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Before my kids started school, I had read about the horrors of messy backpacks and unearthing cheese sticks from the bottom of the them in May that were packed as a snack in September. “Surely,” I thought to myself, “it’s not that bad. After all, it’s just a backpack! How much of a mess can it be or create?!” Oh, parents of the world, I now know and fully understand how important it is to organize backpack chaos before it gets completely out of control.

A grey backpack resting on a leather chair with text above it.
Since I have multiple children bringing home more paper than I ever thought possible, I knew right away that I needed to put some systems in place to tame the backpack chaos or it would take over the house. And that’s not even an exaggeration. Left untamed, backpacks seem to toss their contents everywhere the first chance they get. My approach? It’s part systems, part containers, and 100% labeling.

The Systems

Part of being a parent is ensuring that there are systems in place in your household to control the things life throws at you. It’s no different when it comes to organizing backpack chaos. At the beginning of each school year we go over the systems again to make sure that they’re still a best fit for our family. You’d be amazed by how much things can change from school year to school year!

For our kids, the backpack control system is as follows:

  1. Take your coat off and hang it up when you come inside.
  2. Bring your backpack to the kitchen table and take out your homework and any important papers that need to be seen by mom and dad.
  3. Take your lunch box/bag out of your backpack and dispose of any leftover, half-eaten food. Put any food containers in the sink.
  4. Hang your backpack on your hook (on our DIY Mudroom Bench):
    A bunch of items that are on display

It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how much we need to practice it to make sure the system runs smoothly. We have it organized like we do, because we’ve found that if the kids take their backpacks to their rooms (we’ve tried that), they would forget to bring down their lunch bags and important papers until the next day. That left us with rushed mornings and a lot of frustration. If, after they’ve completed their routine, they hang their backpacks on their hooks, it’s easier to make sure everything gets back inside them when it’s completed.

You’ll need to examine your current routine and create a system to organize backpack chaos that works for your family. Feel free to use ours if it will work for you!


I used to let my kids put homework and important papers on the table until I looked at it. That lasted for about a week until someone ended up taking their sibling’s homework to school and someone else forgot a permission slip.

Now, if they have homework, they use a clip and hang it up (each child gets one big clip).

A stainless steel refrigerator with a white sheet of paper hanging on the door.
When they are ready to begin, they take their homework into the homework area and work on it, then hang it back up.  On Thursday night, they put it back into their folder (their homework is due on Friday)

DIY idea homework station


Other Paperwork:

I now use my binder method for paperwork, schoolwork and artwork.  It works SO well.  You can read about it here.

Organizing the backpack chaos may not happen overnight, but each day that you work your systems and have the necessary things labeled for ease of use, you’ll find that your house begins to run a bit smoother and there is significantly less after-school stress. To me, that’s priceless!

More posts you might like: 
Homework organization ideas and cool ways to display your kids' artwork

30 day declutter challenge Printable

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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1 Comment

  1. That’s a good idea to make sure that you take the remains of their lunch out of the backpack. I would think that if there was some spilled milk or something in there and is left in there for a while that it would start to stink up the place. I’ll have to make sure that I check their bags for spills so that I could avoid that when my kids get old enough for school.