In the Spring, we cannot wait for the little people in our homes to finish school so that the pace of life eases and we can lolly-gag through the lazy, hazy days of summer…. Until about the third day after school ends and we remember that having the little people home means having NO time to ourselves.
Whether they are three or thirteen, we are quickly reminded that having them home all day is a lot of work – preparing three meals a day, finding some source of entertainment for the little darlings who are accustomed to being stimulated and engaged 7 hours a day, driving them to and from camp or the pool or friend’s houses, cleaning baskets of laundry full of dusty baseball pants, soggy swimsuits, grass-stained tennis skirts, socks (that have been worn as shoes), and at least three pairs of underwear a day!
If you are one of the many people who find themselves in this dogged summer shuffle, then you have largely ignored your house and the early weeks of fall have been spent digging out, organizing, filing, and getting a grip on your life, your schedule and your surroundings!
That (among other reasons) is why Fall is my favorite time of the year. In August, I start making a list of all the things I will tackle as soon as I plow through the laundry…. Projects like organizing the mudroom lockers, sorting through the kids closets and storing the summer stuff, donating what no longer fits and taking inventory of what is needed for fall.
Getting the home back in tip-top shape prepares us for a busy school year and the inevitable “indoor time” that comes with winter but it also soothes the soul – it reduces the daily anxiety that results from not being able to find what we need on the way out the door when running 5 minutes late, it helps us feel more organized and focused which reduces the “overwhelmed” feeling that we all have when the homework starts rolling in, the fall sports schedules pick up, the holiday rush ignites, and the list goes on and on….
So, to jump start your fall “home cleanse”, I have put together this list – pick what works for you and add what’s missing…what better way to kill time while sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game or in the stands at a swim meet?
1. Clean the pantry: throw out what is expired, organize into small bins of canned goods, pastas and grains, cereals, etc.
2. Clean the fridge: Take everything out and wipe down with an anti-bacterial cleaner. Throw out the old stuff and organize into categories, leaving plenty of room for fresh weekly groceries. A good rule of thumb –if you haven’t used it in the last three months, you probably ain’t gonna use it now, so toss it!
3. Organize your flatware, china and glassware and replace pieces that have broken or vanished so that you have a complete set – better to tackle this now than when setting the table for a dinner party!
4. Strip the mudroom lockers bare and wipe them down…. Put back only the pieces that are truly necessary on a daily basis and store the rest in bedroom closets…
5. Organize kids’ closets: Go through piece by piece, assessing what can be donated and what can be stored away for next summer. Then, take an inventory of what is needed for fall and start the fall shopping now because it sneaks up on us and inevitably, there will be 101 things to do the week the temperatures start to drop and your kid will be the one still wearing shorts to school!
6. Organize your own closet: Every year, I make the same mistake… I order all the kids’ clothes and they are well-outfitted for every occasion but I find myself with NOTHING TO WEAR. Inventory your own closet. Determine what pieces are missing and block some time to shop for yourself!
7. Restock coat closets and lockers with lightweight jackets, raincoats and umbrellas that can be easily grabbed when the evening temperatures start dropping and our rains return.
8. Go through medicine cabinets, taking out all expired prescriptions. Make sure you have the essentials stocked – band aids, sunscreen, pain relievers, tums, etc. and organize all the meds into storage containers, then write names (Mom’s meds) or descriptors (pain relievers) on them so that you can find what you need when you need it.
9. Conquer the junk drawer! The container store is your friend. Clean everything out, wipe it down and then throw out anything that you can possibly live without. Then, make piles of what absolutely has to remain in the drawer, sorted in some way…. Photograph the piles, measure the drawer and then head to the Container Store and ask for a sales associate to help you choose a good organizing system – check both the kitchen and office aisles as they have different styles of drawer organizers and either will do the job. (Don’t forget to bring your tape measure with you)
10. Last but certainly not least, develop a simple system for the paperwork that has likely already started flowing in the door on a daily basis – "homework, parent notes, permission slips, oh my!" Whatever your system is, make sure you enforce it -“Back to School” is an ideal time to introduce the family to new processes and practices… the little darlings are learning new systems and sets of expectations in the classroom, there is no reason they can’t do the same at home.