Getting Organized for Back to School



By Christina Renzelli, Clarity Methods Organizing, LLC

Back to school season can be a mixed bag of emotions for parents, teachers and kids. Often, we are sad to see the summer end, but excited to reunite with friends, get back into a more structured routine, and enjoy the newness of a fresh start. The start of a new school year can also cause anxiety, stress and exhaustion for everyone involved. Teachers and schools have been preparing for weeks to make the first days as structured and efficient as possible, and kids have been excitedly (or nervously) been preparing to meet new teachers and friends, as parents shell out money for new backpacks and school supplies, all while trying to transition summer sleep schedules to an earlier bedtime routine. Back to School is the New Year for all involved.

The first week of school can be exhausting and overwhelming. As a teacher, I rarely slept the night before the first day. I was too excited and anxious for everything to go smoothly. Kids were often shy and nervous, but I always thought about how stressful it must be for parents those first days. For as much paperwork as I had to send home, the parents had to process, sign and return it all to us. School paperwork can be a nightmare!

Many of my organizing clients who are parents of elementary school children want to know, “What do I do with all the papers?” Backpacks and folders can be full of papers (not to mention desks and lockers). How do parents and kids know what’s important and what’s unimportant? I know lots of parents who keep absolutely everything, some who throw it all away, and some who’s children lose most of it along the way.

My answer to this question is to keep it simple. Process the papers as they come home. If your child’s teacher has sent home graded or ungraded papers, you can now do what you wish with them. Some parents feel guilty for throwing away their child’s work, but honestly you can’t keep everything. My rule is to keep the special items, the ones that the child feels most proud of. If everything is special, nothing is special. If your child does want to keep everything, I’d put it in a transition box or folder so that after a couple months you can toss it.

As for important papers that include dates, deadlines or special events, write down the date and time in your calendar as soon as you get the paper. Once you have processed the paper, recycle it. If this makes you nervous, take a picture of it for future reference. Then delete the picture later.

Another common question is: “How do I help my child develop study habits so he or she is not so frustrated/ stressed out/staying up all night doing homework?” This question is especially common from parents of chronically disorganized children.  My best advice would be to schedule work/study time and avoid frustration by not overdoing it. If a task is taking way too long, break it down into smaller chunks of time. The fastest way to get a kid to shut down is by overwhelming them to the point of frustration. No assignment is worth tears or tantrums. If chunking down the task doesn’t help, call or email the teacher for guidance. Teachers love working with parents to find the best solutions for their students.

My other two tips for a calm and happy school year are:

Enjoy reading to your kids. Or have them read to you. In the world of high stakes testing, reading for enjoyment can be easily pushed to the back burner or forgotten about all together, even though it is the most important way to enhance overall learning. Let the kids pick the books they read. Nobody likes to be forced to read boring stuff all the time.

Leave some unscheduled/unstructured time. Often, we overbook ourselves and our kids with sports, lessons and structured activities. Kids need some breathing room to do whatever they feel like doing. (Hopefully this is not screen time).

The first days and weeks of schools can be some of the most exciting days in a child’s life. Hopefully these back to school organizing tips will help you and your children have a calm, peaceful, productive year of learning and fun.

Christina Renzelli is a Professional Organizer in Columbus, Ohio. She started Clarity Methods Organizing, LLC after teaching elementary school for twelve years. Now she enjoys helping overwhelmed students, parents and clients organize their lives.

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