Suddenly, another summer has flown by. Summer camps, family visits, group outings, sunscreen and sticky popsicles… and just like that, we are already in back-to-school mode!
We’re sharing our top five tips for making the summer-to-school transition as smooth as possible.
CREATE A HOME FOR HOMEWORK
Consider where your children like to work and where they’re the most successful at staying tuned into their work. Maybe that’s at the kitchen table, on the couch or in another quiet space of the house. Prepare that area of your home by creating a supply station nearby with everything they’ll need to accomplish their homework.
If your little students prefer to move around while working, consider preparing a mobile homework cart or caddy that’s fully stocked. Make the process easy and fun — and hopefully there will be less homework battles!
DESIGNATE A DROP ZONE
This is an area that we believe ALL homes need — a home base for backpacks, sunglasses, keys and more. And during the school year, our kids especially need a designated home for all of their school books, recorders, soccer cleats, ballet slippers… you get the picture!
We suggest grabbing a few hooks or baskets to keep everything organized. The entryway of your house is likely an ideal spot for these, ensuring that there’s less of a chance that school items will drift off into the house and end up being misplaced or lost — which means less morning stress for you!
SIMPLIFY LUNCH PACKING
Who says that you have to pack so many lunches? We love that our kiddos can assist in the packing process now that they are a bit older. We have created “lunch zones” in our pantries and fridges by filling containers and spin trays with healthy lunch items that our kiddos are able to grab as they pack.
ORGANIZE THE BATHROOM
In addition to doing a little edit of your kids’ closets (pulling outgrown clothing and restocking with well-fitting, seasonally-appropriate items), another great space to organize before school begins is their bathroom. Make sure that all everyday items have a designated space. Toothbrush, toothpaste, retainer… check!
Drawer organizers are the perfect tool to keep these bathroom items tidy. Remember, the easier it is to find (and use) these items, the easier those mornings and evenings will be for everybody!
READY YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
We’ve found that our kids are often more successful with a bit of structure, and morning routines are no different. Consider creating a general timeline for the start of the day that will set expectations for your children. What time do they need to wake up? Eat breakfast? Be ready to leave? (Pro Mom Tip = choose a time that’s at least 5 minutes before your actual required departure time to avoid any last-minute meltdowns).
Ensure that a copy of this schedule is visible for all members of your family so everyone is informed and can keep themselves accountable.
However you streamline your family’s back-to-school process this summer, we’re sending you good wishes for this new year ahead!
A version of this blog was published by our friends at Lonny Magazine. You can read the original article here.
It seems impossible to believe that we're already gearing up for the end of another school year!
With summer fast approaching, we're both beginning to prepare for sending our older kiddos to sleepaway camp. Packing up and bidding farewell to our not-at-all-babies-anymore brings such a flood of mixed emotions. We know that being away from home is such an amazing opportunity for our kids to foster independence, develop resiliency and create lifelong friendships and memories… but when the reality of getting ready for those blissful weeks away from home starts to set in, it can feel pretty daunting.
Fear not! Our Sleepaway Camp Preparation Guide + Checklist will help you feel perfectly in control of all the nitty gritty items that will prepare you and your happy campers for another season of adventure.
Joni + Kitt
It's important to note that each camp will have its own packing suggestions and regulations. Your camper might be traveling by car, bus or airplane — and all of this will impact how you go about packing.
We're sharing our Practically Perfect Packing List of non-clothing items that most campers will need to help you organize yourselves + your campers in these weeks leading up to camp. You can use our list as a starting point. We recommend breaking it down by the following categories: (1) things that you already own and can find around your house, (2) things that you might be able to borrow from friends and (3) items that you'll assuredly need to purchase. Don't delay — download it here and get started today!
To give you some extra motivation to get organized with camp packing, here is a list of our top 5 things to do now to prepare for camp this summer:
1. Buy An Easy-To-Pack Bag
We both own and love these duffle bags. They are high-quality, provide an amazing amount of space, fold up into a tiny profile for storage post-camp, and they have wheels. WHEELS!
