With a new school year looming in the not-so-distant future, many of us (myself included) are frantically searching for back to school organization ideas for moms. With the end-of-year chaos from 2 months ago still fresh in our minds, we’re determined to do better this time around. We yearn for picture-perfect mornings and afternoons with our children where everything runs smoothly, no one yells or cries, and we manage to spend quality time together as a family while simultaneously doing all the things.
This will be our fifth back to school season, and I like to think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how to keep us organized and sane from September through June. I’ve tested out so many organization hacks over the years, and my 2 biggest takeaways have been: simplicity and consistency.
There are so many great back to school organization ideas for moms out there, but they only work if you’re willing to put in the effort. As tempting as it is to commit to a million changes once September hits, I find it much more realistic to choose a handful of ideas you know you can keep up for the long-haul so you’re setting yourself up for success instead of failure.
13 Back to School Organization Ideas for Moms
1) Identify your biggest challenges
Very few of us are organized enough to take the time to write down all of the things that went wrong at the end of the school year, but if you’re committed to maintaining a more organized schedule in the months ahead, block off some time well in advance of the first day of school to do a brain dump. Think back to your mornings, afternoons, and evenings throughout the previous school year, and identify the biggest challenges you faced. Was it hard to get yourself and your kids out of bed? Were your mornings a blur of cooking breakfast, packing lunches and school bags, finding lost items, and diffusing temper tantrums? Did you find it hard to find the time to spend quality time with your children after school? Did homework result in crying fits and raised voices? Was bedtime a nightmare? Be brutally honest with yourself and then put pen to paper and brainstorm ways you can avoid a repeat this coming school year.
2) Create a family calendar
If you struggle to stay on top of the activities, appointments, and social commitments for everyone in your family, create ONE master family calendar so you know what’s happening each day and can keep everyone organized. There are so many different ways you can do this – you can go old school and buy a wall calendar to hang in your kitchen, or you can download a fancy app that allows multiple users to make updates and changes. Whichever option you choose, make sure there is only ONE place where everything is recorded.
3) Establish a predictable morning and evening routine
If your kids have a tendency to dawdle before school (ahem…), another one of my favorite back to school organization ideas for moms is to create a visual reminder of what has to be done from the time your children wake up until it’s time to put their shoes on each morning. You can simply write a list of action items on a piece of paper and attach it to a clipboard, or get fancy with a customized magnetic morning checklist (Melissa and Doug has a great one you can personalize), but the point remains the same: kids need to know what’s expected of them, and if you have it all laid out before their eyes, they will be much more likely to pitch in and help out, which makes for a much smoother morning for everyone.
If afternoons and evenings are also a tricky time, you can create a second visual for that time frame as well. Try to ensure the routine is predictable so it becomes a habit and you don’t have to nag and remind your child to avoid unnecessary power struggles!
4) Setup a centralized command center
If you’ve searched for anything school-related on Pinterest lately, you’ve probably seen a ton of pins about command center ideas that promise to keep you and your kids organized throughout the school year. Command centers offer a centralized place where you can keep important items like backpacks, keys, and homework supplies, and many people use this space to display chore charts, homework assignments, as well as their family calendar. You can make this as simple or detailed as you wish, and it’s a fabulous way to keep the entire family organized and accountable.
5) Create a homework center
Another one of my favorite back to school organization ideas for moms is to create a homework center for your child. Whether your little one prefers to do his or her homework at the dining table, on the kitchen breakfast bar, or at an elaborate desk in his or her bedroom, it’s important to find a dedicated and QUIET space that is free from distraction so your little one can focus. For younger kids, it’s a good idea to choose an area within close proximity to you so you can keep your eyes peeled and intervene if and when your child becomes distracted. ⠀
While creating a homework center, but sure to take the time to gather together all of the supplies your child will need. If your child uses a desk, these items can easily be stored in drawers, but if your little one does homework at the dining table like my daughter does, spend time creating a homework caddy together. There are tons of great ones on Amazon, and your child will have fun filling it with his or her favorite supplies. We love our Learning Resources Create-A-Space Storage Center because it has removable containers!
