Tuesday, August 27, 2013

86 Back To School Organization

I know we are a bit late to the Back to the School game, however, school doesn't start until next week here in good ol' Wisconsin.  And I am in no rush to send my daily buddies back, so it has been a bit of a challenge switching gears around here.

But it had to be done.  I like to prepare a week or two ahead of time with things, so when the first day of school finally does arrive, it isn't complete chaos.

Not too much has changed when it comes to our systems with organizing and back to school, however, there were a few things that we tweaked from last year, in hopes of an even smoother year this year.

First up, a lunch station.

Two years ago we created a lunch station for our fridge.  It was a sammy makin' kit, and also had some sides, all in one place.  We have loved this system like crazy since the day we implemented it.



The basket contains fresh fruit and veggies, sliced cheese, lunch meat and dips and spreads.


Since it was working so very well, this year I questioned why we didn't do something similar for the dry portion of the lunch packing and making.  We had sammy cutters and apple slicers in the drawer, a basket for breads and a basket for snacks in the pantry, lunch boxes in the kid's cubbies.... everything was scattered and although the basket in the fridge rocked, the rest of the system still seemed a little silly.

So I analyzed our cabinets and there is one that is typically a thorn in my side and is where we keep the kid's containers for their lunch boxes... along with other random items that we use for entertaining....


I guess I should have offered up a bit of warning before opening and sharing this awful cabinet.  So many items that are only used every once in awhile, and it all just gets stuffed where there is an opening.  I always duck when I open the cabinet... just in case....

So I took everything out, and decided to reclaim the cabinet as our new kid's cabinet/lunch making station.


SO much better.  And it seems simple enough to maintain now.  All of the entertaining items, are now sitting on top of our sideboard in the dining room, waiting for a home.  Don't you just love how one organizing project trickles to another?

But back to the lunch cabinet.  I added washi tape and labels to the shelves to help the entire family stay on the same page, since we will all be using the cabinet.


The middle shelf holds all of the containers for the lunch boxes.  Dividers and sandwich keepers and their thermoses.  I also tossed napkins and sammy cutters there as well, instead of in the drawers below.


The bottom shelf holds a basket with breads, wraps, crackers and peanut butter.  Those are the sammy making items.


And the containers next to the basket hold the dry side items.  Although we also use some of those items for snacks, I divided them out to keep some in this cabinet as well.  That way, it is all in one happy place.


The top shelf holds all of the lunch boxes now, and stackable bins for some of the smaller things like...


Blank note cards and pens for writing little love notes to stick in their lunches.  Yeah, I am that mom....


Smaller utensils which fit nicely within their lunch boxes.


And reusable snack baggies, which are great for fruits, veggies and even dry snacks.

I also added some chalkboard vinyl on the inside of the cabinet {which is just a temporary option should I ever not want it there any longer}, so that we can write our lunch ideas and menu options there.

SO much better, and the cabinet actually has a purpose now!  Wahoooooooo!


A few other things we did to get ready, is go through all of the boys clothing.  This is the time of the year that I like to do an inventory, sort through hand-me-downs and see if the boys need any anything for school.


I counted every last item for each boy, did an inventory, and made a list for any items that needed to be purchased.  That way, I am not going out shopping blindly and overspending on items we don't need.

We use the kid's closet to plan their weekly outfits during the school year, this worked pretty well last year so we are going to stick with it again this year.


We also dug out the morning and bedtime routine printables, and stuck them up in the boy's bedroom near their closet.


We started the routine a week before school starts, just to be sure, again, that we are all set for next Tuesday morning!

The final item we tweaked this year is the boy's study boxes, which live within their school cubbies.


The cubbies have also been working really really well for us.  We clip all notes and papers that need attention for each boy, on the clipboard hanging from the door.


The baskets worked great for wet boots and winter items, and the backpacks are never lost in the morning when the bus drives up.


The idea with the study boxes, is that when it is homework time, each boy takes their personal box to the table to work from.  It has all of the tools they need for homework, so there are no excuses or delays when it is time to get things done.


However, they very quickly became messy, and after I corralled all of the school supplies within a pencil pouch, they suddenly went missing and ended up in the car, and at grandma's and anywhere else the kiddos wanted to craft....  So when it was time to do homework, they still didn't have all of their items.

So this year, I found dollar silverware organizers at Target, and stuck them inside of the box.


The organizers keep the supplies nice and separate so they are not all mixed at the bottom of the box, yet not portable enough for them to go missing a week after use.  Winner winner!  I even managed to find supplies in three different colors, so each boy will always know which supplies belong to which boy.