These bags have proven to be easy for our kids to pack, easy for them to schlep around, and once they've unpacked at camp, they are very easy to stash away. You can also add your campers' name or monogram, which is great because EVERYTHING at camp needs to be labeled, labeled, labeled if there's any chance of it returning home.
2. Invest In Removable Labels
You knew this was coming! When it comes to packing for camp, everything needs to get labeled. Kids can be forgetful and, when they are away from home, maybe not so tidy. In order to ensure that your child doesn't come home with empty bags, get those labels on!
You can use the old fashioned Sharpie method, which is a great option for some items. But if you're like us and your kids' items are often reused by siblings or passed along to others, removable labels are your jam. We especially love these labels. They are completely customizable, easy to use and, of course, can be removed if needed. We're big fans.
And here's mini tip from two multitasking mamas… If you have loads of labels to apply and just a little time, this can be a great task for your kiddos to assist with!
3. Opt For Inexpensive Linens
We all know how easily and quickly items can become destroyed, especially at camp. As much as we always want to opt for high-quality products, we're also realistic about the fact that certain items might not endure the camp experience and be around for the years to come.
Unless you have old linens around the house that you're sure you never mind seeing again, we recommend snagging some sheets and towels from the clearance aisle at your local discount store. There are tons of places to procure these items, but we tend to start with TJ Maxx, Marshalls or Target.
Assuming that these make it back home with your campers (do the towels ever really make it home?!) designate them as 'camp gear' and store them with other camp-related items somewhere other than your linen closet so that they can be used for this exact purpose from year to year. We store ours in Weathertight Totes in our garages.
4. Involve Your Kids
Sometimes tasks that we find tedious can actually feel fun for our kiddos, especially when they are related to their camp experience! Involve your child in as much of the packing process as possible.
Have THEM grab the 20 pairs of socks that they need (and don't expect to ever see all of those again, either!) Lay everything out in one area of your house, and then have your kids assist you with placing the items into their bag so they know what they have and where to find it. They can also assist with folding (just show them our YouTube Folding Series for inspo!), packing of toiletries + more!
Making packing a group effort might just help minimize the stress of ALL THAT STUFF — and it will provide you all with some extra moments of quality time together before your kids head off to camp.
5. Make A Plan For Letters + Care Packages
Sometimes our kids are having such a blast at camp that writing letters home can go by the wayside. To make it as easy as possible for them to correspond, we recommend having your child pre-address + pre-stamp envelopes before they leave home. We know that we both check the mail religiously while our own kids are away, and we have found that making it as simple as possible to communicate with us makes it far more realistic that they actually will.
We highly recommend sending a letter or two before your kids leave for camp so that they will be waiting for them when they arrive!
In terms of summer camp care packages, here are some items that we recommend sending that are non-contraband (i.e. no candy!)
Card Games – a classic summer camp pastime
Mad Libs – a fantastic throwback that will keep your kids and their friends giggling
Nail Polish – to keep those dirty fingernails covered… kidding / not kidding!
Friendship Bracelets – because… summer camp!
If you're a planner or a parent who craves structure to your schedule, purchase your goodies and some padded envelopes early and have these packages labeled and ready to send before camp begins. Then when the kids are away, you can simply drop them one in the mail from time to time.
OUR MOST IMPORTANT TIP
Schedule some quality time with your kids before they leave. It's easy to fill the moments before your kids depart with last-minute preparations, but try to get ahead of the game so that you can enjoy some snuggle time before they depart. This is especially helpful for nervous kiddos and first-time campers.
Likewise, be sure to set aside some special one-on-one time when they return. It's an adjustment for the whole family when campers come home. And remember that emotions can run high when kids are overly-tired, missing their friends and mourning the end of spectacular summer experience.
We hope this guide has you feeling a bit less stressed about summer camp preparations. We're wishing you and your families sweet memories this summer + always!
This post was created in partnership with The Laundress. For more information, please read our disclosure agreement.
At Practically Perfect – with six kiddos among the co-founders’ families alone! – we love a good playroom project. From fort building and book nooks to craft corners and costumery, we’ve seen and organized it all. This month we had fun re-working a playroom with The Laundress’ newly-released line of home organization products.
