Whether you’re rejoicing as a parent with some extra “Me Time” during the day, or a student mourning summer’s end, back-to-school season can drum up an abundance of emotions.
Here’s one way to make it easier on everyone involved:
Prepare for everything the new school year throws your way.
Below are 25 brilliant back-to-school organization tips and ideas to make swapping beach days for book reports easy, efficient, and — dare we say it — downright enjoyable.
An organized workspace, functional command center, and a helpful app or two will help bring order to homework time and sanity back to your home.
Or, at the very least, you’ll always know where to find a sharpened pencil.
1. Pop homework down with a DIY folding desk
Make homework feel like less of a chore with this personal workspace for your kiddos. This DIY hideaway desk, from Amy at Organized Mom, combines the concept of a drop-down desk with a chalkboard, putting a fun twist on two classroom classics.
The best part:
Come cleanup time, your kids won’t be able to simply tuck away their clutter — since the desk won’t close if there are items on its surface.
2. Build a behind-the-door bookshelf
A new school year means new books, and new books mean new clutter. But you can easily contain any novel overflow with this thrifty hack from Kristine of The Painted Hive.
She mounted four floating shelves to the wall directly behind her daughter’s bedroom door, taking care to position the ledges away from the door’s protrusion.
The result is a sweet little nook that manages to feel like both a library and hiding place at once.
3. Improve morning takeoffs with a launching pad
Between showers, last-minute signatures, and (oops!) burnt breakfasts, to call your mornings hectic would be something of an understatement. According to professional organizer Nathalie Ricaud of Get Organised and Beyond, one way to minimize the waking chaos is by crafting something of a “launching pad.”
In one dedicated nook, keep everything that your child needs for school accessible. It might help to keep a checklist of all the items — Ricaud recommends using images instead of words if your child is too young to read.
She also suggests making it your child’s responsibility to gather his or her things. Even if the bags aren’t ready yet each night, packing them just may be the easiest part of your morning.
4. Create a command center…
Committing one schedule strictly to memory is already a true feat. Committing six? That would require a brain of superhero proportions.
Jen of Forever For Always No Matter What has a handle on her six kids’ homeschooling curricula, activities, chores, and more, thanks to a top-notch command center (and probably some secret superpowers, let’s be honest).
To establish this center of communication while keeping it clear and functional, Jen carved out a space in her home to hang a large wall calendar, chore chart, visual schedule for the younger ones, and a meal planner to eliminate any “But what’s for dinner!” distractions.
Keeping it simple and straightforward makes it easy for both Jen and her kids to maintain so they can all be superstars.
5. …And adjust it as needed
Here’s a slightly different take on command centers, courtesy of Charlotte from At Charlotte’s House.
She fashioned hers together based on her own and her family’s needs:
A place to corral paper, a small bowl for rogue paper clips, a cork board for notes, and other school-related miscellanea.
By keeping it in the kitchen, she also prevents any paper clutter that typically piles up in the area.
6. Easily construct a DIY homework station
Keeping distractions at bay at homework time can be a harder task to tackle than helping your fourth grader with their geometry homework. Amy of MomAdvice found the answer (to the distraction problem, not to, “Which of these figures is a quadrilateral?”).
With a tri-fold foam display board, razor blade, spray adhesive, and a bevy of creative organization solutions, she created two homework study stations that are perfect for keeping kids focused.
Plus, each study station folds totally flat for easy storage come play time!
7. Take your homework for a spin
If you give a kid a math problem, they’re probably going to ask for a pencil. No, not that pencil. But he’s got a new pencil. Mom, where are all of the new pencils?
Beth from Home Stories A to Z was tired of losing school supplies to the “black hole of the cabinet.” She constructed this simple Lazy Susan organizer out of a wood round and some empty paint cans to collect pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, and glue sticks.
Abandon the messy supply cabinet forever, and let your kids give this piece of organizational genius a spin.
8. Turn your entryway into a clutter buster
Once you’ve gotten the before-school routine down to a T, it’s time to contend with the chaos that ensues in the post-school afternoons. Vineta from The Handyman’s Daughter recommends stopping any mess in its track with an entryway storage setup.
