The Best Family Tools For Back To School Organization

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I LOVE summer and all the freedom (and ice cream) it brings. By August, however, I’m ready to say farewell to the late bedtimes, unsanctioned Dorito dinners, and the general anarchy our summers devolve into.

It’s time to welcome back Routine.

Checklists, chore wheels, color-coded calendars, coffee mug rotations…GAH! Just typing these words gets me so excited!

Cue Shana’s eye-roll and her begging for more “FUN Linzi”. Sorry to disappoint, but “Fun Linzi” is on her way out. Cherish your last few weeks of her, friends! “September Linzi” is on her way, and she has MAJOR routines put in place for EVERYONE.

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Magnets

Routine Ready: Back-To-School Supplies & Organizing Tips We Swear By

Routines for our family can be incredibly helpful and grounding — especially for my kids. Even if we don’t stick to these routines every single day…knowing that the routines are always there to go back to is comforting — stability we can rely on and return to when we’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or disorganized.

Even though the idea of color-coded calendars and chore wheels DO get me excited, I in NO WAY set up a Pinterest-level family command center. I try to keep it pretty simple.

Toward the end of August, I like to collect some simple, family back-to-school organization materials. Tools to help that back-to-routine transition go a little bit smoother for ALL of us…or at least tools that decrease the intensity of some of the back-to-school battles.

Here are many of the tools my family uses every back-to-school season:

Back-to-school doesn't just = backpacks & lunch boxes, it also conjures routines (checklist, anyone?), morning essentials (travel mug required) + organizing tools (think: AirTags). We swear by these tips.

1 | 2 | 3a | 3b | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12a | 12b | 13a | 13b | 14a | 14b


1. Checklists For Routines, Homework & More

We typically use a very simple typed or handwritten list (nothing even remotely Pinterest-worthy), a magnetic surface, and magnets that my little guy uses to "check things off" when tasks are completed.

Square Magnets

I LOVE a good routine and I LOVE a good checklist even more to go with it! Throughout the years, we have had quite a few checklists at the beginning of every school year and not just for homework–we’ve used them for morning routine, afternoon routine, and bedtime routine too.

We typically use a very simple typed or handwritten list (nothing even remotely Pinterest-worthy), a magnetic surface, and magnets that my little guy uses to “check things off” when tasks are completed. Giving him a gentle reminder to check his routine list is SO much easier than constantly barking out tasks.


2. An “Essentials” Bag For Schlepping Season

I like to prep/revamp an "essentials" bag (any bag/pouch will do) in August and make sure that it travels with me ALWAYS in my backpack or tote.

Essentials Bag | Makeup Stick | Mints | Welly Kit | Kind Minis | Advil | Hand Wipes | Kleenex

Let’s start with keeping THIS mama cool and calm, and making sure I have what I need to feel happy and confident (wherever I am) as I’m re-entering schlepping season. This obviously could be adapted for dad or grandparent or whichever adult is doing the schlepping.

*Note: this bag is cute, but does NOT come with the essentials already inside. Fine by me, though — everyone has different “essentials”.

I like to prep/revamp an “essentials” bag (any bag/pouch will do) in August and make sure that it travels with me ALWAYS in my backpack or tote. A very basic “boo-boo fix-it” kit, two mini Kind bars for hangry emergencies, Advil for mama headaches, a disinfectant wipe, Kleenex, tiny mints, a sample size sunscreen, a tampon, a panty-liner, and a single makeup stick that can be used on my lips, cheeks and eyes (as I said…we all have different “essentials”). I also make sure there’s a $20 bill in there in addition to a blank check, a few safety pins, and a hairband.


3.  A System For All The Papers…Soooo Many Papers!

nstead of a bulletin board, we have six clipboards hanging on the wall. The school calendar, weekly dinner menu, important forms, and other resources that need to be easily accessed (taken on and off the wall) go on these.

Clipboards | Bins

We HAVE to have a system for ALL the papers that come home from school or we would absolutely drown! Instead of a bulletin board, we have six clipboards hanging on the wall. The school calendar, weekly dinner menu, important forms, and other resources that need to be easily accessed (taken on and off the wall) go on these. We also have individually labeled bins for each family member for all other papers. The 1st of every month is recycling time and the bins have to be sorted.


4. “Finders” for EVERYONE’S Backpack

Not only do these AirTags help tremendously when my kids (& husband) accidentally leave their backpacks on the playground or at dance class or at the basketball court or at a friends' house or at grandma's...but my little guy doesn't have a phone yet, so this is also the easiest way I've found to make sure he's where he's supposed to be.

