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How to organize kids’ school supplies at home

by respaced on August 20, 2015

In honor of Back To School (yes, that is a defined season, worthy of all caps), I thought it might be useful to share my best tips for organizing all those extra school supplies at home. You know, supplies like those extra 5 gluesticks, of which your kid only needed to take one to school at a time, but it was cheaper to buy a package of 6?

School supplies often get mixed in with the home office supplies and craft supplies, so this whole “Supply” area of  the house can get chaotic quickly!

First of all, separate out the “paper-based” school supplies (e.g. notebooks, folders, binders, dividers, loose leaf paper, etc.) from the rest of the school supplies (e.g. gluesticks, pencils, crayons, scissors, etc.)

Next, the easiest way to store these two categories of school supplies is to give each category its own bin (labeled, of course!) on a shelf. The two red bins in the pic below hold the two categories of school supplies at my client’s house:

Office cornerYou could just leave it at that, and that would be good enough. But sometimes it’s fun — and more appealing to kids — to separate the colored crayons, markers and pencils by color and display them in jars. This way they are more accessible to the kids while adding a fun pop of color to their rooms (see below).

Kids School Supplies

I have used this method in my own house with a box lid and red plastic cups:


One last tip for organizing kids’ school supplies: Store them in ONE place in the house so you and your kids can find them when you need them. This way, you won’t waste money on buying more school supplies throughout the year simply because you couldn’t find what you needed at home. Think of the money you will save, Parents of the World!


What is one of the biggest problems I see in my clients’ home offices? No recycling or shred bins! Sometimes no trash bins either. This is one of the main reasons paper piles are such horrible problems in many home offices: There is no convenient place to dump all of the unwanted paper.

You can spend a lot of money on a shiny, metal, 2- or 3-compartment bin at The Container Store. Or you can go super cheap, yet highly effective with these two ideas (below):

Recycling station

In the above pic, I just took a big box, covered it with paper, and made 3 signs that say “Recycle,” “Shred,” and “Trash.” Inside the box, I placed 3 brown bags, the kind you get at the grocery store. That way, when the “Recycle” bag is full, I simply lift the bag out, dump the entire bag and its contents in the recycling, and then put a new bag in the box. So easy. And so inexpensive!

Recycle station

In this pic, I used two baskets from Ikea (sized to fit in the KALLAX unit). The kind of baskets I used here were key: Each basket is straight-sided so they can snuggle right up next to each other, making them more space efficient. Round wastebaskets are a waste of space. Get straight-sided baskets instead.

Again, each basket is lined with a brown bag or garbage bag, making dumping the recycling or trash super easy. Oh, and note the honkin’ huge labels! These are essential if you are sharing your home office with other family members, and you don’t want your bins filled up with randomness.

Setting up recyling/trash bins is definitely the unsexy part of organizing a home office, but it is CRUCIAL to keeping the paper chaos under control.

Happy Organizing, Everyone!


Schoolwork organizing after

School is out for the summer, which means it’s time for my annual post on “how to organize kids’ schoolwork.” (Scroll to the bottom of this post to see what we did with the vast majority of my son’s schoolwork this year!)

How to Organize Kids’ Schoolwork

1. When your children get home, ask them to sort through their papers to pick out their favorites. If your children seem to want to keep everything, set a limit of perhaps 15 papers each. Keep those in a small stack.

2. Now it’s your turn to sort through what’s left. If you have a hard time deciding what to keep and what to toss, ask yourself: Is this schoolwork some of the best work little Jimmy has ever done? Is it really representative of who he was at that age? Is this a piece that will still be meaningful 20 years from now? Try to whittle the stack down to no more than 15 additional pieces. Trust me when I say that your grown children are not going to want to look at more than 30 pieces of their old schoolwork from each grade once they are adults.

4. Recycle the rest of the papers. Check to see if artwork covered in glitter or paint can be recycled in your area. I know in Portland they cannot be recycled.

5. Store the papers that made the cut in file folders in a filing cabinet, in a big portfolio, in this artwork-saver from HearthSong or in big bubble envelopes (see image above). We just stack the bubble envelopes on a deep shelf in his bedroom closet.

As promised, here is what we did with most of my son’s schoolwork. Turns out, workbooks make excellent kindling. :)

Burning schoolwork edited


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