Tuesday, August 19, 2008

500th post and back-to-school tips

I wasn't going to post anything today - it's crunch time around the Raising Five house, as I'm sure it is at yours.

But I saw that this is my 500th post, so I couldn't resist. Rather than bore you with a list of 500 little-known facts about me (you can get your yawns with 111 of them here), I thought I'd ask for some ideas on what you do to help the first few weeks of school (whether your kids attend a school outside the home or not) go more smoothly.

My sister Rachel Anne over at Home Sanctuary is giving points for going through your morning routine, and I think this is an excellent idea.

School starts in less than a week, so in addition to soccer/volleyball practices and games (EIGHT between them this week!), meet-the-teacher and orientation nights, etc., the main thing I'm doing is going through the kids' clothes and make sure they can make it through at least the first WEEK or two.

Seriously, I do not go hog-wild on back-to-school shopping, since the kids will wear shorts here until November (Allie-14 wears flip-flops ALL YEAR). If I buy them all a new pair of jeans around mid-October they're much less likely to outgrow it by Christmas than if I buy everything in August (although Neal was going through a pair every 2 months last year. That boy is a weed!!).

But I do make sure everyone has at least one or two new(ish) outfits, and then I stock up on underwear and socks, hair bands and clips - you know, those things that have a half-life of less than a month around here - and the ones that can make or break a rushed morning getting ready for school.

Okay, so besides that, here are two more tips for getting back to school, just to get you thinking:

1. Put all school-worthy clothes on hangers.

I did this several years ago when I realized that (gasp!) my kids have a developmental (or maybe it's genetic?) problem with keeping drawers straight. There they were, like so many animals, PAWING through a neatly stacked drawer to find their favorite shirt, even when, in my NICEST voice I encouraged them to gently lift the pile and look underneath. What's left was a wadded mess of wrinkles.

So one day I put everything and I mean everything - shorts, jeans, skorts, skirts, shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts - that my kids might even think about wearing to school or church on hangers. This leaves only socks, undies, pajamas and playclothes and swimsuits in dresser drawers. (I do admit shorts have migrated their way back into them over the summer...)

The main benefit is, of course, that kids can dress themselves more independently. No longer could my kids come out dressed their favorite pajama shirt, wailing, "Why can't I wear this to school?" Did you find that (awful rag) in a drawer? SO terribly sorry, can't wear it to school.

One more argument averted because Mom had actually thought through this first. Yes, a bit of preventive grease on the wheels of the Raising Five morning routine.

The hanger method also helps with finding stuff (easier to see things when they are right there in front of you rather than hiding in the deep recesses of a messy drawer); with managing wrinkles; with laundry; and (a side benefit) with making the switch of hand-me-downs from kid to kid much easier.

Most of our closets have two sets of rods - one low and one high. This is worth every bit of effort to install to make this work if you have small closets.

And each kid has a bin for sports stuff, but that's next:

2. Have drawers or bins for shoes and for sports stuff:

This started for us when I had an old dresser in a closet, and I started putting Allie-14's soccer socks in it because they kept "disappearing" in her dresser (even though there was relatively little left in it - go figure). That started the "sports drawer."

Now each kid has a drawer for not only uniform socks - I also put in their uniforms, knee pads, shin guards, jocks for the boy, swim suits, caps and goggles (during our short stint with swim team) and cleats (if they are not messy) or court shoes. Keeping it all together in one place is the only way I can cope with the zillions of pieces needed to get out the door to a sports event on time.

I think all my kids also have a "shoe drawer" now - either an old dresser in the closet or in a vacated dresser drawer. Yes, I've tried racks, but that would require too much effort, placing the shoe on it. No, when I find a lone flip-flop I can throw it in their shoe drawer (rather than the closet floor) and matching is a wee bit easier. Neal-13, is not the shoe horse around here but I think with his men's size 9 shoes, he needs to graduate to a very large bin this year. Hmmm.

This is not to say we can find the floor of a couple of my kids' closets, but this has been a drastic improvement to the utter chaos without some kind of system at all.

So now it's your turn!

Is there something you do that helps you get ready for the fall? If you'd rather write a post, email me and I'll link you here!


Jen said...

I do everything you do except the shoes thing which is a brilliant idea..we have loads of shoe racks and NO shoes on them....I may try this one. But I do the sport drawer and I do the outside clothes drawer...and hang all the nice stuff up. we also have clothes picked out and ironed the night before and breakfast picked out the night before and no changing of minds....another thing that is a great idea is to set a timer as soon as they wake up to see if they can get completely ready and to the kitchen for breakfast on time....it becomes a race...and fun...and everyone is normally on time....good luck though...we went back to school 2 weeks ago...and have had 2 tests already....she does however love middle school...I'am keeping a short leash on her though....

Marian said...

I'm linking morning routine performance to screen time later in the day, thankyouverymuch.

For years I've had a list, first in pictures, then in words, of everything that needs to be done in the "morning routine" for my son with disabilities. It has helped him a little, I'm sure, but it seems that doing a whole sequence of things will always be a challenge. The OTHER kids, however, I think have benefitted the most from simply having the list up. Just something to keep them on track.

