Our usual Back to School preparations involve haircuts and shopping for school supplies — but it’s also important to have a space to do homework fully stocked with supplies. Keeping school supplies organized for home learning is essential.
In August 2019, we gave our playroom a “big kid” makeover by removing some toys and adding a Homework Station. You can read all the juice details about our homework station here.
After the homework station was complete, I shifted my focus to the school supplies that would be stored and used there. Because of space and budgetary restrictions, the homework station we designed didn’t have drawers.
We came up with a fantastic solution for organizing school supplies for about $100 — and the best part is, this system works so well for us that everything STAYS organized.
Here’s the finished product — keep reading for details on what we used, WHY we used it, and changes we’ve made as our kids have grown.
For this project, we used a combination of items we already had (think, mason jars) and new items to create a system that meets our needs.
Evaluate Your Needs
With three kids, we needed a combination of community storage for shared supplies and personal storage for school supplies.
My kids love to create, so we needed to store a lot of items. They enjoy using different papers and mediums to color. They also love to tape and glue everything they can. Stickers are also a favorite — so we definitely needed storage for all those items.
After they create a masterpiece, they want to keep it FOR. EV. ER. I don’t usually want to keep things *that* long, but some kind of storage for projects was important.
I considered all this and then made some decisions. Then I got busy organizing school supplies.
Storage Solutions for Organizing School Supplies
When organizing school supplies, you’ll want to start big and get smaller.
For this project, I started large and worked down to small.
Adding Storage for Organizing School Supplies
You don’t *always* have to spend money to get organized, but sometimes it helps — especially when you don’t have enough storage.
In this situation, we opted to add a cube shelf.
Cube shelves are one of my favorite ways to add additional storage to any space and our homework station space was no exception. I opted for a 2 by 2 cube unit so my kids could use the top as a surface and I could hang artwork above it.
Bins for Organizing School Supplies
Cube shelves are fantastic for adding storage, but in this situation, I needed to add some smaller storage solutions for all the papers and other items. Placing them loosely on a shelf would have turned ugly quickly!
After some careful measuring, I purchased MultiPurpose Bins in various sizes. I chose the charcoal color to match our decor and to camouflage the chaos inside (kind of).
A combination of two small bins and one medium bin fit perfectly inside each cube and worked well for our supplies.
Each of my children got their own Medium MultiPurpose Bin for their coloring books and art projects.
I used Small MultiPurpose Bins for lined paper, plain paper, graph paper, scrap paper, stickers, and stencils.
When organizing, I recommend working vertically as much as possible. Stacking items, such as drawer storage tends to get messy quickly as kids rifle through piles to find that one item they’re searching for.
If MutliPurpose Bins are not in the budget, Kraft Paper Magazine Files like these would work well, look nice, and be much less expensive. Three magazine files would fit perfectly across one cube of a cube shelf.
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! I made the labels with my label maker, but there are tons of great labeling options to make your style and your life.
Paper Sorters for Paper
For easy access and a fun pop of color, 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 or digging through a basket.
Organizing the Small Supplies
Now that we’ve taken care of adding storage and storing all the larger things, let’s get to all those smaller writing utensils, scissors, glue, and erasers, etc.
The top of the cube shelf is where I plan for all these items to be stored since it’s just the right height. In the theme of keeping it simple, functional, and cute — and because I spent all I wanted to spend on this project — I shopped my house for suitable holders for all the things.
Luckily, tall, skinny items are easy to store!
I wanted to go vertical and mason jars were the perfect solution.
Simple mason jars we already had hold most of our writing utensils. Pencils, colored pencils, and skinny markers are in taller jars. Shorter mason jars hold glue sticks and children’s scissors. Metal buckets leftover from a birthday party hold crayons and fat markers.
If you’re concerned about putting glass in your kids’ space (valid), cups, metal buckets, tupperware containers, or a divided caddy are also great options — in fact we ended up adding a few.
To prevent anything 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!
School Supply Organization That Works
Regardless of what you’re organizing, there are a few reasons why the system you implement works.
Simple systems work and they keep working. When you have to spend too much time keeping a system in place, you’ll get lazy and give up.
Here, bins act as drawers, but vertically, so there are no stacks of papers. There are also no complex rules or sorting.
Overcomplicating your system by sorting into too fine catorgies is a recipe for a mess.
It Sets Limits
Limits are always helpful, especially when you may be tempted to overbuy.
Here, each child can keep as much artwork that will fit in their bin. When their bin is full, it’s time to purge.
Additionally, we only have so much space for specific kinds of school supplies. We are good with the classics, we won’t be adding any other varieties of pencils or crayons or anything else. There’s no room and I’m not redoing this space to make room. I’m done.
It Fosters Independence
One of my goals as a parent is to put myself out of work. I make that easier by setting up systems my kids can use independently.
Here, all the items are accessible so kids can create what they want, when they want. They can also clean up when *I* want thanks to the simplicity of the systems and the labels.
When spaces are pretty, it’s easier to be motivated to keep them neat. While this doesn’t necessarily apply to kids, they DO know how it should look when it’s tidy and they’re very capable of making it look good.
The Cost of this School Supply Organization
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 total setup cost about $100.
The best part is, as our children grow and their needs change, we can adapt these pieces to meet their needs.
School Supply Organization
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?