Episode 054: Tips for Back to School - Part 1
It’s almost back-to-school time, as most schools tend to return in the fall. And that means new routines and the end of the summer schedule. Today we’re starting a three-part series sharing many tips to help make this time, or any time during the school year, less chaotic.
Are you interested in joining our giveaway? Click the link below for more information and how to enter.
Back-to-School Giveaway: Click Here to Enter
In the first episode of a three-part series, Diana shares practical tips for simplifying your morning routine and supporting your child's teachers.
We’ll also discuss:
- Writing lunch notes for the whole semester in one sitting
- Ways to help simplify the morning routine
- Teacher’s favorite sheet to get them something they’ll appreciate: Click Here to Download the Teacher's Favorites Form
- Everything by the door the night before
- Pack lunches the night before
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
This transcript is auto-generated. Please excuse grammatical errors.
You're listening to the decluttered mom podcast, a podcast built specifically for busy moms by a busy mom. I'm your host, Diana Rene, 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 10 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.
Hey, you guys, I am really excited because today is the start of a three-part series all about back to school tips for busy moms. So, if you might already be back to school, your kids might already be back to school or they may be soon, and you're just like, oh, there's so much to do and there's so much to think about and it's overwhelming and I get it. So I am here to give you a bunch, a bunch of tips about things that you can do to just make things a little bit easier, streamline things a little bit, organize things a little bit, just make it so that the franticness and you can just feel less frazzled throughout the school year. Take a deep breath and you can remind yourself that everything's going to be okay because we are going to implement these systems and is going to make the chaotic parts of going back to school just a little bit easier.
If you've already been back in school, I know every single area seems to have different times that they're in school or calendars. I know in Colorado we go back a lot sooner, but we also get out a lot sooner than like back in Michigan, where I grew up, and some areas do year round, so maybe you've already been back in school for the last month. It doesn't really matter. All of these things can help you at any point in school. It's just when we are going into the fall season. That tends to be when most schools are going back to school, and so it's just a really good time to touch on these things and if you're not doing any of them, see if they help.
You don't have to do all of them. You don't have to do any of them if you don't want to. But just remember that even doing one of these tips and I think I didn't count how many there are, I think there's like close to 20 over the three episodes. Even if you just take action on one or two of them, they are going to help you a lot. So you don't have to try and implement everything all at once. You probably don't want to implement everything all at once. It might overwhelm you even more. Pick the one, like maybe pick one from each episode of the three-part series, and decide to implement that, and then you can go from there. Also, just to make things a little bit more fun, throughout this three-part, your oh my gosh, I can't talk. Three-part series. We want to do a giveaway. So basically it's going to be we're going to do one random winner to get $300 for back-to-school things, whether that is necessities like school supplies that you have to buy, or maybe it's clothes or new shoes, or even just gas money to take them to and from school, or for lunch money. Whatever you want to use it on, you can use it on. It's going to be totally at random drawn, so it's not like whoever does the best in this giveaway is just random and you're able to enter three different times. So I don't want to go into all of the details on how to enter here, but if you look in the show notes, it'll have a form that has all of the information, and all of the ways to enter are super, super simple, like take a minute or less, so it's nothing time-consuming. So definitely be sure to enter each week so that you have three chances at this giveaway.
Before we jump into the tips, can you tell? I finally have a new microphone. The sound is so much better and it was so bad for so long. So if you have stuck with me through this podcast, through the terrible audio because it's all my fault I used to have a mic and it worked for like two episodes and then it broke and I just have not gotten a new one since then. Like, it's been on my to-do list but it has not been a priority, and it probably should have been, because now that I have this new microphone, I'm like, oh my gosh, the difference in audio quality is crazy. I am sure my podcast editor is very happy with me right now. It's probably less work for him also.
