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15 Back to School Money Saving Tips

Growing up my mom used to say that August was the most expensive month besides Christmas. Back to school shopping can be expensive.  However, there are ways to be purposeful with your shopping that will save your wallet big time and your sanity too!  I have rounded up my 15 best back to school money saving tips for today’s post because who doesn’t love to save money?


15 Back to School Money Saving Tips

1 – Buy high-quality & Reuse.

We love Pottery Barn and Herschel for backpacks.  Did you know you can wash your backpack in the washing machine?  Empty the backpack inside and out, spot treat with a stain treater and then place on a gentle, cold cycle in the washer.  Hang dry!  We had my son’s backpack for 5 years and the only reason we replaced it was because he needed a bigger bag!  

We love Lands End and North Face for winter gear.  Last year, I went cheap and I ended up spending what I would have on one coat on two and both were broke by the end of the year.  I usually get 2 years and can pass it on with a higher quality coat.  

Buy gender neutral boot and snow pants so you can pass them down to other children.  Grey, navy or black show less dirt and are great for both girls or boys!

2 – Take inventory of your closet first. 

Check out your kids’ closets and make a list of what your kids actually need for the upcoming season and next year so you can stay focused and save money while shopping.  Your kids might not need new shoes, don’t buy them if they don’t need them!

3 – Shop sales.  

Most sites like Pottery Barn and Lands End have sales.  Don’t pay full price, they will have a sale.  Temporarily join the store’s email list or check their website often.  Generally, they have sales over the weekends so check back on Friday!

4- Always buy a size up!  

When shopping for winter gear, I always size up.  If my kid is currently wearing a size 2 shoe, I buy a size 3.  If they are currently a size 10 shirt, I buy a size 12 coat.  Lands End coats have built-in sleeve extenders that help you maximize the life of your coat.

5 – Avoid personalization and monograms.  

It’s easy to resell or pass on if it’s not personalized.  It’s also safer to not have your child’s name printed on their backpack.

6 – Shop ahead for next season.  

Take advantage of the end of season sales and stock up for next season.  The steepest discounts happen at the end of the season both at major retailers and consignments stores.

7 – Take advantage of tax-free weekend.  

Most states offer a tax-free weekend on school supplies and apparel right before school starts.  In Iowa, ours is the first full weekend in August!  

8 – Use Coupons & Price-matching.

Before you buy, scan the item to make sure you are getting the best deal.  Sites like Amazon have a barcode reader and will pull up the item.  If it’s cheaper, take that to the store’s register and ask for a price match.  If they can’t do it at the register, they should be able to at customer service.  Most stores will honor their competitor’s coupons.  It’s always worth asking!

9 – Inventory school supplies before shopping.   

What items are still in working condition?  Use what you have first.  Cross it off the list so you don’t accidentally buy it again.  If that white binder looks a little beat-up from last year, scrub it clean with a Mr. eraser and it will be good as new.  Wash the pencil box with a little soap and water and it will be sparkly clean.

Stock up during sales on school supplies for the year or for your kids’ classroom!

10 – Shop discount stores & Consignment Stores.   

Places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are a great place to get name brand clothing for less.  Consignment stores are another great place to shop.  Take your old clothes in to consign and use the money you earned to buy this year’s wardrobe.

11 – Make a list and stick to it.

This seems simple enough but how often do you throw something extra in?  All those extras add up!

12 – Before you shop, make a game plan.  

When making your list, write down the store names and under each store write the item you are going to purchase there.  Check the weekly ads for the best deals to know what to get where! Remember, the more places you shop, the more likely you are going to find extras (or is that just me?) so be purposeful about sticking to your list!

13 – Do not wait until the last minute.  

Take it from me, I did that my first year and it was a nightmare.  The plastic primary colored pocket folders I needed were sold out so I paid way more.  Shop early!

14 – Shop online and use pick-up options.  

Walmart and Target both offer it and it’s a great way to stay on budget and not get sidetracked by the awesome items, not on your list.  Target will even populate your school list online and you can pick up!  How cool is that?

15 – Make a budget and keep track of what you spend.  

Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective to buy the school supply pack from the school.  This year, we used what we had and then purchased about $50 worth of school supplies for two kids which is less than what I would have paid for the supplies.


