It’s almost time to go back to school. For many families, that can mean piles of books, papers and other supplies everywhere. Professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal has a few tips on how to make those school days feel a lot less hectic. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

In the Back-to-School issue of Local Living, we sought out experts for advice on different ways to prepare for the school year. For the full list of stories, go to

A good transition into the school year is just like preparing for battle, because it’s all about “coming up with a game plan for a bunch of things,” professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal says. Think about school supplies, clothes you might need, a backpack, lunch boxes. The goal is to come up with a strategy “so there’s not a mad rush at the end with everyone else.”

Organizing for the start of the year “makes you feel physically organized as well as mentally ready,” says Rosenthal, mom to twin girls entering second grade. “I work on my schedule and then I work on the girls’ schedule. I look at my schedule and say, ‘I know my fall is busy here and here, so what’s my routine going to look like then?’”

Rosenthal pointed out that most schools have their calendars for the year out already, so she recommends looking at a printout of that schedule and marking everything down. “If you do it now, it helps,” she said.

She also likes to prepare the girls for the onset of homework. “We set up a homework station that is portable because that is key,” she says. “A lot of kids do homework at the table because it’s close to the kitchen.” Because her daughters are going into second grade and need some oversight when doing their schoolwork, she likes to keep them close as well. Their homework “stations” include paper, rulers, pencils, erasers and markers.

(Stefano Colferai for The Washington Post)

Finally, try to enjoy it, Rosenthal recommends.

“People always dread going back to school,” she says. “Try to make it a little more fun or a bonding experience. Use it as an opportunity to look around the house for what you already have, then go to the store and have lunch, do an activity and get the things you need.”

More back-to-school coverage:

Help kids learn to do for themselves this school year

How to get kids back onto a regular sleep schedule

Lunchboxes to make packing cool again

Creating a more grown-up room for a new middle-schooler

Fighting childhood obesity one playground at a time

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