Episode 012: Back to School Tips - Part 1
It’s that time of year when the to-do lists grow, and it can get overwhelming trying to keep up with all the back-to-school tasks. In this special three-part series, Diana shares tips for busy moms on how you can get ahead of the game and make the school year less stressful. Being prepared ahead of time will absolutely help you, and your children, throughout the school year.
And be sure to enter the giveaway that’s mentioned in the episode. Click here to enter!
In this special three-part series, Diana shares actionable tips that you can implement before school starts or anytime throughout the school year. From how to make mornings easier to ways to support your children’s teachers.
We’ll also discuss:
- Batching tasks to help the daily mental load
- Setting up items where you need them for the weekday mornings
- Ways your children can get involved with getting everything ready for school
- A FREE printable download for our teacher survey can be found here!
What can you expect from this podcast and future episodes?
- 15-20 minute episodes to help you tackle your to-do list
- How to declutter in an effective and efficient way
- Guest interviews
- Deep dives on specific topics
Find Diana Rene on social media:
Episode 012: Back to School Tips - Part 1
[00:00:00] Diana Rene
Okay, you guys, I'm so excited because today is starting a three-part series. So today is part number one of the three-part series all about back-to-school tips for busy moms. And don't worry if your kids are already back in school. It's okay. You can still add these and implement these into your lives no matter where you are in the school year. Um, but these are all going to be really, really actionable things that you can do in your life right now that are just going to streamline, help systemize and just make the school year feel a little less stressful because, as we all know, it's just busy. There's so much demanded of our kids and of us, and sometimes that's also self-inflicted when we sign up for too many activities and all of that. And so these are just things that are going to help you take a deep breath and not feel as frazzled throughout the school year.
You're listening to The Decluttered Mom Podcast. A podcast built specifically for busy moms by a busy mom. I'm your host, Diana Renee, and in 2017, I had my second daughter, and it felt like I was literally drowning in my home. Okay, not literally. But I felt like I couldn't breathe with all of the stuff surrounding me. Over the next ten months, I got rid of approximately 70% of our household belongings, and I have never looked back. I kind of feel like I hacked the mom system, and I'm here to share all the tips, tricks, and encouragement. Let's listen to today's show.
As I mentioned, this is a three-part series and we are going to do a giveaway for the entire duration of the three weeks that we have these episodes going out. It's probably the simplest giveaway that you'll ever do because you're already, being able to enter by listening to this episode, that's all you have to do. You have to listen to the episode and then you just have to fill out a quick little form that will take you like 30 seconds. That is linked in the show notes for you.
So head there, you can also if you follow me on Instagram and you're listening in that three-week period, um, when these are going live, then you can just head there, and it will be in my bio as well. You can always, always, always DM me also. But this Giveaway is for $200. You can, it's meant to be like for back to school.
So whether that be for supplies or clothes or gas money, or whatever you are needing right now at this time, it's for you. So you get to spend it how you want, but we wanted to do this just as a thank you because, as you know, this podcast is still a baby, and you guys have, you guys have just shown so much support and so much love, and I appreciate you so, so much for listening and sharing with your friends and on social media.
And so I wanted to just do a little giveaway, too, to just say thank you. So again, you can find the link in the show notes. And, uh, you can always DM me on Instagram as well, but let's jump into part one of back-to-school tips for busy moms.
Obviously, if your kids are already back in school, this can still help you. This is not stuff you have to do before, you know, the kids are back. This is gonna help you at any point in the year that you're listening to this, um, anytime in the future. So we're gonna just jump right in.
The first tip that I like to do is to batch my lunch notes. And what I mean by that is I really enjoy putting little love notes in the girls' lunches every day. It's just something I started when they were really little and they really love it and appreciate it. My eight year old saves all of them and hangs them up in her locker during the year.
And I don't know how much longer that's gonna last. I don't know how much longer she's gonna think that's cool and special. And then eventually find it probably a little annoying, and so I wanna take full advantage and I will continue to do this until she tells me to stop. But I also know that every night when I'm making their lunches, I sometimes am just not in the mood to write a note because it's yet another thing to do. Or in, in like the off chance that I forget, which has happened twice before, I will never forget because she was like devastated. These lunch notes, mean a lot to her. Okay. I then just feel terrible. And it's, it's just another thing to like add on my plate and feel a weight by if I'm not careful.
So, the way I get around that is that I batch the lunch notes. And what I mean is I, pre-write basically an entire semester's worth of lunch notes, in one sitting. And so I will sit down with whatever, like fancy drink I wanna drink. And I will sit in front of a show that I've been wanting to watch for a while and I will get my notes out and I will just pre-write notes.
