Five Helpful Tips For Back-to-School Organization

It’s hard to believe that summer is starting to wind down and school is back in session. At least it is out here in Colorado and there is an abundance of first-day-of-school pictures on social media to prove it. But, all pictures aside, there is a lot of anxiety that comes with back-to-school organization. Start the year on the right food with these helpful tips to get ready to take on the new school year.

The best way to ease your anxiety is to create a feeling of control. While you may not be able to control everything, putting systems, planning routines, and morning routines in place will make the job a little easier. Before you dive in, remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to home organization…and back-to-school organization is no different. With any tips and tricks that you may find online, you always need to implement them in a way that works for you and your family.

Set A Morning Routine

Your morning routine is the backbone of back-to-school organization. Begin constructing your morning routine by sitting down and making a list of the things that have created morning anxiety in the past. After you write those down, think about what would have made those things a little less stressful. This becomes the basis for your morning routine.

For example, if corralling backpacks is a morning nightmare, then set up a staging area near your exit door. Backpacks go to their designated spot in the staging area when homework is done. This way they are ready to go in the morning. Remember, it takes time to build a habit, so this might not work the first time or even the fourth, but with time and patience it will become a habit.

Morning routines are great, but simplify them further by starting them the night before. Make time in the evening for making lunches, packing backpacks, and picking out clothes. This frees up time in the morning when we are all moving a little slower. You can also motivate yourself to get some items done over the weekend. Take it up another notch and make lunches for the whole week on Sunday. That may not work for everyone…but it’s an option if you need it. It’s up to you to come up with creative solutions that work for you.

Once you have your routine mapped out, if it’s possible, put it into action before the first day of school. This will help alleviate the shock that the first day of school usually brings. If your kiddos are already back in school, fear not, you still have hope!

Create Snack and Lunch Making Zones

Speaking of making lunches, setting up a lunch zone in your fridge and pantry can be a lifesaver. Keep all the lunch-making supplies together…meat, cheese, bread, mayo. You can even get a clear fridge bin and put it all in there. This way you simply pull it out and make sandwiches. Apply the same rule and make a pantry bin with the things you need…peanut butter, jelly, snacks.

Don’t forget to include your kids in the process. It’s amazing when they are finally able to make their own lunches. When my son started making his own we created a formula for what to include. Lunch had to include: a sandwich (or the equivalent leftover), a crunchy (like Cheezits or chips), a fruit, and a snack (usually a granola bar or fruit bar). When lunch includes one item from each category his work was done.

Prepare for Papers and Emails

When it comes to staying organized, folders and binders are not just school supplies for the kids. The amount of information and papers that are filtering in from school on a regular basis is enough to make any parent a hot mess. If email is your primary source of information, corral it by setting up a folder structure. As emails come in you can move them to the correct folder. Here is an example of a folder structure I have used. Set up the main folder using the grade; if you have more than one child, just add their name. Add subfolders that help to sort things even further. Example:

> Ninth Grade – The Mayor

–> Class Specific

–> Grades // Attendance

–> Newsletters // School Misc.

–> Sports

–> Volunteer Time

While email folders are super handy for back-to-school organization, you may also need a physical place for things that need attention or papers that need to be gone through. There is always that place where school stuff gets dropped when kids come home. This is where that staging area comes in handy. Add a basket or bin that will be the drop space for papers. Kids put stuff in, parents go through it and get rid of what is not needed.

Most parents face the inevitable question of what to do with all the papers, pictures, and keepsakes that come along with the year. Decide how you are going to collect and what you are going to save in advance. This allows you to put a system in place. I personally use a binder system, so I set up my binder at the beginning of the year and try to keep on top of it. Good news…the amount of paperwork seems to decrease with each grade.

Image shows a binder system for school papers. Three ring binders shown are blue and red with the grades and years written on the spine.
Our school binder system.
Each binder holds papers, artwork, pictures, and awards from the school year.
Have a Homework Station

Set up a grade-level-specific homework or workstation. Designating in advance the spot they will work is huge! Setting the expectation of where the kids will work, be it a desk, the kitchen table, the patio, or a blanket fort in the family room, will make it easier to get homework done.

If you have younger children, set up a homework caddy that can easily be pulled out when needed. Have things like markers, pencils, paper, and rulers on hand and easily accessible. Depending on your child’s grade and their school situation this will dictate what kind of items you should keep in your caddy.

Write Down Expectations

If you write it down you are more likely to do it. If you write it down where everyone can see it…even better! Have fun with this. Make a poster, or write them on a sheet of paper and hang them on the fridge. The most important part is to get everyone on board with the plan. We have a chalk board on our garage exit. Every year I use chalk pens to update it with house rules, expectations, and some words of encouragement.

Check out additional examples of school organization tips on my Pinterest Board by clicking here.

Once you get these back-to-school organization basics under control, you may want to dive into some additional planning like evening routines, calendar management, and more. Be sure to check back for more tips to make a smooth return to learning.

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Published by Jenn DePauw - Organized Priorities

Jenn is the owner of Organized Priorities, a Colorado-based company specializing in Organization, Productivity, and Operations. As an organization and productivity professional, Jenn specializes in individual and team productivity coaching as well as organization for both individuals and small businesses. She is also the author of The Organized Priorities Blog (, an organization and lifestyle blog that focuses on making life more organized, more productive, and a little easier. For helpful tips on everything from weekly planning to home organization, and daily celebrations to words of encouragement you can follow @organizedpriorities on Instagram.

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