It’s back to school and all that it implies with increased papers, writing implements and increased mail. So where does it all go and how can you stay organized? Here are some helpful steps to take to keep the countertop and tabletop clutter to a minimum.
Clear Out the Paper
As the next season appears on the horizon, the new installment of mail order catalogs is already out. Go through your old catalogs and magazines and recycle the old ones. Even if they don’t impact your countertop clutter, you’ll feel the benefit of just having less clutter generally. Recycle outdated phone books, community guides and school phone lists as soon as the new ones arrive.
Go through old mail, old homework sheets and work books that may be hanging around from last spring. Keep only what is reasonably likely to be used. If you don’t already have one, get a file box for each child to store their more important papers from each grade. Again, try to be selective in what you keep.
For school supplies, throw out old broken crayons, dry markers, dried up paint and the like. Many of us seem to store markers, pens and pencils long after their useful lives. Even if you keep these items in a drawer, get small containers or dividers to separate them and keep them organized.
Organize Incoming Mail
Incoming mail creates clutter every day for most people. Consider whether your system of collecting the mail, sorting it and storing it works for everyone in the family. Is it best kept in the kitchen, desk area or some other location? If you are relying on a countertop surface, consider an organizer unit designed specifically for this purpose. Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Target and The Container Store all have well designed pieces for countertop application.
Where countertop storage isn’t an option, baskets or bins that stack on simple wire racks or shelves might do the trick. The bulk of the storage is kept vertically but it does take up some floor space. The benefit of this method is that there is ample storage space for homework assignments, work books, etc. in this type of system. I would suggest this as an option for homework and ongoing projects even if you don’t need it for mail. This kind of system can be found at the above-mentioned sources and at Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus. If you need further storage suggestions and quickly, see “Storage and Display” catalog put out by Pottery Barn.
Junk mail these days generally goes directly into the recycling bin so having the bin nearby is a must. The large plastic bin itself doesn’t fit in with people’s design schemes, so some in-between step is usually required. If you don’t happen to have a cabinet dedicated to garbage and recycling, some other system is required. A brown paper grocery bag under the sink works well enough for some but if not for you, try a tall basket such as a hamper basket with a lid. These can be quite tall and narrow and handsome enough to sit out in plain view. No one would guess it holds your recycling.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a mudroom, hopefully its’ careful design included a place for backpacks. If not, here are some alternatives. In most coat closets there is enough space to install two hooks on both side walls; one above the other a sufficient distance apart. These hooks must be sturdy and anchored into the drywall or a stud, if possible. Don’t expect to hang a fully loaded backpack on these hooks, however. There won’t be a huge amount of space here but it should be just enough for the width of a backpack.
While we’re on the topic of closet space, this is as good a time as any to clean out the children’s coat closet. First, pull out last year’s coats, shoes and boots. If they’re too small now, set them aside for donation. Next, look to see that all the space is as efficiently used as possible. Is there a top shelf with items that haven’t been used in more that a year? If, so move them to longer term storage. Consider whether anything in the closet is best stored elsewhere and if so, move it. Opening up even a small amount of space is helpful.
Where kids use a back door that enters from an attached garage, retrofitting backpack storage is easier. A bracket with several hooks that has an overall length of more than 16 inches can be mounted in studs just inside the garage. If ample space is available in this area, consider narrow lockers for each member of the family. They can house much more that just the backpacks.