Back to School Organization (& Giveaway!)

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It’s amazing how quickly the back to school season sneaks up on you.  Once school starts, the pace quickens and it’s easy to miss important papers or get buried in backpacks, new schedules, and winter coats.  With that in mind (and thanks to a box full of goodies from the Martha Stewart & Avery line at Staples), my brain started to think about how to organize ourselves this school year.  Since we don’t have a mudroom or even a wide entryway, we desperately needed a spot for all our school year gear.  We ended up carving out a portion of our living room for a Family Command Center filled to the brim with new-to-us organizational ideas.  I’m thrilled with the ‘AFTER’, a family-command-center-slash-faux-mudroom where we can store all our shoes, jackets, backpacks, schedules, important papers, and even our artwork.  Whew.  All that in a 6 X 3 corner of our VERY DARK AND IMPOSSIBLE TO PHOTOGRAPH  living room.  😉

Back to School Organization Ideas: DIY Mudroom & Family Command Center

Let’s back up a moment.  As I mentioned, our front entryway is too narrow for even a small hall table.  All the other outside doors lead directly into rooms, which means we have don’t have a handy mudroom like all those gorgeous, much coveted spaces I see all over the internet.  However, a space to hang jackets, drop shoes and bookbags (which my kids call ‘pack packs’, I MELT!) is so important for a busy family– we were in desperate need of a spot where the kids could reach the hooks and quickly find what we need as we rush out the door.  While nice, this set-up was not doing it for us:

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

Another problem was that we had an outdated shoe storage system.  And by ‘shoe storage system’, I mean a basket where we all threw our shoes.  It’s a constant riot of footwear that makes it difficult to put your hands on the pair of shoes you need when you need it.

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

Martha to the rescue.  My Instagram friends were as excited as I was when this box arrived in the mail.  In fact, there were so many great organizational items that I couldn’t contain them in one post!  Part Two (10 Quick Tips for Organizing for Back To School) will be posted Tuesday.  😉  Wanna see what Christmas morning looks like in my dreams?  BEHOLD:

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

Pretty soon, we were looking more like THIS:

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

{I warned you our living room is impossible to photograph, right?  With no natural light, this is the best I could get for you guys.  I tried, y’all.}

With all those Martha Stewart goodies, it was hard to go wrong.  We converted an unused wall into our family command center with a bulletin board, dry erase schedule, and backpack hooks.

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

This trendy bulletin board is the perfect place to pin up permission slips and important reminders.  I tacked up a Martha Stewart pouch as well, which holds dry erase markers.

Martha Stewart Bulletin Board (Family Command Center)

Below that is a simple dry erase schedule.  What makes these THE BOMB is that they are actually repositionable stickers.  In fact, I had to move this one twice and you can’t even tell.  It peels right off and reattaches where you need it.  I’ve color coded it so each child knows what they on their docket each day– this is super important for my 5-year-old, who truly needs this type of reminder and structure.  Keepin’ it real alert: this schedule is missing the three Dunkin’ Donut runs and doctor’s appointments and PT schedules we typically juggle.  I only write what they can handle.

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

I like to keep things simple, so I didn’t label the backpack hooks with their names.  The most important thing is that they are within easy reach of the kids so each morning they can check the schedule, grab their bags, and off they go.

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

The central axis of our ‘mudroom’ is a bench and coat hook unit. But it needed some fixing up to function properly.

BIG IMPORTANT NOTE: it’s fastened to the wall using straps that came with the furniture.  Essential with kids in the house who’ll climb every surface.

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

We use the hooks for jackets and hats, and the storage bench for storing the adult’s shoes.

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

Quick story about these shoes.  We walked into the store and my 3-year-old son told me they were pretty ‘just like mommy’.  I bought them on the spot.  #sucker

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Above the hooks are tons of storage options from baskets to boxes to file holders.

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Here’s a closeup of the baskets with each child’s initial: those hold hats, mittens, and more.

