September brings the start of school and for many a return to a hectic life of work, after school practices and lessons, weekend games, evening meetings, rushed dinners, and more.  The long, less-structured days of summer seem to literally disappear overnight.  While for some this pace may seem more the norm, there are home organization solutions to make things easier.

Display a Master Calendar

When everyone knows where they need to be as well as what the rest of the family is doing, it’s much easier to plan.  I recently had a client switch to an electronic calendar after years of working out of a classic Filofax planner.  In the past, if her kids wanted to make weekend plans they had to check the book to see if there was a family event that might conflict.  She was constantly emailing her husband dates to add to his calendar so he could help with pickup or attend important school meetings and events.  With her new electronic calendar, she color codes her kids activities and her husbands travel schedule.  She prints a monthly calendar and stores it in a plastic sheet protector displayed in a prominent place in their kitchen.  Now everyone can easily see what’s happening and the calendar can be easily updated with the click of a button and reprinted as needed; home organization is achieved!.  She also shares events as needed so they populate the respective family member’s own calendar.  Although I like the electronic option better, for those who still prefer paper, a large white board calendar can work as well.  However, someone has to be responsible for constant updates in order for it to remain accurate and functional.

Create an Entry System

Whether you have a classic “mud room” or a small entry space, everyone needs a place to store their stuff for entering and leaving the house.  If you don’t have a system in your entryway, backpacks, shoes, loose papers, and mail tend to collect by the door creating a tripping hazard as well as an unsightly mess.  Designate a spot for backpacks and briefcases to go when not in use.  If you have a entry closet, use hooks, shelves, and baskets to store common items that everyone needs when they enter or leave your home.  Create an inbox for mail rather than dropping it on the end of a kitchen counter or piling it on your dining room table.

Prepare In The Evening

Mornings are rushed enough just trying to shower, get dressed, eat a decent breakfast and head out the door.  Don’t make them more crazy by adding tasks that can be done the night before.  Lunches can be made or at least staged in the refrigerator to be packed in the morning.  Sports equipment, instruments, homework to turn in, and other items needed for the days activities should be packed and ready to go for the next day.  Create a check-list for common items you might need each day and post it by the door or in a common area for everyone to see.  You can use a white board or print from common to-do list apps like Evernote, Astrid, and Paperless.

Inboxes for Everyone

Paper piles are unavoidable, so why not curtail the spread by giving each family member their own “Inbox”.  Inboxes can be used to collect mail, notes, homework in process, reminders, or school forms that need a parent signature.  Everyone needs to check their respective inbox at least once a day, otherwise they become collection bins and items inside will be lost or forgotten.

Make Lists

Got errands?  Everyone can help if they know what needs to be done.  Create a common grocery list that everyone can add to (or grab if they’re heading to the store).  Other helpful shared lists; drug store, Target, Costco, hardware store.  Even better create shared reminders on your smartphone that are location based, e.g. “Next time at Walgreens pick up …..”

Establish A Finding System

Notice I did not use the word “File System”.  A file system is great, but if you’re like most people you’re keeping more than you need which makes finding what you need when you need it a time consuming process (if you find what you’re looking for at all).  Use the Art of Wastebaketry™ to help determine what you truly need to keep and file.  Ensure you have an easy place to store kids report cards, medical records, insurance information, and school directories.  If you can keep this information electronically by scanning, downloading, or storing in the cloud even better.

Chaos does not need to be the norm for a busy household.  Implement a few simple systems and notice how quickly things start to run more smoothly.

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