First I Cried – Then I Tackled 7 Back To School Clutter Traps

I strapped Nate into his stroller because I didn’t want to be focused on preventing him from running off.  I wanted to focus on her – this was her big day.  Kindergarten. Day 1.  She was beaming with excitement having chosen her outfit herself and gotten dressed herself and laced her arms through the straps of her backpack herself.

Kids and parents stood outside the doors to the school and when the teachers came out they instructed the children to line up according to class in front of them. Three teachers.  Three lines of Kindergarteners.  She jumped in line too and waited for further instruction.  I felt good.  I wasn’t going to cry like everyone told me I would.  I was too busy being proud and excited for her to cry about her growing up.  This is what she wanted and so I wanted it too.

“Ok children, a sweet yet firm voice called out,  “I want you to turn around and blow kisses to your parents and say good bye!”  They all followed direction and looked back over their shoulders.  Little lips kissed little palms and those kisses were sent fluttering through the air to be caught by moms and dads alike. “Bye mom!” she called out.  I heard someone say that she better get going before she started bawling and all of a sudden my eyes were damp beneath my sunglasses and my lip quivered and I waved one last time before swiveling the stroller around and heading off towards the car.

I covertly wiped at my cheeks yet the other moms still sent knowing glances to me as they passed on the sidewalk.  I had to park quite a ways away and wanted nothing more than to crawl into our dirty old minivan and break down hidden behind sliding doors and fingerprinted windows.

It’s been a few weeks now and the tears have stopped.  We’ve adjusted to an every day routine of packing snacks and library books and homework (yes…Kindergarten homework!)  I’ve begun to realize that school brings clutter and permission slips and backpacks and lunch garbage and while she is working on printing skills am working hard to keep all that clutter under control.

I figure I can’t be the only one so here are my


Tips for Cutting School Clutter in the Home


Back Pack Storage / Hooks

This is a no brainer.  And something that needs to be drilled into the kids right from the start.  Come in and hang the bag up (or put it in a cubby or closet) right away.  If it’s put away then they’ll always know where it is and it will be off the floor and counters.


Memos/Permission Slips

Paperwork will come home and multiply before your eyes.  If you don’t have a system to deal with it you’ll have a pile of paper sitting on your counter.  And don’t be turned off by the term ‘system’ a standard cork board is enough to keep me organized.  Order forms, notices, login info and equipment requests all get pinned up on the board so I know where they are and can access them easily.  If you don’t have a board then a file folder or even a designated drawer can work as long as you have somewhere to stash it.




When I pin something up on my cork board I also jot down important dates in my day timer.  If you like to use your phone you can input reminders and important dates there too.  The point is you need to do something to keep track of when things are due and when there’s no school and when library books need to go back.  I’m currently using the Mom’s Weekly Planner and I’m liking it a lot.  I take a quick peek at it after I put the kids in bed and make sure I’m set for the next morning.


Lunch Garbage


I don’t know if you’ve encountered this at your school, but where my child goes they don’t let the kids throw out their lunch (snack for us in Kindergarten) garbage in the school bins.  It all gets put into their backpacks and sent home.  Crazy!  But it sort of makes sense – there is potential for a lot of trash to be generated from lunches.  I don’t want to be emptying garbage from my daughters back pack every day so we’ve pretty much eliminated all packaging by using a stainless steel bento type container.  The bento allows us to ditch the plastic wrap and zipper bags from the repertoire.  It also saves me time because I’m not wrapping things in plastic.  Love it.  For drinks we use a stainless screw top water bottle.  Both items run through the dishwasher every day and we’re all set.



YES.  Kindergarten involves homework.  I had no idea and realized quickly that while my daughter had to do the work, keeping track of it and when it was due and making sure it got done all falls on me.  When homework comes in, I mark the due date in my day timer and then put it back into her backpack.  If it’s a small assignment we do it after dinner the day it comes in.  If it’s a larger assignment and we can do it on the weekend then we can take our time and work through it together.  So far this system is working.  We know where it is (in the bag) when it’s due and have gotten it all done.


Library Books


My daughter gets a new library book every week.  She has a set day, Tuesday, where they spend time in the library and that means last weeks book has to be returned before she can select a new one.  I’ve had a talk with her about how we have to take really good care of library books and we can’t lose them so either she can keep it in her back pack or she can put it in her magazine rack.  She has a small magazine rack beside her bed and that’s where she keeps her comic books and other books she ‘reads’ at bedtime.  As long as she keeps to this plan, then I know on Monday night I have to grab the book from her room if it’s not in her back pack already.  So far so good. (I hear moms of older kids laughing at me….I know, I know…this compliance for the ‘rules’ likely won’t last as she grows up but right now I’ll take it!!)



Already the works of art are pouring in.  Cute finger paintings, crafts and colouring pages have all made their way from the classroom to the back pack to our counter tops.  This one is tough for me because I want to have it all on display, yet, there is Just. So. Much.  Here’s what I’m doing:

When a piece of art first comes home it goes up on the cork board (yes, the same one I pin memos to) for a while.  This way we can all oooh and awwww and admire it in the flesh.  Once it’s done it’s time I’m taking it down and putting it into a plastic tote.  The tote is stored under my daughters bed.  It’s a slim tote but is large enough to store quite a lot of artwork.  At the end of the year I’m going to take my camera out and snap a series of photos of the artwork.  It shouldn’t take long.  Then I’m going to turn those photos into a photo book.  London Drugs does them and not only are you able to use their software for free to make it, they will adjust color and physically check each image to make sure it turns out perfectly.  I hope to do this each year for each child so they can have a bound edition of all they’ve worked so hard to create!


There you go.  My newbie back to school clutter busting tips.  What are you doing to cut the clutter?  Leave your suggestions in comments!


P.S.  Tell me if you cried too and maybe I won’t feel like such a wuss 😉





Disclosure:  The Mom Weekly Planner was purchased on my own with my own pennies.  I love it.  The bento box was sent to me from Pottery Barn Kids.  I love it.  The photo books were a suggestion from London Drugs who have provided me with a gift card so I can order one to try out.  The ones I saw in store were really great quality but I haven’t ordered my own yet.  I’m looking forward to that!  As always, my opinions are my own.




  1. My little guy is in kindergarten this year and I swear, he gets almost as much homework as my 3rd grader. Obviously not as hard, but he comes home with a coloring, cutting and pasting assignment a few times a week & has math almost daily. The math is simple and mostly involves tracing & then writing the numbers on his own for practice, but I don’t remember my older son getting as much HW as my little man is getting this year. I just have to keep reminding myself that I specifically requested this teacher that my little man has this year. LOL!

  2. The back to school clutter is already rearing it’s ugly head at my house. My lazy solution has stuffing the paperwork in my vintage bread box, and making ample use of the trash can ;D

  3. Great tips Heather! I will advise you though that the sheer volume of artwork that will come home will soon overflow your tote. What I started doing is taking photos of the art as soon as it came home, displayed it until the next one came, then carefully hit the old artwork in the recycle bin. I love the photobook idea, but here’s what I do with the best:

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