back to school

Designing an Easier Back to School Routine

A professional home organizer says well-designed space reinforces good habits

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It can be tough getting everybody out the door on time for school and work, and that's where some organization skills can help.

Jessica Carrillo, a professional organizer and owner of A Charming Home in Dallas, says how a space is designed reinforces good habits that make getting into a routine easier.

Here are some of her tricks for getting that done.

"If you have a space designated as a drop zone for backpacks or masks or keys, for paperwork that needs to go out of the house in the morning and you reinforce that is where things go, you're creating this really good habit of everything you need being right where you need it when it's go time," Carillo said.

And for keeping younger kids on time and on task, she recommends a clock.

Hooks and bins can help keep items organized and make getting out the door on time easier. Photo Credit: A Charming Home

"You can use clocks with different sections of the day marked out in colors. so, this purple time of day is when we're gonna do our homework. Then we're going to transition into this green section where we're gonna get ready for bed; gives them a way to keep track of time," she said.

Getting into the back-to-school routine takes time. Add in working from home, and the stress level can go up. Carrillo suggests letting a few things go.

Jessica Carrillo, a professional organizer and owner of A Charming Home in Dallas, says space is designed to reinforce good habits makes getting into a routine easier.

Start with an honest evaluation of priorities and see where you can simplify.

"What does your beauty routine look like? What does your wardrobe look like? what does cooking mean to you? Is it something that's important to you or not so much?" she asked. "Once once you pinpoint those areas where you're willing to step back a little bit and you value time over whatever that things are more, then you can start decluttering the things that relate to that task. Hitting the easy button and doing meal kits if having that would give you a little more time for something else and alleviate the stress of cooking."

Here are 10 ways to get the whole family out the door faster:

  1. Meal prep: Spend a couple of hours each Sunday prepping ingredients for quick weekday meals. For example, wash and chop vegetables, grill a batch of chicken breasts, make a pot of grains, and whip up a stack of pancakes.
  2. Create a drop zone by your front door for bags, keys, masks, mail, jackets, sports gear, and an outbox for special items like packages that need to be mailed out. For younger children, post a visual checklist beside their backpack to help them remember what they need for school or practice.
  3. Shower at night or after school drop off if possible.
  4. Keep a family calendar of social events, practices, work commitments, and dinner plans and glance at it each night so you don't miss something in the morning rush.
  5. Get a go-back bin and go through the house each night before bed picking up and returning out-of-place items. Give older children their own go-back bin and make this part of their bedtime routine. No more hunting for the shoe under the coffee table when it's go time.
  6. Dedicate a portion of each person's closet to upcoming outfits. Each weekend, select outfits for the next week, factoring in the weather forecast. Edit your wardrobe regularly and separate out-of-season clothes from the current season. This will help reduce decision fatigue as you choose what to wear.
  7. Evaluate routines like makeup, hair styling, and making your morning coffee. Simplify these routines by discarding excess items and keeping everything related to that routine in one area. For example, keep all coffee supplies next to the sink because making coffee requires water.
  8. For younger children, create a visual checklist for getting ready. Place necessities like toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and backpacks low so they can access them without your help.
  9. Create a car caddy with essentials like an umbrella, chapstick, tissues, snack bars, charging cords, small activities, sunglasses, and extra baby necessities.
  10. Designate one charging station in your home for all phones, watches, laptops, and tablets.
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