The Pre- Back to School Ritual that every Mom needs to know
While sandy suitcases and tattered beach towels may still be visible, there is one event that you will want to schedule before that much anticipated (or dreaded, whichever the case may be) first day of school arrives.
My FaceBook feed is already filling with the reluctantly smiling faces of my Southern friends’ kids. Here in the north, we have a few more days. As vacations come to an end, the mosquito bites may still be fresh but our girls are itching from something much more important. They need to go find that perfect back to school outfit. But before you head out on your shopping adventure:,
Set a "Get our Room Ready" Date
Have you ever come back from a productive day of school shopping to find drawers full, closets stuffed, forgotten items that she was “growing in to”? I sure have! It’s really (really, really, I mean really) hard to not get mad when you have graciously purchased everything that she "absolutely" needs to have the best year ever, and her room is a disaster. Or worse yet, it looks decent on the surface (because you told her it had to be clean to take her shopping) only to find things jammed in the closet which you are now in direct contact with as you help her put her fabulous new wardrobe away?
I believe that there should be 4 ritual purges of our daughters’ rooms.
1. Before the beginning of the new school year
2. Before her birthday
3. Before Christmas (if you celebrate.)
4. At the end of the school year
Why? Because girls like stuff. Because girls hold on to stuff. By teaching them to have a healthy relationship with their stuff, it sets them up for more happiness down the road. And, as an added benefit, there is less frustration and confrontation between you two.
Now I am not talking about a dreaded closet cleaning? No!
I'm talking, mock-tails, eating, planning, dreaming, cleaning, shopping-
Creating a Ritual to Make Life Easier Going Forward
Imagine how much easier and faster it would be if you both had something to gain?
First, make a date. A real date, on the calendar. And then plan the day.
The end reward needs to be more than just school shopping. She knows that you were going to do that any way. Schedule lunch or brunch for afterward at a “nicer than usual” restaurant that she loves. Pick up a gift before the day begins. My favorite— a beautifully wrapped journal with a handwritten note or some sweet earrings. Something special and maybe a little unexpected. Don’t give it to her until you’re all done cleaning (but before you head out shopping-that’s important.) If she gave you some attitude, she will start to see that this was ultimately for her.
What delicious bakery treat might you want to pick up ahead of time to get you pumped up for the productivity that follows?
Mix up a fabulously, fun Mock-tail that you will be serving in good glasses. Even garnish your drinks if that’s your thing.
(Here are some yummy ideas: https://www.thespruceeats.com/delicious-mocktail-recipes-4169329 (Number 14 was just made for this activity!!!)
While you eat and drink your yummy celebration treats, toast to the adventures ahead and then set your intentions for what you both would like to accomplish. Now don’t be discouraged if she’s not as into this ritual as you. Go at with the gusto and the positivity as if she were. Because hormones make girls naturally skeptical and grumpy. It's biology.
What you will need:
- A good sized bag or bin for donations if you don’t have a permanent one in each closet already. (Great tip that I got from a professional organizer.)
- A GIANT (contractor-size) garbage bag. Even if you don’t fill it up, it makes the “when in doubt, throw it out” attitude much easier
- A couple of shoeboxes or shoebox-size boxes
- A Manila file folder or 2
- A notepad and pen
Begin in the Closet--worst first, so that you can get it over with
At the bottom. Make sure last year’s backpack isn’t crammed in there full of stuff. It could be scary (and explain that smell you have been smelling.) I was never a “buy a new backpack every year” mom. If it was in good condition, it was getting reused. But that is my own personal opinion. If a backpack is in good condition, giving it a good cleaning and adding it to the donation pile is a commendable action. Save the cleaning for when you're done, whether you’re donating or reusing. Just empty it and throw it in the bathroom sink and keep moving. Put any salvageable pencils, pens, crayons, etc. into one of the shoeboxes. But if the backpack smells and the zippers are broken, pitch the whole thing and be grateful that you splurged on contractor bags!!!
[Helpful tip: “Krud Kutter” is a great cleaner because it gets the pencil and most ink marks out and can make it look brand new.]
Now search for shoes with missing mates and other lost souls (I avoided the bad pun there) because they accumulate on the closet floor. Add any writing utensils to the shoebox. This box will go to school for her teacher's classroom supplies. Her teacher will appreciate it. It will result in less out of pocket costs for her teacher to ensure that her students have what they need to succeed. You already know that you want to buy new ones anyway. Separate out hair ties and have her put them away. (Now you can cross hair-ties off the shopping list!)
If there are any papers or mementos that she (or you-but be careful) want to keep, add them to the folder and make a note of what you intend to do with them. Put the date of last school year (2018-2019) as the date on the folder.
Then on to the Clothes!
Be realistic. No matter the emotional attachment she (or you) have to something, if it barely fits her now, it won’t fit in a couple of months. If she hasn’t hit puberty yet, she is in super growth mode. If she has, you are a little bit safer (but she is probably not expressing her joy of this Mom Date and appears to be enjoying this way less than you at this point!). And be fair. If the tags are still on something, use it as a bonding moment. This no time for lectures. Remind her that we have ALL bought things that we didn’t like nearly as much when we got them home. (And if it was a gift from “Great Aunt Mary” send Aunt Mary blessings and a silent word of gratitude for her good intentions and terrible taste in clothes.) And send it to the recycle bag/bin.
To the Dresser Drawers!
I always cut up beloved out-grown or stained T-shirts into dust rags. It adds a little nostalgic joy to dusting. Keep a couple of ratty underwear for “period underwear.” She will REALLY appreciate that advice down the road. As you go through, remind her that if she doesn’t love it, it should move on.
UGH!-we are almost there!
Take a swipe under the bed, carefully. Again, this isn’t a time for lectures. It is a time to prepare for the exciting/anxious times ahead. You guys can start to have an honest conversation about how to improve the room’s functionality. And if she has ideas on how to better use her space: then LISTEN!!
Clean Out the Desk and Bookcase
File any papers or pictures that she wants to hang on to. Donate books with no emotional value. Because this makes room for new goodness to come in. Important Note: Set aside an open space on the bookshelf for things she wants to read or learn or draw or write. Give the desk a thorough cleaning/dusting. Thank it for supporting her through the challenges and opportunities of the coming year.
Update the Shopping List
Add to your list any items or notes that either of you thinks would make her room serve her better. Avoid thoughts about what I refer to as“minuscule organizers,” like baskets, that we all know don’t get used down the road. Think bigger. Is the lighting adequate? Does she need higher shelves to display things? Does she need space to create?
If you drop off donations on the way to your celebratory lunch (or ice cream, or Starbucks- whatever your date included) it is a great way to bring your event full circle. It feels really productive and freeing for your both. Especially if the plan is to head out shopping after lunch! Order your lunch. Give her the gift. Ask her if she has any goals or anxieties about the year? She might just shrug, but she will know that you are there when she is ready to talk.
Through the whole process, there should be music. There could be dancing (which comes with eye rolls). There is no formula. Just give yourselves the opportunity to enjoy each other, doing something that neither of you had any desire to do.
Here's to a great school year, my friend!
***If you have a back to school ritual that kicks off the year that you guys look forward to, share it with us in the comments! We would all love to hear about it***
And if her room no longer works as well as it should, even after the cleanout, please reach out. I have 4 girls worth of mom experience and dozens of design clients that I have helped transform their rooms into personalized + functional rooms that inspire them.