It’s that time of year!
School supplies are filling up the seasonal section at all of the stores. Teacher supply lists are landing in your inbox. And the first day of school is right around the corner.
Are you excited? Are your kids excited? Or are you all wishing for another month of summer?
The start of a new school year always gives me mixed emotions…and the organizing bug. I’ve found that the month before school is a great time to consider our routines from last year and make some tweaks so that the new school year can get off to a good start.
As I was thinking about our school routine recently, I realized that it’s time to uplevel our homework station setup. We used to have a simple space with a small Pottery Barn Kids table and chairs that paired nicely with our after school drop zone (a place for backpacks, shoes, reminders, and important papers). That was fine for the past few years, but my kids are growing up! And it’s time that their homework station grows up, too!
Homework Station Goals
When I tackle organizing a new space, I always start by thinking about my goals for the space. As much as I’d love to buy a bunch of pretty things from Target or HomeGoods and make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible, that would just leave me with a pretty but likely nonfunctional space. We’re not choosing form OR function here—there needs to be a balance between the two. The space should be appropriate for our needs but also stylish.
So these are the goals I came up with for my new homework station. It needs to have the following:
- A comfortable work area for my three kids to be able to sit and do their homework.
- A storage system to manage the school supplies they most often use when doing homework.
- A system to manage school papers: Important reference papers like school schedules
- Papers that need to be signed and returned
- Ongoing project papers
- Special assignments that are worth keeping and putting in their School Memory Box at the end of the year.
What are your goals? Are you making a central homework station or individual homework stations in kids’ rooms? Do you want more of a mobile setup with commonly used supplies on a cart like the RASKOG one from IKEA that can be rolled around?
There’s no one right way to do it. Think about your home, your family, and your habits. The system will work better and be easier to maintain if you tailor it to your family. In the end, your homework station will look different than mine—and it should! But let me walk you through my process so that you can hopefully get some ideas to use on your own.
Setting Up Your Homework Station
Step 1 – Sorting Supplies
Unless you’re just starting out with a kid in kindergarten for the first time this year, you probably already have homework-related supplies in your house. Your very first step is to gather them all to one central location. Take things out of backpacks. Take things out of the kids’ rooms. Take things out of junk drawers. Gather all of the supplies in one area.
Next, sort the supplies in a logical way: tape, scissors, writing utensils, etc.
Now consider if it makes sense in your family to keep all supplies in one place, if you need to partition supplies out according to each kid, or if some other sorting method would work better for your family and home. I love using a small lazy susan for the essential supplies.
Now that you can see what you’ve got, you can think more clearly about how to go about storing all of it.
Step 2 – The Desk
The very first thing to do when considering what desk to get is measure, measure, and then measure one more time so you know the exact dimensions of your space. Don’t forget to measure your door! You want to make sure you can actually get the desk into the room—especially if it’s already put together.
Next, consider everything that you hope to store there. Do you need shelves above for books or other supplies? Do you need a filing cabinet?
Here’s a list of all of the things you might consider storing at your homework station:
Supplies (erasers, scissors, tape, etc)
Finished work (this is an often-overlooked category but you should have a place for it)Technology
Notebooks, pads of paper, post-it notes
Misc. items (fidget spinners, collectibles, dice, keepsakes, Legos, etc)
Homework & projects
Keepers (artwork or school work to keep long term)
For our homework station, we had a long wall that was available. We measured it and found that we could make our own extra long desk setup with IKEA tabletops and ALEX drawer units for three of the four supports. IKEA makes it pretty easy to build your own desk by combining various desk/table legs with the desk or tabletop of your choice.
Workspace for three kids with some drawers for storage: check!
Step 3 – Organizing Supplies
Next comes my favorite part—shopping for office supplies!
When I need stylish, functional office supplies, I always start with the See Jane Work line of office products, which is available at Office Depot and on Amazon. I just LOVE it!
After looking at our space and considering how we’ll use it as a homework station, I ended up purchasing the following See Jane Work supplies:
Plus, I got some simple drawer organizers. I’m telling you, drawer organizers are the antidote to junk-drawer-syndrome. Anytime you’re organizing spaces with drawers, you’ve GOT to get some drawer organizers.
And here’s a pro tip: keep all of your receipts when you’re buying organizing supplies! Sometimes things look really great in the store, and then you get them home and realize they just don’t work for your space. No problem. Put them in a bag with the receipt and stick it in your car to return the next time you’re out. You can also cut some newspaper to be the same size as your drawer and take that to the store. Layout the various organizers on it to see how things will fit.
Step 4 – Give Everything a Place
Now is the time to go through your piles of supplies and put everything away in a designated space—it’s very own space. It’s so much easier to keep your homework station organized when there’s a specific place for everything.
When you’re satisfied with the way it’s organized, break out your label maker! Labeling things takes the guesswork out of tidying up and keeps you from having to nag people to put things away in the right places. Trust me—if you don’t have one yet, put it on your wishlist. It’s a game-changer when organizing.
Last, put something like Museum Putty on the bottom of your drawer organizers so they won’t shift around and you’re set!
Step 5 – Finishing Touches
Now it’s time to add the finishing touches to your homework station! This is when you can add in some personal items and decorations that reflect the style of your home and your kids’ personalities. Think about adding this great wall system from See Jane Work that includes a corkboard, magnetic dry erase board, hanging wall file, and supply pockets. Add anything else that will help your family manage reminders and papers.
This is also a great time to consider if you want to add some special personalization, like a monogram, to any of the details. I decided to do the first initial of each child on their hanging folder and document box. I used my Silhouette Cameo 3 to create the custom vinyl monograms—I absolutely love how it turned out! If you want to know how exactly I made these vinyl monograms, check out this blog post.
Step 6 – Admire Your Work
I’m not kidding around here. Take a step back and admire what you’ve done. You’ve been working hard! This is a great practice to adopt for yourself and to teach your kids!
After completing a project, any project, take a moment to smile and look at what you’ve accomplished before rushing off to the next thing. Pausing to appreciate the results of your hard work help to train our brains that work is a good thing. We get good results and make a difference when we put our minds to it!
Congratulations, you’re now ready to tackle another year of school!