Set backpacks and lunchboxes in their spaces to prep for the next day’s morning routine.(GETTY IMAGES)
The summer is winding down, which means it’s time to prepare for a new school year. This means a new morning routine, school pickup and drop-off, homework, meal planning, after-school activities and more. Before school even starts, parents also need to pick up school supplies, backpacks and new clothes.
To help ease your stress, we put together a list of back-to-school home organization tips for parents with kids of any grade level.
Raychel Klein, a Seattle-based professional organizer and founder of Raybaybay, says creating a routine that’s easy to follow can help everyone stay on track. For example, set backpacks and lunchboxes in their spaces to prep for the next day’s morning routine.
“You don’t have to set exact times to be followed, but having an order of events can help set expectations and stability,” she says.
“Create a checklist of things the children can do in the evening to help them get ready in the morning,” says professional organizer Diane Quintana, owner of DNQ Solutions in Georgia.
Quintana says some things to consider putting on the checklist are laying out clothes the night before, making sure homework is done and stored in backpacks, preparing lunches and snacks, morning hygiene routine and so on.
It’s easy to stray from the normal bedtime schedule during the summer, but Quintana says it’s important to adjust to waking up earlier and going to bed sooner before the first day of school.
Quintana suggests putting children to bed 10 or 15 minutes earlier each night until they’re in bed at a preferred time. In the morning, do the same thing. Get them up 10 to 15 minutes earlier until they’re used to an earlier schedule.
A dedicated homework space can help make your family’s after-school routine less stressful. Klein says a dedicated area with its own supplies minimizes the chances of school supplies leaving backpacks and getting lost. She recommends using drawer or desk organizers to keep everything neat and tidy.
Laura Price, founder and director of The Home Organisation in London, recommends using a rolling cart with a shelf for each child or a box that you can store away in a cabinet. “Wall-mounted wire baskets or magazine files are really great to store school books or papers while they’re at home to make sure they don’t go missing,” Price adds.
Before the kids go back to school is the perfect time to declutter and organize. This can be overwhelming, but Todd Lamson, director of franchise operations of The Junkluggers, a junk removal company, says a simple approach is to go room by room. “When decluttering, make sure each room has a pile for what you plan to keep, donate or toss,” Lamson says.
When you start organizing, make sure everything has a place. “When organizing the items that remain, be sure to find a space where items can live,” Lamson adds. “This makes tidying up easier because you know where it goes, and it can help prevent new clutter.”
And don’t forget to go through closets. “Kids grow a lot over the summer, so make a note of any gaps that need plugging and get to the shops in plenty of time for September,” Price says.
An easy-access school supply center in the kitchen or family room can help foster independence in children and ensure that they start the school year with everything they need. What you store there depends on the age of the child, but Quintana says you can have anything from markers, pencils, construction paper and glue to a stapler, paper clips, scissors and more.
Sarah Dunn of Ready Set Organize in San Diego recommends creating a “drop zone” for the kids. “Think of this as a designated area where kids can drop their belongings when they come in from school,” she explains. “If you're short on space or don't have a proper mudroom, a few hooks near the front door will allow them to hang their backpacks and sports bags, keeping the area feeling more orderly.”
If your child has their own phone or uses a laptop or tablet for schoolwork, Dunn says an easily accessible charging station is a good way to make sure everything stays charged. This is also a great location to keep devices to prevent anything from getting lost.
Encourage the kids to clean their bedrooms before the new school year begins. Quintana recommends distinct zones for reading and desk work. A well-organized, clutter-free bedroom can help your child focus and prepare for school.
If you have elementary-age children, give each kid a reusable storage bag for snacks to bring to school or have at home. You can even prepare snacks in advance and designate a different colored bag for each child.
“If you have multiple kids with multiple afterschool activities, you need to keep track of it,” Price says. She recommends a family calendar on the wall or fridge to keep everything organized.
“Each person has a column where all of their activities can be written for the week. Keep this with a wall-mounted basket or a magazine file for all of the permission slips and notes that come home from school you need to deal with so nothing gets lost,” Price says.
Klein also recommends color-coding by family member or activity to help sort through multiple activities per day. A reusable calendar can also give a visual reminder for the upcoming week or month.
Parents don't have much time to plan and prepare healthy meals every day between school drop-off, shuttling kids for after-school activities and helping with homework. Take the time you have over the weekend to plan, shop and prep meals for the week.
“Getting ready for the school season is more than buying supplies. It's about crafting a space that encourages children's development, neatness and innovation,” says Olivia Parks, owner and lead organizer at Professional Organizer New Orleans. “One smart way to accomplish this is through dual-purpose furniture like storage ottomans or cube organizers with bins, which add to the room's storage capacity while keeping things tidy, making the cleaning process something even kids can enjoy.”
Use dual-purpose storage options to categorize items in a kid’s room or used to store school work, supplies, uniforms and more.
Use clear organization bins in the fridge and pantry for easy after-school snacking. Klein says you can find rectangular containers or larger bins on Amazon to use in the fridge and pantry.
There’s a reason why the lost and found area at school is always full. Random items pile up in the lost and found; without a label, there’s no telling who it belongs to.
“Be sure clothing, backpacks, supply cases, lunchboxes, water bottles and whatever else your child takes to school has their name on it,” Klein says. “You want to prevent mix-ups, and even if items go missing, they can at least find their way back since they are labeled.”
Establishing a reward system is a great way to incentivize your child to put things away. “Establish and reward a routine around getting the kids to take their lunchboxes out of their bags and put them in the dishwasher after school,” Dunn explains. “The key here is you want to minimize your to-do list and stress in the morning and help your kids develop good organizational habits.”
Jan Arkwright, founder and president of Before & After Organizing by Jan LLC, a professional organizing company, recommends a fully stocked supply closet in the home.
“Somewhere kids can grab last-minute needed items like poster board, pens, etc.,” Arkwright says. This can help avoid a scramble to the store. “For younger children, keep some extra birthday party gifts on hand for last-minute invites,” she adds.
If you have younger children, Arkwright says going through backpacks every night can help ensure that nothing has been overlooked. Look through every pocket and folder to avoid missing a note from the school or permission slip.