel, warranties, or more.
Now that your home is in order, it’s time to make a routine that will stick. Alexandra Hickey, owner of AMH Organizing in Rye, says one week prior to school, the entire family wakes up early, with the time getting increasingly earlier each day. This will help parents and kids adjust to the new schedule and allow for some practice runs so kids and parents alike are aware of what is expected and needed to get out the door in a timely fashion. Establishing routines that will stick is the key to success.
Hickey also believes in prepping as much as possible the night before school. For example, if you know you’re going to be serving cereal for breakfast in the morning, set the table with a bowl, spoon, cup, and box of cereal before you go to bed as it’s one less thing to do in the morning. Other tasks you can do the night before include preparing lunch and leaving out next-day outfits not just for the children but for the adults as well.
Keeping tidy isn’t just for the adults and “big kids” – little children can also have their own sense of order, according to Meryl Keenan Bash, owner of The Neat Nest in New Rochelle. She says the mDesign Plastic Portable Craft Storage Organizer Caddy Tote makes it easy for youngsters to carry their school or art supplies around the house, from room to room. “It’s the perfect size for little hands and especially convenient for households with multiple children since you can put a name label on each caddy. If you’re on a tight budget, you can also check your local budget-goods store like the Dollar Tree for a super inexpensive caddy.”
And if order and routine sound a bit too overwhelming for you – if keeping things in place was never your “thing”– consider this: Every minute you spend putting things in the right place at night, is one more minute you get to stay in bed in the morning. How’s that for some Monday morning motivation?