Organizing At School Year’s End

The day has arrived. School is over and you are ready to move into full summer mode. It is tempting to simply ditch the backpack in a corner and forget about it. However, if you can stay strong for just a little while longer, you will pave the way for a smooth start up next fall. This is what you need to do to organize at school year’s end.

Dump Out the Backpack

Yes, dump it all out. Sort the contents so you can take the following actions.

  • Trash: anything broken, ruined, used up, or unidentifiable.
  • Recycle: paperwork you no longer need or wish to see again.
  • Wash: clothing, lunch containers, etc. The backpack itself should probably also be washed.
  • Store: school supplies that are in good working order. Identify notebooks which have a lot of unused pages, test pens/markers/highlighters to see what still works, etc. Move these to a “school supply” station in your home, such as a drawer, a box under the bed, or a bin in a closet.
  • Archive: These are papers, projects, artwork, etc. that you or your child is proud of and that you want to keep. They can go into a hanging file, a plastic storage bin labeled “2020-2021 School Year,” or a general memorabilia box. For younger children, consider photographing artwork and organizing it with an app like Artkive or Keepy.
  • Reference: Especially for high school students, there may be notes, review sheets, packets, etc. that your child will want to have on hand for the future. Move these to a reference location such as hanging files (e.g. “Sophomore Year Chemistry”), a bin, or a magazine file on a shelf.
Make a List of Needed Supplies

Make a note of school supplies you are either out of or have very few of (e.g. index cards, highlighters, glue sticks, etc.). Keep the list in a convenient location (such as a list on your smartphone) so you will be able to stock up when you see a sale.

Review Your Stash of Books

Over the year your child may have accumulated some books, such as a second copy of a textbook, research books, or literature. Decide which, if any, you wish to move to a bookshelf for reference or for younger siblings. Put the remainder in a box to donate.

Reset the Workspace

Dump out desk drawers and any containers used to hold homework supplies. Sort items into piles of similar items. Now is a good time to wipe the surfaces and inside of the containers clean. If your child will be doing some work over the summer, such as summer reading or math review sheets, gather needed supplies and put them in place.

Clean up the Computer Desktop

Now is the time to go through all the files that were hastily (and randomly) saved during the school year on the computer. [Note: this is primarily a task for older students, so they should do this. Be available if they need help or motivation.]

As with physical paperwork, trash the documents (and photos) that are no longer relevant, and save keepers in a folder entitled “2020-2021 School Year.” If desired, create subfolders by subject to organize your documents. Consider backing up this folder to a flash drive “just in case.”

Refresh Bulletin Boards

If you have a bulletin board, take everything off and start fresh. Throw away old schedules, calendars, photos, etc. Hang up any schedules for the summer and leave some blank space to hang new items that will be coming in. (Click here for more tips on how to refresh a bulletin board.)

Record Locker Combinations and Passwords

If your child will be using the same locker next year, write down the combination. Believe it or not, he/she may forget it by the time next year rolls around. Likewise, record the combination for any free-standing locks (e.g. for a gym locker) on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the back.

If you have been e-learning, or if your child has access to specific websites, databases, portals, etc., be sure to record these logins and passwords in a reliable place. Put a note in your calendar to remind yourself where you put them so you can find them when it is time to go back to school.

Record “Start” Dates

Pull out your calendar (electronic or paper) and note important start dates, such as the first day of school. Also note any school-related commitments that will take place before the start of classes. For instance, athletes or band members may need to show up for camp 2 weeks ahead of everyone else. Also, note any registration days and/or parents’ nights that you need to attend. Lastly, put fall school holidays and early-release days into your calendar.

*     *     *

Summer is here. Take these few steps now, and then enjoy the well-deserved break.

Do you have a routine for getting organized at the end of the school year?

33 thoughts on “Organizing At School Year’s End”

  1. I had the backpack and lunch box emptied out and sanitized within 20mins of Bennett getting home on his last day! My husband thought I was a little nuts, but you know me. 😉
    I like your point about writing down locker combinations and also write down passwords. With all the e-learning this year there were lots of apps and on-line programs that required usernames & passwords that’ll need to be remembered come fall.

  2. This sounds like a great method! It’s important to distinguish work you’re keeping because you or your child is proud of their work from that which may be useful for future reference. I still have books of stories I wrote at various levels of school and they are so fun to read now but I discarded reference materials (including most textbooks) a very long time ago.
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    1. The textbook thing is kind of interesting. Some of them may have value, such as a review book for a standardized test that still hasn’t been used. These are easy to sell on a FB marketplace or similar group. The same is true for a “second” book a family may have purchased to have at home. Old textbooks (i.e. older than 5 years) have almost no value on the secondary market, so no guilt recycling these!