But let's jump into part one of the back-to-school tips. Okay, so again, I know I said this before, but these can even help you if your kids are already back in school. So the very first tip is to batch lunch notes, and what I mean by that is to write an entire semester's worth of lunch notes for your kids and one sitting. And if that sounds crazy, or overwhelming, I know I understand why. Because when you are in the morning and you are trying to get lunch ready and you are frazzled because there is so much that needs to get done and you guys are really close to running late, the idea of writing a lunch note to even remember in the first place, but then to think of something to say and make sure that, whatever it looks cute or your kid will like it, whatever your concerns are, it can feel a little overwhelming. If I say, okay, now go sit down and do an entire semester's worth. But this is the thing I have found that when I am getting my kids lunches ready and I actually do it the night before, which I'll talk about later in this episode but when I'm getting their lunches ready, if I have to stop and get the notes out and think of something to write and write it and then put it in their lunch and remember to do that, that feels overwhelming to me, that feels like a really big task just because it's another thing you have to do. And then it kind of starts to take away some of the sentiment behind it too, because we're writing lunch notes to make our kids happy, to give them a little bit of a smile. If they're nervous about school, it's a good way to have that little bit of a connection to them halfway through their day. My oldest is going into fourth grade, so who knows how long she will appreciate lunch notes, but hopefully a long time. Both of my kids will hang some of theirs up in their lockers and they talk about them when they get in the car after school. They're like Mom. That joke was so funny. They mean something to them and I want to continue to do it every single day that they're in school. When I used to just do it every time I would pack their lunch, it started to become more of a frustrating task I had to do instead of something that I wanted to do as an intention as a mom, to show my love for my kids while they are at school and maybe feeling sad or nervous or just missing mom. Doing lunch notes is just something that's really important to me, if lunch notes are whatever to you or if your kids are like mom, that's dumb, you don't have to do lunch notes. But if you are someone who puts notes in your kids' lunchboxes, then this is a really good way to do it. So what I do is I go on Amazon and I just type in. I don't have any links for you guys, because I swear they change all the time and there are always new ones, even now this year. I just ordered mine for this year. There are so many more options than even a year ago, and there's like three or four years ago there was like no options. There's like one or two. So this is something that I think is just becoming more common and there are more options for you, which is really nice, because then you can actually personalize that aspect of it a little bit to your kids too. So when I say, go on Amazon, you can just type in like funny lunch notes or cute lunch notes or motivational lunch notes, anything that you can think of that your kid might like, like does your kid prefer funny jokes or do they prefer like an encouraging type quote, and you can do. There are some that have mixed like mixes of that, also like big packs of different types. I usually order two. I usually order like motivational kids quotes, lunch notes, like that's what I would all type in. And then I also will do like funny kid joke lunch notes, and so I'll order them on Amazon. They're usually under $10 for like a huge pack of just really small, like I would say like business card size or a little bit bigger notes that come on like card stock, and then you can personalize them by writing something on the back. And so what I do is I pick a show that I have been wanting to watch for a while and I make it into like a batching lunch notes, enjoyable evening. So it's got to be a show that you don't have to pay like super close attention to. Like I prefer like reality type shows while I'm doing these, because you can kind of like check in and out as you are sitting there writing, but I don't put their names on it. So what I do is I have this pile in front of me from Amazon. I have my show on, I get something that I want to drink or a snack or something like that. Like I try to make it into like an enjoyable thing. I get my heating pad on my comfy blanket and then I just sit there for the next hour and I write and I don't put their name, because that way the day of I can kind of like pick one and just grab one and then just put their name on top and that way I'm not like constantly looking for one of their names in the basket that I have them in. I just can write their name and that's all I have to do at the top. So I just write little things, right. I just write like I hope your day is going well. I can't wait to see you at Drive Line after school, or be kind. What is something kind that you can do for a friend today? Or remember your favorite part of today to tell me when you get home. So I just write like little things like that and I absolutely repeat them, because if I had to come up with that many like unique things, that would be hard Sometimes. It's honestly just as easy, as I love you so much, xoxo. It doesn't have to be like something really like poetic or insane. It just is something that your kids see that mom like made an effort to like connect with me while I'm at school, and so I do that and I write as many as I can. My goal is to write an entire semester's worth, so for the full fall semester between August and the end of December. That way I have lunch notes available to me and I put them in a little basket and I put them in the kitchen cabinet right next to all of their lunch stuff. So where I keep their, their lunchboxes, the the little like organizing containers I put the food in, that go in the lunchboxes, the little food picks, all of those things I have in one specific cabinet in my kitchen. It's like my basically like my lunch cabinet, and so that way when I make their lunches I can just grab one, write their name on top and throw it in the lunchbox, and so it's a streamlined way that you can still be very intentional and purposeful with your kids as you are doing lunch notes. Sometimes I don't use those. I always leave a bunch of empty ones too. But again, you guys, these packs you get off of Amazon, then you get a lot of them in there. You, I leave a bunch empty that way or not written on that way if they're going through something specific maybe they're going through a really tough time with a friend or they're really nervous about an exam that they have or something like that, I can write something personalized. It's like encouraging to them about that specific situation, if something is going on with them, and so I always have those blank ones that I can use if I need to throughout the year.
