Simplify Going Back to School - Unload Those Backpacks!

Back to school means back to lunches, back to routines and back to all the fun stuff that comes home everyday from the classroom. Don’t take on the stress from it all, use this simple 5 step system to unload those backpacks and simplify coming home time after school.

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Back to School, Back to Reality (Insert 80’s background music here)

Those are the words to that Soul2Soul song right?!  Hahaha! Did I just show my age?  

It’s back to school and that means back to lunches, backpacks and all the fun stuff that comes home everyday from the classroom. I don’t now about you, but I find all the graded homework, finished projects, party “stuff” (insert eye roll), invitations, things to remember and fliers are just a bit much. Swooping in uninvited all while creating clutter and stress. Amiright?!  

Did you know that back to school stress (and frankly, all year stress) can be minimized just by having a system for unloading backpacks?  

Yes ma’am!  This one item, the backpack, when put into an organized “coming home from school” system will alleviate so much stress for you!  Wanna know how?

Having a simple system in place for your children to unload their backpacks, will not only make less work for you (woot! happy dance), but will keep you and your children on top of things, create a consistent and positive forming habit for them and make coming home time super easy to manage.  

Sounds great, I know.  Let’s create one shall we?! Here’s a quick overview.

The 5 step System to unload those backpacks

Before you can implement your backpack system, there are 5 “homes” or stations that need to be created.  These homes are where all backpack items will live when they aren’t going to school.  They are super important and one of the keys to your system working.  

The 5 Steps

  1. Landing Zone

  2. Lunchbox and Water Bottle Station

  3. Paper and “Things” Placement

  4. Homework Station

  5. Backpack Home

Let’s get move along and take a look at each step.

home #1 -  Landing zone

This is where all backpack items get taken out before they go to their designated homes.  A dumping spot if you will.

The spot could be anywhere around where your natural “dumping” place would be such as the dining table or an area on the kitchen counter.  Pick a place your children would naturally go to make teaching them easier on you. Don’t worry, this space will be clean when you’re done!  

When the kiddos come home, the landing zone is their first stop before they do anything else.  

Have them empty everything from their backpacks here.  

Our system is shoes, backpack, hands. My son is 10 and has been using this system for years. He knows when he walks in the door, these 3 things happen (in that order) and then he can move on with other things such as homework and playing.

home #2 - Lunchbox and Water Bottle Station

When lunchboxes get taken out, it’s easy to just let them sit for later, but completely emptying them right away is the key to having frozen ice packs in the morning and no smelly food.  

Create a space in your kitchen or pantry where your child can easily put their lunchbox away and designate a spot for the water bottle to go. (We keep ours in a crate in the pantry.) Making a special place, one that is easy to access, will give them a sense of ownership of their items and space.  Super helpful if they push away from learning the new system.

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If the bottles get washed everyday, perhaps a spot next to the sink will work.  If they get used again, maybe they get filled and put in the refrigerator.  Have the littles empty everything out of the lunchbox and put it where it goes. Leftover drink box in the fridge, wrappers in the trash, containers by the sink etc…  

When the lunchbox is empty, it goes to it’s home.

Home #3 - Paper and “things”

This is the biggest step in the system as paper and random items seem to be everywhere. They come in all shapes and sizes and have the ability to overwhelm us in an instant. You will be relieved to know that, if you have a plan, organizing it can be super easy!!

Invitations, event fliers, graded homework, art projects etc. unassumingly float in and typically have no home.  When you’re faced with this, being proactive and having a home for them will make things so much easier for you.  Promise! 

Take a minute to think about the different types of papers that come in, make a list if that is helpful to you.  

Once you have a good idea of what may need a space, designate places for them to go and/or what you will do with them.  

Example Papers:  Graded homework, unwanted papers, actionable items, etc..

Example Solution: Make a holding spot for all graded homework for later review, recycle unneeded papers immediately, create a place for actionable papers that need to be kept and put dates in your calendar right then.

It’s also very helpful to sign anything that needs your signature right away, such as behavior sheets, report cards and field trip forms, so it doesn’t get forgotten

I use a system called ‘The Sunday Basket’ (created by Lisa Woodruff of Organize 365) to keep paper under control.  That’s another blog post in itself (keep an eye out in the future), but definitely something to look into for organizing your paper.  I would recommend this system to everyone even if there aren’t any backpacks coming into the home.

