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Cut The Clutter To Help Back To School Transition

Back to School Clutter

‘Tis the season for school transitions, and I’m running into a lot of clutter in my house.  Clutter in the closets, clutter in the dressers, clutter in the garage, clutter in the storage room, even the laundry room and the pantry.  Projects-in-progress, off-season clothes, clothes that don’t fit, the leftovers from the county fair – and I can easily imagine what it will be like when the constant influx of school papers starts soon.

Clutter happens, even for folks who are more naturally tidy and organized.  Kids often collect clutter simply because they are still learning how to take care of themselves and their things.  This may sound off-track for a family mental health blog, but just hear me out.  I bring this up now because the beginning of school is a time of huge family transition, and it can hit like a ton of bricks if you aren’t quite prepared.

Clutter is more than just some extra things lying around.  It can trigger unnecessary frustration for many reasons: misplaced items when it’s time to go out the door, important notes gone missing (due dates, requirements, signatures, etc), excess visual stimuli, a general overwhelmed feeling, a sense that things are a little “out of control”, difficulty finding appropriate clothes for school.  It’s important to teach everyone in the family how to manage clutter so the burden doesn’t fall completely on one person’s shoulders.

Because clutter can be so quickly elicit negative emotions, I’m making an effort now to be proactive.  School starts in a few days and I’m going to reduce the impact of clutter before the school year starts.

Here are a few ideas I’ll be using for my own family this year.

  1. Sort through drawers to move out ill-fitting or off-season clothing.  I did some of this at the beginning of the summer, but we’ve had some other distractions (like all of you do) and a poorly used upper shelf in each girls’ closet.  Once I cleared that last week, my solution (listed next) became more obvious.
  2. Put at least one box of fall clothes in each child’s closet (or under the bed).   When the first extra-cool day arrives, I don’t have to unearth a gigantic box from the basement to find a hoodie and a pair of jeans.  I can fit several small boxes of cool-weather clothes on the top shelf of my kids’ closets, but your solution completely depends on the storage options for your home.
  3. Have a folder or box prepared now to receive school papers every day.  I try to look at and throw out completed assignments each day as they come in (or ask if they will be kept if it’s a larger project or paper).  Other things like school notes will go in my new folder for this year.
  4. Look through your kids’ entire backpack each day.  I know I don’t do this consistently, but I’m going to make every attempt again this year.  Consider ahead of time (that means now) what makes this tricky some days.  For us, it’s the nights when that kid has dance and/or piano lessons.  Also, Friday afternoons can be tough because everyone’s ready to dump school for the weekend.
  5. Get all the leftover garage sale items, Goodwill items, and extra trash out of your house now.  It just feels better when you know you’ve cleared out that junky corner or overstuffed closet.  Pretty soon, you’ll be filling it with Halloween candy and winter coats.
  6. Make an extra effort to help your kids clear out extra toys, games, etc from their rooms and play areas.  I know it’s just August, but Christmas will creep up on you before you can blink.  Plus, the fall is a birthday season for us, so we tend to start loading up on new things ahead of the Christmas rush.  Your kids will be glad to have space for their new favorite things when the time comes.
  7. Most importantly, do not try to do this all at once.  That’s the back lash that comes with clearing clutter.  You think you’ll just knock it out all at once, but then you get overwhelmed/exhausted/sidetracked, you stop mid-mess, and you have little energy to finish it up.  Take it one chunk at a time and get your family involved.  Prioritize your projects, perhaps by most-needed or by simplest-to-accomplish, and choose your first one.  There’s no competition here, so take it at your own pace and enjoy the openness you create with each project being completed.

I hope you’ll find at least one useful idea and follow through all the way.  I’m looking forward to at least a couple of my school year routines being much improved this year. Clearing the physical clutter also clears the emotional clutter that comes with it.  School time is busy enough without the added stress of excess clutter.

Happy School Starting Season!

Creative Commons License photo credit: KTVee

Cut The Clutter To Help Back To School Transition

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2011). Cut The Clutter To Help Back To School Transition. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Aug 2011
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