What to Do with Old School Supplies?

Domestic CEO has 3 steps to empty out the end-of-year backpack and find a place for all your kids’ used school supplies. Bonus Tip: How to do away with clutter!

Amanda Thomas
4-minute read
Episode #15

What to Do with Old School Supplies?

At the end of every school year, parents across the nation are faced with the same dilemma: What to do with the load of school supplies that just appeared in their house after their child emptied their desk or locker? Between the piles of crumpled up paper, broken crayons, and used tissues, managing the clutter can be overwhelming. Couple that with all the activities that happen at the end of the school year like graduations, pool parties, and vacations, and many parents end up telling themselves that they will “deal with that backpack later,” only to find it still sitting there when the kids go back in the fall.

So, before you put off dealing with the backpack one more day, try these 3 easy steps to sorting out the backpack clutter and finding a real home for all the stuff.

Tip #1: Toss the Junk

First and foremost, toss the stuff that is obviously junk. I don’t have kids, but I have done this step for a number of clients and can tell you that just tossing the trash will cut the clutter in half. What can you expect to find and immediately toss in the trash or recycling bin? Empty candy wrappers, used tissues, crumpled up pieces of paper, torn pocket folders, broken mechanical pencils, dried up pens, and pieces of broken toys are all commonly found in the backpack of horror.

This step is pretty easy, but it will require you to do a little investigating. There’s only one way to find out if a mechanical pencil is broken or if a pen is dried up. You are going to have to test them all, so grab a piece of paper (I’m sure you’ll find a decent stack in the depths of the backpack), and start trying them all out. Anything that doesn’t work gets tossed immediately. Anything that is still in good condition can be set aside by category. Put all the good pens in one pile, all the good pencils in another, lined paper in a pile, and construction paper in another. That way, everything will be ready for step 2.

Tip #2: Make “Donate” and “Keep” Piles

Once you have all your good condition items sorted into piles, it’s time to start deciding what you want to keep and what you want to donate.

When it comes to items that you should keep, think of the end of the school year as a way to stock your child’s homework area. You want to make sure that they have enough pencils, pens, paper, crayons, markers, and all those other supplies to be able to do their homework next year. If there are other, more costly supplies that you think can be reused, keep those as well. But be honest with yourself and your kids. As much as you hope your kids will want to use the same backpack and pencil pouch again next year, most parents will end up buying new ones in the fall because it’s part of the excitement of back to school. If you know you are going to buy a new one in a few months, don’t hold on to the old. Instead, donate them to local charities.

Most people don’t think about donating school supplies, but there is a number of organizations that depend on these types of donations. There are teacher supply non-profits who collect everything from markers to paper to classroom decorating supplies that teachers can purchase at low prices to stock their classrooms. Non-profits that work with children can also use your unwanted good-condition art supplies for their programming. And those items that your child wants new every year like backpacks, pencil pouches, and binders? Your gently used ones make great donations for low-income children whose parents struggle to afford purchasing the items new. Just make sure you remove your child’s name off all items and only donate ones that are in reasonably good condition. The way to gauge that is to ask yourself: Would my own child feel embarrassed using this? If the answer is a (grumbling) yes, then it’s good enough to donate. To find where to donate your unwanted items, talk to your kid’s teachers. They will likely know the best place in your neighborhood to make the most impact.

Tip #3: Store the “Keep” Items

To put an end to the school supply clutter for good, make sure that everything you decide to keep has an assigned home. I like to get a few plastic storage pieces to organize the homework area. There are 3-drawer units whose drawers are the perfect size to hold sheets of paper. One drawer for each lined, construction, and white paper, and your child is set for almost any project they have.

Fill another of these units with crayons, makers, and colored pencils. One more unit can hold math supplies (like compasses, protractors, and calculators), art supplies (like paint brushes, scissors, and glue), and writing supplies (like pencils, pens, and erasers).

By adding a neat little label to the front of each drawer to identify its contents, your child will immediately know where to go to find the colored pencils to make her still-life drawing for art class. The best part about these drawers is that they can be removed from the unit, which means your child can pull the drawer she needs to the table where she does her homework, and then replace it in the unit after she is done.

Now that you have a few tips on how to store your kid’s school items, it’s time to take action! Whether the backpack has been sitting in the closet for a day, a week, or a few years, take a half an hour to get it cleaned out and sorted. Better yet, teach your children these steps and reward them for doing the decluttering themselves! For more on chores and other parenting tips, check out Mighty Mommy!

Do you have any tricks you use in your own home for old school supplies? Or do you have a question about anything in this episode? Let me know in comments or send me an email at DomesticCEO@quickanddirtytips.com. Or you can post your comments on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall or on my Twitter feed! Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Backpack image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Amanda Thomas Domestic CEO