AirTags | AirTag Cases

Not only do these AirTags help tremendously when my kids (and husband) accidentally leave their backpacks on the playground or at dance class or at the basketball court or at a friends’ house or at grandma’s…or…or… (the list in our house obviously can go on and on), but my little guy doesn’t have a phone yet, so this is also the easiest way I’ve found to make sure he’s where he’s supposed to be (when I let him walk the last block or so on his own, since we’re starting that “process” this year—wish us luck).


5. A Stand-Out Backpack

Having backpacks that stand out makes it SO much easier to spot your kiddos quickly in crowded pick-up situations. Also easier for them to spot their OWN backpack in the piles on the playground.

Monster Pack | Nike | Sprayground | Fjallraven

Having backpacks that stand out makes it SO much easier to spot your kiddos quickly in crowded pick-up situations. Also easier for them to spot their OWN backpack in the piles on the playground. My little guy carried this specific Monster pack for YEARS (really good quality for the budget-friendly price), but this year he has decided he is graduating to a Sprayground backpack (with a finder in it b/c DANG we are NOT losing this $$ one!)


6. School Supplies Ordered Online

Our big-box stores never seem to have all the stuff we need, and it drives me batty searching multiple stores. I find almost every single thing on our lists at Target.com. Add to cart, order, done.

Target.com

Make it easy! This is a no-brainer for us. Our big-box stores never seem to have all the stuff we need, and it drives me batty searching multiple stores. I find almost every single thing on our lists at Target.com. Add to cart, order, done.


7. No-Leak Water Bottles

I am FOREVER searching for the perfect kid water bottle. My requirements are: dishwasher-friendly, lightweight, no chance of opening accidentally in their backpack, won't flood their desk if accidentally knocked over while open, won't make an ear-piercing clang when they fall onto the classroom floor...this 1 is the best we've found that meet our requirements.

Contigo AutoSeal Water Bottle

I am FOREVER searching for the perfect kid water bottle. My requirements are: dishwasher-friendly, lightweight, no chance of opening accidentally in their backpack, won’t flood their desk if accidentally knocked over while open, won’t make an ear-piercing clang when they fall onto the classroom floor…the one above is the best we’ve found that meet our requirements. My little guy is fascinated with this one, so we’re going to try it out in September, but I don’t want to recommend it until it has passed all the tests (and I’m not sure it will).


8. An Easy-To-Find Pencil Case

Family tool for preventing this is making sure they have a pencil case they can EASILY find (so they'll use it) in their backpacks. Zipit offers a ton of cute and easy-to-spot pencil cases and storage boxes.

ZipIt Pencil Case

I’ve learned the hard way that if they can’t find their pencil case in their backpack, they’re not going to use it and allllllll of their supplies will quickly disappear. Which then means…I annoyingly have to get them more. Family tool for preventing this is making sure they have a pencil case they can EASILY find (so they’ll use it) in their backpacks. ZipIt offers a ton of cute and easy-to-spot pencil cases and storage boxes.


9. An Easy-To-Wash Lunch Box System

This is the dishwasher-safe lunch system we have used and loved for years and years and YEARS. I have two full box sets for each kid so I can rotate them nightly in the dishwasher. And yes...I still use this system for my teenager.

Bentology Lunch Bag Kit | Boxes Only

This is the dishwasher-safe lunch system we have used and loved for years and years and YEARS. I have two full box sets for each kid so I can rotate them nightly in the dishwasher. And yes…I still use this system for my teenager (with a non-alien case, and I stuff every compartment SUPER-full and add things on the side as well). We loved this smaller Bentgo for pre-school, but I can fit larger quantities of food in the Bentology system above. When I pack hot lunches, I use this Thermos that comes with a cute little foldable spoon built in.


10. Multiple Travel Mugs For Morning Coffee

I typically have exactly 2 Contigos & rotate them in the dishwasher on the same washing schedule as the kids' lunch boxes. They keep coffee SUPER-hot & don't leak if thrown in your bag.

Travel Mug

An organized parent must! I typically have exactl two Contigos and rotate them in the dishwasher on the same washing schedule as the kids’ lunch boxes. They keep coffee SUPER-hot and don’t leak if thrown in your bag. I’ve recently brought into the rotation Shana’s fave and this guy as well. I don’t actually NEED them–the two Contigos are amazing if I’m going to be running around or going to the office after school drop-off, but days I’m coming home right after drop off, I sometimes grab the smaller ones.