Joyce said...

I just read a good one about creating a "breakfast station".


Julie said...

Great ideas! Since I don't have anyone in school yet, we don't have a routine. But I will keep these in mind when I need to get kid(s) ready for school. I love the idea of hanging up all the clothes. We'll need more closet rods for sure.

Jamie said...

Great tips! We do the hanger thing here at our house too...almost everything gets hung rather than put in drawers.

My kids are older now so I'm not as involved in their morning routine, but we always talk about the next day the night before. We make sure to sign any needed papers and get as much done the night before as possible...it seems to make the morning run smoother.

Jamie said...

Oh, I forgot to say...congrats on 500 posts...I'm just getting close to my 100th.

Keep on blogging!

Laura said...

Great suggestions! My question is this though, who hangs all the clothes back up on the hangers?

I've been busy trying to get the kids school supplies organized and new chore lists. I'm thinking of introducing your clip idea.

Congrats on 500!!

secondofwett said...

I have four teens this fall, my youngest became a teen in July and I still plan on using the schedule I used last year because it worked! Praise the Lord! None of my kids like to get up in the morning, well, maybe the last one...teenage sloth hasn't hit yet....but I found that if I divided the hour before they left into 1/4 hour time slots it worked well...each person had their own time in the kitchen...a lot of bickering goes on there in the morning!...their own slot in the bathroom, and getting dressed and ready in their bedrooms....cut down on a lot of early morning angst!

Mary said...

A drawer for shoes. Who'd have thunk it? That's pure genius!

Etta said...

I had to buy Jamie (going to KINDERGARTEN--ACK!!!) a whole new wardrobe because he has outgrown his summer clothes for the SECOND time this summer. Not kidding! So I even had to buy shorts and short sleeves! The good thing is they were all on sale and it was tax-free weekend. Hopefully he will stay in those until the November cold snap.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Laura (Org Junkie) - When I do the laundry, I hang the school-age kids' stuff on hangers. Most preschool stuff is small and drawers work fine, except for Sunday items, or for obvious "sets" I want to keep together on hangers. My older two do their own laundry in the summer, but they are extremely busy during the school year, and I do it then, too.

Little kids can't do hangers, or if they do, they put the clothes on sideways and then you have a "poke-mark" coming out the back of the shirt.

So for little ones, if they've strewn the floor with clothes (after we have the talk about how we do NOT do that with our clothes!), I have them put their clothes on the BED, and then I put them back on hangers. We are still working on how to put hangers on from the bottom of the shirt, and how to tell clean from dirty...they will eventually get it...

Sometimes even with big kids, I have them start by putting everything on the bed as well. It's such a mental game - it helps the job look not "quite so big" if the room isn't ankle deep in clothes.

Besides, they know that if they've put something in the wash because they were too lazy to hang it back up, it will be coming back to them from the laundry room - this time much more wrinkled!

Hope this helps!


katherine said...

I don't have school-age children yet, but wanted to say congrats on hitting your 500th post! Keep going! I enjoy your blog.

Donna said...

LOVE the sports drawer idea, I may have to try and duplicate that here somehow. You have the best ideas...

Jill said...

We have a dry erase calendar on the fridge. We use it post the weekly menu, after school activities and next to are the school lunch lists and weekly notes from the teacher or school.
That way everyone knows where they are and there is no question when we need to pack lunches, what day of the week it is; gym, library etc.
For some reason no one looks at the real calendar I have hanging in the kitchen but me.
Nice thing is the week at a glance on the fridge works to remind all of us.

Ginger said...

A friend gave me a great idea on the paper clutter from school.
I have a color-coded pee-chee for each child in a magazine rack on my desk. In each one goes that child's important papers, soccer practice schedule, school picture forms, things for Mom to look at and sign, etc. I write the names of class Mom's, and teachers on the inside along with their phone numbers, and e-mails, so they don't get lost, and I don't have a zillion little papers floating around.
Great ideas! I might try to move into the hanger thing once mine get a little bigger. Thank you!

kittyhox said...

Well, I just have the one two-year-old, so I'm no expert. But he is starting preschool (just 2 hours a day, 2 days a week) and we also leave the house for Bible Study and Church each week. So I figure he needs about four put together outfits each week. Versus our usual sweatshirt and long-sleeved t-shirt look which he sports 99% of the time. When he isn't still in his PJs at four in the afternoon.

So I plan to hang each complete "outfit" on a hanger, leaving only the casual/comfy houseclothes in his lower drawers, along with PJs. This way my husband can dress him for out-and-about days with ease, as well. I'm hoping this way he'll look presentable and not wear the same thing over and over.

Then just a basket in his room for socks and a basket in the entry for just his shoes. He's getting good about fetching and putting his shoes back so I like to have them in one place for easy retrieval.

I LOVE reading about the details of other Mom's organization/household routines, so I'm happy you shared your tips!!