Stop school mess in its tracks

As the collective “woop woop” of parents sending their kids back to school this week is heard across the nation, there arises a dilemma close to home – what to do with all the paraphernalia that inevitably comes with having kids at school – bags, hats, sports shoes, notes home, sunscreen and the never-ending flow of creative works that arrive through the door.

Here’s five ideas for parents.

1. Give shoes a home

When I was a kid, we had an enormous blanket box at the front door where all the shoes would go. You could spend an age searching, sifting through the dust at the bottom of the box to find which shoes belonging to you.

Sometimes, in an over enthusiastic moment, you could be seen, whole body in the box with your small feet hanging out the top.

There is a better way – separate baskets or boxes to put each child’s shoes in (and adults too, if you like).

But if you’re squeezed for room or just want to keen your entry area not too cluttered, a great option is IKEA’s STALL shoe cupboard ($149 – $159, depending on which Australian state you are in).

It has four compartments, and only comes out from the wall 17cm, so can usually be squeezed into near the front door.

We’ve found each compartment fits up to five pairs of small kids’ shoes, or about three pairs of adult shoes.

The whole unit is 96cm high by 90 cm wide, and with two legs at the front, is designed to be fixed to the wall so it doesn’t topple over.

2. School bags disappear

Kids school bags are rarely small and very often ugly, especially when dumped inside the front door.

One way to deal with them is to install hooks in the hallway, bedroom or kitchen that are strong enough to take a bag loaded with books, sports shoes etc.

Another cheap option is to have some storage ottomans to house the bags out of sight.

I found these $15 ones from Officeworks are big enough to each fit one school bag, and are strong enough for children and adults to sit on them – very handy for kids needing a spot to put their shoes on in the morning.

They come in four colours – black, red, white and brown.

The only downside was, being made out of a synthetic material, they were one of the worst-smelling bits of furniture I have ever come across.

We had to put them outside undercover for a week or so to offgas before bringing them back inside.

3. Hats, sunscreen, scarves and gloves.

To avoid the stress of frantically hunting at the last minute in the morning for the sunscreen/hats/drink bottles/library books, it helps to keep them as close to the door as possible.

I fell in love with these Urbio wall containers, the larger of which is perfect for storing hats and sunscreen. They have magnetic backs but I ended up fixing them to the wall with 3M hanging strips – the velcro kind that allow you to take the item off and re-velcro it if you didn’t get it quite straight the first time.

Unfortunately, although lovely, they weren’t cheap as they had to be shipped from the US.

However, anything with a relatively flat back can be affixed to the wall and used as a storage container. Think retro biscuit tins or slimeline magazine racks.

Another option would be to re-purpose some of IKEA’s kitchen wall storage options, which, using rails, hooks and storage, allows you to mix and match different sized containers to get just what you need.

4. Artwork

Last year, with one child in kindergarten and the other in pre-school I became acutely aware of just how easy it could be to suffocate under a sea of paper.

When the artwork first started to flow home, it was nice to display it all on the fridge. But we soon discovered we’d need a fridge the size of Australia to keep showing it all.

Rather than clogging up the house and the garage, I stowed the “really special” pieces in some waterproof plastic storage containers where they couldn’t be damaged by accidental leaks in the shed, and, borrowing an idea from another parent, photographed the rest before quietly sending it off to the recycling.

5. Label maker

If there’s one thing all parents of school kids could do with, it’s a label maker.

Handy for printing quick labels for school lunch boxes, books and any items that your kids want to drag to school, they also take iron-on fabric tape for labelling school clothing and hats.

Of course, you could, if you felt inclined, go really wild and label every drawer in the house, and all of those random boxes in the shed so that you actually know what they hold.

Not that this writer would have spent a week or so of her summer break doing that…

Do you have kids at school? How do you stop their bags, shoes and other items from taking over the house?

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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