OK, Friends (deep breath),


When I first imagined writing an article around organizing tips for back-to-school a couple of months ago, I confess I had some misgivings – where would we be in mid-to-late August with our pandemic challenges? What would individual schools, administrators, boards, universities, teachers, parents, and others be facing and having to prepare for? What tips would even be relevant?


Clearly, I had no clue (did any of us?), and I decided to hold off writing until the last minute – not my usual modus operandi. In years past, I would have easily launched into how to design and organize the perfect home study space, given advice about the best backpacks, or waxed eloquently about a family calendar. Now, I’m facing the start of a school year where everything is upside-down. I’ve done absolutely no back-to-school shopping (there’s really nothing shop for, yet). My son, a junior in high school, has only picked up a school-issued Chromebook and is on hold to hear how his online learning program will shake out. My daughter faces going back to her first college apartment…where she will stay put and take all of her courses remotely. Not exactly the fall semester anyone had in mind, and I feel especially sympathetic to families with younger children.


Everyone’s options and choices will be different. For some, decisions will be relatively easy—others, anywhere from unsettling to gut-wrenching. So much is not within our control, and this virus has affected different areas in a variety of continually shifting ways. And so, I decided that what I can offer here is to look around at what can be controlled as we approach the school year. Working on organization is one small thing that we can wrangle, get our heads around, and see an immediate benefit from.


Many of you may have spent the first part of your local “stay at home” time in that massive purge mode – going through those closets and cabinets with a vengeance (if not, no worries – I didn’t). But getting rid of clutter is merely a subset of organization. Once you’ve donated, discarded, and cleared areas, organizing can go to a deeper, more supportive place. You can look not only at how you want to arrange things but also how you can create an environment that will ease the stress of whatever school situation your family finds itself in. The following suggestions are certainly not all-inclusive, but hopefully can inspire you to review your own situation in a proactive light. Here goes…


Make some decisions (even if they’re small). Organizer Barbara Hemphill famously said, “All clutter is the result of postponed decisions,” – and that goes for head clutter too. Will your children have online school? Or more of a homeschool environment? Will they go back, but with an adjusted schedule? Where will they study? How will parents balance working from home with child care? Making decisions, even if they aren’t ideal, can bring a settling…a sense of calm and the mindset of “OK, this isn’t perfect, but at least now I know.”


Based on those decisions, take some actions. Actions could look like:












Much of what I’ve outlined above is transferable – ideas that would be useful whether there’s a deadly virus out there or not. But in terms of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in, I don’t want to ignore the obvious – it’s possible someone in your family could become ill. Set up procedures if someone comes down with symptoms – when to see a doctor/get tested, who needs to know, what happens next based upon test results. Decide which room in your home can serve as a quarantine space, if required. Check out your local community resources (city and county websites, hospitals, libraries, school websites) for updated information. Apple even has a free COVID-19 app that walks you through questions and provides other useful information.


Making decisions and taking actions are two solid ways to navigate any stressful situation, and even just one or two small moves forward can make a difference. I do hope that my 2021 Back-To-School article will look a lot different, and I sincerely hope you all stay safe, organized, and, most importantly, healthy.