7 tips on coping with back-to-school madness

  • By William Hageman Chicago Tribune
  • Monday, August 18, 2014 12:06pm
  • Life

There are certain truths that become evident at back-to-school time for most of us: The kids still haven’t stopped growing, and we need to update their comically ill-fitting wardrobes. The school supply list is longer, and the prices higher, than last year. The family is woefully disorganized.

Thank goodness for people such as Ellen Delap, a certified professional organizer, with a smart blog — find it at professional-organizer.com/WordPress. She also works as a family manager coach. Her expertise can make that transition into the new school year, and the months ahead, smoother. Here are some tips from Delap.

Three-part process: Organizing for the school year goes beyond slapping a planner on the wall (though that’s not a bad idea). Delap says there are three areas that need to be well-regulated: your house, your schedule and your finances. The house and schedule are obvious (more on them later). Financial organizing is sometimes overlooked. There are a lot of checks that need to go out in the fall — extracurricular fees, ballet lessons and the like. Relegate them to one spot and keep on top of them. Bills, like scheduling, can be overwhelming when they start pouring in.

Command center: Set up a command center, one spot where all planning is done. It should have a desk-top sorter, a wall area with dry erase calendars, and wall pockets for papers (incoming mail, permission slips, school papers that need to be signed, tax receipts, etc.). Yes, we live in a growing electronic society, but we still have to deal with paperwork. Triage it, sorting the urgent from the merely important and the trash.

Family calendar: Whether digital or that calendar stuck to the wall or fridge, the calendar lists what’s going on in individuals’ lives, where they need to be and when. Potential conflicts can be headed off. “These are critical,” Delap says.

Weekly meeting: A weekly family meeting is a great way to ensure everyone is in the game. “Families live in the moment so much, even something like a vacation, you won’t talk about until the last minute,” Delap says. A weekly meeting reminds everyone what is coming up. Attendance is mandatory. If one of the kids balks, well, have the meeting be the time allowances are handed out. The kids will attend.

Basic routines: Set specific times for regular tasks, based on family members’ schedules. Is Saturday generally a slower day? Make that laundry day. Too much laundry for one day? Break the chore into two days. Make Friday grocery shopping night. “We always know the trash is collected a certain day,” she says. “So find one or two family members to take the trash out the night before.” Delap also suggests posting a chart listing the various jobs. “Then it’s not like you’re nagging.”

“I hate this!” No one loves every task he or she is assigned. If little Rico grumbles about unloading the dishwasher, give him another job, one he will like better. It’s all about getting the family to work as a team. “When you create these partnerships for responsibility, it’s a lot more fun,” Delap says. “No one wants to be left in the kitchen alone.”

Dealing with emergencies: If you have a routine in place, family members can adjust to take up the slack for a missing member. That also serves to strengthen the family and engender a feeling of accomplishment.

More in Life

‘Last Jedi’ is the best ‘Star Wars’ movie since the first one

This instant-classic popcorn movie makes clever references to the past while embracing the new.

Jesse Sykes brings her evolving sounds to Cafe Zippy in Everett

She and Phil Wandscher make a return trip to a club that she values for its intimacy.

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Ugly Sweater Party and Canned Food Drive at Whitewall: Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing… Continue reading

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

‘Ferdinand’ a modern take on the beloved children’s story

The lovable bull is back in an enjoyable but spotty animated film from the makers of “Ice Age.”

Playwright alleges misconduct by Hoffman when she was 16

A classmate of Dustin Hoffman’s daughter says the actor exposed himself in 1980.

Art mimicks reality in engrosing ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’

The Korean film tells the story of an actress recovering from an affair with a married director.

Most Read