I Always Do This One Thing to Stay Organized Before Back-to-School Shopping

published Aug 2, 2023
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The beginning of August marks that time when summer is about over. Soon my kids will be heading back to school. It’s a mix of excitement and sadness. Excitement because most of us in the household enjoy change and new routines, but there’s always a little sadness with saying goodbye to lazy mornings, random pool days, and late nights watching movies. 

But August also means some shopping for all the school supplies, clothes, and new shoes. But before buying anything new, I start with a decluttering and organization project. Here’s how I proceed.

First I assess the clothes we have.

Our family has a lot of kids around the same age, which translates to many hand-me-down clothes. Often, we have a couple of containers at the bottom of both of my kids’ closets with clothes for upcoming seasons and ages. So before I buy anything new, I go “shopping” through those boxes first — and I’m always glad I do, because without fail I find items they can wear now or need to wear soon that I’ve somehow forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of life. Pulling them out of those containers and placing them with other clothes, coats, and shoes helps me honestly evaluate what we have before I start organizing what we will keep and what we will donate or sell.

Then I do my “three-pile” organization activity.

I create three piles to get myself organized: one for items to keep, one for gently used items to donate, and hardly worn items to sell. This is just like the three “outboxes” created during the Decluttering Cure to catch all your clutter, but my piles are focused on back-to-school stuff only.

First, I designate areas in the room to keep my three piles of clothes and shoes separate. The bed is typically reserved for items we’re keeping that still fit, and are in good condition, and my kids want to wear them for the remainder of the summer and fall season.

Off to the side in a corner is my donate area, where I have a plastic garbage bag ready to collect any gently used clothes they’ve outgrown or no longer want to wear. This makes it easy to place in my car to take to Goodwill or other local donation centers in the next few days. 

And lastly, in another corner of the room, I have a few canvas bags. In these bags are name-brand items that my kids either never wore or only wore very few times to take to secondhand children’s stores.

Organizing before buying new has many benefits.

Organizing what we have before shopping helps me save money. I’m more intentional with what new items I buy, and I find myself buying less. But this only happens if I make it a point to plan and organize first.

Donating gently used or unwanted clothes helps me declutter my kids’ rooms before the fall season of running to dance practices and soccer games. More stuff always seems to pile up after school starts. Depending on the place of donation, I’ve discovered you can sometimes get credits towards other future purchases if you enjoy thrifting at that one location as well. (A nice bonus!)

I’ve found that organizing and purging items is like a clean slate before the school year begins. It helps everyone feel a little lighter in the family (especially me). And the benefit of re-selling some items also gives me a few extra dollars in my pocket for unplanned ice cream treats after weekday practices — a tradition we’ve all come to enjoy in the family.