Back To School Organization Ideas: Mudroom & Family Command Center

Above THAT are these gorgeous Martha Stewart shagreen storage boxes that store all those art masterpieces that come home every week.  Isn’t the color amazing?  Plus my $2 thrift store owl I got last week.  #WHOOT

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Magazine holders store recipes and other papers.

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Plus, who can resist a few fun accessories?

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

None of those items came with those awesome metal labels.  Here’s my little secret.  They’re  ADHESIVE METAL BOOKPLATE LABELS, yo.  I’ve been searching for something like this for years.  They are metal with adhesive backs, and they stick right on storage boxes, hutches, picture frames, wherever you decide to put them.  I’M IN LOVE.

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Okay, now on to the shoes.  Remember that beat shoe basket?  I replaced it with a mini-cubicle unit I found at Target (along with these baskets to go inside).  I know my kids won’t have shoes that fit in here forever, but for now, I LURVE THEM.  And I’m going to cherish those tiny feet while I can!

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

As for the numbers on the cubes, I used my trusty magnetic alphabet and number stamps (affiliate link) and regular ol’ black craft paint for a little extra somethin’ somethin’.


Though Mr. Roboto has other ideas for the boxes (if you’re a child of the 80s, you’ll be singing a certain song right now… Domo Arigato…):

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Other cute details: these .99 (for two) geometric dip bowls from Target are the cutest ever.  Perfect for random coins and such that we find all over the place.  I’m itching to spraypaint it gold when I get a free minute.

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

The silhouette portraits I made a few years ago now make sense.  Not that they didn’t before, but they kinda floated.  They’re home now, owning the shoes.  😉

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

The basket did make a return, thanks to finding my cat scratching at the couch after I took her basket away.  I brought it back and now it provides a perfect spot for throw pillows (like this sweet chevron floor pillow we adore!)(affiliate link)

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

I have a few more small things to add, most importantly a pendant light and perhaps a rug to differentiate the space.  But that’s icing on the cake, because truly, we now finally have a fully functioning family command center that’s totally ready for back-to-school time.  Backpacks, permission slips, and shoes?  BRING IT ON.

Back to School Organization Ideas (Mudroom and Family Command Center)

Many thanks to Martha Stewart for the fantastic organizing supplies.  I was not compensated monetarily for this post.  You can find all the Martha Stewart and Avery products at Staples.  And right now, YOU can WIN $50 to Staples for your own supplies and shopping spree!

$50 Gift Card Giveaway and Family Organization Ideas

Simply enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Back to school organization can be beautiful, fulfilling, and easy.  I’m thrilled to finally have a mini-mudroom of our own for all our school supplies and cold weather gear.  Hopefully some of these easy organizing ideas resonated with you– if so, I’d love if you entered the giveaway to win a $50 gift card to Stapes so you can buy everything you need for back to school organizing.  Tomorrow, I’ll share 10 tips for taming the back-to-school paper monster with more ridiculously cool (and inexpensive) organization strategies and products.  Have a tip to share?  Leave it in the comments!  As for this guy, he’s can’t wait to go back to school.  Me?  I’m not quite sure I’m ready.

back to school organizing ideas

{Linking up with: DIY Showoff | Serenity Now | Link Party Palooza |The Shabby Nest }

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  1. We have a weekly calendar on our fridge that helps us organize our activities, meals, and appointments. It’s great because it has the whole year on there, you just peel off the week when it’s over, and voila! There’s the dr. appointment you forgot all about, and you haven’t missed it yet.

  2. I love it! I need to get myself organized and figure out the best method with 3 at the same school this year! Love that piece of furniture!

  3. I try to get separate folders for important papers I need to keep from each child and keep it in a file. I love what you did!

  4. This command center is adorable! We pretty much just have hooks…but I consider that pretty good for my modified level of organizational skills. I would like to add some kind of bulletin/white board to the area, though–would make it easier to keep track of important dates/forms!

