How to Stay Organized During the Back-to-School Chaos


When you hear Back to School, what do you think of?  If you’re a kid, you might hide under the bed, hang out in the swimming pool as long as you can, turning into a prune, or ask to be adopted by your best friend’s mom (although she is going to send you off to school as well…tough luck).  

If you’re a mom or dad, you might have mixed feelings:  whew! the summer is finally over, my little one is so grown up, or holy cow! I haven’t gotten any of the supplies they need, and there is so much to do before the first day (i.e. signing up for bus routes, sign up for after school activities, get supplies…so many supplies). Oh by the way, did your kids complete their summer reading?

You’re frantic and exhausted even before you meet Mrs. X, this year’s teacher.  

Relax!  You are not alone.  Not at all. After 26 years having three kids in school, getting them settled into college dorms, and now houses I’ve had plenty of time to make mistakes and learn from them along the way. I have a pretty good idea of what you really need to do in order to get everyone, including yourself, organized for the beginning of school.

By now, many of you are already in Back to School mode, but it’s still early enough to get yourselves into a place and space that is calm and runs smoothly for you and the kids.  

Before we begin, I also want to disabuse the notion that you must buy everything, and I mean everything, new each and every year.  You don’t and I believe that you can save money, time, and the environment while getting them everything that they need.  

So, how can you do it? 

First, sit down and make a list for each child.  What classes are they taking (both during and after school), what supplies do they need, what days and times do all of them happen, who is responsible for pick-up and drop-off. A big reusable,  erasable family calendar is always a good idea in a central location like the  kitchen, hallway or parent’s office. This will help record projects and their due dates, after-school activities, playdates, doctors appointments and back to school for Mom and Dad.

Second, set aside time. If they aren’t in school yet this year, you have the flexibility to shop on off hours for supplies so that you are not standing in line at Staples or the Container Store or Target for three hours wishing you were anywhere else. If you are a working parent this is harder so I suggest looking online first with your kids, getting their ok, and then purchasing supplies in the evening, or weekend, or even simply ordering online with a delivery fee. Amazon is a great option because with the yearly Prime Membership fee you can buy pretty much anything and everything you are going to need for school and it will be delivered to your door by the next day.  

Third, adopt the reuse mentality.  Lots of notebooks and pens/pencils can be used for a second year, so don’t discard them from the previous year.  Weed through and keep those items that are still in good repair and clean. School supplies can be expensive and reusing what you already have can save you time and money.  Obviously there are things that will need to be bought new each year, but things like books and calculators can be bought used (if they are the correct models and printings). As for college supplies, my girls used their blankets, comforters, sheets and towels throughout all four years. My best tip is to get everything washed and bagged for the summer so that they are ready to go for the trip back to school.  Again saving you a lot of time and money.

Fourth, make sure that each and every evening everything is prepped for the next day. This takes practice but it is so worth it! If backpacks are by the door, clothes are laid out, lunch foods are ready so that they can be packed in five minutes in the morning, you are going to save so much time and avoid so much stress. As your kids get older they are going to want to have more input, pick their own clothes, and handle their backpacks, but with an early start and practice of this routine, it will be second nature to them.

Finally, make it a practice to have a weekly family meeting. Even for just a few minutes.  Everyone gets input and everyone knows what is going on. If there are upcoming teacher meetings, large school projects, or any needs that have been missed, it is a perfect time to discuss and plan to update. This is a great time to update that large family calendar as well. While you update, you can also use it as a teaching opportunity for your kids on how to keep their own personal calendar. It will keep everyone on track and it’s a great habit to get into.

As always, it’s important to have flexibility. Things will not always run smoothly and things will pop up out of the blue but having an overall template will help everyone in your family navigate the new school year organized and chaos free. I’d love to hear how your year is starting out and if you find yourself in need of extra guidance, please contact me at or (202)253-9619.

I will check back in in a few weeks to give you ideas for tweaking the year.