It's that time of year again....Back to School! My kids start school on Monday, so I'm spending this weekend trying to switch back into "school mode," after having a very nice and relaxing summer. I took most of the summer off from doing in-home organization in order to focus on developing a new product that I am super passionate and excited about. More on that later... :)
Since my specialty is helping moms establish systems in their homes to make their daily life run more smoothly and to set up children to be more independent, I thought I would share what I do to prepare for a school week.
It all begins with my Sunday Prep.
This is the key to success for my whole week. When I miss prepping on Sunday, my week never fully recovers. It’s a chance to reset my house and prepare for the week ahead. This is the checklist I use every Sunday:
You can download it for free here or make up your own version. Put it in a page protector and check items off with a dry erase marker.
1. Review Weekly Schedule
My favorite planner of all time is the Blue Sky Day Designer Planner in the weekly format. I prefer seeing my whole week at a glance and having spots for hourly appointments, meal planning, to do list, daily top three, gratitidue, and notes, all in ONE place.
A planner is such a personal thing, so find one that works for you. If your current system isn’t working, then find something that does work, either online or on paper.
With my planner open, I do the following:
Review my entire week.
Sync my calendar with my husband’s schedule.
Look for anything on my schedule that requires action (i.e. If I see a birthday party coming up on Saturday, I will write “Buy a bday gift” on my to-do list or if I have a few minutes, I will purchase something on Amazon right then).
Confirm client appointments.
Write down when and at what time I’ll exercise that week.
Schedule a chunk of times for errands and returns. I like to group these together to be more efficient. I put all my returns in my car so I have everything I need when I’m out.
Plan my meals based on our after school activities and sports. I like to make extra portions when I cook so my husband can take the left overs to work as his lunch. Cook once, eat twice.
Make my grocery list.
2. Grocery Shop & Prep Lunches
I usually go grocery shopping sometime on Sunday and when I come home, the real prep begins. I clean and cut up all the fruit and vegetables I bought. This takes awhile but then it’s done for the week. I keep them in Tupperware Fridge Smart containers and it keeps the produce fresh for longer. They also stack easily in my refrigerator.
I pack snacks for me and my husband in Ziploc bags…things like carrots with individual hummus containers, cheese with crackers, bags of nuts, fruit, etc. Then we can just grab them as we head out in the morning.
While my kitchen is already messy, I bake a double batch of muffins, and freeze half. My kids like to take them in their school lunches or eat them for snacks. I usually do this twice a month.
We also prep lunches once for the whole week. I could do a whole blog post on this topic, but basically each child has 5 bento boxes (these leakproof ones from Ziploc are my favorite!), and they fill them for the entire week and store them in our spare refrigerator. I use fruits like grapes or clementines that will last 5 days without spoiling. Even if I have to add a sandwich or fruit mid week, it’s much easier to have the bulk of the work done. The kids make and freeze sandwiches when possible.
I’ve trained the kids by now, so they make their lunches on their own, using the fruit and vegetables that I’ve already cleaned and prepped. An added bonus is that they actually eat everything in their lunch, because they are the ones who packed it!
They also fill baggies with their snacks for the whole week. 5 bags of pretzels, 5 bags of carrots, etc. They each have a space in our pantry and fridge for their snacks. Each morning, all they have to do is assemble—grab their snacks from the pantry and a bento lunch box from the spare fridge, and their water bottle. It’s sooooo easy.
3. Open Mail and Pay Bills
We only open mail once a week because that is what works for us. Throughout the week, we scan for anything urgent or time sensitive and everything else goes in the basket until Sunday. On Sundays, my husband opens everything and takes action. Most of our bills are paid online. He will give me a pile of things that require my attention. He scans in the paperwork using our Fijitsu ScanSnap scanner in our attempt to go Paperless, and resets the basket back to empty.
We decided a few years ago that he was better about being in charge of the bills and mail, so he took that over. I handle anything related to school and the kids. You have to work with your natural strengths! We are a team after all. :)
I realize I am the luckiest woman on earth, because my husband actually does ALL of our laundry each week on Sunday. It was another discussion where we decided that he does a far superior job than I do, and he doesn’t mind doing it all once a week. He’s terribly efficient at it, whereas I start a load and forget it’s there for days! Like I said, we are a team and know our strengths and weaknesses. Having the laundry all done at one time is amazing, and I really can't take any credit for this one!
The kids also do their part by bringing their dirty clothes to the laundry room, sorting it, and putting it away once it’s done. Every person in the family has their own laundry basket, and we have an additional one for towels and sheets.
5. Random Things
The other items on the list are random things I would otherwise forget to do. Things like clean and reboot my cell phone, put away all the piles around the house, place any online orders, get out weekly cash, get gas, gather dry cleaning, and sign any forms. It's nice to start the week with a clean kitchen island. When everything in your house has a place, this step becomes much easier.
Doing the items on this checklist doesn’t just reset our house, but also resets my mental state. I don’t have to worry about all these things throughout the week, so it clears out much needed space in my brain!
I always explain to the kids the “why” behind it all--that we need to work together as a family and everyone needs to do their part to help. I remind them that it’s my responsibility to raise them to be self-sufficient and they need these skills to live on their own later in life. I’m hoping that by starting healthy habits now, it will become a natural part of their routine as well. And as you can see, the whole family participates in our weekly prep. As I like to say, "I'm working myself out of a job, one chore at a time. " :)
So, that’s it! This whole process generally takes 2-3 hours total.
Instead of scrambling to make lunches every morning, searching for clean uniforms, last-minute panic about what to cook for dinner, missed appointments and unpaid bills, we have relatively peaceful and smooth weeks. That is, until the kids get sick, my car breaks down, our refrigerator breaks, etc. Life is faaaaaaaaaar from perfect around here, but doing this routine does help us survive the week.
Need Help Getting Started?
Give the Sunday Prep Checklist a try and leave a comment or get in touch with me if you have questions or need help. If you want me to come to your home and set up these systems FOR you, just go to the Contact page and schedule an appointment.
And if you need more inspiration for Back to School organization, check out these previous posts:
Hope it’s a great school year for you and your little ones!
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