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Back-to-School Organization Basics

Getting the family organized for back to school is easy as ABC with these tips and shopping solutions.
A: Assess Needs
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David Land

Organizing and shopping strategies for clothes and supplies.

Schedule time with each child to take a wardrobe inventory. Toss damaged goods and decide which wearable items can be passed on to younger siblings or donated to charitable organizations, says professional organizer Debbie Lillard, author of Absolutely Organize Your Family (Betterway Home).

Before hitting the stores, make a list of pieces needed and set a budget, suggests organizing pro Stacey Platt, of New York City-based DwellWell. If those over-the-limit boots or jeans are really must-haves, kids will know in advance that they'll have to save up to buy them.

The great thing about the school's supply list is that it usually details exactly what's needed. The downside: It doesn't remind you about the three calculators your kids already own. To curb unnecessary purchases, Lillard sends her kids on a room-to-room scavenger hunt to see what they can find and check off their lists.

If a supply list isn't digital, Platt recommends using an app, such as Scanner Pro (, $7) or Droid Scan (, $8), to scan the document with a smartphone. This way, if you're out shopping and spot a back-to-school sale, you can quickly verify what you still need.

One item every middle and high school student should have—requested or not—is a good academic planner, says Lillard. Her favorite, Order Out of Chaos (, $18), features large pages for recording assignments and after-school activities. The notebook also has plenty of blank space so kids can fill in free-time pursuits as well as long-range events such as family parties, vacations and weekends away.

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