Clean and Organize Backpacks, Desks, Lockers

Teaching your child how to maintain a clean learning environment will set them up for success inside — and outside — of the classroom.

It should come at no surprise that teaching a child to organize backpacks, desks, and lockers is a tedious job and means you’ll continuously repeat yourself.

However, with patience and support, these routines will reverse clutter into control and likely provide the organization your child needs as they navigate their learning; remaining vital as they advance into higher education and young adulthood.

A good rule of thumb is this: Compartments are your best friend. There should be a certain place for all things (papers, pencils, etc.). Daily check-ins with backpack preparation, with time at the end of the week for cleaning, will assure the routine is being followed.

And an added bonus? You know what is coming home, which assignments are being done, and how they’re progressing through the semester.

Click HERE for a FREE infographic on how to re-organize your child’s study areas at home

Organize Backpacks

Think of a backpack as a messenger between the classroom and home.

Although it’s not abnormal to resemble a labyrinth of papers, it consists of past and current assignments atop school letters meant for you to review daily.

That’s why it would be wise to organize backpacks with compartments that neatly file everything (papers, supplies, etc.).

Three-ring binders with colored tabs and pockets or folders will allow you to figure out the easiest way for them to file things for recalling later. This will stop you from having to dig through an endless maze of papers and remedy the excuse of “I can’t find it.”

As mentioned previously, daily check-ins and backpack preparation will help with upkeep while readying your child for class the next day.

Need a video to share with you child? Seventeen Magazine does a great job of visualizing backpack organization.

Desks & Cubbies

You won’t have as much control over their classroom organization, however, it’s important to mimic the home environment in class.

In short, a process that’s being practiced at home is easier for your child to implement on their own at school. And as you teach them how to organize backpacks, it can be adapted to environments outside of the home.

Although it’s likely their teacher will have routines for upkeep, it doesn’t hurt to make monthly visits to the classroom to check on everything. Turn it into a routine or game that they can look forward to and show off their progress with an organizational routine.

Be sure to stress the differences and similarities of their backpacks and desks or cubbies; the routine should outline the importance of having certain things in the backpack while keeping classroom books and supplies neatly stored in the desk or cubby.

PRO TIP: If your child’s cubby is big enough, and there aren’t already hooks or folders, add them to help keep things put away nicely and provide an example for the rest of the class.


As if remembering their locker combo was hard enough, asking your teen to adopt a cleaning regimen will seem like a huge deal. But it could be the difference of turning in an assignment or losing one; or having their gear and supplies for a class or activity or not having them prepared.

The locker is a huge responsibility and an even bigger stepping stone to good organizational habits. It will likely never be perfect and why should it?

Throughout middle school to their senior year, there will be plenty of times they’re running late or just plain disinterested in upkeep and that’s OK.

The larger point should be that daily practice can solve the issue of a completely dysfunctional and overwhelming locker. If they do the little things such as stack books nicely, avoid leaving loose papers, and only leave necessary items, it will be easier to clean down the road.

PRO TIP: If there will be P.E. clothing stored in this locker, it’s wise to keep an air freshening component to ensure things are always smelling fresh. Especially if clothes are forgotten over a weekend or break, or not returned home for weekly cleaning. Hooks are also beneficial for lockers as allowing shoes or clothing to aerate and not sit in a pile atop the papers or books.