The next tip is going to be very helpful for you in the mornings and you guys. I am not good with naming things, like I really need to start using like chat, gpt or something to create better names for the systems they have in my home, because this next tip is all about my hair stuff basket, which that's a really catchy name, right? I need to come up with better options here. Let me know in Instagram DMs if you have any better ideas than hair stuff basket. So well, I do. I used to keep a basket, so this could be a basket or it could be a drawer. Now in this, in this house, we moved last year, so when we moved into this house, I was obsessed with how many drawers are in the kitchen, because in our old house if you've been following along for any point of time my old house drove me insane with the lack of drawers in the kitchen and in the bathrooms. There were no drawers in any bathroom, which drove me nuts. But in this house there are a lot of drawers, which I love because I think drawers can really be an excellent organizational tool. So I have in this house a drawer that has hair brushes. It also has bows the hair bows. It has hair ties, it has hair clips, it has barettes it's basically everything that we need for their hair before school, and so this is same for boys or girls, for you know, whatever you need to do with their hair, you have in this basket or in this drawer. So in my old house I did not have a drawer, and so I just had a basket that I kept right near. I kept it in the kitchen, in a cabinet, right near where they would eat breakfast every day for school, and the idea is that everything is there and you're not running around the house trying to find the basket. Oh shoot, where did that hair bow go? I know they wanted to wear it today, now I can't find it. Or this hair tie broke, I need a new one. You have to run all the way upstairs to go get it. Like anytime we can find little things that will cut out work or extra steps in the mornings we want to do, right, so that is what I do. I have it there, and that way we have everything ready to go in the morning. They sit down and they eat breakfast, and I do their hair while they are eating breakfast, so that they are distracted. Because my oldest doesn't really care. She's like whatever you can do whatever to my hair. My youngest, however, on the other hand, is very like don't? She doesn't like her hair brushed, she doesn't like. She just like. She doesn't like getting her hair done. She wants fancy hairstyles, but she doesn't want to sit through the process. So I can relate. I think I'm kind of like that too. It's like every time I go to get my hair cut, I'm like I don't, I want to get my hair cut, I don't want to sit here and go through the whole process. So I get it. But just having that basket or drawer is really helpful in the morning because you know everything is. It just makes it easier. You can see when things need to be refilled. So if you're only down to your last four hair ties, you probably know you need to order some new hair ties so that that doesn't become an issue.
Another thing that I keep in this drawer it is in the kitchen, but I also keep a spray that I spray on their hair before they walk out and it's by. I think Fairy Tales is the name. It's basically like a vice prevention spray. I think it has rosemary and maybe tea tree oil, but don't quote me on that because I'm not, I'm just trying to remember off my off of picture in my brain. So I spray, I am like, oh gosh, I dealt with lice as a kid twice and it like it. I like my whole body, I can like feel, is like, oh like. I feel something's crawling on me right now, just even remembering it. I hated the experience. I don't think anybody enjoys a lice experience, but I just. It was something that, oh, I hated so much. And so I spray this in their hair every morning right before they walk out the door and it's supposed to repel lice. So who knows if it actually does. I could have been wasting my money all these years, but they, knock on wood, have not gotten lice yet. So I'm going to keep keep using the spray.