What back to school money saving tips do you have?  It can be an expensive time of year but it can totally be done on a budget.  It’s hard to believe school is almost back in session, summer sure has flown by in a hurry!  Our supply shopping is done so now we will celebrate with sleeping in and spending our days at the pool!  Below, I am sharing a few of our favorite back to school essentials!

Check Out These Other Back to School Resources…

Best Back to School Books for Kids

Best Back to School Tips so You Are Ready to Go

5 Ways to Beat the Back to School Jitters

Establish an After School Routine

Create A School Supply Drawer



Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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15 ways to save money on school supplies

Best Back to School Books to Read

Calm Nerves Reading Back to School Books

Back to school time is around the corner.  We are all anticipating the start of another school year and with that comes both enthusiasm and a few nerves at what the year will hold. Today I am sharing 12 back to school books that are favorites around here and will enable you to start a conversation with your kids about what school is like and what they can expect.
 As you read, start a conversation with them and ask them what they are excited about, what they want to see when you go to back to school night and what they might be nervous about. Most of the nerves around here are reserved for momma ;).  A great way to start a conversation with your kids about school is to read books about going back to school.

Best Back to School Books

Do you have a case of the worries?  Wemberly does!
Grab your tissue as you read this sweet book about feeling your love with a kiss kept in the palm of your child’s hand.
This is a great book as he explores all the different places in a school.
Follows the theme of The  Night Before Christmas.  It makes a cute read the night before your child goes to Kindergarten.  We plan to read it at our house!
This book has a cute twist, you might not see coming!
A sweet tale about loving the name you have been given and the special person you are.
Wishing you a great start back to school.  You might find the posts below helpful as you prepare for going back to school!

Check out these Back to School Posts – 

Ways to Beat the Back to School Jitters
The Ultimate Guide to Going Back to School for the 1st Time
10 Back to School Essentials
back to school picture book Pinterest pin graphic

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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Best Back to School Tips So You Are Ready


It’s Time To Head Back to School

We are in the final countdown around here!  I am not going to lie that that music is now running through my head…It’s time to head back to school.

Get Excited, It’s Contagious

If you are like me you feel the need to do all things, prepare, plan and still squeeze every last ounce of summer fun out that you can!  I am sharing all the back to school essentials that you will need.  You will feel prepared for the first day and more importantly get you excited.  Enthusiasm is contagious so the more excited you are, the more excited your kids will be.  

Prepare Backpacks & Buy Supplies

Every kid needs a backpack.  When I went to school I had the most darling Esprit tote, anyone else?  We invested in Pottery Barn Kids backpacks for our kids.  I wasn’t sure it was worth the money but both our kids have used theirs for YEARS.  

Before the start of the school year,  I just spot treat the backpacks with spot treater and then wash on a gentle cycle in the washing machine and hang dry.  They look brand new for another year of use.  

A fun way to give new life to a backpack is adding new accessories like hand sanitizer or a key chain.  It’s a fun way to make it new without spending as much.

Don’t wait to the last minute to buy supplies because it will be picked over.  The best time to shop is in July!  I know it’s early but the aisles won’t be as crowded and you will have the pick of the supplies.  Better yet, order your kid’s supplies from the school if they offer it!

Once you have your supplies, sharpen the pencils and place all the supplies in your child’s backpack so nothing gets lost and it’s ready to go!

Make A Shopping List of Needed Clothes


Take an hour with each of your kids to go through their closets and drawers to assess what still fits, what needs to be donated and what they need for the upcoming season.

I don’t always buy new clothes right when school begins because they might grow before they need winter items but I keep the list on my phone so when I see a good deal or something they might like I can remember exactly what they need.  

3.  Shoes

Most schools require kids to wear tennis shoes for gym class.  Before I go out and buy new shoes, I always go through my kid’s shoe bin to determine what they really need.  IMy kids wear tennis shoes every day to school. 


My kids generally take hot lunch about once a week or 4-5 times a month.  They each circle in a colored marker which days they want hot lunch.  Then the rest of the month they take a cold lunch.  

If we are really organized, we prepare sandwiches and baggies of fruit and veggies over the weekend so that we can grab and go the night before to make lunches.  

Generally in my kids lunch boxes, they take a side (goldfish, pretzels, crackers), a fruit (grapes, strawberries, fruit leather, applesauce, apple slices), a veggie (carrots, celery), a sandwich or protein (cheese/meat, peanut butter), and a dessert (granola bar, trail mix or a cookie).  

