Back-to-school is an exciting time of year. You come up with new lunch ideas, are eager to help the kids with homework, and vow that this year will be more organized than the last!
By October, the back-to-school excitement has worn off and the number of things on your to-do list continue to add up. Here are some tips to save you time and make the balance of school/work/household less overwhelming:
1. Outsourcing. Whenever possible, it can be a huge help to outsource must-do tasks like grocery shopping and cleaning. From grocery store delivery, produce boxes and meal kits waiting for you at your door, there are a number of ways you can get help on those busy weeks when you just can’t spend an hour at the store. Not everyone can afford a regular cleaning person, but if there are any specific tasks that you really dislike or never seem to get around to, it can be worth it to look into the cost to get those taken care of by professional cleaners. You would be surprised how much a deep clean every four or six months can help you keep up with the mess on an ongoing basis.
2. Pre-organizing. This is the No. 1 way I save time during the school year. Simple tasks like making lunches and putting out the kids clothes the night before can go a long way in helping things run smoothly in the morning. It can be difficult to get the motivation to do these tasks after the kids have gone to bed (likely the only “me time” you get in a day) but it will save you stress and headaches later. Another way to increase efficiency is to make sure everything is removed from the kids’ backpacks as soon as they step into the house after school. This way lunch kit containers can be washed, and cold packs can be refrozen in time for the next day. This isn’t hard once it is worked into the routine and kids know that they walk in the door, unpack their bags and grab a snack before anything else.
3. Snack center. The most time-consuming task immediately after school in our house is coming up with an idea for and making a snack. Immediately after school, my kids are famished but after the mental load of the day, they often have a hard time coming up with ideas for what they want to eat when they are presented with too many options. Create a bin in your pantry and another in your fridge (don't forget to put them on the bottom shelves if you have younger kids) that contain all of the foods they are allowed to have for an after-school-snack. Let them choose from a small selection of foods (I allow one thing from the pantry and one from the fridge each day). If they want more, they get a choice of raw veggies. These bins can include anything your children like that require little to no prep, such as crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, cheese strings, yogurt and more.
4. Use technology. I would be absolutely lost without the reminder app on my phone. I use it multiple times a day to remember tasks that would otherwise completely slip my mind.
Another great tech tool is a digital family calendar to keep events and extracurriculars organized. If your children are younger, you and your partner can share a calendar so you know whose turn it is to pick up the kids and either of you can easily make changes at a moment’s notice. If your children are older and have their own tech, add them into the digital loop and sync up your calendars every Saturday or Sunday to ensure you are all on the same page for the week to come.
5. Central station. Create a spot in your home where everyone in the family can put important documents and necessary items (such as car and house keys and phone and tablet chargers) every day after school. Your children can put papers that need to be read or signed, agendas, completed homework assignments, library books, and other important documents in this area to avoid an extra half an hour looking for these items in the morning.
6. Share the load. Depending on your household makeup, possibly the most important way to save time and ensure you don’t get overwhelmed is to take turns completing these tasks with your partner. Pre-packing lunches the night before, setting out the kids’ clothes, ensuring their homework is completed, making and cleaning up after dinner, walking the dog, helping kids get ready for bed – these are all tasks that can be switched up, depending either on your work schedules or what works best for your family. Another way to get some things done is by setting standing play dates on certain days of the week with a friend. You have your kids’ friends over to your house one day a week after school and they go over to the friend’s house another day to give you time to run errands, clean or check other tasks off of your to-do list.
No matter what tips you use to help lighten the load during the school season, remember that it is important to take time for yourself. The downtime you get after the kids go to bed is time just as well spent as all of the running around you do the rest of the day.
Stacie is the editorial assistant of Calgary’s Child Magazine and mother of a delightful daughter and silly son. Her days are filled with playing in parks, creating crafts and keeping up with the chaos. She thoroughly enjoys supporting, connecting and informing parents through interesting stories like this one.
See our related articles:
Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2023 Calgary’s Child