By Lorie Marrero

Ready for the kids to be back on a regular schedule? New routines and classes can make for a challenging adjustment from a relaxed summer pace. Let your home support you in your transition by establishing the following four stations for commonly needed functions:

1. Get out of the door faster every morning with a “Destination Station.” Set up your Destination Station at the place where you most often enter and exit the house. Every home can utilize this concept, whether you repurpose a piece of furniture like a sideboard or bureau in a hallway, add some sturdy hooks and shelving to a wall, repurpose a coat closet, or use a dedicated mudroom. This station provides a home for all of the comings and goings of a busy family, like backpacks, purses, briefcases, and phones. Phone chargers can be helpful here, along with a shelf for errand items such as library books and store returns. Develop the habit of hanging up keys here on hooks or stowing them in a bowl. Each evening you can place everything here to be ready to leave the next morning.

2. Make homework time a happier time with an “Education Station.” This station is a place to centralize school supplies and create a space that feels comfortable and functional for working on those dreaded math worksheets. If you have a desk or table dedicated for studying, that’s ideal, but if your kids like using the kitchen table, make it easier to clear off for meals with some clever containers. A shower caddy can hold frequently used supplies like pencils, pens, calculators, and rulers, and the handle makes it easy to grab and move quickly. A rolling cart of plastic drawers can serve up supplies and get “parked” in a nearby closet when not needed. Make sure you have a pencil sharpener, erasers, paper, a surge protector strip, and good lighting.

3. Combat confusion with a “Communication Station.” Make sure you’re ready for the accelerated activities of the school year by having a place for shared information, including phone numbers, grocery lists, and schedules. A Communication Station can be as simple as a bulletin board in a high-traffic area or as formal as a built-in kitchen desk. Elements of this station may include:

  • Paper and pens for notes
  • Trays, cubbies, or bins for each family member’s mail and messages, if needed
  • Family calendar, I recommend a large paper calendar, since dry erase versions don’t allow you to refer back to the history, such as when your last dental appointment
  • Grocery list and menu plans
  • Posting space, use a corkboard, magnet board or similar display area to keep current information
  • Family Binder, this binder is like “Command Central” for the most frequently-needed information. Use a 3-ring binder for school bus schedules, medical reference information, school policies, and often needed phone numbers
  • You can also consider using a shared online calendar for these functions

4. Move it on out with a “Donation Station.” Back-to-school time means buying new school clothes and taking stock of the clothing that may have been outgrown. As a result, you might have lots of clothing to donate. Oftentimes, items for donation just end up sitting neglected in your closets. Setting up a permanent area where donations can be gathered allows you to make decisions about your stagnant stuff and get those items pulled out of circulation. Keep paper sacks, shopping bags, or cardboard boxes in a corner of a closet, on a shelf, or even in the trunk of your car to gather your donations before taking a load to your nearest Goodwill. Also, you may want to keep a clipboard with paper and a pen close by if you want to make a list of donated items for tax deduction purposes. Just as there are things we recycle, there are things we donate, it’s a planet-friendly habit that keeps billions of pounds out of landfills and helps people in your own community with training and other job-related services.

Lorie Marrero is a certified professional organizer and bestselling author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life.