Starting the School Year Off Right with Organized Homework Supplies

posted by Jennifer McClure on August 23, 2012 17 Comments

Today’s post is from Jennifer who is back to working regular hours now that our kiddos are back in school. The timing couldn’t be better. Welcome back, Jen! At the end of the post I’ll share a few organizing nuggets for you to tuck into your back pocket (or better yet, put into action!) Hope you enjoy the post!

If you have kids going back to school, then you know this also means (gulp) back to homework! I took advantage of all the great deals on school supplies to replenish our supplies in the homework kit. But, that got me to thinking about how last year our homework kit didn’t end up working quite as well as I had hoped.

homework supply kit

Have you ever tried to organize something and been sorely disappointed with the results? It happens! I could say, “Meh, clearly organization doesn’t work for this family,” and chuck the whole idea. Or, I could say, “Hmmm, what works about this? What doesn’t work?” Then take that information to make a better organizing system. Fortunately, I chose the latter. (Otherwise, this would be a very short blog post! :)

What worked about our homework kit? Well, it truly contained all the supplies the kids needed, including pencils, erasers, notebooks, rulers, crayons and markers. It was stored in the pantry, which is right next to the kitchen table where the homework hubbub is held each night. It was small and portable, so anyone in the family could take it from pantry to kitchen table and back again.

What didn’t work? That took a bit more thought because I could never figure that out last year. I envisioned that at homework time, the children would place the kit on the table and pull out what they needed as they did their work. For some reason, this didn’t happen. I would still see them scrounging around for scratch paper or going across the kitchen to the “junk drawer” for pencils. Even my husband would instruct them to “get a pencil from the drawer” as the first step in homework. Frustrating!

What I think caused it not to work was that it was a bit cumbersome. I had a smaller basket inside a larger bin to help keep things sorted, but it made the whole thing less portable than I thought it would be. Also, I used storage solutions I had on hand, not ones specifically bought for this purpose. That can work a lot of the time, but in this case, it simply didn’t. Plus, nothing about was cute. Not at all.

I headed to the big box store in search of a new solution. I was looking for something portable, preferably with handles, and 2 or three drawers or sections so each girl could have their own goodies. And that is when
I spied this. (cue angelic choir)

Snapware homework kit

I was ecstatic. First off, it was only $11. Wahoo! I love that there is a handle on top, that we can expand by purchasing more of these, and that each section is plenty large enough to house workbooks and notebooks PLUS
necessary homework supplies. Oh, and I also love that it is clear so we are always reminded of what is inside each time we see it.

I picked up some inexpensive pencil boxes to further organize inside the drawers. I chose different but coordinating colors so that they can keep their items separate from one another, yet it looks nice together.  I really had overlooked this last year, but the truth is that when things look inviting, we want to use them! It only took me about 10 minutes to get all the supplies organized, and then I gave the girls a “tour” and explained how it all goes together.

homework kit

The result? Well, they LOVE it. Just like they get excited over new supplies for school, they were pumped over their new supplies at home. Honestly, we have only had a few chances to break out the homework kit this school year, but so far, so good. I’ll let you know how it goes!

homework supply kit drawers

How about you? If you have kids in school, do you have a homework kit or cabinet? Let us know how you organize homework supplies in your home!

Organizing Takeaways 

 This post highlights some great organizing principles you can put into action in your own home. Here are my top three takeaways: 

1) When it comes to getting organized, remember not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Have you evern been frustrated that an organizing system you put in place didn’t work as well as you hoped? If so, resist the temptation to chuck the whole thing or decide that “organizing just doesn’t work for my family!” Instead, keep the pieces that work, and fix what isn’t working. 

2) Assess what’s working and what isn’t working. Jennifer asked some great questions to get to the core of what wasn’t working with her homework supply system…and then she shopped for solutions that would work better for her family. This is how great organizing systems are built…through trying and tweaking!

3) Set up a homework station now! This is a terrific and simple project to take on this weekend, as you’re getting your kiddos ready for back-to-school. With a few basic supplies corraled together in the container of your choice, homework can be a notch easier for everyone (and maybe even more fun.) 

~ Aby

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  • August 23, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I love snapware…great for organizing!

    • August 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Oh GREAT idea – the pencil boxes. I just did the same thing last night. We have a box we keep out and it is organized fine with the help of two coffee mugs. But the three drawer thing for extra supplies is always a chore. Pencil boxes for the extra things I put rubberbands around will be perfect. Thanks!!

