Back to School Organizing Projects

Domestic CEO gives tips for organizing 3 areas of the house when the kids go back to school.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #22

Back to School Organizing Projects

It’s back to school time for most families. And during these hectic weeks, you’re probably filled with mixed emotions, ranging from “My babies are growing up too fast,” to “Thank goodness we survived the summer and they’re finally getting out of the house!” While the kids are getting excited to head back to see their friends and teachers (or are moping around the house moodily), parents can do a few quick organizing projects around the house. These are things I recommend families do on an annual basis, and the start of the school year is a great cue to remind parents that it’s time for these tasks.

So, get the kids out the door, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get ready to do a little easy decluttering!


Project #1 – Clean out Plastic Storage Containers

Over the last 5 years, my company Moxie Girl has organized countless kitchens. We’ve seen it all. But one thing that remains consistent from home to home is mismatched plastic containers. Somehow lids lose containers and containers lose lids. It’s one of those mysterious occurrences in homes, like socks getting lost in the dryer.

However it happens, an annual sorting at the start of the school year will prevent countless mornings of looking for that one lid that you need for little Tommy’s lunch. Take 20 minutes and pull out every plastic container you have. Put all your lids in one pile and all the containers in another, then start matching them up. Move complete sets to another pile, and continue until you have the loner lids and containers. These should be recycled so they don’t take up valuable kitchen space.

An added bonus: If you have any preschoolers in your household, have them practice matching on your plastic containers. It’s a great way to develop their memory skills and keep them occupied. You can even offer them a reward, maybe a nickel for each matched pair or a special treat at the end of the project. Matching containers can also become one of those age-appropriate chores that Mighty Mommy and I talked about a little while back.

See also: How to Get Kids to Help Out With Chores

While your 4-year-old is playing the matching game, you can move on to the next two tips. These might take a little longer than the plastic project, especially if you haven’t done them for a while. But trust me, if you do them on a yearly basis, you’ll fly through them in an hour or less.

Project #2 – Sort the Clothes

If you have kids, it’s likely that you’re taking advantage of all the back to school sales that are happening. This is a great time to stock up on new fall and winter clothes. But with every item that comes into the house, one should be leaving to prevent cluttered drawers and overflowing closets. Use the start of the school year to go through your kids’ drawers and closets and pull out any items that are too small, or are at that “snug” stage before they officially outgrow them.

To figure out which items are too small without your kiddo being there, you can obviously check the sizes on the tags, but also grab a couple of items from the stash of new stuff they just got. These new items likely fit just the way your child wants them to, so keep only the items that are the same size. Toss all the items that are smaller than these new clothes into a “donate” or “hand-me-down” pile.

While you are going through and checking sizes, also grab out any items that fit, but you know your child doesn’t wear. This includes all those well-meaning gifts from Grandma or Aunt Suzy. The chances of your child suddenly deciding that these “dorky” items are cool is slim to none, so keeping them in their drawers will just take up valuable space. If you simply can’t bear to toss the items before the items are worn at least once, bribe your child to wear the item long enough to go get ice cream, just make sure you promise her it’s nowhere her friends will see her. Take a picture of your daughter wearing the embarrassing fuzzy bear top while eating her ice cream, then send the picture to Aunt Suzy. Then, if your daughter is still convinced she’ll never wear the shirt in public again, donate it. There are plenty of kids who would love to have a fuzzy bear t-shirt.

Once all the unwanted items are pulled from the drawers, refold the items you’re keeping and put them away. I prefer filing t-shirts, tanks, and shorts rather than stacking them. Putting the folded clothes in the drawer vertically, like books on a shelf, will allow your child to grab the one item she wants without disturbing an entire pile of clothes in the process.

Project #3 – The Toy Room

No organizing project brings as much dread to a mother’s heart as the toy room. I think we can all sympathize with the toys in the movie Toy Story. Each time a toy is put in the trash or donate pile, we can almost hear them cry out, “Why me?!” However, it’s time to let go of sentimental feelings and start packing up any toys you know your kids aren’t playing with anymore. Maybe these toys are now referred to as being “for babies,” or maybe they have never gotten played with past the day they were brought home. Whatever the reason, if your child doesn’t play with them, they don’t need to clutter your home.

That being said, make sure you do this project when the kids are not home. It’s almost guaranteed that as soon as your child sees you packing up toys he hasn’t played with for 2 years, those toys will suddenly become his favorite, can’t-live-without items. Once you’ve decided what is going to be removed from the room, make sure you put everything into dark trash bags, colored bins, or cardboard boxes. You can store these in the garage or basement for a couple weeks, just to make sure no unknown favorites were tossed. Just use common sense, and don’t label the boxes with anything like, “Outgrown toys,” or “Bella’s old toys.” Even if your child is just starting to read, she will be able to recognize the word toy on a box and demand to know what’s in it. Trust me, I’ve heard it from numerous parents who thought they were in the clear, until their child saw the box and started pulling everything back into the house. Save yourself the trouble and heartache and just label the boxes “Taxes,” or something else equally boring to kids.

Finally, if there are a few toys you want to keep for sentimental value, pack them up in a box and stick it on the top shelf of a closet (you know, the shelf no one stores anything on because it’s too high). They’ll be much safer there than with all the other toys where they could become the next bad guy Batman needs to fight.

The hours when the kids are at school are the perfect time to take care of these 3 projects. Once you have them complete, consider what other areas of the house can you tackle. Move on to those next. Or just reward yourself by taking an uninterrupted shower, watching a trashy daytime talk show, and playing around on Pinterest for a little bit (you can find me there too!) . You deserve it!

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.