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Back to School Tips For Busy Parents

Have you always wanted to become organized but didn't know where to start? Start here!

Well- school has started and the craziness begins!

With children involved in so many after school activities, homework, and parents working long hours organization is a must! But how? Where do you even begin?

Start with a schedule. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, a calendar or even a big piece of paper will do. If you are a parent who loves technology, there are tons on the web, just find the one that you will use.

So now you have the schedule, write down everything for the month that doesn't change- sports, dance, PTO meetings, anything that happens every month at the same time on the same day. You can even write in when the kids leave for school, and what time they get home. Now write in everything that only happens once in a while – doctor’s appointments, haircuts, service for your car, etc.

Once you have it all written in, you can figure out when you have "free" time. When the kids come home with papers from school, immediately write in any dates you will need to remember.

Pre-plan lunch. If you have a busy life, and who doesn't, planning meals and packing lunches can be a huge chore. High school and middle school children should be packing their own lunches. It is an example of responsibility, and if you lay the ground rules, there should be no problems.

When my children started packing their own lunches we had a rule, 3 healthy items, and one unhealthy item. A friend of mine has bins for different types of foods, and the kids need to choose from each bin. Whatever rules your family decides on, just post them in the kitchen and leave them to pack their own lunches!

You will have to decide if your elementary school child is responsible enough to pack their own lunch, but many children are ready by the middle of first grade, with some supervision. You will also have to decide if your children need to pack their own lunches at night or if they will have time in the morning. If you are consistently running late in the morning, or if you or your children are not morning people, then pack the night before and stick it in the fridge.

Dinners at night. Deciding what is for dinner every night is another chore that gets families in a bind. If you are the type of family who can decide what is for dinner for a whole month, well then good for you.

Some people can plan a week in advance. I REALLY do not like cooking, so the best I can do is the night before. So at dinner we decide what we are having for dinner the next night. It is easy enough to make sure I have all the ingredients (or take out a “Dream Dinner” – the secret of my dinner repertoire), and then I know when I need to start cooking, or if I can throw it all in the crock pot the next morning, all the better!

Keep a clean house together. Cleaning is last major part of a good schedule. No one likes to clean, but everyone likes a clean house. The secret is to get everyone to participate, and make it fun for the smaller children. Sit down and figure out what needs to be cleaned every week, and how many times.

Families with pets may need to vacuum everyday while families without pets may only need to vacuum once or twice a week. How often does your laundry need to be done? How often do you want your bathroom cleaned? How often do you want to dust, wash your sheets, clean your mirrors? The kitchen should be cleaned everyday, at least the counters wiped down and the floor swept of any food—no one wants bugs!

Decide what is best for your family. In my family, my daughter has to empty the dishwasher every morning. She found it takes her four minutes to empty the whole thing, so she makes sure she has enough time in her morning schedule to empty the dishwasher – if she doesn't do it, she will have to do it when she gets home, and then load all the gross dishes from all day that would have made it into the dishwasher if she had unloaded it. It didn't take more than once or twice and she is now a great morning dishwasher unloader!

Decide what other chores your children can do – dusting is great for smaller kids, give then a Swiffer dry cloth or put socks on their hands. Divide up the chores, and make a list of what needs to be done on which day. Don't forget to enter it all on your master schedule so you don't have time consuming chores on days you won't even be home because you are driving all over town dropping off and picking up at various activities.

What to wear? Lastly, you need to decide what the kids are going to wear. Depending on how often you decided to do laundry, you can decide how many days of clothing the kids need to pick out.

My girls always had to pick out the clothes for a week at a time, on Sunday. They would know when they had gym (and needed to wear sneakers) and any other clothing related activities they needed to plan for ahead of time. Uniforms and activity outfits were also put together, so there was no last minute "Mom! I can't find my..." Decide what works best for your family, and plan those outfits. 

Starting to become organized is a big undertaking, but totally worth it once the planning is over.

Remember, it takes about three weeks of doing something everyday for it to become a habit, so don't give up if it doesn’t work the first week. At a glance, everyone in the family knows what they have to do the next day, what they need to wear, and what they are going to eat. Now, if only life's little emergencies can be pre-planned...

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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