For many of our readers, the new school year is about to begin. Today, Mridu Parikh, owner of Life Is Organized, shares strategies to help us stay sane as we go from “loose routine” to “complete structure!” Take it away, Mridu …

If you’ve enjoyed lazy days at the pool, staying up too late and going out for ice cream as an after dinner treat, you might be suffering from the back-to-school blues right about now.

Your lazy, picnic-filled afternoons are soon to be replaced by frazzled mornings, drop-off and pick-up lines, missing homework, countless activities, stricter bedtimes and the many other goings-on that signal school is back in session.

Well, no use whining about it. Let’s make this school year better than the last! Here are a few pointers and some of the best tools I’ve found to make school routine easier on the whole family.

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Lined up and ready for the morning chaos.

4 Simple Strategies to Get Organized Before School Starts

1. Create a System For Papers

There are three types of school papers you need to deal with on an ongoing basis: those that need action (forms, permission slips), those you’re keeping for reference (class lists, schedules) and those you want to save and store (think artwork and essays).

Creating a designated spot for each of these paper types before the school year begins will help you stay organized and on top of things. I recommend storing them somewhere near the “backpack drop off area,” where you’re likely to unload these pesky papers and need a convenient place to put them.

2. Morning Planning is Key

Problems in the morning are often rooted in the fact that things should have been done the night before. Backpacks should be checked the evening before and be by the door, with lunches planned (if not prepared).

I’ve gone as far as filling up the kids’ cereal bowls at night, so all they have to do is pour the milk in the morning. Am I babying them? Maybe. Does it work? Like a charm.

Keep in mind that autonomy is a big issue for school-age kids, so let them be involved in the preparation process as much as possible, like picking out their clothes. (But remember, the night before!)

Also, getting kids motivated in the morning can be the most challenging part of the day. Do you find yourself running around like a maniac while your kids spend 15 minutes brushing their hair or tying their shoes?

Make sure you are up and dressed before the insanity begins. The truth is, your kids don’t understand how much you’re juggling, so don’t add pressure by rushing around trying to get ready at the same time. How many times has screaming “I’m going to be late for work!” really motivated your kids to get moving faster? Chances are it just adds to your stress, so get yourself ready first.

3. Routines Are Your Best Friends

I can’t stress daily routine charts enough, no matter what age kids you have. Routine charts cover everything from brushing teeth to packing sports equipment to scheduling make-up tests. (For older kids you can simply refer to them as “daily checklists.”)

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Mridu’s checklists for her son Vishi are laminated so that they can be reused each day.

Whether you use cute photos or images or just simple text for each task, having a visible reminder of what’s expected helps kids. And, asking them to check off each task helps create consistency, reinforces routines and builds their self-esteem. It also helps you stay on top and in control of expectations and responsibilities.

Without our checklists, I don’t know how we’d survive in our household. Like all organization tools, charts and checklists don’t make things perfect, just better.

4. Tweens and Teens Should Use Planners

If your kids are middle or high school age, chances are that their schedules include more commitments and activities than you’ve had in the last 10 years. I’m a firm believer in having everything written down on one schedule, so they can visually understand how to manage their time and responsibilities.

Building these organizational skills is so important for optimum school performance. Who can afford to get an “F” because they forgot to put their completed project in their backpack? An essential tool to avoid these types of mistakes is a daily planner.

There’s only one planner I’ve found that’s created especially for tweens and teens. It’s called the Academic Planner, and it’s available at orderoochaos.com. Kids can record their class subjects with pages that line up on a subject-by-subject basis and keep track of homework, tests and projects, as well as after-school activities and weekend commitments. It rocks!

The best planner for tweens and teens: orderoochaos.com

Now don’t be an overachiever and tackle all these strategies at once. Be sure to pick and master just one before moving on to the next. And be aware that implementing these strategies can have chronic effects, including less yelling, more time and reduced chaos. Welcome back to school!

Thanks, Mridu! To learn more strategies to get organized at home AND at work, learn more about the services Mridu offers at lifeisorganized.com.

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