ready or not

Strap In, It's Back-To-School Nesting Season

Time to empty every last closet in your house because it’s a new year.

Written by Laura Onstot
Originally Published: 
Two moms greet their kids and walk with them home from the school bus stop in their rural neighborho...
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Yeah, I nested when I was pregnant. I had a two-page list of every task we needed to accomplish before the baby arrived. The day before I went into labor, I vacuumed like a maniac, meal prepped, and got a car wash. My teenage sister looked on in horror as I balanced precariously on a chair, hanging a picture. “Are you sure you should be doing this?” she asked. My husband walked past without batting an eye, unperturbed by this behavior that was now normal.

After my daughters were born, I assumed my nesting days were over. Then, just the other day, I found myself frantically purging the pantry of half-eaten boxes of cereal and rock-hard raisins. In fact, I decided the pantry wasn’t enough — I had to empty every single cabinet in the house. Today.

For context: I am not an organized person. My house is only clean for 3.23 seconds after the cleaning crew leaves. It would take 24 years to organize the whole thing if I really put my mind to it. And so this burst of energy? Well, it was unexpected. “This feels like…” I thought, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was familiar, like deja vu. As I climbed on a chair to reach the top shelf of a cabinet, I flashed back to my pregnant self, precariously balanced on the chair. I was nesting!

My face blanched. “Am I pregnant?” I wondered, dashing upstairs to my (still unorganized) closet to dig out the long-expired pregnancy test I kept for emergencies.

Turns out, our family is not growing by another human. Instead, I’m experiencing a phenomenon I’ve dubbed “back to school nesting” (BTSN). Maybe you’ve experienced it too.

It’s similar to the pregnancy version of nesting, minus the whole a-baby-is-going-to-exit-my-vagina-any-minute sense of impending doom. But I do count down until the start of school, much like I anxiously awaited that 40th week of pregnancy. The nesting sets in at approximately six weeks of summer. I begin feverishly compiling lists of supplies to buy, errands to run, and house tasks. This year, my nesting could be titled "The Purge." I've spent days pulling every object out of cabinets and closets. Goodwill has profited one billion dollars off of my donations. Our house is empty (aside from everything I hoarded in my BTSN rampage… so basically, it’s full).

It’s not just the closets, though, and it’s not all strictly school-related. BTSN triggers my desire to try a new, 10-step, skincare regimen. I stock up on different facial cleansers and masks. This will be the year, I declare, that my skin will glow. Just like it did when I was pregnant. I bought new probiotics because probiotics fix everything… I just haven’t found the right one yet. Obviously, I bought ten more water bottles because you just can’t have enough water bottles.

This year I nested so hard, I contemplated getting an oil change a few miles before it was due. But then I remembered how much I enjoy the excitement of seeing how long I can go without one.

I texted my neighborhood mom crew to find out if BTSN afflicted other parents. And turns out, it’s not just me. Lisa tried to cram-prepare her children for school, having them do a whole workbook in the last week before school, to make up for the fact that she hadn’t sustained the motivation to have them do one page per day, as she vowed she would on that fateful last day of school.

Jessie labeled the shoe cubby slots (obviously necessary), only to realize her son had no shoes to wear to school the day before it started. On the other hand, the most prepared mom of our group, Kara, had new shoes for her kids, but they refused to wear them, instead “ruining” the first day of school picture with dirty shoes. She sent a live action shot of her son punching her daughter, who was slamming the “First Day of School” board into the ground.

My friend Jessica reports she bought her daughter all new underwear, saying, “I’m not sure what that has to do with school.” Ah yes, the underwear. We also bought two new packages of underwear per person in our family because you can never be too prepared.

And then she added, “I literally labeled every sweater she might possibly bring to school.” For context: we live in Florida. I laughed, until I remembered I purchased a label maker three weeks ago. Not only did I label all of the school supplies, I also labeled everything that could be labeled in our house. “Did you really need to label the toilet?” my husband asked. Why, yes, yes I did — because it’s back-to-school nesting season, and I’ve got to put all these feelings (excitement, anxiety, trepidation) somewhere. Stand back and let me label whatever I want.

Laura Onstot writes to maintain her sanity after transitioning from a career as a research nurse to stay-at-home motherhood. In her spare time, she can be found sleeping on the couch while she lets her kids binge-watch TV. She blogs at Nomad’s Land, or you can follow her on Twitter @LauraOnstot.

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