18 Back-to-School Tips to Keep Your Family Organized

We asked professional organizers and child-focused experts to share their ideas for getting your home and children prepared for the unprecedented school year ahead.

Thanks to the pandemic, this year the process of going back to school is likely filled with uncharted challenges and stresses.

To help take a bit off of your plate, we’ve gathered these smart organization tips—whether your child is attending school in-person or doing e-learning—to make your family’s back-to-school transition feel a little smoother and less uncertain.

MARIA BAER, RESIDENTIAL ORGANIZER AND OWNER OF THE BAER MINIMALIST
THEBAERMINIMALIST.COM, @THEBAERMINIMALIST

Tip #1: For those of you with students going back into the classroom, work to nail down your nighttime routine as there are likely additional items to pack this year. Consider purchasing a face mask for each day of the week, so they can wear a fresh mask to school each day—you can go one step further and embroider their initials on their masks. Create a little “stay healthy kit” to stick in their backpack by filling a pencil pouch or an extra makeup bag with hand sanitizer, screen wipes, and a back-up face mask. Tuck their backpack by the door at night so it is ready to go each morning!

Tip #2: If you’ve found yourself prepping for another semester of e-learning, routine is incredibly important both in and out of the classroom. Include your kiddos as you set up their school space for fall and plan out their daily schedule. Post each day’s schedule the evening before so that they can see what to expect, when breaks occur, as well as quiet/study time, which can coincide with your work calls and meetings. 

Tip #3: If you don’t have a dedicated “classroom space” in the home, a product you need to know about is this versatile rolling cart from Container Store. Whether you’re teaching your kids from the dining room table, need a portable place to house frequently used supplies for homework, or are seeking a solution for craft supplies (hello, Play-Doh) these carts are going to be your quarantine bestie. There are a variety of organizing trays to accommodate whatever you need to store, along with a cool peg board solution that can attach to the side.

RONIQUA ZIMMERMANN, LCSW, CHILD AND FAMILY THERAPIST AND OWNER OF CHILD THERAPY LAB
CHILDTHERAPYLAB.COM, @CHILDTHERAPYLAB

Tip #1: To help prepare a child for virtual learning, first acknowledge your child’s feelings and let them know that it’s okay to be sad about not going to “real” school. Explain to your child as best you can how school at home will look, then, get your child involved in setting up their version of at-home school. Allow your child to pick the space they’re going to be working in, and let them help organize and decorate the area—this will help them to accept it and boost excitement.

Tip #2: Whether a child is going to in-person school or virtually, it’s a good idea to post visual schedules for both the child and parent to access. You can also help your child process their thoughts about upcoming changes by asking questions such as:

“School will look a lot different this year, what do you think about that?”

“That’s great that you feel excited for school! What are you looking forward to?”

“It’s okay to be nervous, how can I help you feel ready?”

Tip #3: For in-person school, try creating a plan for disposing of or washing used masks, so you can make sure to always have them on hand and ready to go.

ANDREA WIGGINS, READING INTERVENTIONIST AT LAKESIDE ELEMENTARY
LAKESIDE.WARREN.K12.IN.US

Tip #1: It doesn’t matter if your child is learning virtually or in-person, in my opinion, reading daily is the most important thing they can do! To help encourage their reading, you can set up a comfortable reading space in your home that your child will look forward to relaxing in with a book. To help corral your books and keep them in a consistent location, consider setting up a designated book box or bin nearby.

Tip #2: If learning virtually, use a dry erase board to keep track of class assignments. Divide the board into sections for each subject. List all work that needs to be completed. Then, check the activity off the list once the task is completed so your child can visually see how much they accomplished!  

Tip #3: Routines help to lessen anxiety and promote organization. During a time of uncertainty, such as this pandemic, establishing routines allows kids to feel comfortable in knowing what to do and expect day to day. For example, if you have a younger child that’s going to school virtually, try hanging a daily schedule so that they are on time to virtual classes and even know when to eat their lunch.

MORGAN CORYA, PROFESSIONAL NANNY AND OWNER OF INDY NANNY CONCIERGE
INDYNANNYCONCIERGE.COM, @INDYNANNYCONCIERGE 

Tip #1: There is nothing like looking for a very specific shirt at 7 a.m., when you are already strapped for time! Pick out outfits the night before. A closet organizer can be helpful to ensure organization. Fill each of the five sections with underwear, shorts or pants, a shirt and socks. 

Tip #2: Help younger toddlers start recognizing their name by adding labels to all of their personal items. I suggest Name Bubbles! This mom-owned company has created dishwasher-and-laundry-safe labels for everything your child owns. 

Tip #3: Create structure and schedules for your child’s day. Teachers Pay Teachers is a great resource that has teacher-created printables for you to use in your home, like this printable visual schedule. For infant or toddler-aged children, ask your caregiver to keep a daily log—Indy Nanny Concierge creates a personalized log for every family!

LAURA ECKER, PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER AND CO-OWNER OF VICTORIA’S ORGANIZERS
VICTORIASORGANIZERS.COM, @VICTORIAS_ORGANIZERS

Tip #1: School is structured by bells or teachers telling kids when it is time to do something, and e-learning may require time management skills that many children have not yet developed. At home, each child can benefit from a “bell” system. Alarms or bells can be set for the top of each hour, or according to e-learning class periods. The Time Timer app for iPhone or Android is free during the COVID-19 crisis and is an easy way to set up repeating timers. 

Tip #2: Try using an analog clock in the school areas of your home. Time seems more concrete when we see it as part of a whole clock face rather than digitally, and this can help your child build time awareness. 

Tip #3: Be your child’s accountability partner. Sometimes this can be simply sitting together while you both do work. Or while you cook dinner, your child can do their homework. Just knowing someone’s watching or listening can help a student stay focused—and accountability partnering can also be done through a video chat or a phone call. 

JEANINE BOBENMOYER, CHIEF MOM OFFICER AND CO-FOUNDER OF THECITYMOMS
THECITYMOMS.ORG, @THECITYMOMS

Tip #1: A shared digital calendar is a must. We have a family Google Calendar that manages all of our family activities from sports practices to after-school clubs to orthodontist appointments. Everyone in our family has access to it on their respective devices, which is super helpful for ME so I’m not constantly fielding questions like, “When is my appointment this week?” or “Do I have soccer practice on Thursday?” We prefer this over a large wall calendar at home so any and all scheduling questions can be answered when we’re on the go. 

Tip #2: Routine, routine, routine is so key for our crew. We swear by a morning routine that runs roughly like this: 5:30 a.m. wakeup for mom—make lunches, clean up the house a little, drink my morning caffeine. 6:30 a.m. wakeup for kids—get dressed and make beds. 6:50 a.m.—breakfast. 7:10 a.m.—brush teeth and gather school items. 7:20 a.m.—out the door. This way, there are never any questions about what time we need to leave/eat/etc. During virtual learning days, we allow the kids to sleep in until 7:30 a.m. since we don’t need all that morning prep, but schoolwork begins at 8:15 a.m., which is when they’d be inside their classrooms anyway at school. 

Tip #3: Create a backpack station. Every day before school, backpacks can be found on their hooks inside our front closet. When kids get home for the day, the backpacks go right back here. This eliminates any questions of “Where is my stuff?’” and greatly reduces lost items. We purchased a simple 4-hook setup so there is plenty of room for sports gear too—my son’s soccer bag and my daughter’s swim bags also live here! 

The Baer Minimalist and Indy Nanny Concierge are Indy Maven partners.  

Stephanie Groves is an Indy-based freelance writer who needs all the organizational help she can get.