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Back to School Home Organization Tips

People often think of January or spring as high seasons for home organization. 

But for those of us with school-age kids, late summer is prime time to get rid of excess and create a better system to handle what’s left and what’s on the way.

Plus, if you declutter before classes resume, you could plan a garage or yard sale that could fund a school supply shopping trip or last minute visit to the zoo or water park.

There’s an easy way to approach reorganizing any area of your house. It’s a shorthand version of tips from top-rated professional organizers that you could call the 2-D method:


Pick a room or even just part of one. Quickly, without allowing time for second thoughts, sort everything into three piles or containers: toss, keep and donate/sell.


Find a place for everything that stays, storing things near where they’re used and putting like items together. For example, keep school supplies where homework is done, and sneakers, boots, umbrellas and coats near the door you use most often. Designate a place for each item, at appropriately accessible heights and locations.

Some people will be fine with the 2-D method alone. But here are some more professional organizer tips for tackling specific challenges:

Desk or personal workspace

For some of us, it’s the kitchen counter or dining room table. Wherever it is, keep the surface clear of what isn’t used often.

Create a filing system that lets you quickly find what you need. Set up an “inbox” for new bills/fliers/mail and an “outbox” for completed items. File finished work as it’s done, or on a regular schedule.

Back to school is the perfect time to get your desk — and the rest of your home — in order. (Photo courtesy of Less is More Organizing Services)


Plan to set aside several hours per closet. Remove everything. Sort into categories by type — pants, skirts, tops, shoes, etc.

Evaluate each item, separating out what you want to donate, sell or have repaired. Organize the rest by category, color and season.


In a central area, designate a bin for each family member, into which you place stray items that loved ones put away weekly.

To keep housework manageable, focus on one task per day. For example, designate one day for dusting, another for vacuuming, etc.


Discard or recycle mismatched storage containers. Store lids in the largest container; stack the rest inside each other.

Increase storage space by extending kitchen cabinets to the ceiling, hanging pots from a rack or utensils from a rod, and adding partitions, turntables or stacking platforms to drawers and cabinets.

Save counter space by hanging your kitchen utensils on a rod. (Photo courtesy of BrightNest)


With sidewalk chalk, section off your driveway into toss, keep and donate/sell areas. Break the keep area into subcategories, such as tools, pet supplies, yard care, sports items and paint supplies.

When putting things back, store like items together.


Once school gets underway, you’ll want a system for organizing your child’s homework, schedule and projects. To keep track of everyone’s busy schedule, use a large dry-erase calendar where you can list everyone’s activities in one place.

Clean out book bags daily, and create an organization system for what comes out, such as a stack for homework that needs to be completed and a clip on the refrigerator for important information that you’ll need frequently.

If there are papers or forms that need to be signed, do that right away and return them to the bag immediately.

For long-term school projects, buy a large dry-erase bulletin board and section off space for each child. List each project and when it’s due.

Children’s artwork

Aim to keep work that reflects special moments, such as self-portraits or the first time a child writes his or her name.

One mom I know has an inbox for all school and art papers. She sorts the artwork quarterly, or when it gets too high. Some things she keeps, some things she photographs.

Another option is to go digital and scan your childrens’ artwork into your computer. That way, you can hold on to all those masterpieces without the paper clutter.

The key is to periodically edit, with the goal of keeping just a handful of art examples per year, per child. Store “keepers” in a large, under-bed storage box. When that’s full, sort again. And as your child matures and understands that not everything can be kept, he or she can help with sorting.

School supplies

Inevitably, pencils and supplies will be lost, but projects will still need to be done. When you do your back-to-school supply shopping, stock up on pens, pencils, poster board, markers and glue so you have them on hand when your child comes to you the night before the project is due.

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on July 15, 2014.

Source: Back to school home organization tips, 07/10/2015)  –