Every year, there are two months you will find me nose deep in my planner and surrounded by donation bags filled to the brim: January and July. While January is the start of a new year, I take part in a July Refresh Challenge to REFRESH our home, our calendar, and our routines. I’ve always loved tracking my year with an academic calendar. I went from high school to college and then became a mother at a young age, and following an academic calendar proves July is just as important to set goals and declutter as January 1st.
While the Summer is a great time to take a break, relax, and enjoy the great outdoors, July is the perfect month to clear out space in your home and in your schedule to set you and your family up for a successful school year. This task does not need to be overwhelming and/or expensive. The truth is, once you have completed the task of decluttering, you’ll find a mound of empty baskets, a pile of unworn clothes you thought you were going to need to replace, and an endless amount of school supplies that can be reused.
This month, I want to take you on a journey to declutter your space, write out a plan for back to school shopping and new routines, and together, we’ll get organized for a successful school year. PS. Here’s a Free Printable Checklist to help you stay on track!!
July Refresh Challenge
July Refresh Challenge Week One: DECLUTTER CLOSETS AND TOYS
(Reminder: Do not purchase storage containers or organizing tools! We will do this later on in the month, if needed!)
This is the week we’ll roll up our sleeves, get ruthless, and ask ourselves the important question, “Do I love this?”
Every Summer, our two older children visit their grandparents in South Florida. During that time, I like to declutter their closets and their toys. This helps me decipher what each child needs for the new school year (think underwear, socks, uniforms, etc.) and refresh their space.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you’re surrounded by clutter? Imagine how our children feel. Children are not born knowing how to clean their rooms or keep a tidy space. This is a skill that is taught to them. While we try our best as moms to teach and encourage them to keep a tidy room throughout the school year, the truth is they’re most likely stuffing toys and tees under the bed, hiding the small game pieces in their bags, and tossing unmatched socks in the back of their closets. The piles of stuff greets them every morning, and there’s nothing more refreshing than a cleared space to help clear a mind.
During this process, ask yourself, “Do I love this? Is this serving my child well? Does this still fit? Does this encourage them to use their imagination?” If you answered NO to any of these, let it go.
This week, focus on their closets and toys (yours too, if you have time!), and set up three piles: Keep, Donate, Toss. I like to start with their clothes before tackling the toys. If it has a hole, stain or is faded, I toss it. If it no longer fits, I donate it. If there’s still some life left in it, I keep it. Also, I ask myself if I were to see this particular outfit in the store RIGHT NOW, would I buy it. If my answer is no, I donate it.
Decluttering is not a time to feel guilty. This is a time to be ruthless because in the end, you’re creating a space that will allow your child to relax and reignite their creativity vs. a space that will overwhelm them. Their room should be their safe place – a place they can retreat to after a long day of school, sports, and homework. Having 100 t-shirts to hang after a full school day is not helping them nor you. As Emily Ley says, “Best, Favorite & Necessary.”
“How do I know what to get rid of? They love them ALL!” I’ve heard this comment many times from other moms wondering how to declutter toys. First, it all depends on the age of your child. My oldest will be ten in August. He rarely plays with toys. His interests include sports, swimming with friends, riding his bike, and Xbox. This Summer, I asked him what specific toys he loves. He asked me not to get rid of his matchbox cars. DONE!
For older children, I would encourage you to keep the items that spark imagination. These toys would include Manipulative Toys – toys that enhance fine motor skills and teach children how to interact with their physical world. Ie: Magnatiles (build cities, buildings, etc), Lego’s, and Kinetic Sand.
For younger children, I would encourage you to keep Open-Ended Toys – toys that are not bound to one specific form of play. Ie: Peg Dolls, Magnatiles, Scarves, Figurines, Wooden Blocks, Train Tracks, etc. If you’re like me, you may love every toy you own for your younger children. GREAT! If so, store half of the toys in plastic containers and rotate toys every couple of months. This will spark interest in toys you already own while not overwhelming your space.
If you’re feeling motivated and have some extra time on your hands, deep clean their rooms. Vacuum their closet, mattress, and under their bed. Wipe down baseboards, shelves, ceiling fan, and air vents. You’ll be surprised how much dust collects in these spaces.
