Organizing for School

Every year, I face the monster that lives down at the end of the hall. It looks like this:


I know what you are thinking… Not.That.Scary…

Actually, it is! It feels rather vulnerable to open my messy closet doors for you, but here goes… Take a peek inside:


Meet the school closet. With school just 3 weeks away, it was time to tackle this monster of a mess! While I do straighten it out every year, I don’t really clean it or purge unnecessary supplies from it. Until now…

With two kids graduated and four others needing some space for new school supplies and books, it was time to really dig in and get my hands dirty on this project. I didn’t realize I would also have a tear-stained face by the time I was through. Read on to find out how you too can get your school supplies and curricula organized expertly while still retaining your precious memories…

5 Steps to School Organization

I had 15 years worth of artwork, handwriting worksheets, lapbooks and research papers buried in this closet. No, I didn’t keep everything. We do find great joy throwing out finished math books and most other workbooks, but some things are just so precious, like the postcards that my kids wrote to me while going through Ann Voskamp’s first volume of A Child’s Geography. One reads like this…

“Dear Mom, I really love you. Did you know that? You are the best teacher ever and I love you alot. By the way, did you know that the earth weighs about the same as 3 million elephants. I thought you might want to know that.”

I’m not sure if she got her facts right on this one or not and I didn’t look it up to find out. All I know is that this sweet little “postcard to home” is a keeper.

Or the paper that I found written by my high school daughter about her Nana, the legacy that she is leaving for our family, the servant’s heart that she has and the treasure that she has always been to her. Um, yeah, this is a keeper too. Not to be morbid, but this is the kind of stuff  one saves and reads for a memorial service. My eyes were wet and I had just begun…

Cleaning out this closet was going to be a tough assignment for this homeschool mom. But I rolled up my sleeves and conquered it. Here’s how…

1. First things first – clear it out! I didn’t have room to clear out all of the shelves at the same time (it was just so much stuff!), so I tackled it two shelves at a time. I piled everything on the dining room table and then wiped down the shelves.



2. Get rid of it! If you don’t need it anymore either a) throw it away; b) give it away; or c) sell it. Set out a small(ish) box to toss sentimental stuff into. If you find yourself wanting to keep everything, rather than just a sampling, then take photos of projects, papers and notes and file them digitally in Evernote for easy retrieval. I find that I feel better if I keep some things, but just a tiny fraction of everything.

I collected 3 huge bags and 2 boxes full of garbage (schoolwork, scribblings, used workbooks, broken pencils, games with pieces missing, etc.)


3. Put it away! If an item doesn’t belong with your school supplies, put it where it belongs. ‘Nuf said!

4. Organize it! I organize my school books and supplies in a couple different ways. I have four school boxes – one for each child in school. My two graduates were somewhat heart-broken to give up their boxes, but hey! I needed them for other purposes. Time to move on! Into these school boxes goes their school books and workbooks, fresh blank notebooks, brand new pencils, erasers, etc. If a book is shared, it goes on the shelf but not in an individual box. It looks like this:


We use transparent plastic school boxes like these because they can sit on the shelf neatly and keep books from going everywhere. Or the lids can be snapped on (see them sitting behind the open boxes?) and the entire box can be taken on the go if necessary. The kids also have backpacks which they usually prefer to use for mobile homeschooling.

The top two shelves of the closet contain curricula that I want to keep but am not using this year. These books go on the tip-top shelf, out of reach of nearly everyone. The shelf below that one, which most of the kids can reach, is where all of the extra supplies are stored. I have reams of lined and unlined paper, 3×5 cards, boxes of pencils and packs of pens, several different styles of notebooks and about a dozen binders of various sizes.


The bottom two shelves contain mostly art and science supplies.

5. Put it all back and tell everyone not to mess it up!


Yes, it is a simple process but it takes guts and determination. If I can tackle 15 years worth of memories and junk, so can you. Let’s just see that transformation one more time.





Ah, now that feels good!

Question: Have you organized your space for school yet?

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 19th, 2013 at 6:32 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Sue

    This was great! I’m feeling convicted…no…inspired. Thanks so much; I’m on it!!

  • Stephanie Stoll

    It looks great! But…where’s the rest of your stuff???? I’m going on my 9th year of homeschooling and have three 5-shelf bookshelves PACKED FULL of books and nowhere to put this year’s new books (I’m going to have to box some up of the middle school books until my younger son is ready to use them). I, too, need to get my school stuff organized. Today, I plan to start tackling the huge job of moving my schoolroom to a room that we’ve been using as a second living room/family room and our old schoolroom is going to be a playroom because it’s just too small for all our school stuff.

    • / Terri Johnson

      Hi Stephanie,

      In our living room, we have five 5-shelf bookshelves that are completely filled with literature, historical fiction, easy readers, picture books, library books, reference books, etc. This closet just holds curriculum and school supplies. :)

      • Stephanie Stoll

        5 bookshelves! Phew! I was wondering if it was just me! I finally ended up buying a couple 3 shelf bookshelves so I don’t have to store any school books in boxes…yet! :)

  • Alyson Smith Brown

    I love this way of organizing!! I do something similar as to storing each child’s curriculum, but the spines get worn out my way. I am going to try and move them over to the flat clear storage bins. I like that! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Anna

    How sweet that someone shared about your maps and I read some other posts. Just this morning I finally did the dreaded, I went through the bookshelf to clear room for our new adventure. The first three have graduated homeschooling and we’ve sfearted over with an adopted child that happens to also have Down Syndrome and be legally blind. I’ve had to tell myself Im not getting rid of treasured books but making room for new treasures! Your comment about shedding tears is so true. I have set the huge stack to the side, I will allow each child to take/ keep what they want in their new homes and get rid of the rest. Old yellowed paperbacks mostly I think. Her Braille bible sits is four large boxes waiting to be opened and shelved. I know that since we are barely reading letters that it will take time but want to have it available and ready for little fingers to explore. Keep up the good work.

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