We decided to tackle just a few areas of the playroom that needed the most love. If you’re looking for a short and sweet makeover, we recommend picking just one or two spots at a time — perhaps just the toy bins or the craft supplies, or simply an overstuffed shelf. This will you allow you the time to really dig in without becoming overwhelming.
Photo by Practically Perfect
This bookshelf is a true-to-life example of what a playroom looks like after kids actually play in it. As both professional organizers and moms, we wholeheartedly believe that creating a home for everything is essential to involving kids in clean up time — and we quickly recognized that The Laundress’ Storage Cubes would be a practical solution for these playroom shelves.
Photo by Practically Perfect
The storage cubes are the perfect size for storing collections of toys. We love how crisp and clean they look. And as lovers of all things labeling, we especially appreciate the built-in label pocket!
When labeling a play space, it’s important to take into account the ages and stages of the kiddos. We recommend including text and photos for pre-readers so that they can still be independent at play time as well as clean-up time. It’s also important to choose a labeling system that can is flexible and can be changed over time, as needed. As always, consider what would work best for your own kids!
Not only are these storage cubes super functional — they also look beautiful on the shelves!
When choosing containers for your spaces, be sure to consider both your household functionality and aesthetic preferences. Are your kids likely to put lids back onto bins, or is that not realistic? Would you prefer to see what’s in each container or keep everything tucked away? Follow your instincts! Whatever you decide, make sure that you’re selecting items that offer both function and fashion.
Photo by Practically Perfect
This photo was taken post-playdate, when the teepee and surrounding area had enjoyed some intense imagination time and soft materials and stuffed toys were strewn all about.
Photo by Practically Perfect
We always recommend playroom containers that are easy to empty and fill, to ensure a quick clean-up and happy kiddos. We found the Collapsible Hamper to be the ideal home for the oversized parachute and stuffed animal collection. It’s attractive enough that it doesn’t need to be stored out of sight when it’s in use, and the collapsibility is also a huge plus — we appreciate anything that takes up less space when it’s not in use.
We also love to find new uses for products, so we chose the Large Zip Laundry Bag to store pillows in. This bag felt like an easy way to transport fort building supplies from one space to the next. While traditionally used in a laundry room or linen closet, it’s versatile and neutral enough to use in this playroom, too!
Don’t be afraid to use products in out-of-the-box spaces or to repurpose them in creative ways. Consider a toolbox as an art supply organizer, food storage containers for beads or loose toys, a mail sorter as a homework station… the list goes on!
Photo by Practically Perfect
Dressing up is one of our kids’ favorite pastimes, and displaying adorable items is one of ours… so it made sense to also utilize a Collapsible Hamper to organize this collection of costumes.
We decided to display a few of the kids’ favorites on hooks for easy access — and also to up the cuteness factor! We often opt for hooks or bins when it comes to setting up organizing systems for costumes and dress-up clothing, as hangers tend to deter the little ones from tidying up. Dropping something onto a hook or into a bin can feel a lot less intimidating and time-consuming than wiggling it back onto a hanger.
And with that, three of our playroom spaces got a beautiful new refresh!
Remember to start small and be targeted in your organizing. What works for another home may not be best for yours. Your system just needs to be PRACTICAL and PERFECT for you!
We had a great time incorporating some pieces from this new line of products into this playroom. If you’re in the market for some quality cotton canvas products to help keep your playroom and home in order, head over to The Laundress for even more inspiration. And don’t forget to check out their eco-friendly laundry and cleaning products while you’re at it — you won’t be sorry!
This month, we’re partnering with a fantastic company, Iris, alongside one of our favorite fellow organizers, The Organized Mama, for a collaboration on some simple DIY solutions to help you prepare for the quickly-approaching back-to-school season. For those of you who haven’t even wrapped your brains around starting school again, please do not worry: there is still a full month of summer vacation left. It’s our nature to plan ahead — so these tips are ready for you to consume at your leisure (while you sip a cool drink by the pool?!)
If your households are anything like ours, the period of time from after school until bedtime can feel hectic and chaotic (we’d really like to channel some of this summer sweetness all year long). Naturally, we love any system that buys us a few extra minutes during an otherwise stressful part of our day — and helping our kids find more independence and responsibility is a huge bonus!
