Back to School During a Pandemic

August 10, 2020

I’m not sure where you’re at for school – returning full-time with safety precautions, doing a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning, or completely remote. Or maybe you’re homeschooling or sending your kids to a new school. This school year will be different – I’m determined to make the best of it and go into the year with confidence and a flexible plan. Much like life, we have to be ready to make adjustments as we go, but give yourself grace. Take a deep breath, we can’t control what goes on outside our walls, but we can control how we react to it inside our homes.

I thought you might like to see how we’re navigating back to school and some systems I’ve put into place to keep everyone safe and healthy and successful learners, regardless of how school plays out. I will preface this with the fact that I am not a medical professional – I’m a mom and a former teacher and I am just sharing what we’re doing.

BACK TO SCHOOL ADJUSTMENTS

Mask storage. Depending on where you live and the rules in place, you most likely need masks in some capacity. It’s mandatory here in any public space, so I’ve set up a clean mask basket in the mudroom. We are using washable face masks and I’m also putting a bag with disposable masks in the kids’ backpacks in case they need them for any reason. When they come home from school they will need to put their dirty masks in a mesh laundry bag to be laundered. Make sure you’re using safe, non-toxic laundry products to launder your masks – I recommend Clean Mama’s Laundry Products.

Backpacks, shoes, coats. Drop everything at the door – well, hang it up nicely and put your shoes away. I might change this to keep shoes in the garage, but the main thing is to not let the germs from school make their way in to our home. As soon as the kids remove their shoes and coats, they thoroughly wash their hands.

School and homework station. I am always a believer in a clear separation of schoolwork and homework and want these areas to be easy to keep clean as well as easy to clean up. I am still working through some potential systems for what we do, depending on how the school year plays out but I know that we will continue to have a homework caddy at the ready. 

MINDSET SHIFT

Do you need a mindset shift? A little direction and routine? I have always argued that regardless of how busy you are, you need a cleaning routine. If you’ve been waiting for the ‘right time’, now is the time to put it to the test and see how it works for your family. Everyone is coming at this from a different angle and it has affected your home and family in a different way. I am not pretending to understand your personal circumstances, but I am merely extending the same advice I always have but maybe you’ll see it a little differently through this experience. Routine, even if it’s loose, is everything in a time like this. It brings a sense of normalcy and you know that your home won’t fall apart even if it feels like everything around you is. Fact: clutter = stress – let’s use this time to bring the stress level down in our homes instead of increase it.

If you haven’t tried the Clean Mama Routine or even if you have but need a little refresher, the Start Here page is completely redesigned to help you get started. Check it out! When you do the Clean Mama Routine you are already keeping your home CLEAN on a daily basis – this is essential to keeping germs away.  The Clean Mama Homekeeping Planner and the Homekeeping Society Subscription are designed to take the GUESSWORK out of cleaning – everything is laid out for you with Daily and Weekly Tasks.

HOUSE RULES

  • No shoes on in the house. Take them off in the entryway, garage, or mudroom. If you haven’t done this in the past, now is the time to start. You can carry in all sorts of germs, pesticides, and just plain dirt on the bottoms of your shoes.
  • Wash hands in the powder room upon entering the rest of the house – even if you’ve just been playing outside. Remember, you just removed your shoes. This is a normal household rule for us, but if it isn’t for you, I’d recommend adding it!
  • Change clothes when coming in from school.
  • Change hand and bath towels DAILY. This is something that we already do with hand towels but I’m adding the bath towels in now too. Not everyone takes a daily shower and yes, it might seem excessive but this is what we’re doing at the moment. Do what is right for you. I wash all sheets and towels on Saturday – Sheets + Towels Day.
  • Everyone helps! Here’s a post all about how to get the kids involved in cleaning with a free printable chore chart too.
  • If someone gets sick, this is what we do. – I wrote this post a couple months ago but it still applies, in the case of COVID-19, we would quarantine the sick family member differently than we normally do.

A COUPLE THINGS I’M DOING/ALREADY DO TO PREVENT ILLNESS

  • Whole house air filter is running 24/7 – I usually do this during cold/flu season anyway.
  • HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners – this is important to get small particles and contain them so you aren’t breathing them in. Germs ride on dust particles – it’s important to get those dust particles out of the home safely.
  • Wipe down most-touched areas frequently/daily – I use rubbing alcohol for most areas and I use Hydrogen Peroxide or Clean Well Disinfecting Wipes on areas where I can’t use rubbing alcohol.
  • Using the sanitize option on the dishwasher – I do this all the time anyway, but if you can select that, this is the time to start. If you wash dishes by hand, wash and rinse on the highest water temp you can stand.

