Where’s my library book? Is today P.E? I need my permission slip signed. Sound familiar? Getting out the door for school can feel like a marathon if you aren’t properly organized. The key to a smooth departure? The right kind of storage. Here’s a zone-by-zone look at how to make sure everything is in its place so you have what you need, when you need it.
Establish an Effective Entry
The key to happy exits is an awesome entry, says Christina Hidek, professional organizer and de-cluttering coach with Streamlined Living.
“Organized entries all have one thing in common: flexible storage options, like hooks and baskets,” she says.
Hang hooks (low enough that kids can reach them) to store everything from backpacks during the school year to pool towels in the summer and coats in the winter.
Add baskets, but beware the lid. For whatever reason, flipping that lid is just way too much trouble for kids.
“They will probably opt not to put something away if they have to deal with a lid, so just eliminate them and choose open-top baskets and bins instead,” says Hidek.
Open baskets are ideal for handling hats and gloves in the winter; sunscreen and goggles in the summer. Keep shoes corralled with low shoe shelves – and a helper.
“The best way to keep shoe clutter at bay in the entry is to put one kid on shoe organization duty,” she says. “Inevitably, not all of the shoes will make it back on the shoe shelves, so it’s great to have someone primed to provide a quick fix.”
Another option, if straightening those shoes is going to be way too much effort, is using a bin.
Label Kitchen Shelves
You might have a grand plan for how your pantry is going to look, but not everyone is necessarily clued in, points out Rosenthal.
So if you hope that your kids are going to help pack their own snacks or lunches, make it easy for them to do so without creating a disaster in their wake by labeling shelves and bins in the pantry or fridge.
That way they will always know where the granola bars or peanut butter live, eliminating a last-minute hunt – and frantic calls to you.
Invest in Double-Duty Pieces
Yes that ottoman might look great, but won’t it make you literally swoon when you realize it can house your daughter’s art supplies or composition books? Rosenthal says you should buy accessories that serve more than one function, such as an entry table with multiple drawers or a mirror with pegs.
Create a Paper Drop Zone
Say goodbye to lost permission slips and lost book reports when you put a vertical file box near your entrance, suggests Rosenthal. Find a system that works for you, whether it’s a folder for each family member where they can stash their completed homework and party invitations, or one that’s labeled “in” and “out” so mom knows where to find the reading log that has to be signed.
“It takes under a minute to empty backpacks and organize papers each day, and it will save you from losing something important when you pile them all on your countertops,” says Rachel Rosenthal, organizing expert and founder of organizing firm Rachel and Company in Washington, DC.
Make Your Car Pull its Weight
Does it feel like you live in your car most days? You probably do, which is why it’s just as important to organize your car as your house.
The first step is to keep the compartments categorized.
“Cars come with built-in storage areas, like door compartments, glove compartments and center consoles so take advantage of these distinct storage spaces by giving each place a purpose,” says Rosenthal.
Your center console should be stocked with the items you reach for most frequently such as phone chargers, pens, extra money and napkins. Additional storage throughout the car may be divvied up based on the needs of the passengers.
Add a sturdy bin between the seats where you can put library books, gym shoes, instruments and other items that you need to have on hand as you rush from activity to activity.