  5. We have no back to school organizing, lol! I’m loving some of these ideas though. I definitely need to get file folders for the kids and try color coordinating their things.


  6. You did a very nice job creating an attractive organization area for your family. It’s just my husband and myself and I still need an area like this as we are still at the “toss everything on the kitchen table” stage. I must put my thinking cap on.

  7. I keep folders in a special drawer for each of my children with their important papers. I also keep important dates on my fridge so I don’t forget them.

  8. Folders, monthly dry erase calendar and my iphone calendar are my main go-to’s right now. Having just moved I’m sure we will be making changes as school starts. So much to keep track of!!

  9. I have the Martha weekly calendar on my fridge and I LOVE it! Having to write out our activities/appts at the start if each week helps me keep it all fresh in my head, and I love that I can move it to anywhere I want when I get annoyed with wherever I’ve currently put it!

  10. I love the shagreen boxes (great color? YES!) and the stick-on metal book labels. I could go nuts organizing with these things. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  11. I like the new “shoe rack”. Very neat idea (reminds me of at those McDonald’s slots to put your shoes for the playground.

  12. I start getting in a routine a week before and make lots of to do lists.

  13. I start by making list, menu planning and making schedules for the kids to follow

  14. My favorite item from this post is definitely the alphabet and number stamps, so useful.

  15. Well…we really do not have alot of organization yet…but I have to say…I LOVE your mini-cubicle unit!!!!! That is the neatest idea!!!

  16. I like to use a big “organization board” to keep track of meetings, to-do lists, etc. I format it like a calendar, and it really helps me stay on top of things!

  17. It is old, but the “a place for everything and everything in its place” really is a great motto to live by for staying organized!

  18. I organize by using baskets also. I have twins in different classes and it is a life saver. Thanks for some new ideas.

  19. I NEED those metal stick ons! We did a “mudroom” in a bookshelf in our garage last year, still going strong. Makes it so much easier!

  20. I love the hooks (big fan!) and I just may be copying the shoe storage bin idea… currently we have the ‘show pile’. No joke. Pile of shoes at the end of the stairs.

  21. I am in the middle of ripping apart out mudroom this very minute – great tips! I still don’t have it fully planned out and purchases made – so this was timely for me, thanks!

  22. I’m a big fan of your numbered baskets. We always forget what ours are for and it becomes so disorganized!

  23. It looks awesome! We have a similar issue with school storage in our kitchen area. I wish mine looked as nice as yours.

  24. So many great tools in this post. But I love the little 6 drawer wall hanging organizer–cute and useful.

  25. Love those metal adhesive bookplates. They can be used in so many ways and are so easy!

  26. That is so charming! My kids too each have a basked for hats, sunglasses, gloves and things like that. They also each have a hook for their backpacks, though I wish my mudroom area were as cute as yours!

  27. I;m not organized at all, not even a teeny tiny bit!! I can’t fake it, I am a mess, I need help….come give me an organization makeover!!!! Oh and now I am singing Mr. Roboto

    1. I’ll come over for an organization makeover, you provide all the wine, and we’ll throw on some Mr. Roboto to keep us entertained. 😉

  28. i love the labels and we are horrible at horrible at organizing! but we try the best we can with folders and tabs…

  29. I love all Martha Stewart organizing sstuff!! It’s so fun to go into Staples and just dream. I love the turquoise boxes which would love awesome in my office. I aslo love Martha Stewart’s bulletin boards. Thanks for the great giveaway!! I love Staples!!

  30. You created an attractive and functional space for keeping your family organized. My favorite product in your post are the silver book plate labels.

  31. I love the adorable baskets with initials! I NEED to find a better organizational system this year!

  32. After that playdate at the farm we are coming back to my house where you can help me organize my “school center”:) This is awesome Carrie!

  33. I really love the pouch pinned to the cork for the dry erase! That is all kinds of brilliant. We have a similar cork board near a dry erase board and we can never keep track of the markers. I am totally stealing the bag idea!