6) Unpack school bags as soon as you walk through the front door
While your kids are probably eager to dump their bags and run upstairs to play the minute they get through the front door each afternoon, taking 5 minutes or so to unpack their school and lunch bags, review their homework assignments, and organize any paperwork can be a HUGE sanity-saver for the whole family. Not only does this remind your child about his or her responsibilities for the evening, but it also helps you stay on top of paperwork so you aren’t scrambling the following morning (or fielding disgruntled phone calls from the school office about unsigned forms).
7) Setup an inbox/outbox system for school forms
If your kids are older and in charge of packing their own bags and staying on top of homework assignments, consider setting up an inbox/outbox system for school forms. Your child can drop anything that needs to be reviewed and/or signed into the ‘inbox’ after school, and after you’ve done whatever is needed, you can put it in the ‘outbox’ for him or her to pick up the following morning. This puts a lot of onus on your child, but it’s a great way to keep him or her accountable.
8) Work in batches
‘Batching’ involves grouping relevant tasks together and tackling them in one go, rather than splitting them up over the course of a few days, and it’s another one of my favorite back to school organization ideas for moms! Many people work in batches in their working life, but what few people realize is how effective it can be in our personal lives as well. Set aside some time a few evenings a week to take care of mindless tasks – cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, meal prepping, etc. – so you aren’t constantly borrowing time needed for more important tasks several times throughout the week.
As moms, we have a tendency to try and do everything ourselves. It’s just in our nature to do this, and as much as we love having control over every facet of our lives – and the lives of our children – learning how to let go and allow others to take care of the little things is essential to our well-being, especially when we’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you constantly feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, assign age-appropriate chores to your kids (we’ve written an entire post on this topic, which you can read HERE), outsource the things you don’t have time for, and don’t feel an ounce of guilt about it!
10) Plan outfits for the week
Every Sunday, my daughter and I spend ~10 minutes planning and laying out our outfits for the week, and it has made a HUGE difference in our morning routines. While her outfits are pretty easy to plan since she wears school uniform, I find it helpful to plan ahead to ensure we’re prepared for gym days, casual days, and any special themes her class may be planning. Having everything selected and ready to grab also ensures we aren’t frantically searching through drawers and baskets of clean clothes for specific items when we’re in a rush.
When selecting my clothes, I try everything on ahead of time to make sure I like how the finished outfit looks, and I go as far as laying out accessories and shoes, and ensuring I have the right undergarments at my fingertips. It takes a little extra time, but it has really simplified our mornings.
11) Never touch anything twice
I read a productivity hack a while ago called the ‘Touch It Once’ technique and decided to give it a try this summer. The idea is that once you ‘touch’ a task, you deal with it then and there so it’s taken off your plate, rather than ‘touching’ it multiple times and allowing it to take up extra energy and mental space. Of course, you can’t always complete a task through to completion the moment you ‘touch’ it, in which case you should make a firm decision on next steps and act on them to keep things moving forward.
I have been testing this hack out for about 2 months now and all I can say is: WOW. I hadn’t realized how many times I look at and ruminate over the same things over and over without actually taking action, and I am shocked at how much faster I’m knocking things off my list now that I’m going all in on each task. If you’re looking for new and innovative ways to stay organized this school year, give this trick a try!
12) Always have a back-up plan
Life has a way of throwing us curve balls at the most inconvenient times. Sick children, school closures, and unforeseen changes in our work schedules and commitments can leave even the most organized parent scrambling at the last minute. If this sounds familiar, my advice is to ensure you always have a back-up plan you can fall back on to prevent those last-minute moments of panic.
13) Prep before bed
The last tip on my list of back to school organization ideas for moms is to spend 15-30 minutes each evening planning for the following day. The idea is to get ahead of as many tasks and chores as possible to help free up your morning. I pack school lunches, unload the dishwasher, and set out our breakfast items each evening before bed. I also organize all of my workout gear – clothes, shoes, music, and water bottle – so I have no excuses to skip my morning workout.
I hope this collection of back to school organization ideas for moms has inspired you to make changes to your daily routine for a smoother school year ahead. Remember not to bite off more than you can chew, to be consistent, and to focus on simplifying your biggest pain points. And don’t forget to give yourself – and your children – grace on the days when things fall apart. There is no such thing as perfection, and tomorrow is a chance to start again!