I sometimes send them with a thermos with macaroni and cheese, pizza rolls or leftovers that can be reheated.  Then, I just pack them a water bottle as well.

Ease the Jitters

If you are like me, maybe you have the jitters or maybe your kids do too.  Here are two great blog posts to help you.   Jitters are natural but they don’t have to steal the excitement of the moment!

You might like to read Overcoming those Back to School Jitters and Guide for Parents Going Back to School for the First Time.



We love to take first day of school photos, wear a special first day of school outfit and walk to school as a family.  Then I always ask my kids if there is a special afternoon snack they want and what they would like for their dinner that evening.  Chances are it will include chocolate chip cookies and walking tacos but I haven’t officially asked yet.  The tradition doesn’t have to be fancy but those traditions make those moments feel less scary!

Re-Establish Routines

Re-establishing normal routines after a long summer of relaxation is important.  We start to establish a bedtime routine at least a week before school.  Those first few weeks are exhausting so having a bedtime routine pre-established is super helpful. 

 It might be helpful to lay out clothes the night before so they know what they are wearing the next morning and prepare lunches the night before so they simply have to pop them in their backpacks.  

We also review our after-school routine. You can read more about that here.

Create a Homework Drawer

Create a dedicated space for sharpened pencils, erasers and some essential school supplies that your kids and you can easily access during homework time.  Invest in an electric pencil sharpener for those back to school pencil sharpening needs as well as those daily homework sessions.  You will thank me!  Read all about our homework drawer here.

Communicate and Plan

As you go back to school, you also go back to kid and family weekly activities. It’s important to sit down with your spouse and kids and talk through what the week is going to look like and who is responsible to get who where.  

It might also help to have a meal plan and groceries ready so that you don’t have to think about what to make those first few nights back.  Read more about how to meal plan here.

We found it helpful to have a family calendar and command center inside our pantry for important school papers and other things so that we can all easily what is going on.  

Give Yourself Grace in the Transition

Remember of all, grace.  The first year my son went to school, I pictured him coming home from school, us enjoying a snack and a lovely conversation about his day.  That didn’t happen.  He was tired and was ready for a little time to decompress alone.  It worked best for him to have some iPad time and a snack for about 30 minutes and then he was ready to talk and play outside.  You know your child and your family best, give yourself grace as you transition.

You might also like –

Best Back to School Money Saving Tips


Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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5 Ways To Beat The Back To School Jitters

Today, Amanda who blogs over at Jasper and Willow is guest posting.   Amanda is an amazing wife, mom friend, and blogger.  She always has fun, inspiring and encouraging posts to share with her readers.  Amanda has some great tips for how to help with back to school anxiety!
Can you believe that Summer break is almost over, and we will be sending those kiddos back to school in just a few short weeks? If you are like me, then you are SO ready. 😉
For some children going back to school can cause some jitters. With a few simple tips and tricks, you can calm those kiddos nerves, and get them super excited about going back to school!

1. Get the kiddos involved.

Allow your child to take the lead when picking out their backpack, lunchbox, and other school supplies.
My son has SO much fun doing this! Yes, I may need to ‘guide’ him in his choices, but the final decision is ultimately his.
Plus, it is super fun to watch their excitement grow and see the look on their faces when they find THE backpack! 🙂

2. Create a Calendar

Having a calendar that the kiddos can help with is SO much fun! We love our chalkboard decal calendar.
Having a large calendar is great for the kiddos to be able to visualize the count down to school starting.
You can also add any upcoming school event, or special dates and birthdays, which really helps add to the excitement!
We love these fun chalk pens to be able to make it super colorful!

3. Make play dates with classmates

Making play dates with future classmates is a great way to calm those back to school jitters.
We love to have playdates all Summer, but I really try to focus on at least one or two a week in the first few weeks before school starts.
If your child is feeling nervous about starting school, this helps with being able to remind them of the friends that they will be able to see at school.

4. Talk about what they can expect

This is such a great way to engage your child about the upcoming school year.
You can talk about what they think they will do and learn, or what they are most looking forward to with starting school. It can also be great to go over examples of what you think they might do daily.
We talk about this A LOT right before school starts, and I think it really helps to prepare them.
We also ‘practice’ some school activities and expectations over the Summer, so that they aren’t too overwhelmed by the upcoming routines.