The box is large enough that I also stick a notebook right on top, so there is scratch paper at homework time.  Love it.

As far as storing papers I want to cherish and keep throughout the year, I am still loving our school paperwork system.  For artwork, I have fallen in love with the Artkive iPhone app.


So there you have it.  A round up of the few items we have been doing this past couple of days to prepare for the BIG day next week.  And you can bet, I am savoring every last second with my boy's this week.  I think I am empty nesting.  The house is never the same when they are all gone throughout the day....


Psssst!  You can find all school related posts here.

86 comments:

  1. You are speaking my language! I love everything about this post!

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  2. I have just hopped out of bed in Australia and read your wonderful post. I am inspired to re organise my lunch spaces. After making school lunches for my children for the past 13 years this is just the inspiration I needed to revamp and reorganise. Thank you.
    Julie :-)
    Mrs Stowe's Kinder Cottage

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  3. I am swooning and I don't even have kids! This looks awesome and can totally be used for work outfits and work lunch planning as well. Thanks Jen!

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  4. Where did you buy your boy's cute book shelves?





    Alicia G

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alicia!

      They are wooden spice racks from Ikea which I painted red :)

      xo,
      Jen

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  5. Fantastic job once again Jen. Ours are now out of the house, but I remember those days well. Anything to help keep things rolling smoothly is a bonus!

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  6. Love this post. I need to do an inventory of my son's clothes so I can keep costs down.

    Where did you get the clear plastic containers from?

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  7. Sigh.... Can you be my best friend and organize my house with your pretty colors and labels? Pretty please??

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    Replies
    1. Sounds like my idea of a good time!! ;)

      xo,
      Jen

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  8. I love it! I do have a question though, how do you make sure you get everything back at the end of the day? Whats your routine when you get it all back? Wash with dinner dishes and then just pack again? Do you always pack at the end of the day?

    Thank you!

    Amanda

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    Replies
    1. Yep! At the end of the day the dishes go into the sink or dishwasher and cleaned up when we clean up after dinner. I try to pack at night, but sometimes I just do it in the morning while the kids wat their breakfast.

      xo,
      Jen

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  9. I love the containers that have the dry snacks in with the blue lids. Where did you get them? Thanks

    Ila@liksprinklesofjoy.blogpsot.com

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    Replies
    1. Hi!
      They are from the container store: http://containerstore.com/mt/www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/foodStorage/canisters?productId=10029789&N=74062&Nao=12&Ns=p_sort_default%7C0

      xo!
      Jen

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    2. Thanks Jen. I'm a frequent guest of the container store and was just getting ready to place an order there. As a mom to 3 boys also, I'm always looking for ways to keep this house in order.

      Delete
  10. We do a lot of the same things for school year organization (we're in MN so I totally get the "everyone else is in school before us" thing!) LOVE the school cubbies!

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  11. Geniales ideas
    http://encalcetines.blogspot.com.es/

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  12. Jen,

    I love the school lunches idea, and I am a home-schooling mama. However, from the few years when my son went to school away from home, I know very well the frantic lunches made early in the morning, or the trying to figure out how to make a nice lunch the night before (yea right!).

    Last year was our first year at home, and I had no idea I'd still be flustered each day about lunch! I guess I figured that lunch would just happen all by itself? But I found myself spending way too much time standing in front of the fridge while the clock ticked, wondering what to do for lunch that day, and trying with no plan to put together something worthwhile and wholesome. I just realized (literally, as I was reading your post) that your plan absolutely can be done in a home-schooled situation too. I guess I just don't have to pack anything. I am so happy for this idea. Thank you so much, and have a great year! -Anita Y. in Southern California

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    Replies
    1. Oh wonderful! I agree, it can totally work for homeschooling as well. We used the lunch kit in the fridge all summer and loved it, I assume the lunch making cabinet will live on for the next bunch of years to be used on weekdays, weekends, school days, summer days.... :)

      xo,
      Jen

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  13. Love all your ideas! My fave is your fridge! Makes sense to keep all the healthy lunches and snacks in little baggies ready to go!

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  14. Love it all Jen! However, I did about have an anxiety attack looking at it all bc I don't know where to start :)))
    Where did u get the gorgeous fridge liners???
    --- Holly

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    Replies
    1. I know the answer to this because I read a previous post where she showed them, and just had to get them for my own fridge. They are called fridge coasters and can be found at http://fridgecoaster.com/ :)

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    2. Thanks Michelle! And yep, Fridge Coasters! :)

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  15. What are your favorite lunchbox supplies?

