Back-to-School Home Organizing Tips

When I was in elementary school, this commercial came on the air for the first time:

I wasn’t quite sure why it made my father howl with laughter, or why he insisted on humming that song as we shopped for school supplies. But now I’m the mom of a school-aged child and I have to say, I get it!

As much as we’ve all gotten accustomed to the laid-back summer laziness, the first day of school is looming close. Unfortunately, rather than evoking a wonderful sense of anticipation – new books! new supplies! new friends! a great year! – the start of the new school year often brings on a sense of dread in parents and children alike (resulting in facial expressions remarkably similar to the ones the kids in that commercial are wearing). School days can be fraught with tension, especially in disorganized households; when kids live in well-run homes with a time and place for everything, the transition to early mornings and afternoon (to late-night) homework is infinitely smoother.

It’s a fresh new year – make your home feel fresh to match! Give every room in your house a boost to encourage excitement for a promising, enjoyable school year.

The Entryway

…also known as the mudroom, garage, foyer, or “that place where the kids dump their stuff as soon as they come in.” A messy dumping grounds will not only wreak havoc on Mom’s nerves, it’ll result in chaos when it comes to homework and getting off to school in the morning. (How many times have we heard the old refrain: “Where’s my math book?” “I’m going on a trip today and you never signed the permission slip I brought home three weeks ago!” “How could you forget your diorama?!”)

A simple, space-saving organizational solution: give each kid a designated place to stash his or her stuff. Cubbies are a great way to keep everything in check: each family member gets a cubby with a hook and a shelf, providing room for a backpack, books, papers, sports gear, jacket, boots, and assorted clothing and supplies.

Great features on this one: designated shoe storage and a bench where kids can sit down to remove said shoes (no more slushy bootprints across the house!). Built-in shelving is terrific, but can be costly; check out cheaper stores or repurpose an old bookshelf for an easy DIY project. I personally prefer a bit of color, too – why not make it fun to keep our belongings neat? Paint the interior of each kid’s cubby his or her favorite color or use bright bins.
For even more convenience, give each kid a (store-bought or homemade) standard inbox/outbox file holder to keep his or her papers in check. If a test or permission slip needs signing, homework needs to be checked, or a project earned high praise from the teacher, stick it in the inbox for Mom or Dad to review. Signed papers, lunch bags, and encouraging notes should be tucked into the outbox, which the student empties into his or her backpack every morning before school.
If your cubby station is near the coat closet or in a separate room, hang a shoe organizer over the door and fill it with school supplies (pens, pencils, notebook paper, White-Out, tissues, whatever your kids run out of constantly) and/or winter accessories (hats, gloves, scarves) so that kids remember to refill as necessary.
over-door school supplies

Bedrooms and Bathrooms

A good night’s sleep and a place to chill out and unwind are vital in keeping your family happy and well-educated. Make your kids’ rooms and bathroom(s) fun, kid-centric, and even educational (but not in a boring way) to set the tone for great school days.

Add personal touches to your kids’ bedrooms; let them pick the color scheme, bed linens, accessories, and/or furniture (within reason!). At the end of the day, it’s where your kids go to unwind and where they wake up in the morning; if it’s dysfunctional or not their taste, it can sour the whole day. For an inexpensive but personal touch, consider adding a light fixture that reflects your kid’s personality and interests – there’s one for everyone, whether he or she loves sports, animals, vehicles, or a soothing lightshow to fall asleep to:

ELK Lighting Lightshow Pendant
ELK Lighting Splash Flushmount
ELK Lighting Racecar Pendant

See the entire collection here.

Make sure that closets are well-organized to avoid the morning “I can’t find my socks!” routine. Use colorful bins and creative DIY projects to store small everyday items like hair accessories:


Simply hang ribbons from a hanger and clip barrettes and bows onto it!

Anyone with kids knows how hectic the mornings can be, especially with shared bathrooms. Keep yours organized for quick and easy morning preps, and keep it fun and full of personality to put a smile on your kids’ faces to set the mood in the morning and to unwind at night!

Sonia Lesson 1 Collection

This fun vanity is sure to bring a smile to every kid’s face, even on the dreariest of school days. It helps teach children about proper personal hygiene while providing plenty of storage space. The best part: you can draw on it! (Its magnetic surface is fully erasable.)

Use a towel warmer (decorative or just functional) to get reluctant teens to shower on early, cold school mornings.

Wesaunard Guitar Electric Towel Warmer
Amba Quadro Towel Warmer

The Kitchen

For many, the kitchen is the heart of the home. For families with school-aged kids, it’s imperative to keep the kitchen neat, accessible, and inviting. Everyone needs a good breakfast to start the day off right, snacks when they come home from school “staaaaarving,” and a family dinner around the table to catch up on news and spend time together. Make sure your kitchen is well-lit and homey, with your kids’ snacks and school foodstuffs within reach so that packing lunches and getting an after-school snack is easy.

For many, the kitchen is the go-to spot for homework. I personally grew up doing homework at my desk (we had a small kitchen) but I would love a spot in the kitchen for my kids to sit and do homework while I supervise (and cook dinner at the same time – we moms need to be good multitaskers!). Dedicate a shelf, cabinet, or bin in your kitchen for homework supplies – pens, pencils, paper, dictionary, etc. – to make homework less of a chore. Some kitchens feature a built-in desk for homework, which is great for those of us who are short on space:

100_0188 - Copy
Photo courtesy of M.L. of New Jersey, a Quality Bath customer

Which brings us to…

The Office/Homework Room

If you’re lucky enough to have a separate homework spot, make it a fun one! Homework doesn’t have to be a drag. I love these two rooms:

Eclectic Home Office by Decatur Kitchen & Bath Designers Renewal Design-Build
Bright colors, funky chairs, plenty of storage and workspace, and those lights are too cute!
Traditional Kids by Grand Rapids Architects & Designers Visbeen Architects
This one gives off more of a serene, calming vibe. I like how it has separate workspaces for everyone (no more “his elbow is on my paper!”) as well as a big window and individual lamps for optimal light. I’d go with more comfortable chairs, though.
Another fun idea for homework rooms: chalkboard paint! Especially exciting for little kids and it gives the room a schoolhouse feel (though most actual schools have markerboards now…). And what kid wouldn’t want to draw on the walls?
Contemporary Kids by Brooklyn Architects & Designers CWB Architects

Most importantly, keep the homework room quiet, well-lit, and clutter-free. It should be a place for kids to concentrate and work.

Where did you/do your kids do homework? Vote and tell us where and why!

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Good luck with making back-to-school “the most wonderful time of the year” – for everyone!