5. Remember to breathe

Mama, the kids starting school can be SO tough. It is such a bittersweet thing to love all that your child is learning and experiencing, and still want time to just freeze.
Try to take some time for yourself to really take it all in, and breathe! This is a pretty major milestone, and it’s okay to be feeling the jitters too!

Just Remember…

I hope these tips help lead you and your family to lots of fun and excitement about the upcoming school year! And remember…you SO got this mama!
Thank you, Amanda, for your amazing tips for how to help with back to school anxiety!  Be sure to check out her blog for more awesome content!
Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!
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10 Simple Backyard Water Activities for Kids

It’s Summer.  It’s hot.  There’s no denying getting wet is the best way to beat the heat.  Water and kids go together like biscuits and gravy.  So, today I am sharing 10 simple water activities you can do in your own backyard.  It’s perfect for big siblings while little siblings nap or maybe you want some simple summer fun without leaving home.

I set up a few fun things and let the kids use their imagination for the rest.  It resulted in hours of water activity fun,  Let this inspire you that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a whole lot of fun in your own backyard!

10 Simple Backyard Water Activities for Kids

1.  Storage Tub Pool for One

By far this is my kids favorite backyard water activity, especially on a warm spring day.  Take an extra storage tub and fill it with water to create personal pools for each kid.  If the water is especially cool, you can add a few pitchers of hot water to it.  Who doesn’t love their own personal storage tub pool?
kid standing in tub of water

2.  Turn Your Swingset into a Splash Pad

Hook up the hose to the canopy of the swing set and they had a water slide, raining shower head down below and even swung on the swings with water pouring over their heads. Who needs a splash pad when you can hook up your hose to your play-set?


3.  Water Fight

Water squirters make for lots of water fight fun.  Our favorite is found at the Dollar Tree dollar store.  We stock up every year.  They are my kids favorite and not too hard to push for little muscles!

4.  Slip & Slide

Don’t forget about the traditional slip n’ slide.  My kids like to use these rings to help them slip n’ slide a little faster.  For added fun, we even set the sprinkler next to it so the water rained down on them as they slid!

5.  Drip Drip Drop Water Game

Who doesn’t love the traditional game of Duck, Duck Goose?  You will love Drip, Drip, Drop!  It’s the same concept but instead of tapping the participant’s head, you drip a sponge on their head until you get to the person you want to tag and then you wring that sponge out on top of their head and run.

6.  Water Obstacle Course

Set-up a water obstacle course with a variety of water obstacles.  Have your kids help you dream them all up.  Slide down the slip n’ slide, dump a water bottle over your head, carry a bucket of water and dump it into a bucket at the other end.


7.  Water Balloons

If you are in the market to spend a little money and want to have a whole lot of fun fast, water balloons are so easy to fill and are so much fun. especially these water balloons.  They make great birthday gifts!

8.  Water Baseball

Speaking of water balloons, try water balloon basebal or use those balls that are like sponges (see here) and play a very wet version of baseball!

9.  Sprinklers & Umbrellas

Pull out the sprinkler or spray the house and have the kids run through with their umbrellas.  Make an ark and have them try to run under without getting wet.

10. Water Playdate

Invite the neighbors over and set up all these activities in your backyard.  Water activities are more fun with friends to enjoy it with.  Set up the 6 above activities and you will be set!  Make sure to have towels and popsicles on hand for a break!

11.  Launch a Water Rocket

My kids got this cool water rocket as a gift and it offered hours of entertainment last summer. Simply, affix it to your house and control the power of the water being sent to the rocket.


12.  Bubbles & Water

Pour some dish soap into some buckets, pull out some kitchen utensils, and let the kids play.  We dod this in the kitchen sink in the winter and in a bunch of buckets in the summer.  Who doesn’t love bubbles and water?


Water Makes Everything More Fun!

We love to go to the pool but sometimes the baby needs a nap or the laundry needs to get done which means a day at home.  You can still have so much fun with these 6 water activities in your own backyard.  How do you beat the heat?  We are setting record highs around here and we need all the ideas we can get!

Want more ideas?

Download your free summer bucket list printable with LOTS more ideas for summer fun!  Signup and her and get access to the printable.


Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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How to Declutter Your Child’s School Papers

**Thank you to Amanda from Jasper & Willow for guest-posting today**

Before you get started on organizing kid’s school papers you need to clear the clutter first. And whoa mama can there be a lot of paper clutter! Learn how to declutter kid’s school papers the easy way by asking yourself these 3 simple questions.

