APDO Back to School

Getting organised for back to school: 10 top tips

It’s almost back to school time!  September means a return to routine… so here are some tips from APDO member Mel Carruthers from More Organised to kick off the new school year as your most organised yet!

Declutter bedrooms / toys

Sofa forts, indoor camps and LEGO cities stretching through multiple rooms were all fun at the time, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t want them to become permanent features of your home’s interior design now that the holidays are drawing to an end.

After all the play and creativity of the holidays, now is a great time to encourage your children to review and declutter their toys. Work with them to decide what toys have been played with and enjoyed the most, and which could be donated for other children to have. Lead the way by choosing a category of your own belongings to declutter and make it a fun process by setting a timer, a target or a reward together!  

Sort out artwork and school papers

A new school year will bring new artwork, new crafts and new schoolwork home; make sure you have a system in place to deal with it all. You can’t keep everything, so set some criteria for what you will keep ahead of time and work out a storage method that works for your family.

Children's painting aprons hung up in a row

A hanging file box with a file for each school year is a simple solution – simply pop the papers into the correct file and you’re done!  A scrapbook for favourites (or photos of favourites) can work well if you are feeling more creative and can keep on top of it. You could even scan the work and email it to a special email account if you want to keep the memories without the clutter. But always remember… your love for your children is not measured by the amount of school papers that you keep! 

Family command centre and calendar

It’s not only homework that comes home in school bags… with all the letters, invitations, slips for signing, dates for the diary and requests for money, you’ll need a way to keep yourself organised as well as the children. Designate a tray, box or file for everyone to empty their papers into, add a family calendar and a hook for your keys, and you’ll instantly feel on top of things.

Get into the habit of dealing with the school papers and checking school social media at the same time each day, and you’ll never miss a dress-up day or bake sale again. I like to grab us all a drink and a snack as soon as we get in from school each afternoon, which is the perfect time for us all to review homework, deal with papers and prepare the school bags for the next morning whilst catching up on the news from our day.

Homework area

Whether the children are working on homework, their own projects or catching up on reading, an organised space will help them to focus… and tidy up after themselves more easily. Dedicate a cupboard, shelf or cart to keep supplies tidy and close to hand. Encourage children to unpack their homework as soon as they get home from school and help them to get into a routine (which will help set positive habits for their future work life, as well as keeping them in the teachers’ good books!).

Little girl doing her homework at a table

After-school activities

A new school term means new after-school activities, so don’t forget to book these as early as possible and mark them on your family calendar as your new schedule takes shape.  Check with local Facebook groups for pre-loved supplies and uniforms, especially if it is a new activity that may not last. You can always upgrade equipment and uniform once you know that your child will stick with their new hobby.

The earlier you book the activities, the more time you have to co-ordinate with other parents and work out shared schedules (i.e. could you look after their child for a play-date and tea before Brownies each week, in return for their help on swimming nights when you already have to take your other child to karate at the same time?)

Check uniform and supplies

Just because it’s a new school year, don’t feel under pressure to buy everything new again, despite what the campaigns in the high street stores are telling you.  Before setting out for the shops, check what you already have and what still fits. If your school has a pre-loved uniform scheme, you could pick up what you need for a fraction of the cost, and then pass it back around when you have finished with it too.

Wash and iron everything ready for your first week and make sure it’s labelled. My More Organised top tip for labelling clothing is to use hair straighteners with “iron on” name labels (you can read more of my Back to School hacks here!)

Time for bed!

Routines will probably have been a little less rigid over the summer holidays, so early school starts may come as a bit of a shock unless you prepare.  Use the last week before the new term to transition bedtimes and wake-up times back to the term time routine. Starting the bedtime routine 15 minutes early each night will help your family edge gently towards their new bedtimes.  Start waking up earlier too, in preparation for those early morning starts.


Clean out your car

If you use the car on the school run, now is a great time to make sure your service history is up to date, that oil and water levels are good, and that you have enough petrol. Clean out the inside and pop a few useful items in there to help you keep the school run organised:

  • The right parking permits or enough change for parking if needed
  • A folder or box to transport precious art and crafts home in one piece
  • Tissues
  • Emergency snacks for hungry children on their way to after-school activities

First day photos

You’ll probably want to take a few “first day back” photos before school on the first day of term, so leave some extra time in your schedule. And don’t forget to charge the camera!


Every new school year is an important milestone, so with all the preparations and organising, don’t forget to celebrate! Start your own tradition and plan a “Back to School” treat to mark the start of a new school year. It could be a family movie, supper at your favourite restaurant, or a simple trip to the park for some back to school photos. Whatever you decide, make it a celebration to look back on all those fun summer memories, and look forward to a successful school year ahead!

Getting the children ready for back to school can feel really overwhelming, but if you stick to these tips you should be ready to take the school year head on. You can get more tips for keeping an organised home when you have small children here.

Article by Mel Carruthers of More Organised.

If this list seems a little too overwhelming, your local organisers from APDO are here to help. Find help in your area on our Find an Organiser page.

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