Let's face it: Now that the kids are back to school, everyone in the family is once again working at home. Kids doing homework. Parents paying bills, managing their finances, juggling their schedules.
Yes, it may be the grown-ups' home office, but you'll likely be sharing it and other surfaces throughout your home with your kids until next June because they have paperwork, too.
Between the schoolwork tsunami and the other stuff they bring home - the contagious and antibiotic-requiring kind - fall is a whirlwind of paper clutter and germs galore. Here's how to keep things clean and organized so everyone can get some work done.
Set up a file system for each academic subject. Per child. You'll need to set aside a file cabinet or box for each child's use.
If you're sharing homework spaces with your kids, this is the perfect time to bring home those cute home office portables you see inn home decor mags. The rattan lidded file box. The everything basket.
Deck the desk with essential homework tools. These will vary by your child's age, grade, and the subjects he's studying this school year. But the basics include pens, pencils, paper, erasers, tape, stapler, and probably a hole punch.
Gather creative supplies - in an alternative location. Although younger kids don't do much homework per se, they do do artwork.
For them, and for the occasional creative endeavors of older kids, a secondary homework center in the kitchen is often best suited to cleaning up messes of the colorful, busy variety.
I use a cleaning-supply caddy as a portable home for coloring books, paper, markers, crayons, and zip-close clear plastic cases for stickers and pipe cleaners.
In addition, for its more traditional use, I keep a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of water (with a sprits of hand dishwashing liquid) to wipe up life's smaller spills.
Create a cleaning 101 caddy for desk surfaces and computers; stock with baby wipes, Q-tips (for between the keyboard keys), rubbing alcohol, and paper towels.
Drips, smudges, and dirt on desktops are ubiquitous in any homework central where gradeschoolers reside.
Very likely, your office functions 75 percent for you and only 25 percent for your kids. Still, they should pitch in to help clean - you help them with their rooms, I'll bet.
Here's a guide to which chores kids can do at what ages. Once a child reaches a certain skill or age level, he can generally do the chores for his age group and those for the age groups below.
Of course, some of these chores need to be done each day, others each week, and still others once a month or less frequently. Use your best judgment for what gets done when.