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    Replies
    1. I use two different types of containers, depending on what we are packing. The EasyLunchBoxes {http://www.easylunchboxes.com/}, are great for days I send wraps or cheese and crackers or even pasta salad, and dry sides {although, I think they leak a smidge with watery sides. I also like using the sandwich cases for sandwiches, paired with the reusable snack bags. It just depends on what I am packing and how much. :) We recently switched to the thermoses so the kids can keep their milk or juice cold until lunch, or so I have the option of sending soup.

      xo!
      Jen

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  16. FINALLY someone who understands me. I feel like I am the only mom in America that isn't ready to send their kids off to school. I miss them when they aren't home. Happy to find another mom like me. :)

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    Replies
    1. Awww, I think a lot of moms feel that way {although, the peace for a few hours during the day is pretty nice also!}. It is just a different feeling when they aren't around, and it also means I have to work more and play less ;)

      xo!
      Jen

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  17. Yay! i was hoping for a post like this to help me get my school cabinet together. thanks jen! I feel the same way about empty nesting and i still have a toddler at home - when my two oldest go to school the house is just so different without them here - i feel like i have the back to school blues but i'm the MOM! i think there will be some homeschooling in my future ;-)
    love your blog!! xoxo

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  18. Love! Wish you could come to my house and organize everything....

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  19. how you put your son name on the their bags? you did it yourself?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Fizah!

      I ordered the back packs like that a few years ago from Pottery Barn Kids {I always order at the end of a school year when back packs are on clearance}. We still love them, although, my oldest is "so over" having his name plastered across his backpack. :D

      xo,
      Jen

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  20. Now I feel really stupid, 'cause it has never even crossed my mind that the morning/bedtime routine could be made easier with little organization.. But tomorrow I'm going to try some of your wonderful ideas! :)

    Sokru
    sokerimursu.blogspot.fi 

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  21. Amazing and inspiring post! I immediately started cleaning my daughters closet!! Lol

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  22. Love seeing my containers stacked so nicely in your cabinets Jen! I actually spent last night with my girls in their shared bedroom filling 2 trash bags full of giveaways and another 2 of trash (!) This is the only room in the house that needs this kind of "work". I am trying as hard as I can to get them to care about living in a neat and tidy space... making headway with them, slowly but surely. You are SUCH an inspiration. Thanks for the great pics :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kelly! We still love our lunch boxes!!

      xo,
      Jen

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  23. Um, wow.

    I'm so impressed.

    I may be adapting some of these great ideas for my family - thanks for sharing!

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  24. Mom of 3 boys here as well. Where did you get the chalkboard vinyl for the pantry? Love your organization! My boys are little, so not in school yet, but will use this when they are. Thanks for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. My chalkboard vinyl was from the Silhouette USA online shop from a previous project, however, I believe you can get it in the form of contact paper for less at home improvement stores or even on amazon.

      xo!
      Jen

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  25. I love the lunch-making station. I'm putting one together this week now that you've clued me in...

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  26. I don't even have kids, but I love your lunch organization system. I'm a teacher and struggle with packing my lunch because it's always a last minute thing....but I think I'll try doing something like this to motivate me to pack a healthy lunch more often. It will be way cheaper than heading out to lunch or having something delivered! Thanks for sharing this fantastic idea! :)

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    Replies
    1. Jen I love your streamlined system. Takes the chaos out of the daily grind. Your boys are going to have to find wives who are absolutely perfection after the example you set! You'll be a "hard act to follow", as they say.

      Could you please tell me where you got the clear containers w/ the little holes in them? Thank you so much!

      Karen

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    2. Thanks so much sweet gals!

      Karen, the small clear tray baskets were from the dollar spot at Target. :)

      xo,
      Jen

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  27. You are such a genius!!! I wish I was half as organized as you. Thanks for all the great ideas and maybe one day we'll get there :)

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  28. swooning at that lunch making system. I desperately need to implement something like that for myself for uni!!

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  29. I have the same silverware organizer in the top drawer of my night table, but I bought the pink one. I houses my pens, some of my regular nail trimming utensils, my charging cords (for Playbook and Kobo)and a few other items. I love it! I currently don't have an open Target in the city I live in (small-town Canadian city in Ontario) but it will be opening its doors shortly so I'll have to run in and get a few more once it does! Great idea for using it in the homework box (which I am doing for my kidlets this year!)!

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    Replies
    1. Ooh! love how you used the silverware organizer! Thanks for the tip!

      xo,
      Jen

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  30. Lovely post, Jen. I have 2 boys, myself (well 3 if u count my husband). it gets crazy in the mornings how much ever I try to be organized. Can you tell me where I could find those reusable lunch bags.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Radhika!

