Black woman using washing machine doing the laudry

If You're In Full-On Nesting Mode Before School Starts, Experts Say You're Not Alone

The frenzy of back-to-school season always brings with it a myriad of emotions and a to-do list a mile long. I tend to make life harder for myself by attempting to re-organize our entire home in the weeks leading up to the busy start of the school year. I've never been sure if this is just how I cope with all of the emotions of my kids leaving the house for eight hours a day or what, but apparently I am not alone. Nesting before school starts is totally normal, according to experts, so you can go ahead and buy all of the shoe organizers your heart desires.

"It is normal for parents to be nesting before the school year begins," Darby Fox, a family therapist practicing in New York tells Romper. "It’s very similar to how we approach New Year’s. The desire to have things clean and organized is normal as most families feel it’s time for them to get back on a schedule and be organized."

Last year, before my kids went back to school, I completely emptied out our entire kitchen cabinets and threw away all of the mis-matched food storage containers. You know the thousand lids that pile up with no matching container in sight? I tossed those. It was almost like rage cleaning, only less rage-y. Cleaning and organizing is one way to manage emotions and gain a sense of control, according to Dr. Dyan Hes, a pediatrician with Gramercy Pediatrics. "I think it gives the mother a sense of control when their lives are going to change with early wake-ups for school, packing lunches, after-school activities, etc. I think nesting helps parents feel that their children can come home to a safe place," Dr. Hes tells Romper.


Some parents might nest differently than others, just like during pregnancy when nesting behaviors also surface. Where I throw out unnecessary items and re-arrange cabinet contents, others might obsessively scrub their toilets or meticulously label each and every item their child might eventually lose at school. No matter what type of nesting you do, Dr. Hes says it is important to keep your anxiety in check regarding returning to school for your kids' sake.

"Some children already have anxiety about back to school time, and if their parents are anxious, this is a double whammy," Dr. Hes says. "Kids can sense their parents' anxiety. I think parents have to not worry so much about the perfectly clean home or the most organized pantry. They should focus on doing the best they can for their children. Enabling their kids to feel secure and prepared for all the excitement of school is the most important thing."

You're likely coping with a major schedule change when your kids go from being home all day long during the summer to being gone at school the majority of the day. It makes sense that you would want your home a little more streamlined for all of the running around you inevitably do once school is back in session. That minivan isn't going to drive itself through the pick-up line, back home for a snack, to soccer practice, flute lessons, and back again in time for dinner. No, that will be you — rushing around like a madwoman after a lackadaisical summer that you spent without a school schedule dictating your day-to-day routine.

If the urge to nest or re-organize prior to school starting feels overwhelming, Fox says to start small and remember that you'll have more time to complete tasks once your kids are back in school. "If you are feeling the need to get your home organized before school starts, but feel overwhelmed by the urge, start with just one area — the mud room or where ever they keep their backpacks. Get that area cleaned. Get rid of old papers, notebooks, broken pencils, too small shoes, all the stuff left over from the end of the school year," she says. "Start small and once that’s done, assess if that’s enough. Pick small projects and don’t stress yourself out. You’ll likely have more time once the kids are back in school to get further organized."