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5 Tips for a more organized school year

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Get organized this fall

Even if your summer ended in a flaming ball of back-to-school stress, it’s not too late to get organized and back on track. Juggling a job, household chores and getting a houseful of kids ready for school without having a meltdown every morning can be tough -- but not impossible. We’ve put together some simple organization tips that will have your school-related stress level back to normal in no time. Read on for a more relaxed, less stressful school year.

Kids having breakfast

1Create calendar central

Even if you've started off the school year on a fairly organized note, it can be easy to lose your footing once all those after-school activities, appointments and other family obligations start piling up. Sure, you, your husband and your kids all have smartphones, but we like the idea of putting a large dry-erase calendar in a central location where everyone can see it (kitchen and entryway are your best bets). That way everyone knows exactly what's on tap for the day, including who needs to be where at what time, and any other important family schedule details.

Free online calendars like Cozi offer a digital way for busy families to keep track of appointments, make shopping lists, coordinate home and work schedules and share photos and notes – all in one place. You can also get Cozi to your smartphone so you always know where you (and your husband and your kids) are supposed to be, no matter where you are.

2Enforce the 'night before' rule

Mornings can be hectic, and when everyone has to be in a different place at different times, getting the whole family out the door, fully dressed and with lunches in tow can seem like a logistical nightmare. Instead of risking an a.m. anxiety attack, do as much as possible the night before. Make lunches, have your kids pick out their outfits and pack their backpacks, sign any forms or permission slips, and even set out cereal bowls or other (non-perishable) items you'll use in the morning. The less you have to worry about upon waking the better your day will go.

Breakfast tip: Put everything you need to make a healthy smoothie in the blender (yogurt, berries, orange juice, milk, banana) and pop it in the fridge. In the morning just blend, sip and go!

3Make a meal plan

Often summer is more laid-back where meals are concerned. The kids don't need packed lunches and dinners can be more relaxed affairs (hello, barbecue) -- but once September hits, meal planning can get much more stressful. Rather than pull your hair out every time you think about what to have for dinner, create a plan that outlines what you'll be having Monday through Friday so you know exactly what to buy and there's no struggling to come up with dinner ideas when all you want to do is relax after work.

Try this now: For extra help in the meal planning department, you can get organized online. Meal Planning Made Simple is a free service that allows you to create weekly or monthly meal plans and view them online or add them to your Google or Outlook calendars using iCal. The site also allows offers recipe ideas and allows you to create shopping lists, among other helpful features.

4Hand out age-appropriate jobs

You shouldn't be the only one doing all the heavy lifting. If your kids are old enough, make sure they have some age-appropriate chores that will help make the school year easier. Create an a.m. and p.m. chore chart and slot in things that won't be hard for them to do, but will free up some of your time. Can they pack their lunches? Dress themselves? Get their own breakfast while you get ready for work? Think about what your kids are capable of and give them a bit more back-to-school responsibility this year.

5Be prepared

Once you have your school year schedule running smoothly, make sure it stays that way by planning ahead for things like school trips, nights you have to work late, unscheduled appointments and sick days. Make a few one-dish meals (lasagna, casseroles) that can be frozen and used in a pinch when you have to stay at work past meal time. Have a babysitter or relative on call who can watch the kids in a pinch, and pack your kids with an "emergency kit" filled with extra snacks (granola bars, trail mix), activities (games, coloring book), extra layers in case of spills and Band-Aids for days where they end up having to stay late at school or wait to be picked up from an extra-curricular activity.

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Printable calendar template

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