Week Two: DECLUTTER FOOD AND SCHOOL SUPPLIES
Summer routines have set in place, and you’re wondering what happened to your organized refrigerator and pantry, am I right? With all the constant movement in your home during Summer, it’s easy to lose sight of a stocked pantry and stacks of leftovers in the refrigerator.
This week, we’re going to focus on decluttering our pantries, refrigerators, and school supplies. Have you ever completed back to school shopping, only to find the extra pencils and notebooks you got BOGO last year? The July Refresh Challenge will help you set a plan in motion while helping you save money in the long run! There’s no need to buy another bottle of Ranch when you have 2 in the back of your pantry.
Grab your trash can and some magic erasers, clear out your sink, and blast your favorite Podcast – it’s time to get dirty. During this process, take everything out of your refrigerator. If it’s expired, immediately toss it into your trash can. If not, place the item on your counter in sections (meat, dairy, daily use, occasional use (pickles, Sauerkraut, etc), condiments, vegetables, etc.) Wipe down every shelf before replacing the items inside the refrigerator.
Do the same for your pantry.
There was a time I believed the lie that every child needed to go back to school with NEW supplies. Back to school shopping is something I’ve looked forward to every year since I was a child. That joy hasn’t left me. I still get excited to embrace the aisles of new paper, binders, and every lunch container known to man. I can’t explain why it brings me joy – but it does.
Although new lunch boxes and journals bring me joy, I’ve learned over the years how much waste we’re producing by tossing old supplies simply because they’re used. A notebook with only 20 pages used can certainly be reused in the upcoming school year. Simply tear out those pages and call it a day. Save yourself the time and the money. Ask yourself what is important to you and treat your child to that new item. Some may consider a new backpack a special treat to a new school year, or maybe you love freshly sharpened pencils, whatever it may be, treat them to it, but don’t over do it!
Go through their backpacks from last school year. Toss old paperwork, broken crayons, and ripped notebooks. Then decide what can be reused and what can be donated. You’ll be surprised at how much of your back to school shopping list will be completed by “shopping” your own home.
Week Three: SET A GAME PLAN
Now that you’ve completed the hard work, it’s time to sit down and be honest with yourself. I like to take a week to plan out our school year, important dates, daily routines, and shopping lists. Take this week to ask yourself the hard questions, “What worked last year? What didn’t work? If I could change one thing in our daily routine, what would it be? What do we need to let go of this year? What will make our year go smoother? What do we need?”
Sit down, pour yourself some hot coffee, and set a game plan. Write out daily routines for your family: Morning and Evening (full day schedules if you homeschool). Create shopping lists: Back to School Meal Prep, School Supplies, School Clothes, and Closet Organizers (if needed), and determine a budget.
July Refresh Challenge Week Four: SHOP
While I want to say, “Shop until you drop,” the whole purpose of the July Refresh Challenge is to set our families up for success this school year, and buying all the things is not the route to do just that. Remember, you just spent three weeks taking part in the July Refresh Challenge by decluttering and planning with purpose and intention for a successful school year. Your goal is to create a space that provides your child(ren) the ease to move about their day and find what they need(everything has a place), reignite creativity, and retreat after a long day. Buying anything and everything will only add chaos back into your home once again. Purposefully choose items your family needs, within budget, that will simplify your days, help stick to daily routines, and encourage rest and connection.
Week Five: ORGANIZE
We’ve saved the best part for last! You’ve decluttered, deep cleaned, prepared, planned, and sourced everything your family needs for a successful school year. Now is the time to organize and set new routines in place. Depending on the age of your child, consider labeling baskets and bins or walking through their space WITH them. This will help your child get to know their newly organized room and encourage them to keep it that way. There’s nothing more exciting than watching my children rush up to their bedrooms because they’re excited to see what I’ve prepared for them – their special place.
Take a day this week to host a family meeting and discuss new routines, chores, and goals. This can be a special time together to reconnect after a busy Summer and get motivated for the new school year. Bake some brownies, play special music, and enjoy your time together!
You did it!! At the end of this challenge, there will only be one week left until school starts. Take this week to enjoy quality time together, get outside, and begin practicing your new routines.
Did you love the July Refresh Challenge and interested in learning how we created a Block Schedule or a Mindful Morning Routine? Be sure to head to The Busy Bee for more free resources and to learn how to simplify routines and amplify productivity!