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Planning for an Organized School Year

Being organized is an essential part of life.  However, organization is a habit that is not typically taught in school.  Children need to know the basics of organization in order to be prepared for the school year.  By taking a little extra time to implement a few simple organizing systems, your children can be on their way to an effective and successful school year.

Ensure there is plenty of storage space when purchasing a new backpack.

Backpacks – The most essential item for school is the backpack, which will house all your child’s belongings, books, and binders each day.  It is important to find a backpack that will suite your child’s needs.  Look for a backpack that is wide enough at the base to hold several books and binders, has sturdy and easy sliding zippers, and offers lots of various storage compartments for different sized items.

Daily Planner – One of the most critical skills a child can learn is time management.  The key to successful time management is using a daily planner.  There are a myriad of planners available.  For children, “weekly” planners tend to work well to track their school weeks.  It’s important to find a planner that the child likes and will continue to use throughout the school year.  Moleskin planners are very sturdy and are able to withstand the wear and tear.  Keep emergency contact information inside of planner.  You may only want to include your e-mail address (not your any of your child’s information) in the planner for privacy reasons.  After the first day of school, sit down with your child and review the due-dates and deadlines outlined in the syllabus for each class. Mark the planner accordingly with due dates, exam schedule, events, etc.  This is the most important way to keep your child aware of their class workloads.  You as a parent can also stay informed and help your child be successful by reviewing each upcoming week with your child.  This will teach them how to balance their workloads and free time.  They can also learn how to break larger projects and research papers down into smaller chunks that can be scheduled in advance.  This way the work is spread out, their time is managed, and projects are not left to the last minute.  Since late homework is often reduced by a letter grade or not accepted at all, tracking all deadlines in a planner puts your child ahead of the curve at the start of the school year.

Paper Management System –Important papers and forms are often sent home during the school year.  Papers can easily get lost if the correct system is not in place. Designate a place in your home for incoming school documents, homework and artwork. If you already have a mail center in place, add additional sections to contain these types of documents. Label each section accordingly. Suggested categories include (but not limited to); action needed, informational, to file, child #1, child #2, Parent Teachers Association (PTA), etc. At the end of the week sort through each section and decide on a permanent place for each type of document.  And remember, you don’t need to keep each and every paper your child brings home. When in doubt, ask yourself “will this matter one year from now?” If not, consider recycling the paper.

Do you remember the combination to your first locker?

Locker Space – How organized was your first locker? Now days, it’s hard not to have an organized locker with all of the nifty products on the market. To save space, add a locker shelf (or shelves) to your locker. Adding additional shelves allows you to store books and binders vertically instead of stacking one on top of the other. If size permits in your locker, designate various zones to the items you are storing (e.g., school books & binders, snacks, after school activity gear, cosmetics, etc). Always consider vertical space when searching for additional storage. Try hanging removable hooks on the sides of your locker for jackets or accessories. Use the locker door for magnetic compartments to store school supplies or gadgets.

Binders – Keeping track of schoolwork can be a challenge.  Setting up a binder for each class is a great way to keep your child’s notes and homework organized.  We like 1” 3-ring view-binders.  Make sure to purchase binders with pocket sleeves on the interior covers.   The front and back external covers of the binder can be used for the student’s creativity.  Try inserting artwork or their favorite pictures on either side.  Another option is to laminate your child’s schedule and keep it in these external see-through covers so they are easily accessible.  The binder spine should be marked with the name of each class for easy identification.  Inside the binder, use dividers to identify sections accordingly.  We recommend the following sections:  syllabus, notes, handouts, homework, tests/quizzes, and paper.

Try using Avery’s color-coded binder dividers.  Use a label maker or craft letter stickers to label each divider with the corresponding section.  It is important to have a 3-hole punch so students can store papers in the 3-ring binder easily.

Other students may prefer a more streamlined approach because carrying around several binders can be heavy.  This method involves a larger 3” binder with dividers for each class.  Within each divider section, include the syllabus, notes, and extra paper in the back.  Separate corresponding folders should be used to store homework, handouts, and graded tests/quizzes.  This option saves backpack space and weight, and allows students to keep all their notes and syllabi in one centrally located binder.

Try reusing last year’s school supplies before purchasing new items.

Reusing Old Supplies – Most schools publish a “back-to-school supplies” list.  Before purchasing all brand new materials, check to see if you have a box of pens, pencils or erasers left over from last year. Test out each pen or marker to ensure they are usable. Try clearing out old binders and re-using the ones that are in good shape for this year. As you recycle items from the previous year, cross these items off your current list and then go shopping for the remaining items. Avoid crowds at the office supply store and shop first thing in the morning. Call ahead and ask which day shipments are received to ensure the store is stocked to avoid multiple trips.

Health: We all know from experience that germs are common in schools.  Ensuring your child maintains proper hygiene is the first line of defense against illnesses.  Being out of school due to illness is not only an inconvenience; it often puts children behind their peers due to the lessons missed and homework that must be caught-up.  Keep hand sanitizer in your child’s backpack at all times.  If possible, try keeping lotion hand sanitizer to moisturize while it disinfects.  Also keep travel-size tissues in the backpack to prevent the spread of germs.  While all schools should have first aid kits, it’s a good idea to keep bandages in the backpack as well.  Another health hazard can be lurking with your child’s lunch.  Recent research found powerful bacteria in a high percentage of reusable bags.  Make sure to disinfect lunchboxes and reusable lunch bags with antibacterial wipes or detergents.

The start of a new school year offers new challenges and opportunities.  Although organization takes preparation and practice, a little effort up front can yield long-lasting results.  By following these simple steps, you can ensure your child will have an organized and successful school year.


    Alejandra Costello
  • About Alejandra

  • Since 2008, organizing expert & certified life coach, Alejandra Costello has taught thousands of students in 132 countries how to get organized through her video-based training programs. Her YouTube videos have been viewed 100+ million times. Named 1 of the 5 most organized people in America by HGTV and "The Decluttering Queen" by Good Morning America, Alejandra's expertise has been featured in The New York Times, Oprah.com, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Parents Magazine, and CBS. You can read more about Alejandra here or see our Press page here.


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