They don't have to be like super personalized as far as like exactly what's going on in their life, because that would be harder. But I just like to say like nice things or, encouraging things, or funny jokes. I've even been starting to get to take out another step I'll order on Amazon. There's so many like lunch note packs, and you can do like encouraging ones, motivational quotes, you can do funny kid jokes.
So I'll just get like a huge pack of those. And then I will write something on the back. And then, um, that way I just have them ready to go and I keep them in my little lunch station, which I'll talk. On another episode. Um, but I'll keep them in my lunch station, in the kitchen, and that way, when I'm making their lunches each night, all I have to do is reach in, grab it and put it into their lunchbox. One other thing is that if they are going through something in particular at that time, maybe they're like having a struggle with a friend or they're really nervous about something at school the next day, or they're really excited about something at school the next day.
Then I will like add, like I'll leave space so that I can add things if I need to or I'll also just have like a stack of empty ones in with the pre-written ones so that I can, if I want to really show them that I'm thinking about them about a specific thing for that day. Then I can do that. But otherwise they are totally cool with whatever I put in there.
I honestly think I could just put the Amazon ones that are like a funny, silly joke and write, I love you heart mom. And they would be totally cool with that. But, um, it's just, again, you can make it enjoyable. You can, if you're just like sitting down, watching a show. And knocking 'em out. You can get so many done.
And again, that's just one tiny, tiny thing that normally you don't think about as being something that takes energy, but it does, it takes energy from you. And so when you can batch something like this upfront, then it just takes the weight off. If the idea of writing that many notes at one time, overwhelms you, then just do it for like two weeks or something like that. 10 days. So 10 notes per kid and see how that feels. And then you can eventually work up to doing a whole semester at a time, but you'll probably find once you get going that it's just, it's easy and they don't have to be extra extravagant. Kids just love the, what is the word I'm thinking of? They just love the act of love that you are showing them through this tiny little thing.
The second one is to put, uh, hair stuff in a basket or a drawer in your kitchen or wherever your kids are eating breakfast in the morning. And so, we had last year, we had a basket. This year I think we get to do a drawer because you guys, I have drawers in my kitchen. Again, I'm so excited about it. Um, but I can, I think I'm gonna create, um, like a little basket inside the drawer, so that way it's in there and I can pull it out if needed, but in that basket, I have a hairbrush, a like, whatever hair bows, if they wear specific hair bows to school or, um, and then a bunch of hair ties and like clips, barretts those kinds of things. That way in the morning, they're ready, like they're fully dressed by the time they're eating breakfast. And so while they're eating breakfast, I just, do their hair for them while they're sitting there. They are distracted that way so there's not as much like my eight year old doesn't really care, but my five year old sometimes wants lots of hairstyles, but she doesn't like actually enjoy the act of having a hairstyle done on her, so this distracts her enough that, um, it just makes it less stressful for everyone in the room. And then also it just is kind of multitasking because while they're eating and they're getting that task done, you can get their hair done.
Something new, when I have shared this on Instagram, in the past, several people mentioned to me that they also do a toothbrush and toothpaste either in their kitchen or in their downstairs bathroom.
Um, and so I'm gonna, this year, I added two little, uh, baskets that are going in that same drawer with a toothbrush and toothpaste for each girl. And that way, when they're done eating, they can just brush their teeth at the kitchen sink and be done with it. Because that was a little bit of a struggle last year, where they would be done eating, they would already be downstairs, everything would be ready to go, but then I'd have to remind them to go run back upstairs to brush their teeth. Um, and it sometimes resulted in either me forgetting to tell 'em to do that. So they'd go off to school without brushed teeth, or like a struggle to get them to go back upstairs when they're already downstairs and they're feeling ready to go to school. So that's something that I'm gonna add in this year.
The third one is I love teachers. I could never be a teacher because I do not have the patience level that teachers need. And anytime I volunteer in my kids' classrooms, I'm honestly in awe of the patience and just, I, I don't know how you teachers do it.
You're amazing. You're brilliant and kudos to you. And I'm so thankful there are people like you because we need people like you. But I know that teaching can be a very thankless job and there can be a lot of hard times with parents and administration. And especially in the last few years with everything that's happened in our country.
So, I always want to show extra appreciation and support to my kids teachers, because I am sure that they have a hard time. And if I can just be like a little bit of encouragement, then great. I know that we do a lot, like not just us, but like it's very common to do like Christmas gifts for teachers, or end of year gifts for teachers, and also teacher appreciation week and things like that.
