For parents, the end of summer can bring mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s sad to say goodbye to lazy evenings and trips to the pool. But on the other hand, most kids have said “I’m bored” about a hundred times since July 4th, and that gets old by July 5th. Whatever mood you’re in, though, it’s time to get the house ready for the school year. (And if you don’t have kids, you may still want to make a clean sweep before the holidays rush in!)
To get started, set up four boxes or bins, each labeled with a category: Keep, Donate, Recycle, and Trash. Work room by room and think in terms of that order:
Enlist the whole family’s help in this process, and set up a reward that everyone can enjoy when it’s done. You can also set up games and contests to keep things interesting, like setting a timer and seeing who can get the most done in that time, or offering a prize for the most organized closet.
When you’re ready to start organizing, hit these categories and get ready to enjoy the last days of summer in a clutter-free house!
1. Clothes and shoes
Now is the time to weed out any summer clothes and shoes that are outgrown or no longer fit to wear. Then, have kids try on all their school clothes so you know what fits and is wearable. As you go, make a list of what you need to shop for so you’re ready for back-to-school sales. Adults who aren’t going back to school can follow these steps as well … everyone needs a regular closet clean-out, and you may want to pick up some new clothes of your own while shopping for the kids.
2. Papers, books, and magazines
Are you still buried in papers from the last school year? You’re not alone. Toss old forms, school notices, and schedules, and designate an in-tray for the new year. Weed through school projects and papers and organize homework spaces. Gently used books that are no longer wanted can go to a resale shop or thrift store, but beat-up books or those missing pages should go in recycling, along with old magazines (unless your kids’ school can use them).
3. School supplies
Retail stores may already have supply lists for local schools and grades; if so, grab one so you can compare what you have with what you need. If lists aren’t available yet, just gather what you have, take inventory, and toss anything that’s no longer usable. Store everything you’re hanging onto in one place so kids can grab what they need throughout the year. And since school supplies are on deep discount right now, stock up on things that you know will need replenishing throughout the year, like folders, notebook paper, pencils, pens, and markers.
4. Bathroom items
Take some time now to make bath nights or morning showers as fast and easy as possible. Make sure you have soap, shampoo, toiletries, towels, and anything else you need to get clean kids (and adults) out the door on time every morning. Toss expired sunscreen and cosmetics, and safely dispose of old medicines. (Many pharmacies have takeback programs.) Then make sure you’re stocked up on pain relievers and over-the-counter cold medicines so you’re ready for cold and flu season.
School year meals are hectic, and the last thing you need is to come across expired food or past-their-prime spices. Set aside consumable food items that simply aren’t needed (like the canned soup or granola bars that no one really likes) and donate these to a local food pantry. As you toss or remove items, make a list of what you need to replace or stock up on, including grab-and-go snacks, lunchbox foods, and ingredients for easy weeknight dinners (like pasta or frozen entrees).
6. Outdoor items
It’s tempting to cram all the pool toys, gardening tools and supplies, hoses, grilling tools, and other outdoor supplies into the garage and forget about them, but that just means you’ll need to deal with them later. As with everything else, cull what you don’t need, organize what you’re keeping, and safely dispose of the rest. (Check with a local nursery or natural resources organization to find out what to do with chemicals and fertilizers, and make sure sharp tools are wrapped or taped so they don’t injure anyone in the disposal process.) If the grill won’t be used for a few months, clean it (and barbecue tools) before storing them. These steps will take a little time now, but when warm weather returns, you’ll be ready to enjoy summer all over again!