Back to School Organizing


Ahhhh…is there anything more satisfying than opening up a brand new box of crayons?

Yes, of course there is, silly ūüėČ But I’ll admit, I looooves me some new crayons.

A fresh box of crayons can be symbolic of a fresh start to the new school year. Every Fall, we have the opportunity to sharpen our routines and get organized, so we can be as productive as possible.

Last week, we discussed preparing kids for the school year by showing them the¬†calendar, talking with them about the transition, and prioritizing tasks for the remainder of the summer. If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here. Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us how it went!

We’re¬†continuing¬†the back-to-school organization series this week by tackling physical clutter. Most of us want to start off the school year feeling relaxed and focused. But¬†according to Kim John Payne, author of¬†Simplicity Parenting, environmental clutter can lead to overwhelm and distraction for us and for our kids.

The act of organizing itself can feel overwhelming, so set a timer and do a little each day. Ready? Let’s go!



Before you step foot in a store to buy¬†new school clothes or¬†shoes, make an assessment of what you already have and get rid of what you don’t need or use.

The clothes in your child’s closet should fit and be appropriate for the season. Clothes that are too small or too large can be donated or stored, and clothes that are out-of-season can also be stored in labeled boxes. I prefer¬†clear plastic bins, so I can actually see what’s inside.


“When the only clothes available are the ones that fit your child, and the current weather, the closet is no longer a jungle to be hacked through. Even a three-year-old will begin to recognize the pattern of drawers, and be able to get a shirt or sweater themselves.” ¬†-Kim John Payne


Having fewer choices makes getting dressed a lot easier for kids. It’s ok if they wear the same outfits week after week. No one’s keeping track (except you). You can keep clothes for special occasions in a separate section of the closet, but school is messy, so buy clothes accordingly.

Keep like items together.¬†When kids learn¬†that their socks go in the top drawer and their pajamas go in the bottom, for example, they know where to find things and where to put them away. I even go so far as to separate long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts, so there’s no limit to how you can group things.

To take your clothes organizing to the next level, I recommend buying a hanging closet organizer. You can find them in stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond, or you can buy this one that has the days of the week printed on it.

Even though my kids wear uniforms to school, they wear P.E. clothes twice a week and special clothes on certain days, so they still lay out their clothes ahead of time. (Pssst! You can even use this system to organize your own clothes and accessories!)


Backpacks & Shoes

We have this area right inside our door where we dump place our bags and shoes when we get home.

2014-07-29 11.23.43


All you need are some hooks and a shoe rack, nothing fancy. I bought everything at Target.

You’ll find that when¬†everything has a home, staying organized is pretty simple. Kids understand this concept, too, and¬†can be expected to clean up and put things away, just as they do¬†at school.



Here’s where things can¬†really start to get out of control. Even though more and more schools are using¬†computers for homework and¬†to communicate with parents, there’s still quite a bit of paper that comes into the house every day.

Paper can be sorted into three categories¬†– those requiring some sort of action, those to¬†be thrown away, and those to be kept for later reference. As part of your child’s daily routine, he can go through his backpack and put action papers (forms for you to sign, reminders, etc.) in a designated spot¬†(e.g. a hanging clipboard, bulletin board or basket).


Our very basic “command center.”


Then, he¬†can toss unwanted papers¬†and put the ones he’d like to save in a labeled file folder or box (e.g. “Johnny – 1st grade”). At regular intervals — or at the end of the year — go through these papers again and keep only the really important or special ones.

Another tip: Take pictures of projects or papers you want to remember and make an end-of-the-year book using a site like Shutterfly.

Now, if you really want these habits to stick with your kids, you’re going to have to practice what you preach. If your child sees you toss your mail¬†on the counter, it’s likely she’s¬†going to do the same with¬†her¬†papers. As a¬†role model, you need to get in the habit of opening the mail, tossing the¬†junk right away, and filing the rest. You can do it!!!


shopping list

  • Clear bins for clothes that don‚Äôt fit or are out-of-season
  • Hooks for backpacks/bags/keys
  • Shoe rack or cubby
  • Hanging closet organizers
  • Place for action papers (hanging clipboard, bulletin board, or basket)
  • File folders or bins for saving important papers


Over the next two weeks, we’ll cover routines: morning, after school, bedtime, and¬†mealtime. Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog and get notified when new posts come out.

In the comments below, tell me what you thought of today’s post and your biggest struggles regarding routines and mealtimes.

If you liked this post,¬†please share it with your friends and ‚Äúlike‚ÄĚ it¬†on¬†Facebook. And for even more great tips on becoming a calm and connected parent (delivered right to your inbox every Tuesday),¬†please¬†subscribe to this blog.

Showing 12 comments
  • Maria

    Thanks! This was helpful…my little guy is going to TK this year…and while not quite the big leagues, it will require more consistency in our routine. I look forward to your other posts on that!

  • Sara

    Getting organized and decluttered is definitely high on my list. I find it so hard in the summer, because we are outside so much. That said, I can’t start the school year the way we are. I love that you include a shopping list in this post. (Getting to Target is the other thing I have trouble doing in the summer‚ÄĒkeep putting it off for a rainy day), but I should go soon before the college kids come back.

  • Helen Butler

    Oh my gosh Pam I love it! Maybe you could come and work for me?!

    The things in your article that caught my attention were:

    1. Clear plastic tubs. These are great for both ‘out of sight’ and ‘in sight’ organising styles because it keeps the clothes in one place and you can still see what’s going on in them!

    2. Labels – When we moved into our new home our son was six. I put labels on his drawers (socks/undies, PJs, t-shirts, shorts, togs) and they’re still there. It makes it so much easier for him to find what he’s looking for and, most importantly, put his clean clothes away in after they’re folded. If you have little ones that can’t read you can always take a photo or draw a picture (eg of the t-shirts) and pop that on the drawer.

    I have this saying “If you want your children to grow up and move out you have to teach them to organise themselves”. Sounds to me like your children are well on their way!

    Helen xx

    • Pam Howard

      Helen, if you’re offering me a job in Australia, I accept. Actually, I’ve always secretly wanted to be a personal organizer, but I have to get my own house in order first. So glad this post got your stamp of approval. Thanks for commenting and adding some great tips!

  • emilie yunger

    Was always fun to get my 4 ready for the next year…..I always took advantage of the good prices for xtras. …..had a shelf in the basement (yes, up north) with looseleaf paper, notebooks, folders, dividers, pencils, etc as a store for the rest of the year, ever need supplies in January.. $$$$$$$$$$$….then there was…….bookcovering…some from those college ones. And of course….the brownbag ones…… many grandmas like me will relate.

    • Pam Howard

      Oh, I can relate to the brown bag book covers and I’m not a grandma:) I’m pretty sure Marissa had one last year!

  • Clare Greig

    Great tips for me for next year when my little man starts school. Thanks Pam

    • Pam Howard

      You’re welcome, Clare! Good luck to the little man:)

  • Nicholette von Reiche

    I’ve always loved back to school. Clean crisp pages. New pens. New systems.

    Great post Pam, shared with my tribe. x

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