And so in the past, when those things rolled around, I would be like, oh, I really want to do something kind for this teacher, but I really want to get them something that they actually want. And not just like, I don't wanna get them a bottle of wine if they don't drink. Right. Or like, and I don't wanna. I don't know, so then I also just don't wanna get them like another coffee mug because they probably have like a hundred coffee mugs from former students because it's a popular teacher gift. So just things like that, where I'm like, I just, I don't, I want the gift to be like an actual gift that they want, that is going to be useful for them.
So at the beginning of the year, I give them or my kids give, bring to school, a teacher survey, and it's just like a, all about me. And then I add a little post-it note on it and I just say, Hey, can you please fill this out when you get a chance? No rush. Thanks. Um, I've never had a teacher like upset about this, or like, why are you giving me something to do?
Um, and the overwhelming response on Instagram and TikTok when I have posted about this is teachers are appreciative of this. This is not the type of forms or paperwork that they dread filling out. This is like a welcome thing. So if my team made a much prettier version of this survey, that last year, I just had like, it a word document, but , my team made a much prettier version, um, and made it available to you as a printable PDF. Totally free. So you can get that in the show notes. Um, but that way you can just print it out and you can give it to your kids teacher, and it's all these things about them. So it's, it's like, what's your favorite color?
When is your birthday? So you can send a little birthday gift if you want to. What, what are your hobbies? Um, what's your favorite sit down restaurant. What's your favorite quick service restaurant? Where do you like to shop for teacher supplies? Where do you like to shop for yourself? So like, it covers all sorts of things.
So that way throughout the year, when there are those big times of gift giving, you have like, basically an inside scoop as to what they like or where they like to shop or where they like to eat. And then there is also, I ask on there, what is your favorite flower? What's your favorite coffee order? So then throughout the week or throughout the year, if one of my, uh, kids comes home and she's like, mom, my teacher's out because her baby's sick, um, for the third time this year.
And she, you know, like I wanna be able to encourage her. So when I find out that she's back in school, I can drop off some flowers for her with a little like encouraging note, or I can just bring her, her favorite Starbucks. When I'm coming to school pickup or, you know what I mean? I can just find tiny things like that that are just encouraging throughout the year.
Also, I wanna add a note though, that this survey is not there to only serve people who are going to give like really big gifts. It's not about like a monetary thing. There's things on the survey that are just about their interests and I have heard teachers say over and over and over again, it's just showing interest in, in what they are doing for your children and, uh, notes from your children, or like handwritten notes from parents, um, about what they feel like is going well in this school year or what they appreciate about the teacher. So remember that this does not mean you have them fill this out and you have to like buy them something from every category. It's just there as a way for you to personalize things a little bit more. If you are wanting to give a gift in that category or it just helps you get to know the teacher as a person a little bit better so that you can write more personalized notes and things like that. So, um, I just wanted to put that little disclaimer in.
Okay. And then the last tip for this first part is to be prepared the night before, for the morning of when it comes to what is going out the door with your kid. So we have by the front door and, and if you don't have room by the front door, you guys, this is it's okay. It can be anywhere in your house that you choose. It just, we have space right by the front door on a wall. So it works. But if you don't that's okay. You can find a different area in your home. Don't let that stop you from implementing this.
But what we do is we have a hook, a wall basket, and then a place mat on the floor. Yes. On the floor. I know that sounds weird, but the backpacks always go on the hook. Whatever they need to bring that's not necessarily in the backpack or like put on their body, goes in the wall basket. So my girls are always wearing sunglasses out the door.
So they have their sunglasses in that basket, um, in the winter. They'll have their winter hat and their gloves or, and a scarf. If they wanna wear a scarf that day to school or whatever they need to put on their body is going in that basket. Everything else is going in the backpack. And then I'm like using my hands right now to show you guys like you can see, um, that's the hard part of podcasting for me, I'm learning is that I'm so used to video. Maybe I need to start doing this on video too, because sometimes I'm like explaining something with my hands and I'm like, oh yeah, they can't, you can't see me.
Um, and then the placement on the floor is where they put their shoes. Raise your hand, if you have ever been on the way out the door, when suddenly someone can't find their left shoe, right?
Like this is like something that happens all the time, shoes for reason, they just disappear and it's always one of them. But when we have the shoes on the place mat the night before that's their home. So they have to. That night before school, what they're going to put on their feet. What they're gonna walk out the door with.
So those go on the place mat, okay. I prefer you don't have to, but I prefer to put them in charge of those things. So, and, and I think you can start that as early as like pre-K, but they are in charge and you may have to remind them at that, that earlier age, but they are fully capable of doing it, especially if you help them for the first couple of weeks.
