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by Stephanie Thomas

The kids (and their stuff) are going back-to-school. Make sure that “stuff” has somewhere to go when they get back to the house! We know how tough it can be when you’re trying to corral an entire education in a single backpack–stuff spills out. If only you had a mudroom. Or an entryway. Heck, you’d settle for an empty closet.   Thankfully, you don’t have to. We all know there’s a big difference between decorating ideals and decorating realities. So let’s work with what you have. No mudroom? No problem. You just need to give all that school stuff a home.

A home for backpacks

The first step is to get the junk off the ground. Hang a minimalist multi-color hook board and assign each kid a color. Backpacks get dropped off first thing so, if possible, hang the board near the door. Be sure the height is right–choose a level that’s easy for your youngest to reach.

A home for paperwork

Just above the hooks, attach a wall basket with two individual pockets. Have your kids put any paperwork that needs attention in one pocket. After you see and sign documents, put them back in the other pocket to be distributed in the morning.

A home for the details

Keep a large calendar in your kitchen for recording important dates, projects, or events. Add notes about the months ahead to the bottom of the calendar for easy planning in the future.

A home for supplies

Try an alternative use for the kitchen cart . Fill one shelf with bins of supplies: crayons, paper, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, a dictionary and a calculator. Leave the other shelf empty for mid-project storage. Simply wheel the cart out during homework time and out of site again later. Another way to utilize a cart is one shelf per kiddo.

A home for snacks

Lunches come early for little ones. Avoid the afternoon pantry-raid by supplying a few containers just for after-school snacking. You might offer goldfish in one, cookies in another, and pretzels in the third. Let the kids know they are free to grab from these jars and these jars only .

A home for homework

Give your kids the freedom to move around as they do homework with a large, comfy pouf . One daughter might lay back to read and another may sidle up to coffee table to work on arithmetic. The main benefit? Your dining room table stays clean while you prep for dinner.

A home for mementos

With all the art projects and science fair awards in the coming years, one thing’s sure: you’ll have to declutter. Which means your kids may have to part with stuff they really like. Help them in this purging process by offering a nice box to store the most cherished notes, projects and pictures.

A home for all the extras

Add all-in-one storage with a short shelf perfect for books, lunch bags and other school-specific accessories. Use wire baskets on top to store small items and, if possible, keep a section clear for boots and shoes. The best part is you can put these shelves anywhere–a hallway, closet or even the kids room!