Before school begins later this month, taking the time to organize home and school supplies can take the stress out of the transition from a laid-back summer to a structured, schedule-driven school year. Local home design and organizational experts share ideas to help parents add practical organizational tools to their home without sacrificing their sense of style.
“Organizing your home to make [the back to school] transition smooth can make all the difference in the world.”
— Chuck Khiel
“Organizing your home to make this transition smooth can make all the difference in the world,” said Chuck Khiel, vice president of FRED Home Improvement in Bethesda. “Giving thoughts to how spaces around your home are used during the school year can help with this organization."
Using space efficiently and creating designated spaces for items like backpacks, jackets, sports equipment and clothing will keep a home organized and prevent the back-to-school necessities from overtaking a home’s aesthetic. “For example, if you have a mudroom, specifying spaces for backpacks, shoes and sports apparel takes the guesswork out of where the kids should be storing their stuff when they enter your home,” said Khiel. “Consistently storing items in the same place will become a timesaver in the morning as the kids are getting ready for school.”
Small home decor items can add a sense of style and serve a practical purpose. “Get a decorative hook to hang their backpack up when you come in,” said Sallie J. Kjos of Grey Hunt Interiors in Chantilly. “It doesn't need to look junky or kiddish. Keep in mind, you want it all to be functional for your kids, but flow with your home.”
From tests to homework, a new school year often brings an onslaught of paper, stacks of which can create an unsightly scene in a home. “Storage is key,” said Kjos. “Get some fabric-covered boxes with lids for your children to stack up next to their desk to put school work in that has been graded in case they need to refer back to it.”
A pegboard is another inexpensive accessory that can be used to organize piles of papers. "You can find them at a hardware store," said Arlington-based personal organizer Bonnie Atwater of Organized for You. "Get them cut to fit into your particular space, like behind a door or over a desk. You can also paint them a bright color to add a touch of whimsy and put them in a spot that's easily accessible.
Making items visible but tasteful can boost organization without creating a design emergency. “Dry erase calendars and storage cubes in bright colors can go in your kitchen, mudroom or any room that you want to serve as a command central,” said interior designer Cyndi Ibach of Elegant Interiors by Cyndi in Alexandria. “When school things are organized in a location where everyone can see them, everyone has access to important information.”
For school supply organization, Kjos suggests: “Instead of using pencil holders, get your mason jars out, fill with crayons, markers and pencil to make for a cleaner, more organized look.” Remember to add charging stations to your children’s desk or study area.
Keep school notices, permission slips and other forms of paper in plain sight without creating clutter. Take an old [picture] frame…and staple ribbon across it in whatever your decor colors are and use paper clips for your child to put up homework assignments, certificates, or other reminders,” said Kjos. “You can hang this above the desk.”
Kjos also offers an innovative way to organize lunch supplies for easy access. “One of my favorite organizing for school tricks is inside of my pantry door,” she said. “I use over-the-door shoe holders and put all their dried food for lunch boxes in there to make packing lunches easier and to reduce all the boxes and clutter in my pantry.”
A neat, streamlined closet can also take some of the stress out of the morning mad dash to find shirts, socks and shoes. “Get a cute decorative basket and stack their clothes for the week by outfits so you don't have to do it every evening,” said Kjos.
If constructing new storage space is an option, consider dual-purpose units, advises Eric Tovar, president of Churchill Classics in Poolesville, Md. “Chalkboards and corkboards in other areas of the home provide a place to leave and read notes for each other so everyone is aware of daily activities.”