As Summer approaches your home is probably drowning in papers from your child’s school. You already receive a ton of artwork and forms throughout the year.

Somehow, the last month of school seems to involve a whirlwind of paper and events.

All those papers can be really overwhelming. And, leave you feeling like you simply don’t know where to start.

You can also become paralyzed with the thought of throwing away the wrong item, and not get rid of anything. Right?

But, you desperately want to declutter your child’s school papers. And know that you need to get started.

Let’s tackle that overwhelm right now, and make decluttering easy. With these 3 simple questions to declutter your child’s school papers.

How to get started decluttering kid’s papers

Before you get started on decluttering your child’s papers, you will need a few tools.

  • Trashbag or box

For any papers that can be trashed or recycled. Think multiples of a drawing, forms that are no longer needed, or monthly calendars for school.

  • Put Away box

You do not need anything fancy for your Put Away box. This is simply a box or basket to store the papers in that will be filed later when you organize your child’s papers.

  • Fun tunes

Life is always better with an impromptu dance party. So boogie down while decluttering. I promise it makes it way more fun!

How do you decide what papers to keep?

Now that you have everything you need to get started decluttering. Let’s move on to which papers to keep.

  • Necessary Forms

Sometimes you need to run a copy of a birth certificate or another important document to your child’s school. If for any reason you happened to forget and left it out, be sure to hang onto it.

  • Sentimental Items

Sentimental items can be a really tough area to declutter. Especially when it comes to our children’s artwork, journals, and letters.

I will absolutely leave this one up to you. But I think it is fair to say that any items or ornaments with handprints and footprints are pretty sentimental. And, of course, special letters and journal entries should be kept as well.

I do encourage you to be realistic with this area of decluttering though. And, get really clear on what actually needs to be kept.

Questions to ask when decluttering kid’s school papers

The easiest way to get those school papers decluttered once and for all is by asking yourself 3 simple questions.

  • Is there more than one?

You know the drill. Several of the same flower, truck, or house drawing. Sticker sheets that pretty much all look the same. Or, maybe it is several programs form a child’s performance.

You simply do not need every single copy of every single thing. You may not even need one of that paper either. 😉

An easy way to get papers decluttered fast is to eliminate extras.

  • Could you get it again?

When looking at your child’s school papers. Decide if you could get them again if you needed it.

This will be more in line with forms, immunization records, and report cards.

The truth is you probably don’t need to be holding onto all of those items. And, if you did get rid of them you can probably get copies of those items again.

Let me share an example.

My in-laws recently moved. And that meant some boxes, filled with items from my husband’s childhood, were headed our way.

One of the boxes was filled with school papers. And a big chunk of those papers was a massive stack of report cards. I bet you can guess where those report cards are now. Spoiler alert: In the shredder.

Now, I cannot possibly imagine any scenario in which we would need those report cards again. But, I bet we could get them if we did.

And, I feel confident you could definitely get copies of your children’s too. It may take a phone call or email, but wouldn’t you rather deal with that than a mountain of paper?

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?

It can be really tough decluttering your child’s artwork and other sentimental items from the school. You can feel stuck, and really unclear on if it is okay to let something go.

A great question to ask yourself if you are feeling stuck is: what is the worst that could happen?

Dig deep with this one.

Because the truth is, probably nothing. Tossing out a hand drawn picture of your home, or a form where they traced their name will not cause your world to crash.

So, breathe through it. And get really clear on what to keep. Because eliminating all that paper clutter is really freeing, and I do not want you to be weighed down.

Pro Tip: Take pictures of your child’s artwork, and create a collage photo book. This way you have a nice book filled with all of your child’s artwork from the school year. Instead of a ton of papers.

Wrap Up

You now know how to declutter your child’s papers, and are feeling less overwhelmed by the whole process. And are clear on what questions to ask to get you started, or if you are feeling stuck.

You totally got this mama. I am right behind you cheering you on each step of the way!

If you are looking for another great project to get things organized before the Summer break. Be sure to check out how to get all of those outdoor toys organized with this simple garage toy organization set up.



