The kids are finally back in school and you may think the routine is going to get simpler.
But, whether your kids are pre-schoolers or high schoolers, it's nearly impossible to avoid being overwhelmed by that initial onslaught of forms and paperwork to complete, not to mention advance lunch planning and clothing decisions that could be avoided during the relaxed summer months.
Plus, being late to school is pretty much a no-no at any grade level.
West Hartford resident Christine Landino, founder of An Orderly Space, acknowledges that the amount of paper that comes home with kids during the first days of school is "insane."
"For parents who aren't organized, it can be overwhelming. You have to be on top of things," she says.
Landino's organizing business is designed to help families do just that – stay on top of things, be prepared for the day, get to places on time – all without screaming or tantrums. That goes for the kids as well as the parents.
She has several important suggestions which can immediately make your days run much more smoothly.
Set up a "Mommy Mangement" or Command Center
This starts with creating one large, framed, sturdy calendar for the family. Landino says you should be able to see at least two weeks at once. She recommends using different colors to mark activities for each family member so it's clear who is going where.
"If you have a child with ADHD, use magnets as enhancers. Having a visual helps," she says. Picture calendars are also a great option for kids who are too young to read. For example, an image of a whale means it's the day for swim lessons. That same image can be attached to the child's bag that needs to be taken to swim class.
The kids should leave their backpacks in the command center when they walk in the door. Backpacks should be emptied right away, with "stuff" placed in an organizer, to be sorted later in the day.
The command center can be anywhere you choose, as long as it's central and convenient for grabbing what you need in the morning. "Not upstairs," Landino says.
How do you get your family to follow this plan?
"What organization is in its truest form is modifying behaviors," Landino says. This type of arrangement sets kids up for success because it give them something that they can easily follow, and makes it part of their world.
Clothing and Food
Landino also has some excellent suggestions for other potential routine-busters: wardrobe decisions and lunches.
"The key is empowering your kids to be part of the organizational structure," she says.
Landino suggests taking some time on Sunday to plan out the week's wardrobe. Make labels for each day of the week (Landino's have elastic attached) and work with your child to pick out clothes for each day. That way there's no time pressure, and you know the outfit will be appropriate.
Does your child often change his/her mind about an outfit? "You can have one back-up outfit, but that's it," Landino suggests.
"I've been doing labels with clients for about three years, and I've checked back and the kids are still about 95 percent compliant. They're okay with what they're wearing because they've suggested it," she says.
Lunches, which can also become a huge issue, can be organized in a similar way.
"On Sundays, have a conversation with your kids about what they want to have for lunch during the week," she says. Landino suggests placing bins in the refrigerator with appropriate lunch selections – yogurt, grapes, pre-bagged fruit. Have bins in the cupboard, too, with granola bars and other healthy non-perishable foods.
Even the youngest child can select what he or she wants from the bins each day. "All you have to do is make the sandwich and put everything in the bag," she says. You can make sandwiches the night before, but that isn't even necessary since sandwich-making itself doesn't take very long.
"Preparation is key, empowering them to be part of the process," says Landino. Most kids easily comply with this arrangement, she says, because they have a choice and a voice.
Landino also suggests using clothespins to attach signed permission slips and other paperwork to each child's backpack. She even clips items to her own bag so she doesn't forget them.
What about the mounds of paperwork that come home on a daily basis? Try a vertical organizer (see wire mesh example in photo) with a slot for each child.
Landino, who has a background as a clinical social worker, has been in the organizing business for nine years. She estimates that she has helped at least 300-400 families find order in their lives.
"If you don't set the expectations, you have havoc," she says. "It sounds corny, everything having a home, but it's true."
For more information, or to contact Christine Landino, visit her website.