  3. These are fabulous tips! I particularly like the one about cleaning out the computer files. This is so important. Putting the documents to keep in an easily retrievable folder as well as deleting the ones that are no longer relevant is something we all need to do from time to time. I also loved your reminder about the locks and passwords. Those lock combinations are so easy to forget and if you do the only thing to do is buy a new lock.

    1. I think we bought multiple combination locks before I learned this lesson! I find that kids, when they get busy, end up having a computer desktop full of random documents and folders. They don’t really like it either, but probably won’t fix it without some encouragement and direction. Delete all that old stuff so you can start fresh. If you know what classes will be taken next term, you can even set up empty folders so you are ready to go!

  4. You and Cassidy are so alike with this kind of organization! Although last year, we had to clean out the school year in March and it was so weird and all of this is SO disorienting. Cheers to summer, though.

    1. Last year was just weird overall. I don’t even know what to say! It’s still weird in so many ways. But kids do feel better when they start a new term with a fresh slate, fresh backpack, and a clean computer desktop. Cheers to summer indeed! (Now if it would just warm up a little bit and stop raining. 🙂 )

    1. You are making me laugh, Melissa! I have a daughter whose backpack was always full of “gremlins.” You do wonder what is growing in there!

  5. We do this! We have an area in our home where unused school supplies rest until the next school year so we can “shop” there before we make a Staples run. I love the tip about reminding older kids to search through their computer files and photos. I have totally dropped the ball on that one.

    1. Kids are unlikely to go through and declutter their computers on their own, but they do like it when the task is completed. I think this can be a good rainy day activity, even while they are watching a movie or something so it isn’t too monotonous!

  6. Start with the backpack/bookbag! Tiny humans (and teens who act like tiny humans) have been known to leave food items in their school bags, and that can mean finding a stinky mess halfway through the summer! And I love that you included all the computer-related cleanup in the school year-to-summer transition!

    And, randomly, I still have my high school lock and know the combo, but I love that modern combination locks have dial-up passwords instead of numbers. I’m sure they’ll have locks you can unlock with a thumbprint or phone soon enough, but as long as we have the old-school kind, recording that info is great. Better yet, record it at the start of the year (or when you buy a lock) and keep the info in your digital password manager.

    Great advice, Seana!
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    1. Someday we will just look at our locker and our eyeball will open it, right?

      This year has been especially complex with a lot of new passwords and logins coming onto the scene. Hopefully kids will be back in school next year in person, but it seems like this information will be needed regardless. Putting these in your password manager is a great idea!

  7. Excellent post! We often think about getting organized for the beginning of a new school year, but hardly anyone addresses getting organized after a school year ends. This is a nice, thorough to do list for closing out the school year and setting your family up for success in the fall.

    1. I always say, “Many start strong, few finish strong. And finishing is what matters most.”

      Why not use a rainy day to just knock this out and set yourself up for success next year? It does feel good to have it done!

    1. I know one family who had a fire pit and the Mom would let the kids burn a few old notes. Not sure if this is environmentally-friendly these days, but I bet it was a lot of fun!

  8. I love starting fresh with calendars for the change of a school year! It’s like taking a big deep breathe of summer, ahhhhh. Also yes… wash that backpack ASAP. Great post.

    1. The backpack can be a bit scary by the end of the year. Sometimes, it just needs to go in the trash, but I know a lot of families keep the old backpacks around for travel or play, so might as well clean it up!

  9. I love that you included “make a list of needed supplies” and “record start dates”! You always think you’ll remember in 3 months, but…. rarely do.

  10. These are such encouraging ways to give parents and students a process for completing the cycle. When the school year ends, it’s not over until you do those final tasks to make the transition into summer, and, ultimately, the fall goes smoothly. Even if you don’t have time to handle all of the suggestions in one sitting, it’s useful to schedule some time over the next week or two to wrap things up. It’s a time investment now for a better future. It’s been quite the school year. I’m sure most parents and kids are looking forward to a break.

    1. I completely agree! I think something like clearing the computer desktop is a good option for a teen on a rainy summer day when other activities are cancelled. The key is to clear out the old and make space for the possibilities of the new!

  11. Excellent suggestions-do it while it’s still fresh in your mind what you want to keep. It gets hectic when school starts so this would make it easier.

  12. Yes, we totally do! And we haven’t done it yet, but school ended yesterday. Your method is identical to Cassidy’s, or his is to yours. Brilliant.
    I remember them doing it in April in 2020 because we knew we weren’t going back to school (maybe it was May) and that really messed me up at the time. It was so wrong. And yet, business as usual. Cassidy went through the whole organizational system with bookbags and lunch boxes.
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