Organizing & Preparing to Go Back to School


Transitions bring on stress – even those we’ve been through many times before, like shedding our relaxed summer selves and getting back to the school year hustle.  We can minimize start-up stress, however, by planning and putting things in place now.  With proper preparation and organization, we will avoid unnecessary anxiety, arguments, and overall pressure, leaving our kids with more energy to soak up new knowledge and reconnect with old friends.   Also, by engaging our kids in preparation, we not only give them a solid boost this year, but we model good behavior that they may copy throughout their learning lives.

Maybe you’re thinking, that’s nice, but when it comes to getting the kids back into the school routine, there’s a heck of a lot to think about!  You’re right.  But fear not! We are going to boil down back to school preparation to a few main themes that can be addressed in manageable chunks between now and the first day back.  If you get busy addressing them now, you have the chance to get your kids across the starting line with less angst and to set up a successful school system all year round.


What They Wear – Back to School Clothes

There’s nothing worse than rifling through laundry baskets searching high and low for clean socks on the first morning of school.  Getting everything they wear in stock and order ahead of time can eliminate that chaos.

Planning and taking the time to go through the kids’ drawers and closets and old clothing is not so much about lowering the cost of buying new clothes.  Rather, it’s about avoiding overbuying or buying what you already have, which only causes more clutter in your kids’ room and your home.

Block of time at least one to two weeks in advance of school starting to organize their clothes. If you don’t already know the uniform or school dress code, check your school’s website or reach out to the school administration if you haven’t been given a list.

  1. Take inventory.  Put out three laundry baskets: Keep, Hand-me-downs, Donate.  Also keep a garbage bag nearby for things that should be pitched, like socks with holes or torn/stained clothing.  Start with the oldest/tallest child and go through clothing drawers and closets, sorting clothing into the baskets.  Replace the “Keep” neatly in the closets and drawers and dump the “Donate” into a bag.  Write a list of what is deficient and refer to this list later when shopping.  Then move onto the next tallest/oldest child and start with the “Hand-me-down” basket from the previous sibling.  Again, sort these items into the three categories.  Then repeat.  If you go from oldest to youngest, by the end everyone will have their hand-me-downs neatly organized, everyone will have a list of what they need, and you’ll have nice neat bags of donations and trash.
  2. Get what’s on the list(s).  Shop at home first.  If you store hand-me-downs in a separate location, pull out the bins and see if they contain what’s on the list.  If you get hand-me-downs regularly from a friend or family member, connect with that person and go through what they have.  Then find sales, shop online, and hit the repurposed uniform sales at school.
  3. Designate a school spot in their bedroom. Now that you’ve got what they need to get dressed for school, pick a specific drawer(s) or area in their closet that will hold all their approved school clothes. Kids like it and so will you when you’re rushing to get ready for school. A specific place for just school clothes makes it easy for everyone.

What They Take With – School Supplies

School supply shopping can be so much fun.  There is something so exciting about buying a new pack of pencils, a ream of blank paper, new folders, and a new backpack.  It’s less fun, however, when you purchase a million new school supplies only to realize that you already have 1,000 pencils strewn around your house and five packages of loose-leaf tucked in a drawer.  You can save yourself clutter and money by getting organized at home first and save the excitement of buying new supplies for the things you need.

Before you start, get the school supplies lists for each of your children on your schools’ website or email the school administration if you don’t already have a list.  Then schedule two to three hours for this activity on your calendar.

  1. Create school supply station. If you don’t already have a centralized school supplies station in your home, create one. Get a cardboard shipping box or another container and walk around your home. Pick up everything that qualifies as a school supply but is not in a useful or centralized location.  If your kids are old enough, give each a box as well and have them help you.  Many hands make light work.
    • For example, if there are 30 pens in the bottom of the junk drawer in the kitchen, put those in the box.  If there are stacks of mostly unused or new notebooks shoved to the back of a random shelf, empty folders at the bottom of a sock drawer, or old backpacks in the corner of the basement, put them all in the box and deposit them all on the table. If you have a crayon/markers drawer in the kids’ toy room, take note of what’s in there.  Then sort everything on the table into categories.
    • Pens and pencils: Throw away chewed-on pencils or those with no eraser left or those that are so small you can’t hold them.  Sharpen the rest and store them in an old coffee mug or peanut butter jar.  Test each of the pens.  Throw away old or dead pens and store the rest in jars.
    • Paper: Stack paper by category: blank, cardstock, construction paper, loose-leaf, sketch, watercolor, etc.  Stack up unused notebooks.  Put all of the paper in manila folders and stack it lying flat so that it doesn’t warp or bend.
    • Folders: Pick out folders that are intact and in good condition.  Stack them in a pile and recycle the rest.
    • Backpacks: If backpacks are in good condition, put them on the table.  If not, store them neatly or donate them.  (Check all the pockets carefully for old treasures before donating them.)
    • Continue this process for all school-related items (such as staples, staplers, scissors, rubber bands, tissue boxes, glue, paints, hand wipes, cleaning wipes, etc.) into piles and throw away or recycle anything that is not in usable condition.Then, look at everything you’ve collected and consider how much space it will take to store all of your supplies.  Pick a location that makes sense in your home (perhaps in the kids’ art/toy room along a wall or in the family office or the kitchen desk area) and create a station that everyone can use to get school supplies when they are needed.  If you don’t already have some, purchase one or two organizer trays to keep small things like thumbtacks from getting out of order.
  2. Shop at home first.  As we already did with clothing, shop at home first.  Go through your kids’ school supplies lists and load up their backpacks with items you already have in your school supplies station.  Take note of what you don’t have and add those items to the clothing list from above.
  3. Get what’s left on the list.  Then shop the sales, online, or in person.  Again, while you are undoubtedly going to save money, this entire process is mainly about reducing clutter and chaos in your home by not purchasing things you already own and by centralizing and organizing what you have so that it is useful.  Additionally, you’ve created a centralized school supplies station the kids can use to replenish throughout the year.
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