We’re taking a different route to prep for Back to School this year. Our usual Back to School preparations involve haircuts and shopping for school supplies. This year, we’re using what we have and organizing our school supplies for home learning.
I’m trying really hard to not think about all those fresh boxes of crayons just sitting in the aisles of Target, all those fresh boxes of pencils, and blank notebooks.
Using what you have before you purchase new items isn’t a new concept. It makes total sense, is good for the Earth, and is a key pillar of “adulting” but it still feels REALLY WEIRD to be doing it for school supplies.
I’ll just have to thoroughly and ruthlessly organize the school supplies we have and be satisfied.
School Supply Needs
With three kids, we needed a combination of community storage and personal storage. Our homework station, which we built last summer, has since turned into a homeschool station and seems like it will be for the foreseeable future. Most of our supplies are stored next to the homework station to keep the work surface clear.
My kids love to create so we needed to store a lot of items. They enjoy using different kinds of papers and mediums to color. They also love to tape and glue everything they possibly can. And, after they create a masterpiece, they want to keep it FOR. EV. ER.
I considered all this and then made some decisions. Then, I got busy organizing school supplies.
Organizing School Supplies
First, I purchased a 2 by 2 cube unit from Ikea and assembled it. These units are less than $40 each– well worth it.
Then, I used The Container Store’s Multi-Purpose Bins in multiple sizes. After some trial and error, I found that a combination of two Small Bins and one Medium Bin fit nicely inside each cube and worked well for our supplies. Each of my children has their own Medium Multi-Purpose bin. This is where they keep their coloring books, completed pictures that they just can’t part with, and in-progress pieces of art.
The charcoal colored bins were perfect for us (these bins also come in clear). The charcoal color hides the chaos inside the bins and blends in with the shelf so there’s less contrast.
I used six Small Multi-Purpose bins for lined paper, plain paper, graph paper, scrap paper, stickers, and stencils. Yes, stencils. My 5-year-old was obsessed for a little while. She’s since moved on to tracing paper but isn’t ready to give up the stencils just yet.
Large labels tell everyone what’s inside so they can find what they’re looking for. EVEN BETTER– it holds them accountable for putting things away! The labels were made with my label maker, but there are tons of great labeling options to make your style and your life.
The construction paper got sorted into a vertical paper sorter — in rainbow order, of course. Keeping it vertical allows kids to grab what they want without toppling the pile.
Here’s why this works for us:
- Bins act as drawers by sliding in and out and allow easy access to items.
- There are no complex rules or sorting.
- Removable and rearrangeable bins make clean up quick and simple.
- The papers are vertical so it’s easy to leaf through to find something specific, like a coloring book or a drawing.
- No piles mean no toppling
- Each child a box of creations, allowing them to keep things that I might otherwise recycle if it’s out on a surface.
My children are old enough (and know what’s expected from them) that they don’t dump the bins out. If you have younger children, this system is likely not for you.
The top of this cube shelf is just the right height for all the little things like writing utensils, glue sticks, and scissors. In the theme of keeping it simple, functional, and cute I shopped my house for suitable holders for all the things. I came up with mason jars and small buckets once used for plastic cutlery at a family party.
To prevent them from getting knocked over the edge of the shelf I added a metal tray I had in the dining room. It was a perfect fit!
All in all, this combination works for our space and works for our lives. Not including the actual supplies and mason jars I found in the kitchen, this whole set up cost less than $100. The best part is, as our children grow and their needs change, these pieces can be adapted to meet their needs.
Organizing school supplies doesn’t have to be complicated. In a world where so much is overcomplicated, it’s nice to keep school supplies simple. Use bins that don’t have to be arranged perfectly. Find jars you already own. Apply quick and simple labels.
How do you organize school supplies?
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