July 24, 2024
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July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ready or Not, It’s Summer

Mazal Tov and congratulations to all the graduates… from nursery school through high school through college through graduate school.

My clients tell me the hardest part of the last day of school is making time to review all the folders full of papers, artwork, instructions, notes, etc. for each school-age member of the family. By “school-age,” I am including the preschooler who attended a play group and brought home their share of old food, artwork and morah’s notes. Our first inclination may be to put this process off for a week, a month or until the week before the next year of school will begin.

I urge you to not put it off until after the summer. At the end of August, you won’t want to find old and moldy food or mildewed paper that has corroded the inside of the backpack. Wouldn’t you like to know right away whether a backpack will be usable for the next school year? Not having this unfinished business hang over your head all summer is worth the pain of going through everything now.

I am not advising everyone to stop what they are doing and purge each backpack, but I am inviting everyone to build this into their schedule immediately after school ends. Yes, I am fully aware camp follows close on the heels. Consider that while some of your children may have backpacks worthy to be shown on the old “Chiller Theatre,” other children may keep things neat, and going through their backpacks will be easier. When you are able, clean more than one backpack at a time, but if you know you have a child who is chronically disorganized, schedule a block of time to clean only that child’s backpack. Choose a time when you have energy as opposed to right before going to sleep.

Reddit.com, a social news and discussion website, advises “do hard tasks when your energy is high…” The Productive Engineer.Net, a YouTube channel all about how to be more productive, explains “completing smaller tasks first is constructive procrastination and destroys productivity. Doing the hardest task first means you are more likely to complete it… the stress of putting off a difficult task negatively affects productivity towards all other tasks performed.”

Here’s an opportunity to teach a child to pitch in and become involved, independently or with supervision.

Place garbage in the wastebasket.

Recycle all papers/art work/teachers’ notes and school newsletters.

Choose a few pieces of work to keep. Skim workbooks to see how each of your children have progressed. Resist the urge to make digital copies of everything.

Place food containers and drink bottles in the sink.

Shake out crumbs and tiny bits of paper. Use a damp paper towel or rag to thoroughly wipe the inside and outside.

You will be proud of your kids and yourself for teaming up to get the backpacks cleaned out before camp begins.

Does your family have special end-of-school traditions or activities? I once read about a mother with a large family who welcomed her children into the house on the last day of school and directed them to toss their school shoes in the garbage. This is a wasteful ritual I cannot endorse!

It could be that their shoes still had some life in them and could have been worn over the summer before the children grew out of them. Perhaps this mother thought she was creating an amazing way to show her children the school year is behind them. A Jewish mother, however, would use her seichal to create a donation ritual for her children and make it more meaningful than flinging footwear into a garbage can. She might take her children to the nearest DSW shoe store, which partners with a charity called Soles for Souls. The shoes are collected by this organization and sent to various foreign countries in need of aid. Hence, the number of shoes that end up in landfills is reduced. People can bring as many shoes as they like to the donation box by the front counter and get points toward earning discounts for future purchases. Each week, the donor earns five points no matter how many shoes they bring. Every 10 points earned translates into a $5 discount. Beware of expiration dates. Road Runner Sports stores also take donations for athletic shoes only. Athletic footwear can be salvaged and used to create and resurface playgrounds and activity courts.

Speaking of keeping items out of landfills, I am always on the lookout for clever ways of reusing graduation gowns. I remember my graduation gowns were rented and were returned afterward. Now schools ask students to buy their gowns and families are stuck with them after the ceremony. Once I offered a couple of graduation gowns to our local Purim costume gemach, thinking I had come up with an oh-so-clever idea. Two years later, the gemach had more than enough graduation gowns and had to refuse mine. So much for my cleverness.

A practical alternative would be to donate a gown back to the school or to personally give the gown to a younger student from the same school for a future graduation. Two other options I found on ehow.com, an online how-to guide, is to cut the gown up and pair it with other fabrics to create a patchwork quilt or to place the gown in a shadow box.

You have the whole summer ahead of you now and you may be thinking of fun things to do. That could start with asking each child, parent and maybe even grandparent to write a summer wish list that comprises activities, travel destinations, and foods to cook and/or taste for the first time. Share the lists with the whole family and vote on the best ideas. Organizing could be on someone’s wish list. I am currently helping a high school grad purge and reorganize her entire room before college. I enjoy finding simple, out-of-the-box ways to help children and teens transform their bedrooms into spaces they love. If this is something a family member requests, feel free to reach out and schedule a 30-minute free consultation.


Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s kosher organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. See Ellen’s work on Instagram@ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected].

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