      I found mine on Etsy, tons of options there! :)

      xo!
      Jen

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  31. Brilliant ideas Jen! I love the idea of dedicating on cupboard to kiddies. Save so much time I'm sure! I'll have to try it out before we start back to school next Tuesday! Question - did you DIY those piggy bookends? I'm in love!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      The piggy bookends were from CB2 earlier this year: http://www.cb2.com/gold-pig-bookends-set-of-2/s316059?a=501&device=c&network=g&matchtype=

      xo,
      Jen

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  32. Great post. I also have all my lunch making items in one area and it sure makes things much easier

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  33. So inspired to make a "lunches" basket container for my fridge!!! Lovely!!!!!
    Ursula, blogger at
    http://kraftmint.com
    {a journal of modern crafts}

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  34. I just purchased some Easy Lunchboxes this year and noticed you have some as well. Ours are working great so far, but I'm wondering what lunch bags your boys use to hold them? We have two different kinds of lunch bags - one fits the easy lunchbox easily and the other not so much. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Christen!

      One of the boys uses one similar to this one: http://www.landsend.com/products/solid-featherlight-lunch-box/id_254905

      And the other two have been using this type: http://www.potterybarnkids.com/products/fairfax-lunch-bag-green/?pkey=e|lunch|71|best|0|viewall|24||7&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-Top_Marketing_Rule-_-

      Both options fit the Easy Lunchboxes and have been working well for us. :)

      xo,
      Jen

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  35. love love your idea! Cant wait to use them for my baby!

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  36. Just so you know, your weekly clothes link goes to your packing lunches post. Might want to fix that. :)

    Other than that, I found this post helpful and inspiring. Thanks!

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  37. Absolutely love this post! We have the snack stations in the fridge and pantry and they have made our lives wayyyy easier. Haven't thrown out a bit of wasted produce since switching over! Thank you!

    Jaime
    The Year of Frugal Living
    http://yearoffrugalliving.blogspot.com/

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  38. I love the lunch stations. So, last year for my son's first school year, I think about a month in he realized the hassle of making lunches (since I was un-organized) and asked to switch to school lunches :( This year he wants to bring his own lunch and I want to be organized enough to pull it off! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    Off to add washi tape to the front edge of all my cupboard shelves!!!

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  39. Love all your cool ideas! I did something similar to make lunch-making easier at our house too. Every Sunday night, I make snack baggies in Ziplock snack bags and store them in a cute basket in our pantry. I also make ones for the fridge with cheese, fruit, veggies and hard-boiled eggs. We can make lunches now in a snap!

    Love your blog!! Thanks for sharing!
    Chauncey
    ciancifamily.blogspot.com

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  40. Wow. There are so many great ideas in this post. Thank you very much.

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  41. Jen,

    How often do you re-fill the lunch making station? Especially with the fresh produce? This is a great post not just for kids but adults striving to eat healthier as well :) I've also seen those re-useable lunch bags at Target in the dollar section so everyone be on the look out for those at your Target :)

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  42. Oh goodness... You know- I don't have kids yet let alone kids going back to school and still I look at this and think, "I could totally make this work for my boyfriend and I in our daily routine!!" Ugh! Every time I stop by here my little OCD heart goes pitter patter. I just bought my house a year ago now and being at the point that I can go back into each room and really get things organized to the extent I dream of just makes me so excited!! And I always know I can come here for amazing ideas! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    *Krystina
    By the Seat of My Shorts

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  43. Your lunch-making stations have me really re-thinking how I make lunches. I love that you have the cold items together and the dry items together. It makes so much sense!

    Also, you've given me some great ideas for organizing my children's homework area better. Thank you!

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  44. Jen,

    I loved the post today, as my daughter (Kindergarten) starts next week and I'm super anxious about keeping up a good lunch system.

    I will definitly be trying to find an area in the kitchen for such a system as your cupboard (we have already implemented the lunch in fridge station, but have called it the snack station, as if someone is hungry between meals only those things in the container is of an option to eat vs. junk food potentially found elsewhere :P)


    I did want to ask, do your boys not have drink containers? I plan on doing a juicebox/waterbottle with juice/milk in it, plus a brita water bottle, but I see those type of drink containers aren't in your cupboard, unless they are in lunchpails or hiding behind your thermoses?


    Samantha

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    Replies
    1. Update: I have a small microwave card in our kitchen, with one little lonely shelf I have set up a large container to hold all the drink/food containers inside, leaving enough room for lunch boxes to the side of it.