If your family’s schedule functions similarly to ours, if might look something like this:
Attend after-school lessons
Corral children into house, empty backpacks, empty lunch boxes
Feed grumpy children snacks (watch them transform into happier children)
Break-up sibling argument
Redirect back to homework
Eating dinner together
Clean up dinner
Oversee bath (read: shouting to the kids from the kitchen while you do dishes)
Oversee bedtime (ask children 3 times each if they brushed well)
Snuggle your kiddos (maybe briefly close your eyes)
Wrap up the 4,982 things that can only be done when children are sleeping
In short, our afternoons and evenings can lean toward exhausting and slightly crazy-making. However, we’ve found that the two following solutions have made our lives (and our kids’ lives) just a little bit easier during this part of the day.
The Snack Station
It can be an endeavor to create the a healthy, from-scratch, Pinterest-perfect snack that will make every child docile and agreeable, and let’s be real… who has time for that?
Nor do we always have the energy to negotiate and clarify that Nilla Wafers aren’t the best right before dinner, though we’ll concede they are delicious.
Our solution is a “Help Yourself” snack station – filled with parent-approved and ever-available for the hangry kiddo.
Photo by Practically Perfect
We highly recommend the Iris Stacking Storage Basket. Not only does it look lovely in a pantry or on a countertop — but it’s a space-saving storage solution that allows for easy accessibility.
Photo by Practically Perfect
For a distraction-free snack experience, (we parents completely know that opening the fridge and pantry can truly complicate the conversation of what healthy options are available that can be served quickly or on-the-run), we keep our “Help Yourself” stations in a designated space in our kitchens and only include packaged snacks that we approve of. These snacks can be enjoyed at home, on-the-go and can be added into a lunchbox in a pinch! A few of our favorite are listed below…
*Please note that we also keep fresh produce within our kids’ reach in our kitchens at all times. These are “anytime snacks” and can be enjoyed in lieu of or alongside a packaged snack. We like to call this “healthy snack merchandising.”
The Good Bean – the perfect balance of protein and crunch; a great chip alternative
Epic Meat Snacks – if you have an omnivorous family, we love these antibiotic-free bars and snacks that have no sugar, dairy or gluten
SeaSnax – a seaweed snack with only 3 ingredients (in the classic version) that is rich in minerals and sustainably harvested; another great chip/cracker alternative
Go Go Squeeze – on-the-go applesauce is a must, and this one takes the cake as it offers organic options and has no artificial flavors or preservatives
Packaged Nuts + Seeds (almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds are favorites around here) – available in snack-pack sizes at your local market… but feel free to make your own single-size servings using reusable containers of your choosing
Snack time… check!
The Homework Box
Are you ready to eliminate the daily digging through backpacks or sorting through your supply of art supplies?
We endeavor to keep homework time as easy and streamlined as possible, and creating these boxes for our families has been a huge help. A nod again to Iris, who has created a durable and stackable Modular Pencil Case – it’s one of our favorites!
Photo by Practically Perfect
So here’s the gist: each kid gets their own box, with all the homework supplies that they might need, from safety scissors and glue to pencil sharpeners and erasers, we put everything in each child’s container. This eliminates the (legitimate) need for our kids to get up from their workstations and minimizes the possibility of sibling rivalry because one child “stole” another child’s highlighter. In addition to this simply being handy, we find our kiddos are so much more accountable for their work when they can set themselves up and manage their own supplies.
The boxes are labeled with each child’s name (we let our kids label and decorate their own boxes so that they would feel more ownership), and are stacked — because these particular boxes stack beautifully — in the designated homework spot for easy access. We’re all about ease and practicality over here, if you haven’t noticed!
Photo by Practically Perfect
We use the exact same Modular Pencil Cases to create communal boxes filled with coloring supplies. We find that markers, crayons and colored pencils are more easily shared — and we love the consistency of the storage boxes, as they are all being stacked together in one place.