It’s amazing. Really…

The idea of the Sunday Basket is to have one place where all of your actionable papers live and to review them weekly to stay on top of what needs to be done. I’ve been implementing this system for about 8 months now and it is soooo helpful for keeping track of everything! Can you tell I like the system just a little bit?

One more “thing”…

The “things” or physical items need some attention as well. Be sure to have a plan for all the wonderful trinkets and gifts that will arrive in addition to the paper.  Gotta love birthday party favors and Market Day trinkets!

Go through them right away to prevent pile up.

Toss any unwanted or unneeded items and put away the rest. Does it go in their room? Does it belong in the toy room? Involve your kiddos and have them take some responsibility in putting these types of items away.

If you have a plan, there will be no mess!

PRO TIP: If you’re not home when the backpacks come in, make a holding area for the paper and physical items that will house them until you arrive. This holding area will be your first stop after returning home. You’ll know right where to go to take care of business and nothing will be forgotten.


Step #4 - Homework

Does you child have a place where they do their homework consistently?

Have them create a place near this area for homework that is unfinished. This can be a drawer, cabinet, desk unit etc.. Just be sure it is easily accessible and near their working space.

My son loves to do his homework at the breakfast table. I’ve tried to have him be in other areas, but he always comes back to the table, making that his homework station. We have a drawer unit to house all of his craft and drawing supplies, so I keep it nearby and utilize one of the drawers for his homework. Check out his fabulous labeling skills! ….maybe I should hire him.

PRO TIP: Have your kiddos get involved in creating their storage spaces! If they can decide where their homework will reside and even label the drawers, bins, etc.. they will be more likely to use it naturally.


Now that your child has a homework station, they will know exactly where to find it when it needs to go back to class.  

Exceptions: If an everyday binder is being used, keeping the binder, and/or anything else that goes back on a daily basis, inside the backpack is always a good option. 

Step #5 - Backpack 

Find a spot where the backpacks can live on a permanent basis and make sure it’s at reach height.  A hanger or hook in the laundry room, entry way or even in your child’s room will work.  Our laundry room is right near where we walk in, so it makes for a perfect spot. It’s accessible, but kept out of sight.


When the backpack is empty and the binder (or whatever you want to have live in the backpack) is put back in, hang it up.  

PRO TIP:  Use command hooks for hanging backpacks to make them easily accessible for the kiddos. They are really versatile and allow height adjustment as your child grows.


recap and keys to success

We’ve gone over the 5 steps and now you have an amazing system to stay on top of the backpack madness that has begun. Let’s review the keys to your success.

Set Up

Begin by creating homes for everything in the backpack as well as for the backpack itself by using the 5 steps.

  1. Landing Zone - Unload everything

  2. Lunchbox and Water Bottle Station - Give them both easily accessible homes.

  3. Paper and “Things” - Create homes for all categories of paper and physical items and put them away immediately.

  4. Homework - Have your child select a holding spot to keep it safe while it’s home. Get them involved in the process.

  5. Backpack - A permanent and easy to reach home.


Teach your kids the habit of going to the landing zone everyday. When they come home from school each day, walk them through the process until they can do it on their own. You may have to do this multiple times for it to kick in. (Deep breath!)

It is very important to make this a non-negotiable task when your child comes home. By doing so, a habit of consistency will form and the task will soon become a no brainer.


Consistency, consistency, consistency. In the beginning it may feel like a chore or a difficult inconvenience, but once this system is done over and over again, all of the hard work will be worth it.

That’s it!  A complete, simple system to make your day easier.  

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Do you have a “coming home from school” system already in place?  I’d love to hear how you take care of your incoming backpack and/or how you’ve implemented the system I’ve described here.  Comment below or visit me on Facebook and Instagram with your pics and tips, I can’t wait to see them!!


(Isn’t he adorable?!)  Happy new school year to you.  You got this!


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Hello!  I'm so happy you stopped by!  I'm Melynda, a professional organizer who loves helping busy women and families make space and time for what matters by creating personalized and custom organizing solutions for their home. 

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