A+ Organizing Hacks That Beat Back-to-School Stress

A+ organizing hacks and products to make your household work harder and smarter. 

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Sort through any remaining backlog of last year’s school papers and artwork. Professional organizer Debbie Lillard (spacetospare.com) has her kids make “yes” and “no” piles. She keeps a few favorites in scrapbooks or frames, and recycles everything else. 

Take a wardrobe inventory. See what still fits, then discuss with your kids what items they would like to buy. “Set a budget with each child,” says model and Target Partner Camila Alves. “And help them stick to it.”

A school supply list can be invaluable. The downside: It doesn’t remind you about the three pairs of scissors you already own. Before shopping, let kids go room to room with the list and check off what you already have on hand, suggests Lillard. “If the list isn’t digital, scan it to your phone,” says Bonnie Joy Dewkett (thejoyfulorganizer.com).

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Organizing 101

Every student should own an academic planner, says Debbie Lillard. The Order Out of Chaos Academic Planner features large pages for recording assignments and free-time pursuits.

Some schools sell teacher-approved packaged supply kits as fundraisers, which can be pricey but save time and support the institution or a parent-teacher organization in the process. Teachertailored.com is one option to explore for more information.

One week before the beginning of school, start having everyone go to bed and wake up early, straighten their rooms and eat breakfast, suggests Lillard. “This gets kids adjusted to the upcoming routine,” she says.

Save online coupons, snapshots of paper circulars and discount codes for all your favorite stores to an album on your smartphone. Be sure to check the web or download deal-tracking apps for even more discounts. Dewkett likes CardStar, an app that allows you to access your loyalty cards. 

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Tailor homework spaces according to study habits. A desk next to the bed can provide extra storage. For furniture without drawers, use labeled bins, stacked letter trays or hanging wall pockets. “If your child prefers working on the bed, consider buying a lap table,” suggests Lillard.

Simplify lunch packing by consolidating sandwich ingredients, such as cold cuts and condiments, and juice boxes in one container in the fridge. Designate another bin for bread. “Prep snacks in advance,” says Alves. “Fill baggies for the entire week and label them accordingly.” Get kids to help—they’re more likely to eat what they pack themselves.

Create an after-school snack station with healthy choices like carrots and fruit slices. Put them in one bin on a low shelf in the fridge alongside hummus or dip for easy access. Dewkett leaves a second container in the cupboard with quick bites, such as granola bars.

Assign an area for emptying backpacks, says Meredith Mahoney, founder and design director of Birch Lane. Even a small entryway can fit a table for holding phones, plus a box for dropping off forms and tests that need to be signed by a parent. Other essential components include enough hooks for hanging jackets and floor racks for shoes. 

Before the end of summer, install double hanging rods in closets to gain extra space for kids’ clothes and a high ledge for out-of-season garments. A canvas storage shelf keeps folded items like tees in plain sight. Shoe organizers can prevent those mountains of mismatched sneakers on the floor. Place kids’ laundry hampers or bags in a user-friendly spot like the closet or a corner of their room. 

Keep lightweight drawstring bags or totes packed with gym clothes in a closet right by the door so that kids can grab their stuff and go. 

Post a color-coded paper calendar in a common area to keep track of family members’ schedules, suggests Dewkett. If everyone owns a smartphone, have them enter their own events into a shared app like Cozi or Hub. Display a monthly or weekly copy on the bulletin board or fridge as a visual cue.


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Stylish Storage Options


Keep necklaces tangle-free. Jewelry and Scarf Rack, command.com for stores, $13

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Strage bench


Bring order to the mudroom or entry. Red Wood Oakdale Storage Bench, worldmarket.com, $250

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Stroge organizer


Designed by students to corral desktop necessities. Loft by Umbra Cacti Desktop Organizer, Target stores, $10

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Storage bin


Neatly stow clothes or papers. Crisscross Bin in Yellow, landofnod.com, $20

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Storage drawer

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The secret weapon for neatness in the entryway. Bey-Berk Open Faced Valet Tray, wayfair.com, $55

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Storage shoes


Reduce the chaos on the closet floor. Imelda Shoe Rack in White, dormify.com, $30

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Storage box orange

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Ideal for a child’s bedroom—for sitting and storing. Split Personality Box Seat in Orange, poppin.com, $40

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Backpacks 1


Handle Backpack in Aqua Chevron, yoobi.com, $25

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Backpacks 2


 Backpack in Vine Dot, garnethill.com, $45

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Notebook 1

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Order Out Of Chaos 2015–2016 Academic Planner in Orange Burst, orderoochaos.com, from $19

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Personal Size Notebook, Scissors and Pen Set with Case, Office Depot and OfficeMax stores, $2 to $4

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Kate Spade New York Gold Desk Tray, papersource.com, $39

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Freezable Lunch Bag in Surf Stripe, packit.com, $20