It’s really this simple. By creating two supply stations — one with healthy snack options and one with homework necessities — we have given our kids a bit more independence to empower them to stay on track during the school year. If your family is also looking to streamline afternoons a bit more, grab your Iris items and go forth!
The sun is out, the rain is (nearly) gone, and smells of summer are beginning to fill the air. The start of this new season also means the end of another school year, which means that armfuls of school projects are heading into your home…
Throwing away handmade art projects from your little Picasso can cause feelings of excess guilt. But we all know how quickly a home can become filled with paintings, macaroni art, adorably lopsided pottery, crayon-filled birthday cards and oh-so-much more. What’s a parent to do?
Instead of filling up yet another plastic storage bin with endless creations and keepsakes, we’ve found a beautiful solution that we implement for our clients and in our own homes. Move over refrigerator door, Artkive is here!
*If you’re thinking: “I don’t have kids — this post isn’t for me,” keep reading! There are fabulous offerings for storing your memories, too!
Artkive is an incredible app that allows you to turn an entire storage box of artwork into a sleek, beautiful and easy-to-store book. Think scrapbooking, but without the scissors, glue, glitter or stress!
Photos by Artkive
There are offerings that fit the bill for any household. You can choose to photograph your child’s creations yourself using the Artkive app or take advantage of their white glove concierge service, which allows you to mail your artwork and allow the experts at Artkive to capture it for you (this is our favorite offering!) If the idea of even creating is a book is too much for you, you can simply choose to digitize and store those precious works of art until you’re ready.
If you’re feeling like this might just be the (practically) perfect way for you to create some extra space in your home, we have a few tips below to help you get started:
1 – Don’t feel the need to include everything. Be selective and do a bit of editing before you start. You don’t need 5 pictures of rainbows drawn by your 5-year-old… just choose your favorite one. Only save items that have sentimental or historical value.
2 – You don’t have to make a book every year. It can feel tempting to create a charming little gallery book every school year but remember, the books will add up! Consider group art collections into sections such as pre-school, elementary school and junior high.
3 – Don’t stress about wear and tear. You can feel confident allowing your children to enjoy their art books. Artkive gives you the option to add all of your images onto a thumb drive or to keep them stored in the cloud, so you can always recreate a book in the event that a little one, or a furry one, decides to use it as a chew toy.
For those of you who don’t have school-age children, we still find Artkive to be a fantastic option for both decluttering your home and cherishing your memories.
Photo by Practically Perfect
Maybe you have a collection of meaningful concert tickets, playbills, and movie stubs that you’re not sure what to do with. Perhaps there are a few shoeboxes of old family letters you can’t imagine parting with but that are currently just living a lonely life on a shelf. Whatever the items, creating an Artkive book is a simple and special way of cherishing them.
And if you weren’t swayed already, Artkive is currently offering Practically Perfect readers and followers $15 off their order. Just use the code Practically Perfect.
Give your home a little breathing room… and feel free to break out the crayons all summer long!
Photo by Artkive
*Practically Perfect organizing clients receive additional special offers and discounts. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We’d love to help you organize your memories!
My kids start back to school next week, and I am completely in awe of how fast this summer flew by! I truly wish that I could press a magical pause button. But since I can't stop time, I am simply going to do my best to prepare my family for the season to come. Alas, I'm sharing the three things that I'm doing during the final week of summer to start the school year off as successfully as possible.
1. Shop Smartly
Don't buy what you don't need. This is a reminder for those of us who love back-to-school shopping (is there anything better than a package of fresh pencils?!) Through the years, I have learned to take detailed inventory of what we own before heading to Target, in an effort to avoid buying what we already own or more than what we'll actually need for the upcoming year. This might seem obvious, but it's a really important reminder. It's far easier to stay organized when you have less stuff to keep in order! This goes for clothes and shoes, too. Before I shop for anything new, I am sure to do a thorough edit of my kids' closets and dressers to avoid buying items that they really don't need.
Buy fewer, buy better. Last year, I splurged on adorable Pottery Barn Kids backpacks with matching lunch boxes for all of my kids, and I have been so throughly impressed with their quality. I have washed all 3 backpacks and lunch boxes regularly on a gentle cycle in my washing machine to keep them fresh, and they look brand new, even after a year of washing and some pretty serious wear and tear by my 4, 6 and 8-year-olds. This is the first summer that I am not buying new backpacks and lunch boxes, and I am thrilled about the savings!
