Get Organized before You Go Back to School

Returning to school is rarely met with delight. Whether you're starting a new year in middle or high school, or you're gearing up to go to college, organization can brighten up the outlook — big time.

Here are a few simple ideas to put you on the right track before you go back to school:

  • Invest in a daily planner or calendar of some sort. You don't have to lay out major cash for a leather-bound logbook (unless you want to, of course). You could even create your own organizer on your computer. A Microsoft Word table done up as a monthly calendar might work just fine. Or, you could go with an Excel calendar, designed with a free downloaded template.
  • Fill your calendar in with information you know for sure for the upcoming school year, like days off, sporting events, PSAT or SAT test dates, and so on. You also can use your calendar to keep you motivated toward a goal. For example, if you want to have a scholarship in the bag by the end of the year, mark down milestone dates as reminders of the steps you'll need to take. Or, if you want to buy your prom dress before all the good ones are picked through, set a deadline for yourself and make a calendar note.
  • Conventional wisdom might suggest you stock up on school supplies before your first day back in the classroom. However, he who hesitates . . . may save money. If you're not sure what each of your teachers will require for organization of your assignments (notebooks, folders, binders, looseleaf?), hold off on shopping. You can put together a supply list and hit the school bookstore or your favorite retailer later.
  • If the shopping bug just won't leave you alone, turn to your closet to soothe your itch to go buy-buy. Now's the time to inventory your wardrobe for the first season of the new school year. Pull everything out to figure out what fits, what's still in style, what you can part with, and what's worth keeping. (Your parents probably wouldn't mind if you actually tidied up the inside of your closet while it's empty.) Bag up the old stuff for sale to a secondhand clothing store, such as Plato's Closet, or donate your former favorites as an act of goodwill.
  • While you're in cleaning mode, dust off your study area — you know, the place where you do homework, do research, write papers, complete assignments? Hitting the books will be a whole lot easier if you've arranged the physical space where you'll organize your thoughts.
  • Finally, ease into a routine similar to a typical school day. If you've been staying up late because you can sleep in, start adjusting your internal clock by getting to bed and getting up earlier. When school starts, your brain won't want to place nice with concentration if you're sitting in a classroom at your regular bedtime. To avoid major shock to your system, modify your hours and habits little by little. By the time you return to school, you'll be wide awake to all kinds of possibilities!