  • Vitamins + supplements are stocked and in full force – We all take vitamins and supplements and I’ve upped a couple things and added a couple others to help build our immune systems over the past few months. Some important ones for us – Vitamins C + D, Zinc, Probiotics, and Elderberry Syrup. You can see some of the supplements we use and what I keep on hand just in case – here in my Amazon shop under ‘vitamins + supplements’.
  • Whole foods + plenty of water – Making sure we are hydrated and keeping our sugar intake low and filling up on whole foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables is helpful for just feeling great, but it’s also helpful for keeping inflammation down and our immune response up.

LAUNDRY

  • Do at least a load of laundry from washed and dried to folded and put away. This is a Daily Task, but it’s so helpful to keep up with this if it works for you and your family. Now is the time to try it!
  • Launder sheets + towels weekly. This is something we do as part of the Clean Mama Routine on Saturday – Sheets + Towels Day. Weekly sheet washing keeps what you spend a third of your life doing, clean. Wash your sheets! I do this on Saturday so everyone can help out and learn how to change sheets, make beds, and keep their spaces clean.
  • Launder each family member’s clothes SEPARATELY.  This keeps any potential germs contained. Washing on warm/hot and drying on warm/hot will kill most germs naturally. Wash on the warmest temperature you can as stated on the tag and dry on warm if possible. I also use 1/4 cup of white vinegar in each load of laundry to soften the laundry and keep things fresh. You can find the laundry products I use in the shop.
  • Clean the washing machine weekly. This is something I normally do on Saturday after all the sheets, towels, and cleaning cloths are laundered. On our machine we have a ‘clean washer’ option, making this easy. Go here for a post on how to clean a front or top loader.
  • Clean laundry baskets. This is especially important if someone is sick. Use steam, take them outside and spray with hydrogen peroxide or wipe with a disinfecting wipe or clean with soap and water and let sit in the sun. I have clean laundry baskets for clean clothes to simplify this process.

WHAT I’M USING TO CLEAN

  • First and foremost, wash hands frequently – before meals, after meals, after using the bathroom, and periodically during the day. Go here for how to make foaming hand soap and hand sanitizer.
  • DIY Natural Disinfecting Spray – Once things started to open up and with research around the Coronavirus, I re-formulated my DIY Disinfecting recipe. If you are looking for strong AND safe ways to disinfect surfaces, this is it! You’ll find a vinegar-based recipe and a soap-based recipe, both with over 60% alcohol in the recipe. Head to the blog post for my new DIY Natural Disinfecting Spray Recipes.
  • Any of my DIY cleaners will REMOVE germs when applied properly – Plain soap and water will remove germs. Check out this post and video on how to make 8 of my favorite DIY cleaners. I recommend spraying and letting sit for 10 minutes and wiping with a clean microfiber cleaning cloth. If you are needing a disinfectant for surfaces, I recommend cleaning the surface with a DIY cleaner or all-purpose cleaner and then spraying with hydrogen peroxide or my DIY Disinfecting Recipe and allowing to dry on the surface or using a disinfecting wipe (see below). I use rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad on those most-touched areas like door handles, light switches, remotes, phones, etc. Personally, I do not use using any cleaners that have harmful chemicals and fragrances in them even in this scenario because they have endocrine and immune disruptors and can contribute to superbugs. 
  • Clean Mama All-Purpose Spray – this is another great way to clean surfaces – it will be back in stock this week!
  • Disinfecting wipes – I use CleanWell Disinfecting Wipes (currently sold out) if I do have a situation that needs a disinfecting wipe.
  • Steam Cleaning/Sanitizing/Disinfecting – I bought this Dupray Steam Cleaner a couple months ago and love using it to sanitize and disinfect hard and soft surfaces. When we had influenza in February I used it to sanitize the couch and hard surfaces. If you have little ones and are concerned with soft toys or anything that can’t go in the washing machine, this is a great option. Steam to this temperature will kill 99.99% of germs and viruses. It’s pricey but in my opinion, worth it!

I hope this post provides a little hope and guidance in this time of uncertainty.

Here are a few more posts that might help:

Cleaning During a Crisis : Helpful Tips for Your Home

How to Plan in Uncertain Times

How to Clean Your Home’s Most Touched Areas