Summer is winding down and before you know it, parents everywhere will be cheering as they send their kids back to school. If this is the year you swore you would finally take control of the endless paperwork and crazy schedules associated with the school year, here is what you need to do to get organized and declutter for a stress-free school year.

Time to Declutter, Downsize, Recycle

It's time to declutter and downsize the entire contents of your home! Grab a garbage bag and prepare to let go of things that are broken, missing pieces, useless or unneeded. If a game is missing pieces, get rid of it. If you aren't sure what an item is or what it goes — toss it out. (Don't allow yourself to start thinking about how you might need a particular item again, but you're not sure when, or you won't end up getting rid of anything!) If you haven't going on a decluttering spree in a long time, you will probably need several garbage bags — it is really amazing how quickly we accumulate stuff! Go through every room in your house with a garbage bag.

Once you've removed the obvious junk from every room in your home, you can start over and look in dresser drawers, on shelves, and in closets. This time, you will want to make a few piles: one of items to donate or sell, another for things that need to be put away in a different place, recyclable goods, and more garbage. Now is the time to go through clothing, too. If you can't find the matching sock, toss the sock widow in the trash! If children have outgrown clothing, get it out of their drawers and closets.

It can be difficult to part with “things” but keep in mind the less clutter you have, the easier it is to keep a clean and organized home!

Get the trash out of your home as quickly as possible so it doesn't somehow find its way back out of the trash bags and into closets or drawers! Anything you plan to donate or sell, do it ASAP so the pile doesn't end up stuffed in the basement or attic for months -- or years!

Everything Needs a Home

When you've removed everything you don't need in your home, you can now organize the items that remain. Use storage containers to organize small items, hang things on hooks or in closets, and make sure everything you are keeping has a home. Your storage solutions don't have to be fancy or win awards in an interior decorating magazine, but make sure they serve their purpose and help you keep things accessible but tidy. When you have items that don't have a place, that is when you start having piles of clutter that can quickly take over.

Prepare Study Spaces and Supplies

Your children will likely need a place to store paper and writing utensils and art supplies for working on school projects at home. To avoid the inevitable chaos at homework time, create a space for storing everything your child may need: pencils, pens, crayons, scissors, paper, notebooks, etc. Organize the area to your liking, and then give your children a tour! When school starts and the projects begin, they'll always know where the supplies are -- and since everything will have a home to return to when the work is done, the workspace will remain organized and uncluttered for the school year with just a little effort.

Take it a step further and create a storage space for backpacks, jackets, and shoes, and you can eliminate much of the morning rush as children search the house frantically for these items.

Create a System for Paperwork

One of the common issues parents face is the mountain of paperwork that comes home from school. Whether it is permission slips for the upcoming field trip, fundraising materials, the school newsletter — there is always something coming home that you need to read. Create a filing system to help you keep track of school-related paperwork.

When your kids get home from school, empty their backpacks or folders and file the paperwork immediately; an accordion file works well for this purpose. If something needs to be signed and returned to school the following day, get in the habit of taking care of it as soon as your children get home from school and replacing it in their folder or backpack. If it is paperwork you will need to refer to later or something that doesn't need to be taken care of immediately, store it in the appropriate section of your accordion file and remember to check it daily as you file the newest paperwork so you don't forget anything.

Prepare a Family Calendar

The modern family struggles to function without a family calendar! While there are many digital options available, most families find it useful to keep a master calendar with every family member's activities and appointments in the kitchen. Refer to the calendar every day before heading out, and everyone will know what is scheduled for the day.

The calendar will help keep you organized all year, since you can see at a glance what activities or appointments are scheduled for each day and for each family member. If you use the calendar religiously, you will eliminate problems with overbooking or missed appointments.