Okay, on to tip number three. So tip number three is to give your kids teachers a brief getting to know you teacher survey. So what this is is and I actually, in the show notes below I have a link I I did the work for you. I have a pretty printable that you can just print out and you can hand to your kids teachers. When I first started doing that I probably first started doing this, I want to say, when my oldest was in kindergarten, because my kids did not go to daycare, they only went to one year preschool. Or my oldest only went to one year preschool and you can print out either yes, I didn't know until she was in kindergarten like how, like I didn't know all of the teacher gift things like you know, like teacher week and all of that. But I also just found myself throughout the year wanting to like show my appreciation to her teacher and I was like I just feel like I constantly see on social media teachers that are like that joke about always receiving like coffee mugs or like tumblers or things like that or candles that they're like okay, adding it to the collection, like, and I was like, ah, like that's kind of, that's kind of my like go to also, and I don't want to just give them something that becomes clutter for them. I want it to be something that they actually like, really appreciate, and that's like more customized or personalized to them, who they are as a person. And so I decided to do this survey because, actually, a follower on Instagram DM to me when I was like expressing this like confusion or frustration about like, what do teachers want, and I was finding that I was getting completely different types of replies and my DMs, like teachers were saying like please just do gift cards, like that's, all we want is gift cards. And then the next teacher is like just anything but gift cards, like I hate gift cards. And so I was like, oh, shoot, so like not even teachers agree on this, which is just like not even teachers agree on this, which is understandable because teachers are human and humans are different from each other, right, and so so I started trying to figure out all of the different things that I, if I wanted to like learn how to personalize gifts for someone that I don't have any like personal, real connection to, what are questions I can ask? I was like personalized gifts at first, and then I started just being like, okay, what are, like, what are different things that they could want? They could maybe want gift cards to restaurants. They could maybe want specific types of foods they can maybe want. Like thinking through all of the ideas that they could want and also combining that with all of the DMs that I was getting from different teachers about what they want, and I came up with this teacher survey that basically, like is a getting to know that teacher survey. So it's like their favorite color, their favorite flower, like their quick serve restaurant, their favorite sit down restaurant, where they like to shop for themselves, where they like to shop for when they need to buy supplies for teaching, what other things, what do they like to do in their free time, when is their birthday, and so I think that's all of those types of things, and it has been amazing to have because now I have like a full, like cheat sheet on what they actually like and want more of when they are getting gifts. And so if there's ever a time where, like for example, last year, I was having, you know, was needing some extra help with a specific, specific, specific part of math and her teacher was like, really like, going above and beyond and helping her to make sure that she stayed caught up and all of that, and so I wanted to, like, do something for her, and so I had a list of everything she loved and I was able to get her a gift that I knew that she would actually really love you and and appreciate right, and so it's been really helpful. I know that every fall or every end of summer, I post about this on Instagram, and last year for what have a reason? Last summer, people are angry on Instagram, but I got a lot of DMs that were like you're just making more work for the teacher, and so I posted, like I posted in stories, and I was like, am I because I? That's the last thing I want to do. Teachers are overworked and under appreciated as it is, and I don't want to add that to their plate. So, like, I put a poll up, I asked for feedback from teachers and, like, the overwhelming, overwhelming answer was that absolutely not. This is not more work. This is like if I got this from a parent, I would feel so loved, like I would cry if a parent took the time to even care about what I would like, and so I think that it has just been something that's been really helpful for me and for all of the people who did download the teacher survey last year. One thing I will say is that several people had the suggestion that their PTA has these not mine but like has teacher surveys on hand, like in the office, like they have every teacher in the school and I'm actually going to bring that to my kids school this year to see if that's something that we can do.
But basically, like every teacher puts theirs in a binder in the office, so, like you can always like go into the office and check, or I think some of them even said they had it online so parents could always just check that list whenever they were wanting to do something for the teacher. Another thing I want to mention about this is please don't forget other people that work in the school. So front desk staff and the custodial staff and the lunchroom staff and like all of those types of positions in schools I think get overlooked so often, especially because they don't necessarily have as much like direct interaction with your kids. But I know that it doesn't have to be something expensive, but even just a note, even just a handwritten note, to thank the people that work in your kid's school goes a really long way, especially with the political climate of schools over the last couple of years, and we all know that a lot of teachers are leaving teaching and I think that it just a little bit goes a really long way. And that's another thing that teachers told me is that you don't have to buy me things Like if you just wrote me a note telling me what, like that I was helping their kid. That means a lot, and they all said that that's something that they hold on to.