      Thanks for the inspiration!

      Delete
  45. Great ideas! Bookmarking for when I have kids! Love it! Great colors too!
    http://youngnasawife.blogspot.com/

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  46. I have to say that EVERYTHING about this post makes me so happy. I want to pin everything!!!

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  47. Can I just say that I love your blog? Because I do. I really do. Thank you for inspiring me to kick this school year off right by being more organized!

    xx
    youngmildandfree.wordpress.com

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  48. Such awesome ideas - as usual! My little guy is only two, so I've been skipping most of the back to school posts on other blogs. I knew I had to check yours out. As usual, you delivered on inspiring me to organize. I'm going to get on the kitchen closet and get that sucker organized [finally!!]. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  49. Such great ideas as always! I followed the link to the bedtime and morning routines, but they take me to a page prompting me to sign in. I desperately need help in that chaos filled area!

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    Replies
    1. Ack! Sorry about that! I just fixed them. You can also find links on my Free Printables tab: http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/p/free-printables.html

      xo!
      Jen

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  50. I just LOVE all of your organizing techniques and how you keep everything orderly! It's SO impressive!!

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  51. Hello I'm a newbie to your blog and I have SO MUCH work to do on my own home! I'm interested in how you take inventory of your kids' clothes? We receive a lot of hand-me-downs and I get overwhelmed on knowing what and how much of everything my kids need. Any help would be appreciated! LOVE your blog!
    Emily

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    Replies
    1. Hi Emily!

      It really wasn't anything fancy or technical. I used a scrap piece of paper and listed each boy across the top. Down the left side, I listed each type of clothing {long sleeve, short sleeve, pants, shorts, sweatshirts, dress shirts/pants, etc...}

      Then, I tallied each clothing item on the sheet. I had the boys try on items that were questionable size wise, and placed clothing within each boy's pile in which it belonged {many items from my middle child were handed down to my youngest, and many of my oldest son's clothes were handed down to my middle guy}. Once I had the new clothing count, went down the list and assigned a number to each clothing type, which would be ideal for each boy to have {x amount of short sleeves, x amount of long sleeves, x amount of dress pants, etc..} and compared it against their tallies. Then that is the list I took school shopping.

      Hope that helps a bit!

      xo,
      Jen

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    2. Jen,

      I just came here to post a similar question.....one of the things I struggle with each year with my boys is trying to figure out exactly how many of each item we need to own (we also get a ton of hand me downs). Just wondering if you'd be willing to share how many you get each boy (pants/long sleeve shirts/short sleeve shirts, etc) or if you have found a good resource online. I really just need a frame of reference for where to start!

      Thanks so much for you awesome blog. It's in my "favorites" folder on my blog reader!

      Rachel

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    3. Hi Rachel!

      I think it depends on each family and location {it is cold here, so I need to make sure my kiddos have a suitable amount of winter clothing}. I also consider how often my kids need to wear something "different" {they are boys, so not that often} :) The last thing to consider is how often you do laundry. If you do it daily, then you could probably get away with less, however, if you do it less often or weekly, you may want more options. We figure jeans can be wore twice per wash and we also accounted for the fact that we can pair simple long sleeve shirts under short sleeves in the winter.

      Again, many factors were considered, but hopefully that helps you as you determine what would be best for you and the fam!

      xo,
      Jen

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  52. I would love the morning and bedtime routines also. I followed the link and signed up but they still would'nt pull up. :( Are you going to sell them in your shop?

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    Replies
    1. THANK YOU! I fixed the link to the printables within the post. You can also find links on my Free Printables tab: http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/p/free-printables.html

      xo!
      Jen

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    2. I got them. Thanks!!!! I think it is going to help a lot with my boys. :)

      Delete
  53. I love your morning and night routines for your sons. Is there anywhere that we can get ones like that?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Stephanie!

      THANK YOU! I linked to them within the post. You can also find links on my Free Printables tab: http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/p/free-printables.html

      xo!
      Jen

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  54. Hi Jen.

    May I please ask where you purchased both the thermoses and the blue sandwich keepers? Thanks so much!

    Shannon

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    Replies
    1. Hi Shannon! I believe both were from Target. :)

      xo!

      Delete
  55. Inspirational! What lunchboxes do you use that hold the easylunchboxes and fit so neat in your cupboard?

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    Replies
    1. I use lunchboxes I purchased from Pottery Barn Kids. They fit perfectly. I like to purchase them at the end of the school year when they are all on clearance. :)

      xo!

      Delete

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