Whether you’re DIY-ing one or not, Jackson recommends these three criteria:
- Backpack hooks
- Shoe storage
- Ample seating
9. Pop up some backpack hooks
Or you could go for a simpler solution to nip after-school clutter in the bud:
Set up a backpack organizing station, à la this easy tweak from Ask Anna Moseley.
Anna found that by designating a hook for each child’s backpack, she was able to change her kids’ habits of leaving their backpacks scattered around the house. This also left them in charge of putting away their lunchbox, water bottle, and homework.
10. Guarantee library books get returned on time
Libraries are fun. Not so fun? Keeping tabs on due dates for your little bookworm’s overflowing, rotating literary collection.
Designing a designated basket is a simple solution to this classic clutter conundrum. Angela at Blue i Style has a simple DIY that takes the idea a step further, adorning hers with a leather label from an old, upcycled belt.
It may not return books on time for you, but at least you’ll know where that hungry caterpillar is hiding out.
11. Fashion a kid’s reading nook
We all know education goes beyond the classroom. Nailing the first component of the three Rs is critical for school success.
The best way to effortlessly instill a love of the written word? Setting up a cozy space for your munchkins to read that’s all their own.
Jenn from Clean and Scentsible fills her son’s corner with comfy pillows, an assortment of favorite titles, and plenty of storage containers. Sounds like the perfect spot for your own new library book basket.
12. Incorporate an item box into your child’s routine
Inboxes: They’re not just for email anymore.
Professional organizer Nancy Haworth of On Task Organizing recommends placing a small tray or bin to serve as your child’s “inbox.”
Use it for small, everyday items, like lunch money, spinners, or electronics. You could even place it near an outlet for a makeshift charging station.
13. DIY a double-sided Do Not Disturb sign
Your phone is on silent and screen-side down on the desk. Your playlist of instrumental jams is ready to help you concentrate without the threat of distracting solo karaoke sessions.
The brain-boosting snacks are lined up next to the grande latte. It’s study time, and you. are. ready.
That is, until someone stops by to see if you want to go see a movie. Or knocks to see if you’ve eaten dinner yet. Or pops in simply to see what you’re up to.
You’re never as popular as you are when you’ve sat down to get some solid studying in, but good grades don’t come by way of interruptions. Create this double-sided Do Not Disturb sign to let people know when you’re in the zone, and when you’re ready to come up for air (and pizza).
14. Rainbow your way to organization
via The Clever Teacher
The only thing worse than getting to work and realizing you brought the wrong paperwork?
Getting to school and realizing you brought the wrong paperwork.
Kids are powerless to present their history report if they accidentally grabbed trig notes instead.
For any forgetful kiddos (and, let’s face it, us young at heart), Sara from Time To Organize recommends color-coding.
Colors are a simple, yet effective, memory prompt. So when you let your kids apply colors according to the subjects they remind them of (e.g., purple for literature and green for science), they’re likelier to remember to bring the right notebook for the right classes.
15. Download these free back-to-school apps
Somewhere between confirming carpool rides, tossing flashcards into baggies, and repairing a trampled diorama, you hear the cry: “PB&J again?”
Becca from Cul de Sac Cool understands the school-prep hustle. Which is why she rounded up the best free back-to-school apps that help her stay sane, come fall:
- Here Comes the Bus for estimating arrival times
- myHomework for keeping tabs on tests and assignments
- Dictionary.com for quick vocab reference
- Brainscape for flashcards that won’t cause clutter
- Overdrive for virtual access to your local library
- MyScript for magically converting scribbles into calculations
The six apps won’t whip up gourmet meals for your mini master chefs, but they will do things like keep you posted on when the bus is coming.
Peace of mind: There’s an app for that.
16. Add a splash of color with a DIY pencil holder
There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly sharpened pencils — and it’s somehow even better when those carved quills are craftily contained.
Enter this bright, cheery project from Marwa at Enthralling Gumption. An old jar and some terrazzo-inspired paint is all it takes to whip up the friendliest pencil holder that your kids will actually want to use.
17. Create learning environments around the home
Lessons aren’t found solely in textbooks. There are several important teaching moments that take place at home and have nothing to do with solving for X.
Susan Miller, Ed.D. of Earlychildhood NEWS recommends using your own everyday tasks to serve as mini educational moments throughout the day.
