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Posted on Wed, Sep 9, 2009 : 10 a.m.

Back-to-school season spawns organizing binge

By Jen Eyer

For the past couple of weeks, I've felt like I was nine months pregnant again. Well, except for the extra 40 pounds and cankles.

But mentally, I've had this huge desire to nest, like a woman on the verge of giving birth. Everywhere I looked in the house, I saw clutter that needed to be organized or exterminated, and it all had to be done before the school year began, or else... or else...

Well, I don't know what would have happened. But it reminded me of right before our daughter was born, when I agonized over the fact that all the doorknobs inside our house didn't match; our bedroom and the bathroom had ugly gold ones, while the other two bedrooms had the original, pretty crystal ones. Which was terrible why? Because the baby would take one look at them and say, "Mismatched doorknobs? What kind of low-rent establishment is this?"

More likely, I had an inkling that once the baby was born, I'd never again have time to indulge in such a frivolous worry. That turned out to be correct. The ugly gold doorknobs are still there, but I have come to appreciate them because they lock, a very important feature when you have small children in the house.

In a similar vein, I knew that if I didn't get the house organized before school started, we'd be off and running amid chaos, and it would never happen.

I started with homework and art supplies, sorting and separating the crayons, markers, pencils, scissors, etc. so that our daughter had her own caddy, and our son his. Next it was the sheafs of artwork our daughter had produced over the summer, which were piled up in the kitchen and in her bedroom. She wanted to save most of it, so it went into a big three-ring binder.

Mementos from her kindergarten year were put away, trinkets from a year's worth of birthday parties met their fate in the circular bin (shhhhhh....), outgrown clothes and toys were taken to the Salvation Army, and other toys were sorted and put in the proper bins. I organized my PTO binder and my Girl Scouts folder, purging old files and creating to-do lists for getting the year started.

When it was all done, Monday afternoon, I wanted to keep going and clean the house from top to bottom. That's when my husband intervened, gently reminding me that our house cleaner was due to come in two days' time, so maybe it wasn't worth it.

In talking with friends, I discovered the desire to organize before school starts is a fairly common phenomenon. Just Google "back to school organizing" and you'll find article after article. This one on seemed especially thorough. My favorite tips:

Create a system for school papers. There are two types of papers, those you need to take action on and those you’re keeping for future reference. Designate a convenient spot, like a command central binder, for items you need to act on or refer back to throughout the school year. Items like classroom rules, schedules, class lists, and teacher contact information will be right at home in the command central binder (and best yet, you’ll know right where these important papers are when you need them.)

For schoolwork and artwork you want to keep, I suggest a two-tiered approach. First, purge unwanted items as soon as they come in the door. Collect the possible keepers into a small storage bin. Go through your bin using a regular time interval that works for you, like once a week, once a month or once a quarter. Keep in mind, the more you accumulate, the easier it will be to keep fewer items—the best pieces will stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, if dealing with a big pile of paper is overwhelming to you (I’ve been there, too!) it may be simpler to go through your bin more frequently. For school papers and artwork you’re keeping indefinitely, a simple three-ring binder can house a year’s worth keepsakes in one simple, tidy system.

Create a put-away bin. Keep household clutter at bay by corralling items into a put-away bin. Assign one for each family member, or collect everything into a single bin, and take turns on put-away duty. Clearing out your bin each and every day will keep clutter at bay.

What about you? What are your favorite organizing tips?

Jen Eyer is on the Community Team at She can be reached at 734-623-2577 or, or you can visit her at 301 East Liberty.