It is about that time, we see the ads, the numerous articles pop up in our feed… yup, it is back to school time! We are here to reassure you that you don’t have to get caught up in all the flashy sales and “must-have lists” that are being thrown our way. We are simplifying back-to-school by focusing on 5 keys areas and forgetting the rest. Say goodbye to the mayhem and join the simplifying movement!
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Monthly Challenge – Nothing New
We love a good challenge and a new month brings a new focus. In the past, we have asked ourselves, “Why on Earth do you still have that?” We have organized 10 minutes at a time (week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4) and our most demanding challenge to date, The 30 Day Minimalist Challenge.
Our past challenges focused on decluttering which is such an easy way to refresh your space. However, our focus this month is pushing us one step ahead of the decluttering process by questioning items before they even make it into our home!
So for the month of August, and one week of September, we are not bringing anything new or used into our homes, except consumables of course. Items like clothes, decor and unneeded supplies are off limits.
I am already feeling the pinch of this challenge! It is pointing out how much I buy without really thinking about it. Please don’t misinterpret the point of this challenge. Our goal is not to deprive ourselves, but rather be intentional about the type of items we bring in our home. It’s a chance to use what we have. For Bethany, that means diving into her overflowing container of hotel shampoos and soap, instead of running into Target. For me, that means I am going to shop my own closet and pull out some items that haven’t seen the light of day, rather than head to the stores.
Items need to be worth the precious space and time they occupy in our homes and in our lives. Less stuff means more time to devote to the fun parts of life!
If you are feeling motivated, join us in this month’s Nothing New Challenge! You can share your progress with us below in the comments or on social media. Use the hashtags #AtoBpodcast.
Simplifying Back to School
Let me be honest, I am a little hesitant about doing a back-to-school episode because we (myself included!) can get caught up in all the hype of buying new things to get ready for school. In fact, last year, the average back-to-school spending was estimated at $917 per student. What?!
I needed to reassure myself that getting caught up in all the activities, prep, and sales was not necessary! Back-to-school can be simple if we take a step back and reexamine our priorities. No graham cracker pencils or apple shaped cupcakes required (Unless of course you want to make them and send a few our way!).
We have 5 key areas to help you have a smooth transition back to school without having an out of control task list.
Now is the perfect time to think about your lunch menu as opposed to 15 minutes before walking out the door (which has happened to me more times than I would like to admit)!
Keep it simple is our guideline, and that means we repeat meals multiple times a week. It is like automating your lunch prep. We also touch on this idea in Organizing your Summer. It takes out the last minute thinking and rush if you know ahead of time what you will be sending in their lunch box.
Decide on a few kid-favorite staples to always have on hand. I created a go-to list that I can refer to because the less thinking you have to do, the better.
Of course, if you have a gift of creating art with food and it brings a sunshine to your day, then keep doing it! Better yet, snap a picture so we can all enjoy it like the amazing food art by @idafrosk.
I will be admiring from afar, because my lunch will look more like this. But no guilt necessary! Keep it simple and with a little pre-planning you can take this task from overwhelming to done!
In order to keep costs down, decide ahead of time how much you will spend on clothing. While we love a new outfit (I may be guilty of purchasing a few “back to school” pieces for myself), focus on what items your kids really need. It helps me to lay out specific outfits for the days of the week so I can see what we have and what we might need to toss in the wash, or even add to our wardrobe.
I organize my girls’ outfits by repurposing gift tags labeled with each day of the week to slip on hangers.
You can also use a hanging organizer to plan and lay out clothes like Erin does from The Sunny Side Up Blog.
I also love shopping online to keep focused on what we actually need instead of getting sidetracked by all the pretty clothes you pass on the way to the sock aisle. I know some can find themselves getting off-track online so if you do, try this tip. I load up my cart online and then come back the next day to edit the cart before I actually make the purchase. You also can’t beat the ease of sitting at home on your couch compared to hauling your kids around with you from store to store.
My number one tip for minimizing the amount of back-to-school supplies needed is to buy backpacks, binders, folders, pencil pouch etc. that are “age-neutral”. Supplies with this years “must have” characters tend to quickly fall out of fashion as your child’s taste changes and as they move up through elementary school.
If you start off from the beginning with a simple, quality backpack it can last for multiple years. Some companies, like L.L. Bean, even offer lifetime warranties.
Although it is ideal to get supplies that last, things get beat up, lost, or your child decides they don’t like pink any more (hello, preteen). And really, it can be fun to shop those sales, but I have learned the hard way to wait until the teacher sends home a list of needed items. Otherwise I am purchasing items that will only clutter up our home if we end up not needing or using them.
As a teacher, Bethany recommends checking in with the teacher to see if there are any specific supplies the classroom needs. Often times the teacher will have a wish list and would love the contribution. Lists usually feature a range of items including free or inexpensive items so families don’t feel pressured to spend money in order to contribute to the class.
Lunch pails tend to take a beating over the year and are often hanging on by a thread when summer hits. I have found food storage boxes (sometimes called bento boxes) hold up a little better. However, when you are shopping, pay attention to how easy the lunch box is to wash and store. As much as I love the look of a bento box, I imagine the multiple containers would be a nightmare to wash and locate all the missing parts in the morning.
Here are my lunch box favorites that keep cleanup and storage easy.
You often don’t hear about this next tip in back-to-school articles, but it has made such a difference in my life! If it is possible, set up a carpool with another family.
Before you dismiss the idea based on your hectic schedule, there are so many variations you can create so that it will work for your family. If your kids go to after school care, create one for just the mornings. Or maybe an only afternoon carpool will work better for your schedule or even certain days of the week. The timesaving benefits of a carpool make it worth the extra effort to find a schedule that works for you.
If you have a very young student and are feeling hesitant, maybe just wait a few months. Use that time to meet other families and keep your eye out for any that would make a good match. Yes, I am suggesting you shop around for carpool families! Around February, most likely sooner, your kiddo and YOU will be ready to form a carpool.
I love admiring an organized and creative homework center. I am looking at you Pottery Barn Kids!
But don’t get caught up in creating the perfect space when the most important aspect of a good homework routine is a calm and predictable environment which is usually created by our demeanor not only by our things.
We found creating a set time when the whole house is working on some type of quiet activity helps to focus little minds, albeit it is never perfect. Homework can be a slog at times, but developing and practicing a routine and expectations will certainly help.
Take some time to figure out what you’d like to try this year. Was homework time a mess last year? Were assignments missing or forgotten? Identify one or two small changes you’d like to implement from the very beginning of the new school year.
This could include an inbox where only homework or permission slips live, a timer used during homework to help kids stay on task, or even just deciding the dining room table gets cleared off for homework each night. You can find out more about organizing kid’s paper in this post.
You are never too old to learn
As Bethany pointed out, you can take this time, the changing of seasons, to focus on your own growth. Is there something new you have been meaning to try, a book you have been meaning to read, or even goals to set or reevaluate?
If you are looking for a Nonfiction book to read, you can join us as we read Junk: Digging Through America’s Love Affair with Stuff by Allison Stewart.
We even have a voicemail line (858) 480-7722! Or send us an email Hello @ AtoBpodcast.com.
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