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You might also like –
How to Organize School Papers
DIY Closet Toy Organization
Garage Toy Organization
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How to Organize Kid’s School Papers

Every day my kids come home from school and one of their first jobs as part of their after-school routine (read more about that here) is to empty their school folders.  Some days my entire kitchen island is chock-full of school papers.  So, how do you organize your kid’s school papers?

 What do you keep?  Where do you keep it?  And the most popular one – Is it okay to toss school work in the trash?

It’s important to have a plan so you can know confidently what to do, what to keep and toss without guilt.  

Now you know me, It can’t be too complicated or I won’t follow through.  It must be simple and purposeful.   I am going to share with you the simple way we have found to tame the school paper monster and store the special papers as keepsakes!


How do you organize your kid’s school papers?

Sort The Papers Regularly

For me it works to do it every day.  When my kids come in after school, they empty their folders and I go through everything.  Inevitably, there’s a math paper, a cut and paste paper, possibly a writing assignment and occasionally an art project although the majority of art projects come home at the end of the year for us!  I look over everything and then determine items I might want to save long-term.

Things I like to keep include –

A funny or meaningful story

A special art or craft project

Math test or work the demonstrates grade-level learning

End of the year report cards

School Pictures


What if you aren’t sure it’s a keeper?

If you are not sure you should keep it or save it (within reason, you don’t need to save everything) go ahead and keep it for now.  You will have another opportunity to pare down later!  I toss whatever I don’t want to keep in the trash or recycling bin.  It’s okay to not keep everything, let that be my encouragement to you!


Need More Decluttering Tips?

Dive deeper into how to declutter your kid’s school papers in this post and struggling with decluttering excuses, read how to overcome the top 5 decluttering excuses here.



Record Date & Name on Papers Before You Store Them

This is key!  I have mom brain and I think I will remember what grade level and child this work belongs to but inevitably in the early years before I did this I forgot.  So, when you sort a paper you want to keep, write the child’s name, grade level and current date on the back or top corner of the paper.



Store the Papers in A School Bin

I place all the kid’s paperwork into these plastic hanging file folder boxes.  We now are the proud owners of 4 boxes!  As I collect things throughout the year, I just pop them into the corresponding hanging folder.  You can store these totes in your basement, closet or pantry.

The important thing is not so much the location but the boxes need to be accessible so you can easily stow papers away.  You don’t want have to get out a ladder or go to lots of trouble or you won’t do it, or maybe that’s just me.



What do you need for your bin?

**Click the link, to shop now**

File Folders (Pack of 25)

Simple Purposeful LIving DIY School Organization Accessory Kit (SHOP HERE)

File Box (I suggest the bigger size – 18.5 x 14 x 11)


Once a Year, Pare Down

You will have an influx of paperwork at the end of the year.  You can do a quick sort as we talked about above but often times I can be very sentimental when I am close to something so I like to wait until mid-summer when I am emotionally removed from the situation so I can objectively pare down further what I want to keep.

I re-sort the folder for that grade level and possibly the previous grade levels, only keeping my very favorites.  I am only keeping one bin per child for all school paperwork so I need to save room.  Ultimately, I know as an adult that’s all I wanted when my mom gave me all my things when I got my big girl house ;)!



How Do You Display And Keep Kid’s Artwork?

We also have an art gallery made out of these Ikea curtain rods that we clip artwork on.  Our kids, as I said, bring all their artwork home at the end of the year so I ask them which ones are their favorites and we display those for the next year on our gallery wall.  After that year, then I pick a favorite or two to keep on the wall or store in their school bins.

My mom has framed 3 of our art pieces that were her favorites and they are displayed in the grandkid’s bunk room at the lake.  I hope to do the same as my kids get older and favorites emerge!



What about school pictures, sports photos, and other photographs and other keepsakes?

We display the current year’s school photos as well as their current year’s sports photos.  All previous years, I pull out when I put the new one in the frame. I make sure to record their name, date and grade level on the back of the photo and then save those in the corresponding grade level in their school bins.

Sometimes, I will print pictures or kids bring home photographs from a school year and I’ll store those as well.



What about odd-sized artifacts?

We display some of the items like trophies, medals, pottery pieces in our kid’s bedrooms on their dressers.  As that area fills up, we transition the item to be stored in a bin in the top of their closet (since we don’t access it as often).  This bin houses items from when they were born (like what they wore home from the hospital) and other keepsakes they were given that don’t fit in the school bin.