  34. I love every.single.thing you did! Having just moved, I really need some of Martha’s help – and yours too! Thanks for all of the inspiration.

  35. I’m not very good at organizing so I am following all of your tips! Love the stickie chalkboards!

  36. We have a family dry erase board that contains everyones schedules – color coordinated.

    Entered the rafflecopter as “Wild orchid”

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    wildorchid985 at gmail dot com

  37. I organize going back to school by fixing my little bookshelf I have in my room. I clean it, and then go through all notebooks and try to see what I can save and what not. I also try to get new folders because I like having all my papers organized and that’s why I love magazine holders. There are not only useful for magazines, but also they help you have your folders and other papers all in one place.

  38. I’m in the middle of revamping our teeny, tiny entry closet for back to school. My kids are older so I installed lockers this year — what better place to store book bags and all the other stuff they stack around the house? Plan to use some of your ideas as I finish up. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Right now I’m in the process of packing away the small clothes to make room for new school clothes!

  40. I loved this post! Unfortunately I don’t have a great organizing system and we DO have a mudroom. Sad. I’m totallly wasting our potential. I have the basket of shoes but thankfully that’s reserved for overflow. Right now I have two hooks. Each has a letter above it indicating it’s for their book bag. Their shoes go on the floor underneath. That’s it. Pretty sad.

  41. I’m working on a new system right now. I have the shoe basket thing & it’s not working the best. I also have a square basket with folders for paper stuff but that’s not working so much either. I’m finding I need to see things to remind me to take care of them. Once I they get filed into the basket they get forgotten. So, I’m thinking I’ll create a giant board with a calendar, whiteboard for notes, hanging wall file holders for each family member and, well, like I said, I’m still working on it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  42. I really like the metal label stick-ons and the silver, metal hangers – both are very classy looking.

    1. Thanks, can you believe those silver hooks are just stick-on Command hooks?! So easy!

  43. I still have another year before my first heads off to school, but I am in love with this command center, especially those cute numbered cube baskets! Fantastic job!

  44. Where did you get the basic “furniture” unit with the storage bench you had when you began this “addition” /redo? I love the bulletin board with curved “frame”. Where did you get it? I love this project!!!

    1. Thanks Jan! I got the furniture online at Home Decorator’s Collection. The bulletin board is from the Martha Stewart line, and you can get it at Staples. So glad you liked it!

      1. Thanks Carrie. I found the Martha Stewart bulletin board on Staples web site. I searched “curved bulletin board” & up it came. For anyone else who wants to look at Home Decorators Collection web site for the large storage unit, this one is under their category: Hall Trees. This model is called Southport Hall Bench. They have several other models of hall trees in various sizes & configurations. Thanks again Carrie.

  45. I love it! I like how clean and simple it is. I am trying my best right now to reorganize my life/home as I just finished grad school and have a 2 year old at home. This is a great way to organize all our things as we come in the door. AND the martha stewart products just add the right amount of style.

  46. It seems you’ve thought of everything! I need to get my act together and create a command station. If I win, I could have access to cool stuff to actually do it. 🙂

  47. I started organizing by getting the house cleaned out! Now? I am trying to stay on top of it and figure out how to organize all the papers and stuff that will be coming home.

  48. You are so organized! I wish we had the space to have a nice mudroom organization, but our front door opens to the dining room and there are huge windows in the only space to put any organizers. Our next house better have a huge mudroom! 😉

  49. I am in awe of how you beautifully transformed that corner! I battle with organization and still haven’t found a system that completely works for us. I am starting this school year out with a clean front hall closet though! I just purged and organized that sucker. The kids can even find their activity bags in there now.

  50. Pingback: Pop of Yellow {More Shared Boys’ Bedroom Details}
  51. Carrie,

    Absolutely love this post! Love all those organization things from Martha Stewart. Your mudroom area looks amazing! Thanks for some great ideas.

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