Organizing Systems to Remedy Back-to-School Chaos

photo back to school organization

It is the end of the first week of school, you have just returned home from picking up your kids, and you take a look around your home.  Your kiddos’ backpacks are tossed on the floor inside your entryway, and a trail of shoes, coats, and debris follows.  On top of that, there is a pile of mail, back-to-school paperwork, lunch boxes, and markers strewn across your kitchen island.   You want to freaking scream!!

Morning Chaos

Getting kids dressed – This will vary depending on the ages of your kiddos.

  • For elementary age, children plan their outfits for the week and contain them in a 6-compartment hanging sweater organizer.  You can do this for your child, or as they get older, let them choose their outfits and help them place them in the organizer for the week.
  • For your middle and high-school-age children, teach them how to wash, dry, fold, and put away their laundry.  Yes, teach them life skills now.  If the outfit they want to wear isn’t clean, it is on them.

Breakfast and school lunch

  • Establish a shelf in your pantry or kitchen drawer for non-perishable breakfast foods such as bread, PB&J, cereal, protein bars, etc.  This zone is best at a height that your children can easily reach.
  • At an early age, teach your child how to make breakfast and put their dirty dishes in the kitchen sink or dishwasher.
  • To keep cereal boxes from being left out on the kitchen counter, replace them with self-serve cereal dispensers.

Getting out the door with everything and on-time

  • Backpacks and everything else your child needs to launch out the door are best kept near the command center in a “launching and landing pad.” Professional organizer lingo a launching and landing pad refers to where you “launch” out of your home into your day and “land” back in when you return.  It’s the transitional space between being outside and inside your home.  This launching and landing pad aims to get you in and out with less stress and where you need to be on time.
  • Set alarms or timers until you have established a routine.  You might need one for waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, grabbing what is needed from the launching and landing pad, and getting out the door.  After a few weeks, your routine should be solidified, and you can reduce the alarms.


Start a routine with your children: when they come home from school, they empty their lunch box and add tomorrow’s non-perishable lunch items from a zone in your pantry.

  • They can also prepare their perishable foods and store them in reusable silicone bags.  Create a shelf or bin in your refrigerator for these bags.  It will be easier for your kids to grab and add to their lunchbox in the morning.
  • As a reward, they can grab their afterschool snack from the same zone or a shelf in your refrigerator.

School Supplies and Homework Station

Carve out a space in your home for your children to do their homework.  This area might be the kitchen island or the dining room table for young kiddos.

For older kids, create a comfortable (but not too comfortable) space in their bedroom where they won’t be distracted by other activities in the home.  Have supplies available, so you don’t need to go to the store when you are tired at the end of the day.  A well-stocked roll-away cart is a solution.  Don’t forget supplies for projects that are assigned requiring specific art materials.  Stock up now and check supplies periodically and restock as needed.

Paperwork and Mail

I see it over and over in clients’ homes–a mountain of papers and mail on their kitchen countertop.  For many reasons; it is BORING, you don’t want to face the task of paying bills, you don’t have a clue what papers are important to keep, there is nowhere to put the papers, and you are afraid you won’t find that piece of paper later if you put it away, and so on.  I know you dread it.

But the more you put it off, the more significant that pile grows and grows.  Consequently, it takes way more time than it would if you spent two minutes with it each day.  Bills go unpaid, and now you have late fees and interest to pay.  You still can’t find that piece of paper that your child needs to take with them to school NOW.

  • You need a system for your paperwork and mail and a place to put it before you act on it and after you act on it.
  • You need a command center!  A command center is a place in your home located in a high-traffic area, such as the kitchen.  The command center is separate from the launching and landing pad but should be in very close proximity.  Read Why Every Family Needs a Command Center for specifics on creating yours.


With these simple systems in place, your back-to-school week and the school year will be calmer than without them!


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