For example, demonstrate the importance of being physically active by inviting the kids to join in your daily workout: they can lift soup can weights while you lift the real deal.
From the kitchen to the home office, there are plenty of ways to tackle your to-do list while inviting your kids to “help” and learn.
18. Contain your cords with a five-minute washi tape hack
Drowning in a mountain of school-related cables?
Here’s a five-minute solution to the everyday hassle of figuring out which cord is which:
Lindsay from Crazy Organized wrapped, adhered, and trimmed a piece of washi tape for each of her most-used cords. Voilà, no more mistaken plugging necessary.
If you’re lucky enough to own a label maker, you can type out the corresponding device for each tag. Otherwise, some simple Sharpie penmanship should do the trick.
19. Assemble a make-your-own-lunch station
School-aged children are more than capable of making their own lunches. Sometimes it just takes a little organizational push to get them taking care of themselves (don’t worry, parents, they still need you!).
Simplify morning mayhem with well-labeled areas in your pantry and fridge that help kids easily grab the makings of a nutritious lunch.
Becky at Organizing Made Fun has baskets in her pantry for lunch bags, snacks, plastic spoons, and the rest of the lunchtime necessities. Her kids choose everything they need and are quickly out the door.
Sia from Thrifty Northwest Mom has a similar setup. She recommends taking one day a week to fill three separate bins with:
- Snack items
- Fruits and veggies
- Protein options
Your kids can select two from the protein bin, two from fruits and veggies, and one snack.
Bonus: When your kids choose what they get to eat, they’re way more excited about their lunch.
20. Levitate a school paper organizer
“Back to school” is often synonymous with “back to permission slips, take-home assignments, and fingerprint masterpieces.” While all of them are important, where can you store them for easy access without surrendering your kitchen counter?
Summer from Simple Stylings loved the idea of a family binder for containing bills, menus, and any school-related mayhem, but lacked the horizontal space that it required.
So she transferred the same idea — filing by categories — to a more convenient spot:
She transitioned her system to a wall-mounted magazine rack, spruced up a stool so her young son could reach, and added a hook for his backpack.
21. Replicate this wonderful wall storage idea
If your two kids bring 20 pages home every day for one year, how long will it take until your kitchen counter totally disappears?
It won’t, thanks to these clever wall-mounted baskets built by Becky from This Is Happiness.
She chose two woven baskets roomy enough to store her children’s binders, and installed them onto the wall. The wall baskets also work as places in which Becky can temporarily tuck away any important files until she’s had the chance to leaf through them.
22. Take a load off the morning juggle
Transitioning from carefree summer AMs to those hectic, pre-carpool scrambles is never easy. But a touch of personalized prep can go a long way in making everything easier.
Amy from Delineate Your Dwelling figured out a way to get her two young children organized and on-board for a headache-free start to the day.
She customized a colorful, kid-friendly school evening routine chart, to be completed each school night. Before going to bed, her kiddos know to check off their assigned tasks, such as homework completed and backpack packed.
Come morning, the only scramble they’re facing is served with OJ and toast.
23. Conduct a wardrobe review
Kids grow quickly. Those “have-to-have” hoodies and sneakers go from on-trend to outgrown seemingly overnight.
That’s why Natalie of Refined Rooms, LLC schedules a review of her children’s wardrobes every year. She sorts the items in their closets, and the kids put on a “fashion show” to determine which pieces to keep or toss. Decluttering has never been so fashionable.
24. Start a capsule wardrobe
Capsule wardrobes have been a cultural phenomenon since British shopkeeper Susie Faux coined the term in the 1970s. Think Mark Zuckerberg’s gray tee, or Steve Jobs’ iconic turtleneck and jeans.
Having a more limited selection of clothing you actually wear eases decision fatigue. Which makes mornings way less stressful.
Angela from Setting My Intention found that same concept applied to her kids. The less overwhelm her three sons faced before school, the better. Instead of building piles of once-worn clothing, the mini-geniuses in her life are able to focus on what really matters, like getting out the door on time.
The start of a new school year is always an exciting time. Less exciting is figuring out exactly how your snazzy new school gadgets will fit into a supply closet that’s already brimming with goods.
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