11. Something Warm They Will Actually Wear

Boden sweatshirts are the BEST (check back...hoping they'll release more colors soon). My teenager has aged out, but both of my kids wore them happily for ALL their elementary school years.

Fuzzy-Inside Hoodie

Boden sweatshirts are the BEST (check back…hoping they’ll release more colors soon). My teenager has aged out, but both of my kids wore them happily for ALL their elementary school years. We’re still trying to find the teenager equivalent. Lightweight enough to wear in the fall, but surprisingly warm enough to take them really far into winter too. There’s never any argument in putting these on, so perfect for mornings when kiddos refuse to put on their actual “winter coat” and you don’t have the energy to win the battle.


12. A Fridge System For Easy Lunch-Packing

After dinner, I put leftovers immediately in these mason jars and then let the jars "live" in the refrigerator bin labeled "kid lunch."

Mason Jars | Lids | Fridge Organizers | Labels | Thermos

My easy hack for lunches? After dinner, I put leftovers immediately in these mason jars and then let the jars “live” in the refrigerator bin labeled “kid lunch.” For mornings I want to give the kids a hot lunch, I put the mason jar (with leftovers inside) in the microwave for 2 minutes. While the jar is heating I fill this thermos with hot water and let it sit while the microwave does its thing. When the microwave is about to beep, I empty the hot water from the thermos and then dump the leftovers directly into the thermos (the small mouth jars fit perfectly without spills). Once you do it once or twice it takes no thought at all and is completely manageable even before coffee.


13. Two Pairs of Sneaks To Avoid Morning Crises

There were WAY too many catastrophic mornings where someone couldn't find both shoes." It's worth the $$$ to me to avoid these situations, so a sporty pair (or fashion-y pair), as well as a waterproof pair that's good for colder wetter weather, are both by the door.

Adidas | Keens 

In the “beginning,” I was a one-pair-of-sneaks-per-kid kind of mom, but several years back I changed my ways. There were WAY too many catastrophic mornings where someone couldn’t find both shoes…even though we of course have a special place shoes are supposed to “live.” It’s worth the $$ to me to avoid these situations, so a sporty pair (or fashion-y pair), as well as a waterproof pair that’s good for colder wetter weather, are both by the door.


14.  A Few Bedtime Routine Helpers

My kid is not a big mindfulness or meditation guy, but he has totally taken to this essential oil diffuser and picking out his own scents each night, as well as the routine of turning on his salt lamp to start winding down and setting a different mood for bedtime.


Essential Oil Diffuser | Salt Lamp


Back to top

Back-to-school time means back to pretty strict bedtime routines for us. Having parts of the routine that my little guy really looks forward to has helped tremendously. My kid is not a big mindfulness or meditation guy, but he has totally taken to this essential oil diffuser and picking out his own scents each night, as well as the routine of turning on his salt lamp to start winding down and setting a different mood for bedtime.

Please share any tricks you guys have for making the transition back to school a little smoother. I LOVE hearing your ideas and collaborating in this area!

-Linzi

Back-to-school doesn't just = backpacks & lunch boxes, it also conjures routines (checklist, anyone?), morning essentials (travel mug required) + organizing tools (think: AirTags). We swear by these tips.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’d love to hear other Moms’ tricks for getting their kids to get their butts OUT OF BED in the mornings. Mine are too big to physically pick up (9 and 12yo). At this point I’m ready to get out the water guns and nerf guns and show them some IRL Fortnite moves. Every morning I start out nice and loving, but the only thing that seems to work to get them moving is my Angry Mom voice after the 842nd time I’ve told them to “GET OUT OF BED”. Has anyone tried those alarm clocks that roll around the room? I think my kids would just ignore it. 🤷‍♀️

    • Hi Christy! I do NOT in any way have a trick for this…there’s a reason I didn’t address this issue in this post. Ha! My teenager actually gets up on his own with an alarm, but my 10 year old is the one that’s difficult. We have tried the ease-into-it natural light alarm clock, we’ve tried the Alexa playing loud music, we’ve tried super loud alarm clocks…nothing works with my little guy. He sleeps through it all. And yes…I, too, start out nice and loving with kisses and rubbing of the back (which NEVER works). Last school year, tickling seemed to be the only thing that did the trick…but we’re talking about some extensive get-in-there-aggressive-armpit-action, and he would still often crawl back into bed as soon as I walked away. My dad actually DID spray him with water this summer when he was in charge one morning of getting him out of bed early….so there’s that! LOL. School starts for us tomorrow, and I have threatened the water spray bottle if the first week of me being nice doesn’t work…so we’ll see. Let me know if you find something that works!

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