My top 7 school organising hacks

I’m always fascinated by any back-to-school tips whether on blogs or podcasts because I love having a streamlined, well-oiled system where I can. There are so many things that we have to deal with on the fly so why not have a few solid systems in place that you don’t have to even think about?!

Here are our top 7 school organising hacks:

One calendar

We have a calendar in our command centre where we add any special dates from school. We receive a monthly school newsletter with upcoming dates. We add all the dates immediately and toss the newsletter into the recycling bag. If there are events we need to attend, either Dion or I will create a meeting in our calendar and invite the other parent to it.

Paper

We deal with any paper immediately so we don’t need a space to store paper. The newsletter gets read and tossed. The permission slips are signed immediately and placed on the kids’ bags. I write “R10 for civvies day” on the calendar and hand the money to the children two days before the event. Toss all the paper so you don’t have to find a place to keep it.

School supplies

If your school offers it, buy the pack. Or use a stationer who provides a shopping service, especially in the younger grades. Otherwise, buy the supplies when school lets you have the list – don’t wait for when school opens unless you like to be the frazzled mother in CNA looking for a specific size of glue stick. Oh, I completely ignore the list as far as brands are concerned and I buy what I like. After all, if the kids don’t use it at school, you’ll be using it at home so make sure you like the brands too 🙂

School fees

This is my favourite tip ever! Our school has a meeting in October of the one year to set fees for the following year. I am always at that meeting. Once the fees are decided on, I set up my scheduled payment with my bank (I use the turquoise bank!) for the 10 payments from January to October, and then…. I never have to think about it for a whole year! I do have to make a once-off payment for workbooks, T-shirts, etc. in January once the kids go back to school but I never have to remember to pay anything else and I also don’t like having a debit order going off my account. I trust my own financial systems more than the school’s.

School uniforms

When school closes at the end of the year, and then again a few weeks before the switch to winter uniform happens, I do a Big Fit-On of clothes to make sure each child has enough of each item. One of my children has to be bribed with Smarties so it’s not all smooth sailing. I take inventory of how many items of each thing they have, if it’s too small and they need a bigger size, etc. and write all the Clothes to buy on a Project Life card that I keep in my wallet. Then when I’m out and about, I know exactly what size shoe or socks I need to buy.

Homework spot

When we moved into this house, we imagined that our kids would do their homework in their bedrooms. That has never happened as the actual preferred homework spot is at the dining room table. So now we embrace that idea and I have paper, pens and pencils nearby. Here’s the key – the books are not allowed to wander around in the house (this is how things get lost). The minute they’re done for the day, the books go back in the bags and the table is cleared.

School lunches

This could be my rule for life but I’ll share it here anyway: start as you mean to go on. And if you want to change things, there’s no time like the present. Our kids take a sandwich, fruit and a snack to school if they have an extra-mural. If they don’t, they just get the sandwich and fruit.

Sandwiches are generally 1.5 – 2 slices of bread with cheese, ham, or peanut butter on it. Fruits are apples, bananas, naartjies, papaya, grapes, etc. If I send messy fruit like papaya, I send a little cake fork in the lunch box.

Snacks are whatever we have handy – muffins, peanuts & raisins, fruit roll (I cut one into 4 portions), yoghurts, etc. The kids drink water – I never send juice boxes.

Here’s the thing – if they bring lunch home, they eat that for their home snack before any other food. And if they eat the snack and not the sandwich, they don’t get a snack the following day. This is how we’ve trained the kids to eat their healthier food first before the more fun things. You can read more about our school lunch boxes here.

And that’s it – our favourite 7 ways to organise our kids’ school lives.

Tell me – what are your school organising hacks? Did you have any a-ha moments?

How do I control all the paper?

One of the most popular questions I get is this:

How do I control all the paper?

I understand this question completely because I have a big yellow desk and when I get lazy, that’s the first area that goes out of control for me too.

The first thing you have to do is make decisions on what next for every piece of paper. I like using a timer because I’m naturally competitive (anyone relate?) and that inspires me to take action, and quickly too!

Before you start, gather the following items:

1. a timer (use the timer on your phone)
2. wastepaper basket
3. brightly coloured pen (I like a nice thick red gel pen)
4. notebook and/ or planner
5. post-it notes (the originals, not the cheap stuff)

Right, now you’re set!

There are only four actions you’re allowed to do once you’ve looked at each piece of paper. Don’t take longer than 30 seconds to scan the page.

1. Dump it

Throw it in the bin. The more ruthless you are, the less you have to file. Win-win!

If you only need one piece of information, write it down straight in your notebook or diary, and then throw the piece of paper away. Some of you are hyperventilating – you’ll be okay.

2. Delegate it

If someone else has to attend to it (husband needs to phone), write the action on the paper itself or on a post-it note and put that in a separate pile.

3. File it

Please do yourself a favour and only put paper in this pile if you absolutely need to reference it again. Just a quick statistic before you add anything to that pile… only 20% of filed papers are ever referenced again. Ahem.

Use your post-it pad for different categories. For example, when I’m doing my weekly paper sorting session, I use Household, Marcia, Dion and Kids as my categories.

4. Do it

Here I apply the two-minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it right there and then. When I say “do it”, I mean either action it or schedule it to action later.

For example, if you’re working on your papers at 10 pm and need to make an appointment, you can’t phone right there and then, so write it on tomorrow’s to-do list or add it to your phone as a reminder. That’s within two minutes and it counts.

There you have it – the only four things to do with paper. If you stick to making decisions and taking action continually, your paper will be beautifully organised in no time at all. But remember, there’s no shame in the paper getting out of control now and again.

Is paper an area in your life that you battle with?

Is it the decision-making part, the sheer volume, the fact that you’re scared you may need it again? Tell me more.

The most important thing to remember about filing is…

Did you know the two most common questions I get are about paper and email?

Personally, I hate filing.

I’m not quite sure why people are surprised to hear this? 😉

The way I deal with my filing issues is to keep very little paper.

Brilliant idea, right?

The most important thing to remember about filing is that the more you keep, the more you have to file.

And we all know we only ever access less than 20% of the filed paper ever again.

Let’s show you how I do my filing…

I toss the papers I really want to keep in this basket in a far corner of my study. It’s about 5 cm deep (2 inches).

this is a view from the top – I spread it out a bit so you can get an idea….

I tossed a good number of those items.

The thing is that with the passage of time, so our intense need to hang onto things diminishes. Or at least for me it does.

I found I could toss the older things that had since been resolved.

E.g. We pay our telephone account every month. When I get the statement, I check to see if my payment is reflecting. If it is, I toss the old statement.

Look at this note.

I kept this note on the bottom of that tray so I could see how long it had been since the last time I filed.

This year I’ve only filed 3 times – 13 Jan, 30 June and 30 Oct.

Be honest – are you shocked?! 🙂

So now that my secret is out, how often do you file? Be honest, do you enjoy filing?



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