But I will say, okay, girls, it's time to put your stuff out for the morning. And so they know that means they have to go get whatever shoes they're wearing the next day, put it on the place mat. They have to go to their backpack and figure out if there's anything in there that they need. And they put it in their backpack.
Again, for younger kids, you probably have to help them with this for a while. And then they'll put their some, make sure their sunnies are in their basket and make sure their hat is in their basket and everything that they need. We also have a sign by the door that has like a checklist. And it's not like a, a checklist as in like, I'm actually checking it with a pen and paper, but it's a verbal checklist.
So before we walk out the door in the morning, I will say, sunnies, and they both have to say check. I will say, binder, they will both have to say, check. I'll say, um, water bottle, they both have to say check. So that way we're, we're kind of like quality we're using quality control. Um, but they can always look at that sign too, if they're not sure what they have to have ready at the door.
So if, if they're like, oh shoot, what, I forget what I have to have. They can look at that sign and then they know what they have to have. So it kind of works, uh, like doubly in that way. Doubly, is that a word? No, it's absolutely not a word. Then my job again, and this is not how you have to divvy it up, but this is how it works really well in our home.
And I think it's really important to divvy it up and have them have specific responsibilities and you have specific responsibilities and that can change year to year or even month to month if you wanted to. But I think that it helps give them a little bit more control over the situation. It helps them to build that independence. It helps them to feel like they actually know how to get themselves ready and you can do it from a really young age. So they cover all of those things. My responsibility is to have in the morning, their water, their filled water bottle and their lunchbox. And I put it on I put the lunchbox on their mat and I put the water bottle in their backpack.
And so I know I have to be responsible for those two things. And I pack lunches the night before which that was gonna be our last tip, but let's move into that real quick too. So pack lunches the night before you guys, it's so much easier. I, I doing it in the morning, you are rushing nine times out of ten to get it done.
It's frustrating, somebody needs something, somebody pooped and needs you to wipe their butt. Like something's always happening in the morning. Right? So if we can pack lunches the night before and then stick 'em in the fridge and then in the morning, grab 'em out of the fridge and throw in an ice pack and you're good to go.
That's all you have to do in the morning. That's going to lift a lot off your plate. And I know, I know that nighttime sometimes feels like you already don't get enough time to yourself at night. And so you're just gonna, you're just gonna wait until the morning because you would rather spend some time doing what you want to do.
And I, I get it. I promise I get it. But I want you to time yourself packing a lunch. And I know we've done that in the past with the dishwasher, if you've listened to previous episodes, but if you time yourself, you'll find it doesn't take you very long to do the lunches. So you can get 'em done in the evening quickly without all of the distractions, because if nobody's distracting you and needing things from you, then you could probably get it done in under five minutes.
But if it's the morning and you're. You're you are being pulled in different directions and everybody needs you, and you're not sure what, and you're scrambling and your stress levels are higher. And you're just setting yourself off on the wrong foot at the very beginning of your day. And you're setting that tone, right. So I know it's not fun, but if you can pack lunches at night, it will, drastically decrease some of that morning, stress, chaos, running around feeling in your brain and in your body.
Okay, I hope these like tips are super, super helpful for you. I'm very curious if you're already doing all of these or if there are any that stand out to you that you're going to try Implementing. You don't have to do it all at once. If you are feeling like you don't have any system set up in place and school year is always kind of crazy. And you wanna try, don't feel like you have to do all of these. You can, if you want to, but you might be more successful with them, if you just pick a couple and try 'em for a week or two, and then add one more and keep going like that, it doesn't have to be all or nothing.
And it doesn't have to be right at the beginning of the school year. You could start 'em in February, if you're listening to this, then it doesn't really matter. But the point is we have to set ourselves up to succeed in a busy school year because, always going to be things thrown at us. Um, and it's just, it's, it's just a time of life in a season where we have so much going on, especially with more kids.
And so just remember that these are things that are going to help you. They're going to decrease stress. They're not adding things to your plate. They are just, systemizing things to run a little bit smoother. You have to do all these things, anyway. Your kids have to find their shoes and put 'em on their feet, anyway. Let's take the stress level down a notch and put in the system that's going to help them. I hope this is helpful.
Let me know on Instagram, share on your stories and tag me which system you're gonna start with first. And be sure to tune in next week for the second part.
Thanks for hanging out and listening to The Decluttered Mom Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean the world if you could write a review or share this episode with a friend or your Instagram stories, and if you're on Instagram, be sure to follow me at the dot decluttered dot mom and send me a DM to say hi.
I'd love to hear what you thought about today's episode. I hope you'll come back next week and hang out with us again.