In Fort Collins, back to school season is already upon us. Some schools are already in session and others are getting ready to open their doors in the next few weeks. No matter where you live, if you have students in your household this can be a trying time of year. For some parents it brings a bit of relief because the house is quieter during the day and eventually the faint echoes of “I’m bored” start to fade away.
Autumn brings a whole new type of stress and chaos with it and we refuse to let it get us (and you) down. We’ve gathered 9 ideas to keep back to school stress to a minimum so you can actually enjoy any free time the next 10 months or so might give you.
Our tips come from talking to our Fort Collins house cleaning clients, our own staff, and of course, all of the helpful bloggers out there who somehow come up with the most brilliant ideas on a regular basis. (We bet they get stressed, too.)
Let’s get to it. You’ve got planning to do!
Start with a clean slate at the beginning of the school year
This might not be the best time to do a giant deep clean, but it is a good time to declutter and re-organize some areas of your home. Get rid of piles of paper (or just put them somewhere you’ll remember so you can get to them later), wash dirty laundry, and maybe consider those bags you still haven’t emptied from that trip you took. The cleaner you can get your house, the easier it will be for you to implement the following tips.
If you’re looking for extra help, feel free to give us a call. We can take on a big chunk of the cleaning so you can spend less time stressing about dusting and dishes and more time stressing about everything else that happens during the school year. Like lice, and the flu, and … ok, moving on because … gross.
Create a family command center
Find a spot in your house that everyone in the family sees on a regular basis. This is going to be your new family command center.
Your kids will put their backpacks here after they remove any important papers. Those papers can go in whatever type of in and out trays or baskets work best for you. Field trip papers, fundraiser sheets, and other important documents that need action will be easy to find and keep track of.
The command center is a great spot to keep a dry erase calendar or even printed sheets showing all of the upcoming practices, games, events, birthdays, and even big important due dates.
Good Housekeeping has a wonderful list of command center ideas!
This is the perfect spot to put some sort of bin or bucket for library books, too!
What do you do with graded papers and artwork?
If you or your kids like to keep finished homework and classroom assignments, tests, etc, find a bin or box to store them in. At the end of the year you can go through them together, reminisce and gloat on their growth, then decide what to keep or toss.
Art projects are a tough one for parents. Consider doing the same to them as the above tip for homework. Then, at the end of the year, take photos of them, choose a few to keep for each year, and toss the rest. Your child will probably want to help with this.This could be a good recycling lesson, too!
Hassle-free homework time
Getting your kids to do their homework after school is about as fun as doing homework after school. It’s rarely going to be anyone’s favorite time of their day but there are a few ways to make it go a little easier for everyone.
Make a homework station that includes everything your kids need to finish their tasks. Not only will this be super helpful to them, they’ll be less likely to wander off for a sharpened pencil and end up at the fridge somehow. You can get a cheap plastic caddy for this or even craft one out of coffee tins and used cereal boxes. Include the usual needs like extra paper, pens, markers, crayons, whiteout (do kids still have use for whiteout?), calculators (so they can leave their phones elsewhere), tissues, and glue.
I found some really cute ideas for homework stations at topdreamer.com.
Do you remember those cardboard dividers some teachers used in school to keep us from looking at others’ papers and being big cheaters? Make your own to keep siblings from distracting each other or solo kids from distracting themselves.
Lunch-packing made a little less chaotic
First of all, we’d like to very strongly suggest putting 5 or 10 bucks on your student’s school lunch account. That way it’s there if you ever forget to pack or they forget to grab.
For packing lunches, grab some plastic shoe boxes from the dollar store and give them a space in your cabinets and a space in your fridge. Fill each box with things your kids will eat. Put cheeses and meats in one, for example, and pretzels, cheese crackers, etc. in another. Have one for drink options (or fill up the thermos the night before and have it chilling in the fridge) and maybe even one for fruit or other sweets.
For smaller kids, you can label the boxes with a number so they know how many of each they can put in their lunch bag for that day.
At the end of the day, get them in the routine of dropping their lunch boxes off on the kitchen counter or another handy spot so they can be wiped out and ready for packing in the morning.
And if you forget or they leave their lunchbox at school? Good thing you planned ahead and put that money on their account, right? You rock.
Sunday evening preparations
This would be a great time to shop for and prepack all of those lunch choices we just talked about. Bag them up in individual portions for the whole week.
Make weekday mornings easier for everyone by laying out a week’s worth of clothes on Sunday evening. Let your child help choose the outfits if they’re into that kind of thing.
Some of our clients use hanging fabric organizers to put each day of clothing in, and others make cute hanger tags with the day of the week brightly printed on them. Whatever works best for you!
If you can start the school year bedtime routine weeks before the first day, great! If not, it’s ok. You can still get everyone into the habit.
According to this helpful chart from the Sleep Foundation, kids need a lot of sleep to be their best healthy little selves every day.
Sleep times for kids
Bonus (but probably most important) tip
Listen, even with all of these tips and tricks, the school year has its chaotic moments. There’s nothing a human can do to keep everything 100% smooth all of the time.
It’s important that you take good care of yourself so you can deal with anything that comes at you and so you can enjoy these milestones more!
We highly recommend something we call an “emergency self-care fund” when times get wacky.
At the very beginning of the school year, no matter whether you think you’ll need it or not, put some cash in an envelope or get a prepaid debit card and put aside some money for you.
You can use this for a lunch out alone (trust us, these are amazing and not scary at all), a movie with your best friend, a bottle of wine, a ridiculously fancy coffee, or whatever it is that makes you feel better. You could even use it as a reward system for when you make it through the most hellish science projects or fundraisers.
You deserve it.
Do you have any fun tips for surviving the school year? We’d love to read them!
We hope you find these tips helpful. If you’re in need of a Fort Collins area house cleaning service, you found us. We’re ready to help with that, too!