Okay, this episode is getting really long and I know I like to keep it 20 minutes or less and we are over that. But I think we might just have to do a little bit longer episodes for the this three part series, because I don't want to cut out the good stuff. I want to make sure that I'm giving you everything, everything that I can, and I don't want to cut up, cut these out. I've already cut them down as much as I can. But just bear with me for a little bit longer episodes for this three part series.
Okay, I have two more tips for this episode. So the fourth tip is to be prepared the night before, and what I mean by that is just having all of your morning necessities like backpacks, shoes, lunchboxes, water bottles, your stuff too. So like, if you work in an office, making sure that you have everything you need for the night going into the office that day in your bag by the door, your shoes by the door, everything that you need. If it's winter and it's cold, make sure hats and gloves and scarfs and snow boots are by the door. Just thinking through, thinking ahead to what do we need to be able to walk out the door in the morning and have it there ready to go, because that is going to be way less chaotic when you're trying to find everything or remember everything that you need. This is also a good idea if you have like, if your kids have library day on Thursdays or PE on Wednesdays. Like making sure that on Tuesday night their gym shoes are in their backpack for PE day, pe day the next day, or on Wednesday night, library books they need to return are in their backpack for library day on Thursday. So just doing like, even if it's a mental checklist or if you can even better, if you can have an actual checklist that you can look at and make sure but this, you guys, is a really, really good one if your kids are even like kindergarten or older to have them take ownership over it. Help them come up with the list for whatever specific days need to be by the front door. But then that is their responsibility as part of their evening routine that you will need to help them get used to and help them do it for the first one, two, three, four weeks, but getting them in the habit of being prepared the night before. You guys, can you imagine? Can you imagine the lifelong impact that will have on them in their mornings? Because if they make this a habit when they are kids, they will. They will make this a habit the rest of their lives and it will be something that will serve them forever to have less stressful and less chaotic mornings. Number five is to pack lunches the night before. This is an interesting one that always is very controversial, apparently, because anytime I talk about it on here on Instagram I get a lot of impassioned responses. My kids are almost 10 and almost 7. I have never had an issue with them complaining about food not tasting good if I pack it the night before, which seems to be the concern from a lot of people. So I pack lunches the night before and it just makes again the morning less chaotic. I make it into a enjoyable routine, and so there's a specific podcast I always listen to while I'm doing lunches the night before. This is typically I either do it while I'm making dinner no-transcript. While the pizza is cooking in the oven, I'm making their lunches. Or if it's something where I just are like dinner is too crazy, like it's that time of night and kids are just bouncing off the walls, or it's a more in-depth dinner where I'm really having to focus on it, then I will do it after the kids go to bed. It's just part of my evening routine. But this is something that just really, really, really is helpful, and my husband and I split this so a couple nights a week. He does it, a couple nights a week, I do it, and it just works really well to just have that done in the morning. That way we can just grab it out in the morning, toss it in the lunchbox with the ice packs, and they are good to go, and then they will already have their lunch note in there too. So that is one less thing to have to worry about in the morning. Okay, you guys, I hope these five tips are helpful for you. I really like kind of jumbled these up. There's no like specific order of like. You should do this first because it's going to be different. There's going to be different pain points for all of you. You're going to some of you like feel already really prepared because you already do backpacks in by the door the night before. But maybe, like the hair stuff basket is something that will be really helpful for you. So I kind of purposely like did a very broad, like I mixed these up a lot. So I just want you to know that they are not in specific order of how important or impactful I think they are. They are just all things that have helped me and have helped the students in my program throughout the last few years as I've kind of tweaked and optimized our school organization systems. And so let me know on Instagram if you listened to this episode, if you just put a story of where you're listening to it and tag me. You guys, that's like one of my favorite things to be tagged in, because it's just like kind of surreal to see you actually listening, because I just talk into this. Well, I used to talk into the computer, now I'm going to talk into this microphone and I'm like, is anybody listening? So DM's telling me what is like a good takeaway for you, or in your stories and tagging me. It's so much fun for me to see. And be sure to check out that giveaway in the form in the show notes. Be sure to tune in next week for part two of the Back to School Tips series.