As they age and the box fills up, we will get input from our children as to what to keep and what to toss but so far there’s still plenty of room!


What about special papers they have given to you?

Scott and I each have a special drawer in our bedside tables that we store special gifts, cards, and items our kids want to gift us.  As the drawer gets full, we sort out our favorites.

What about electronic items?

As your kids grow, more and more will be stored online.  You can create a file for each child on your computer and save a copy of that file.  Make sure you name it something specific and date it just like you would a paper copy.  You can also print a copy and store in the file system.  We have printed special emails and stored the paper copy.

Just Remember…

Keep it simple.  If you aren’t sure, save it for now and pare down at the end of the year or as your child ages and you need to make room.  It is okay though to throw things away.  Remember, your child won’t want everything.  Save the highlights.  When your child gets ready to graduate, you can simply pull out items to display at their graduation!


Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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How to Establish an After School Routine

A couple weeks ago I shared on Instagram (follow here) and Facebook (follow here) how we establish a good after-school routine.  A good routine helps everyone know what do, provides a sense of stability and saves your sanity.  I need all the help I can get!

So, what is the recipe for a good after-school routine?

You will need a simple, logical system that can be learned easily and repeated daily after being taught.  Along, with a  simple, purposeful space where your kids can store all their gear including backpacks, shoes, lunch boxes, and papers.  The goal of an after-school routine is for kids to be able to take care of it independently!

Teach the Routine before Expecting Independence

When I taught first grade we spent the first several weeks teaching routines.  I explicitly taught the kids how to stand in line to what it looks like to reader reads a book.  It might seem crazy to model a routine so explicitly but laying the foundation helped the kids to know exactly what to do.  They were able to do that routine independently, once taught, which freed me up to provide quality instruction.

The goal of a routine at home might be different but it’s still important to teach kids what is expected, even walk them through each step and if they are young, model the behavior you want them to do.  Remember, keep it simple so they can do it independently long-term.

So what does our after school routine look like?

The kids arrive home from school and put their shoes in their own shoe bin.  Each child has their own shoe bin, under the mudroom bench.  Then, they then hang up their backpacks and any outerwear they might have on their designated hook in the mudroom.

They empty paperwork from their take-home folders on to the kitchen counter.  Next, they empty their lunchboxes of trash, place any dirty water bottles and dishes in the sink and then store their lunch boxes in a basket in the pantry.  Then, they wash their hands, grab a snack and finish any homework before setting the timer for 30 minutes to either watch tv or the iPad.

I sort through their paperwork on the counter and immediately recycle non-essentials or keepsakes and respond to any correspondence, like permission forms or signing planners.  Then, I check the homework and sign Solon’s planner.  The entire routine once learned takes less than 10 minutes (minus homework).

Once the routine is established, our kids know what to do when they get home from school each day and they are motivated to take care of it so they can get to their snack and iPad time!  This simple routine sets the tone for the rest of the evening and fosters less chaos which is always sought after in our busy home!

You might find these posts helpful –
Create a Homework Drawer
Back to School Money Saving Tips
12 Back to School Picture Books
Back to School Money Saving Tips
Back to School Money Saving Tips

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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At Home School Supplies Organization – A Homework Drawer

Ready or not, back to school time is upon us!  Homework often accompanies school so I thought I would share a simple change I made that has made all the difference with homework! We affectionately refer to it as the homework drawer.  The homework drawer houses all the necessities my kids need to complete homework besides brain power and desire!

We have established a nice little routine to come in the door, stow away backpacks, unpack lunch boxes and take care of any homework.  Since we established the homework drawer, they don’t have to waste any time looking for a pencil or other tool and can get the job done so they can move on with the rest of the day!

We had a skinny kitchen drawer adjacent to our island and dining table that was just collecting junk so it was a logical choice and would better serve to stow homework supplies.  I picked up a few drawer organizing baskets (here and here) and collected all the supplies they tend to need, had the kids sharpen the pencils in our electric pencil sharpener and now it’s ready to go for all those afternoon homework sessions!

 Drawer Before Organization 🙂

I grabbed all the school supply essentials my kids needed so they would be handy and then sorted them into logical categories and placed them in these plastic baskets.  I found mine at Dollar Tree but you can find some similar ones here.

homework drawer full of office supplies

Our Homework Drawer Contains –


Coin Money Assortment

Measuring Tape

Manual Pencil Sharpener

Glue Sticks

Pencils (We use those special ones they get from school & parties)




Brush (for before school last-minute hair brushing)


The rest of our art supplies like crayons, markers and colored pencils are housed in the art cart (read more about the art cart here) located in our pantry right next to our kitchen!

