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Homeownership is a topic with several sides. Normally we provide advice for home owners who are in the market to buy or sell a home. In this post, we’ll focus on how you can make the home you live in now work better for you and your family with some professional organizing tips just in time for heading back to school.
As any parent with kids in school knows, you spend a lot more time chasing down paperwork, backpacks, lunchboxes, sports equipment and musical instruments than you ever thought possible. At the end of the day, your home can look like a tornado tore through the middle of it, leaving your kids’ belongings jumbled up in a pile or scattered from one end of your house to the other.
But Sheri Bertolini, professional home organizer, says by organizing a few key spots in your home, you can win the daily battle with clutter, and your kids can actually keep up with their important papers and school supplies. Here are her tips to help you get your home in shape for the new school year.
Get in the Zone
The best place to start retooling, Sheri says, is your after-school routine. What’s the first thing your kids do as they walk through the door? Do they dump their backpacks in the floor, toss their lunchboxes aside, and head for the couch? Are they dashing through the house to get ready for football practice or music lessons? Whatever your current routine is, you can streamline it by designating some space in your home for these three zones:
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1. The Homework Zone. “Homework zones vary because they need to be based on your kids’ learning style,” Sheri says. The kitchen table works well for kids who thrive on hustle and bustle, while others need a desk in their room or in a dedicated office space where distractions are kept to a minimum.
The best homework zones, however, don’t have to be torn down and reassembled every day. “That can be tough in a smaller home, but I encourage parents to carve out a corner in the kid’s room or the family room with a table space and somewhere for all the child’s supplies to live,” Sheri advises.
Kids need some say-so in their homework zone set-up. “Ask the child what they think will work for them. What kind of lighting? Do they like music playing while they work?” The more input the kids have, the more likely they will be to use the space as you intended, she says.
2. The Drop Zone. This is the designated parking place for all the kids’ stuff—backpacks, jackets, sports equipment and so on. The best locations for a drop zone are either in the child’s room or near the exit everyone uses when they head to school in the morning.
Make use of vertical space so your drop zone doesn’t take up too much room. “Use hooks and hang bins on the wall,” Sheri recommends. “If your kids are into sports, have a hamper handy so the really stinky stuff doesn’t make it into their rooms.”
No one wants to deal with an organizational eyesore in their home, even for the sake of efficiency. But with a little creativity, your system can fit right in with your home’s décor, Sheri says.
“One family hung a large, personalized picture frame on the wall for each kid. Inside the frames, attached to the wall, were hooks for their backpacks and jackets, organizers and clips for papers, and a corkboard for other reminders,” she says. “The kids participated in the design, so it wasn’t just the parents laying down the law about where to put their stuff.”
3. Mom and Dad’s Zone. This is simply a container of some kind for all the paperwork that will need your attention each day. “I recommend you set up a file folder for each child,” Sheri says. “Put them in a vertical file holder, color code—whatever you have to do to quickly identify which papers belong to which child.”
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Put Your Zones to Work
With your zones established, everyone can work together to make sure all those important items end up in their proper places instead of leaving it all up to mom and dad to keep them in order. The key is establishing a routine everyone follows as soon as they come home.
“One of the best routines I’ve seen started with a kitchen table or island that had been cleared so that as soon as the kids walked in the door, they flopped their backpacks on the table, took their lunch things to the kitchen, and then dug out papers for mom and dad to tend to,” Sheri says. “Mom or dad sorted the papers into their file folders and everything was processed right there, right away.”
Then the kids can head to their homework zones or have a snack, take care of chores—whatever’s next on the schedule. When homework is done, they pack up and stow their backpacks in the drop zone so everything’s ready for the next morning.
It can take a while to get everyone on board with the routine, but don’t give up. “When the pattern is repeated consistently each day, the children develop self-discipline,” Sheri says.
Remember Your Goal
In the end, these zones and routines are about the kids—not about being organized. Your goal is to focus less on keeping order at home and more on enjoying your time at home as a family. “Pay attention to the kids,” Sheri says. “Pay attention to what’s working for them and what’s frustrating them, and that will be a good barometer of whether or not your system needs adjusting.”
For some families, however, no amount of home organization can bring the chaos completely under control because they’ve simply outgrown their homes. Real estate values have been rising nationwide, and that could put you in a position to upsize to a home that will better fit your family’s needs. Get in touch with an experienced real estate agent in your area to find out if now is the time for you to put your home on the market.