      • August 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        The problem at our house (and there’s only 1 child) was that he loved the convenience a little too much … and the supplies kept disappearing for his personal art projects. So when it came time for homework and he needed a red crayon or pencil (both of which were in there in the beginning) – he was still running to his room to dig through his regular art box.
        At the end of the year, all his colored pencils, etc came home & went right in the bin. The other day I sharpened pencils, picked through broken crayons and emptied the bin of legos, paper clips & scraps of paper. I don’t think it was the container – I think it was ‘user error’. And so we’ll try again ;-)

        • August 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm

          Thanks for this post and the ideas! We just started school- no homework yet- and I want to be ahead of the chaos with some systems in place. We currently have supplies in too many different places, and need to make it work for how our lives are right now. Great advice here!

          • August 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

            Boston Closet, I have a feeling I will be adding to my snapware collection very soon. ;-)
            SuzieQ, I hope the pencil boxes work out at your house!
            Oh, Melanie, we have the disappearing supply problem as well. I write “Homework Kit” in sharpie on everything I can possibly label, and that does help get things back in place at least a bit.
            Thanks, Michaela! Hope you get ahead of that chaos. :)
            Jen

            • August 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

              Thanks for the ideas, Jennifer! Kids love seeing their name on their stuff. They could decorate the homework kit and their own pencil cup with foam letters; it would give them ownership over keeping pens/pencils in the kit. Love the site!

              • August 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm

                Love this idea. We often do homework on the go, at school waiting for an after school activity; home work “dates” as a nearby cafe; before fencing at the studio.
                So, we keep a similar pencil box in my son’s backpack which contains:
                Pencils
                Erasers
                Scissors
                Ruler
                Multi color pen
                glue stick
                This works great for us since his homework and homework “mini kit” is always in his backpack, where ever we go!

                • August 26, 2012 at 12:02 am

                  We have a cabinet full of school supplies. I just wrote about it on my website. I think it’s a great idea to have a place set aside for school supplies (and to buy them up now while they’re so cheap!). The only problem we have with school supplies is rulers. No matter how many we start with we don’t have any by the end of the year and we can never figure out where they go!

                  • August 27, 2012 at 7:07 am

                    We have an art supply cabinet that houses our homework supplies. I used pencil boxes to organize some of our supplies as well as a few clear bins. My kids just get whatever they need out of the cabinet.

                    • August 28, 2012 at 11:29 am

                      Stephanie, great suggestion about having them decorate and put their names on their supplies. Thank you! :)
                      What an awesome solution for doing homework on the go, Yvette. Thank you for sharing!
                      Shannon and Jean, love that you have good systems in place for your kiddos. Have a great school year!
                      ~Jen

                      • August 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm

                        What about organizing all those papers ‘n such that come home from school? I use Memory Pockets (www.MemoryPockets.com). It’s the perfect organizer for the tons of papers, crafts/artwork, report cards, yearbooks and the like that come home from school with your child. There may be a few things that make it into your scrapbook, but most of these precious keepsakes won’t make the cut, but they need to be saved. Memory Pockets not only help moms organize those items for each school year and neatly saves them in large 10×13 pockets, BUT… each Memory Pocket also features fill in the blanks to help mom record her kids favorite memories, accomplishments, likes and dislikes, etc. Each Memory Pockets set includes 15 10-x13 colorful pockets – one for each school year – and 2 smaller pockets for your child’s first tooth and first haircut.
                        I hope you find this product suggestion useful.
                        Thank you for your awesome website!
                        Denise
                        Memory Pockets – the ULTIMATE school memory organizer
                        http://www.MemoryPockets.com

                        • September 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm

                          Love this! I had 1 homework supply basket using a silverware sorter but now have also gone the route of having 2 one for each kid. I’m using the larger opening for their flashcards and things specific to them. as well as the current book they are reading

                          • September 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm

                            Claudia, great idea about keeping their current book there. I hadn’t thought about it, but this would be a great place for those library books. Thanks!

                            • September 14, 2012 at 5:30 am

                              I love snapware.

                              • November 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

                                These are good ideas. Having everything in one place reduces distractions and kids can just jump right in and complete the tasks that they have set for the evening. No excuses.
                                Reading this right after seeing the ads for the new line by Martha Stewart is tempting. I like everything that you’ve pictured here.
                                I personally use snap ware to organize arts and crafts supplies. I do need few more boxes and trays. In fact, I would like to have a new desk.
                                That would allow me to have all the tools I need within easy reach.

                                • November 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

                                  Thanks, Kendra! I do like to *try* to reduce distractions, but at least with my kids they can still find a dozen reasons to hop up from homework. ;-) Oh well, we do what we can, right? LOL

                                  • November 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

                                    for the school papers we use a rainbow drawer organizer thing. its has a metal frame and plastic drawers. i got mine from shopko. at the end of the year we toss most of the papers and keep a hand full. supplies go in the top drawer