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children ready for school

Looking for back-to-school upgrades that won’t break the bank — and that you can get done today? These can help you organize before the kids get home.

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In some areas, kids have already started back to school — in others, they are getting ready to start a fresh new session. You’ve secured the school supplies, found the perfect backpack, gathered the necessities for healthy lunches, and have started making plans for how in the world you will figure out that insanely tough Algebra question that you know your child will bring to you in a few weeks.

But what about those home improvements you intended to do before back to school hit? What about those projects that still need to be done, like that homework nook you promised, or the fact that no one has a place to hang all those backpacks?

back to school backpack and books

These simple, easy back-to-school upgrades are perfect for getting the house organized. But do them right now, this weekend — otherwise, you might find that you get too busy with school and let it go for another year!

Creating a homework nook — fast

One of the most important things you can provide for your kids is a place to study. A homework nook, an area dedicated to all those assignments they bring home, is the first step. They need to have a place that is free of distractions, has plenty of light, and allows them to work for long hours if necessary without being disturbed.

How do you create this?

If you already have a place in mind, don’t bother with the building of a desk. Now that the school year has started (or it’s looming), pick up a desk at a thrift store or tag sale. Make sure the desk is small enough to fit where you want it to go. Spring for a nice task lamp, a comfortable chair that swivels and rocks, and stock the shelves and drawers with plenty of supplies. Need to make it more private? Invest in a blocking screen that will cut off the view and create a little “nook” that is meant for homework only.

girl homework chair

Don’t have a place in mind for the homework nook? Look to your closets or under the eaves in the attic. Chances are there is unused space in your home that could be easily converted into something that fits well for a child’s desk. Can’t find anything at all? A corner of the kitchen or the dining room table will have to suffice until you figure out where the extra space is lurking.

Finding space to hang things up

Parents everywhere roll their eyes and groan at the prospect of the front-door pile. You know what it is. It’s that place where everything piles up as the kids come in — the shoes, jackets, coats, scarves, notebooks, backpacks, lunch boxes, and so much more. It all ends up in the entryway, blocking the front door. If you’re lucky, it ends up blocking the side door instead. Regardless, it’s a mess and it needs to be fixed in order to maintain your sanity.

Fortunately, the quickest upgrades for this are not only easy, they are relatively cheap.

Start by cleaning off a wall. For some this might be a wall inside an entry closet. It is more likely going to be a wall hidden out of sight, like that one that leads from the garage to the kitchen, where the kids usually come into the house after a long day. Clean everything away from that wall — put your artwork elsewhere, move storage bins to places that make sense, and basically open up the space.

household hooks

Then make room for everything to have its own place. Use hooks to designate the places where certain items should go. A good trick is to use a different set of colored hooks for each child, so they don’t quibble over where things go. Allow at least four hooks per child, if you have the room. Then use storage bins right underneath to catch the other things, such as boots, mittens and scarves.

Then make sure they get used. Habits are tough to break, so you might have to remind the kids several times before they actually hang up those jackets.

Create a Central Station

Paperwork gets tossed about and lost. Kids scour the kitchen looking for snacks. Important dates wound up forgotten and missed. Get over all of that with one central station, preferably in the kitchen, where you take care of it all. Here’s how it works:

Start with an attractive bowl of fruit, snacks, and other goodies that your kids love to have after school. Next to that goes a small tray, such as what you might have in an office. It’s meant to hold all the paperwork that you must see, sign, notice, or otherwise pay attention to. Then add a calendar nearby — if you can hang it up, awesome. If not, a pocket calendar will have to work. Add a few pencils and pens.

Then make it clear to the kids that they have one more chore to do. When they come home from school, they drop the important paperwork into the bin. Only then do they get a snack. You go through the paperwork later, and write down anything you need to remember on the calendar. After a few days of this, your home will be calmer and your schedule will be streamlined.

What other back-to-school quick and easy upgrades can you think of that worked in your home? Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.