Ready or not, another school year is coming soon!  It’s always bittersweet waving goodbye to summer but it’s so fun to watch our kids grow and learn all year long.  Here’s to another great school year and more organized and efficient homework sessions with a simple addition of a homework drawer.  How are your preparing and organizing for the back to school season?


More Back to School Reads —
12 Back to School Picture Books to Read to your Kids
Best Ways to Beat the Back to School Jitters
10 Back to School Essentials
15 Money Saving Tips for Back to School Shopping
DSM Register Guest Feature — 20 Back to School Savings Tips from Moms Who Blog
Creating an Art Cart

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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Linking up with Andrea and Becky – check out their blogs for more fun!

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6 Ways to Survive the End of the School Year

crayon school supplies

It’s almost the end of another school year and it makes me think of a story my grandma used to tell me as a little girl. She used to go get some chickens from the farm, come home and chop their heads off so they could prepare them to eat.  She said they would run around the backyard like crazy.  As gruesome as the story, I always thought the vision of chickens running around headless, was funny!

Now I am the chicken, head cut off, running around like crazy at the end of the year!

It’s not as funny, when you are the figurative chicken.

The end of the school year is crazy.  There are programs, graduations, gifts, games, awards, field days, special outfits, special days, meals and festivities.  Not to mention the day to day chores and duties that still needs to get done.

I find myself in a constant state of panic.   There are crazed stricken texts to my friends — what do I need to send for that camp, you know that one, by some funny name I can’t pronounce.  Have you figured out how to do the dance recital hair?  Then, looking at my calendar to see when I can fit in the washing of the underwear since turning them inside out is frowned upon.  Dinner?  Are you trying to send me into a tailspin?

All jesting aside this time of year can leave you down-right exhausted.  Dog-tired.  Bone-weary.  Frazzled.  Kaput.  Sapped.  Shot.  Spent.  Ready to drop.  Outta gas.  You get the idea.  Maybe you know the feeling. After a few years of navigating this time of year, I have found there are 6 things I can do to help prevent me from becoming a headless, crazed chicken!

crayon pinterest pin

1 – Go to God for rest.

In the middle of the chaos, God will provide comfort with His peace as only He can do.  No amount of flexing our weary muscles will do what we He can.  I like to take time with my prayer journal and continue on in my daily bible study.  I don’t always get to it everyday but when I take the time I feel less frazzled and more ready to take on the day.  It doesn’t have to be long but just taking a little time helps so much!

2 – Sit down and plan out your week.

It might be good to do this with your spouse so that in case you forget something, they can remind you and they might have their own additions to add to the calendar.  It helps me to visually see it all written out.  Then, we can form a plan of attack.  Sometimes, we have to divide and conquer because we simply can’t be at all places at all times, especially this time of year.

3 – Meal plan & make a grocery list.

Even if it’s not part of your normal routine, after you plan out your week, meal plan.  Keep it simple with easy to prepare or frozen meals.  If you have time one night, make a bigger meal and then eat leftovers for subsequent meals.  This post has 10 simple meal ideas kids love.

4 –  Get sleep.

I find my inclination is always to stay up and keep working and getting things ready for the next day but then I wind myself up and I have a hard time falling sleep which becomes a vicious cycle.  Instead, if I make a to do list for the next day and go to bed, I can get up an hour earlier to work on the list.

5 – Ask for help.

It’s hard for me to ask for help or even accept help that is offered but there is no way I can do everything on my own.  Asking my kids to help with additional chores and my husband to help too is not a bad thing.  I sometimes have to ask friends or family to watch my kids or carpool.  It’s all hands on deck to keep the ship afloat especially at the end of the year.

6 – Give yourself grace.

I sometimes forget that it’s a season and that soon the end of year chaos will give way to a much lighter summer schedule in just a few short weeks.
So weary friend, keep on, keeping on in this busy, pandemonium, you are not alone.  This time of years you really do start to feel like a chicken with your head cut off but this too shall pass. Remember whose you are and who will give you rest if you simply seek Him.  Shortly we will be in the throes of summer and I can’t wait!

Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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