Label everything. As the Lost & Found committee chair of my kids' school, I can tell you that you are far more likely to reconnect with lost items if you have labeled them. I love Label Daddy's customized labeling products. I use them to label my kids' clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, sports gear and more. Label Daddy is currently running a Back to School sale. Use promo code SCHOOL at checkout.
2. Say Thank You In Advance
As a former teacher, I know how exciting yet extremely exhausting the first week of school can be. So as a mom, I always go out of my way to do a little something to show our family's appreciation. When I was a child, my mom used to send me with an apple for my teacher on the first day of school. While this might feel old fashioned, I actually love the sentiment of showering my kids' teachers with love on day one... and fresh fruit is such a sweet (pun intended!) idea. I have also given my kids' teachers a gift card to Starbucks on the first day of school with a "coffee's on us this first week" note. Another incredible way of showing support right off the bat is to offer to purchase supplies and/or volunteer in your child's classroom. Be sure to let teachers know if you have special interests or talents.
3. Make Memories
Even if you're reading this just a few days before school is about to begin, there's still time to make one final summer memory. If there is something you've wanted to do all summer but haven't gotten around to... do it today! It doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Go for a bike ride, make a lemonade stand or watch a movie. If your family has had a favorite activity this summer (for us, it was bracelet-making)... do that one final time. Once homework and enrichment activities begin, it will be harder to remember to carve out time for these special moments. Perhaps you will even start a new back-to-school family tradition. The day before my daughter started kindergarten, we ate sushi as a special lunch date marking the last day of her summer vacation. She remembered doing this and, before first grade started, she asked to go back to the same restaurant again. Next Monday, we'll continue the trend - four years and counting. I love how this family tradition emerged organically, from my daughter's memory of a sweet summertime moment.
Here's hoping that you can squeeze a few more moments of sweetness and lasting memories out of the final days of summer.
Wishing your family an easy transition into the new school year!
Summer is in full swing, which likely means you're gearing up to host or attend a 4th of July celebration very soon. Hopefully your plans include getting outdoors and soaking up some sunshine. If so, we've got a few cool and refreshing crowd-pleasing treats that couldn't be easier to make. We love both of these holiday-themed goodies because they are incredibly easy to make. Each treat only has two ingredients -- and they can be prepared and assembled in about two minutes each, as well. They're kid and parent approved on all counts: the little ones can essentially assemble them on their own, they're undeniably delicious, and one of them is even nutritious! We've prepped a shopping list here for you - so that's even one less step... Need we convince you any further to make both of these right away?
Here's hoping that these help you to stay cool and add a little fun to your 4th of July celebration!
As professional organizers and lovers of all things ordered, we deeply desire to have controlled households of our own -- but having three children each makes this an nearly impossible task.
When our preschoolers wake up in the morning, we don't know whether they'll be superheroes or pirates; paleontologists or soccer players... but we can set up their playrooms so that there are capes on hooks, swords in a basket, dinosaurs collected neatly in a box and soccer balls in a sports bin. And we're fulfilled by the confidence that they can explore anything their hearts desire.
When our school-aged children open their closets, we can't predict whether they'll require the comfort of their softest pants, desire the confidence that they feel wearing their fanciest dress -- or if they won't want to get dressed at all... but we can organize their closets so that all of the choices are clear and abundant, and so that their favorite items are right where they expect them to be. And we can be waiting to embrace their warm, pajama-clad bodies when they melt right down into our arms, overwhelmed with the possibilities and not really ready to make a decision at all. And we can do that with the reassurance that once they do know what they need, we'll be able to find it quickly so that we can continue on with the rush of the morning -- but not before they are ready to leave our arms.
When we walk into our toddlers' bedrooms, we simply smile. They collect blocks in the diaper pail, hoard books underneath their cribs and often deposit unmatched socks into the kitchen trash can. And so, we let their rooms go a bit. We'll organize them later. It's good to have aspirations of future projects, anyway.