The shot below was taken early in the year, before our school bag storage station existed. You may remember this post where I first shared this delightful little vignette of style.
We have a short flight of steps leading down from our garage, and at the bottom is a small area that quickly became the Official School Bag Dumping Ground.
Every afternoon when the kids arrived home, shoes were ripped off and flung helterskelter. Hats were dropped. Bags were shrugged off. And there it all lay in a jumble of mess until I nagged the kids enough times to pick it all up and put it away.
For lack of a better option, bags and hats then went into their individual rooms to be squirrelled away in a cupboard somewhere, while shoes were (eventually) returned to the garage.
This lack-of-system led to glorious school mornings beyond compare. No one could ever actually find their school hat when it was time to leave. Then after finally rounding up all their stuff, they would ascend the steps to the garage, only to start whining that they only had one shoe.
Our shoe situation in the garage was like the Bermuda Triangle. Where did those missing shoes go?? Nobody knows. As soon as those shoes were tossed in the approximate direction of a shoe basket, divorce court proceedings began, and pairs of shoes that had once dwelled together in harmony were forever split asunder. The left and right of each pair were like magnetic poles, repelling each other.
I could think of a thousand other bad metaphors, but basically, the probability of all three school-age children finding all six pairs of matching shoes on any given morning was not favourable. If you add in the necessity of also finding a school hat and matching socks… well. We’re raised to believe that with God all things are possible, but all I can say is, I have firsthand evidence to suggest that some things are not.
Since my yelling, nagging and hair pulling seemed to have little effect on my kids ability to ever find their belongings (ha! so surprising), I decided to take a different tack. I sat down and tried to come up with a plan.
This is where we began. A tiny little cramped entryway off the garage. The door to the left leads to our Master Bedroom. The door to the right leads to my daughter’s bedroom. Closer to us again on the right are the steps leading to the garage. This whole area then opens out onto our living and dining room. So basically, it’s a like 2m x 1m foyer with four separate pathways in and out.
Because it’s such a small and high-traffic area, I’d never attempted to create any sort of a drop zone there before. The only thing in there at this point was the DIY chalkboard art gallery frames that showcase the kids’ artworks. (They looked way cuter in our old playroom, but we are still loving this easy way to display our kids’ art!)
I needed a solution that would corral everything the kids needed for school, so we could see at a glance that everything was there and ready to grab on their way out the door. I wanted a place to store school bags, school hats, school shoes, library bags, and homework/ readers, for three children.
In Australia the kids all wear a school uniform, so finding the right pair of shoes and the correct hat each day is an absolute necessity. (The school rule is no hat, no play!) Oh, and some days the older boys wear formal uniform while other days they wear sports uniform, so there’s white AND black regulation pairs of shoes we needed to keep track of.
My first thought was to use a cube storage unit. But I quickly realised that a) school bags are too tall for a square shelf and would barely squish in, and b) there would be heaps of wasted space around the smaller items.
I decided a cubby system with moveable shelves would be the best bet so I could allow more room for bags, and less for hats and shoes. All I needed to find was a small, narrow bookcase with moveable shelves. I quickly found the perfect (and cheap!) set of shelves at Super A-mart (Australia). You can also find them here on Amazon.
Because they’re individual units, they gave me the flexibility to either place them side by side, or separate them to fit into our narrow and awkward layout. Ideally in a future home I’ll be able to place all three in a row, but for now this layout is working well for us:
It looks super tight in the pictures because of how foreshortened the perspective is (you can’t see the depth between the front and back shelf units), but in real life it has a surprisingly good flow for such a small area.
The key is that the shelves are quite shallow, so they don’t jut out all that much from the wall. There’s a little return on the doorway to the Master bedroom, so as you can see from the picture below, if you look at the bottom left, the shelf barely sticks out at all past the return. They kind of just snugly slot in there, and it doesn’t feel like they’re impeding traffic flow at all.
When we come down the stairs from the garage, one unit is straight in front of us:
… and the other two are on the right.
The units each came with three shelves, but I also wanted an extra slot to store library bags. So I measured it up and asked a cabinetmaker to cut three more shelves to size (to give us one extra shelf per unit).
Because I was working with a cabinetmaker on a kitchen project for a client at the time, they just did it for free. I don’t think it would cost very much in any case, as it’s just melamine faced particleboard, a pretty cheap standard material which cabinetmakers use all the time for shelves in kitchens and bathrooms. They got their apprentice to cut it down to size, and it only took a few minutes. It was a really simple way to get the perfect storage configuration for our needs.
This is what the cubbies looked like after rearranging the shelves.
Ideally I would have raised that top shelf a touch higher to make a little more space for the library bags, but there were no pre-drilled holes any higher up, and I didn’t care about it enough to bother drilling my own.
It actually turned out to be just the right amount of space for our school library bags to slot in.
As you probably noticed, I also added a set of A4 drawers on top of each shelving unit.
The bottom drawer holds homework sheets and readers that are for daily use. I wanted a place to keep everything together that the kids need to access every day.
Now at homework time they can easily grab out what they need, and when we get to the end of the week, it’s easy to gather their finished work and pack it in their bag to hand in.
The top drawer is for any other school paperwork that is not for daily use – such as projects, notes and reference materials.
Having the two drawers means that we have somewhere to put all the school paperwork that comes in, while still keeping our daily homework drawer pared down to just the essentials that they use every day. It’s really helped our kids to stay organised with their homework.
When artwork comes home from school, we display it in the gallery frames above their cubbies. Each child has two frames. It’s a nice way to make them feel like their work is special and valued.
The peg system is great, because it’s so flexible – I usually keep pegging artworks on top of each other until it’s getting a bit full. Then I take them all down and toss the ones we don’t want to keep, and file the rest in their school memory box.
Having this system has streamlined our entire morning and afternoon routine.
Because the kids can easily put ALL their school belongings away in the one area (instead of running things around to different parts of the house), they actually follow the system. They really seem to enjoy having their own personal cubby to stash their stuff.
Plus, they caught on really fast to the fact that when they actually put their things away in the afternoon, it helps them out the next morning. Now everything they need to take to school is right there!
No more hunting around at the last minute for missing shoes, school hats, library bags, or homework books. It’s SO much easier and less stressful for everyone.
You may have also caught a glimpse of our routine charts on the entry wall. The kids each have morning and afternoon chores that are part of their daily routine. I can share more about them in an upcoming post if you’d be interested in seeing more. It’s the teacher in me, I guess… I’m a complete chart nerd and am always creating new ones for our kids to use.
So that’s our organised school bag storage station. Let me know if you have any questions about it, and I hope this inspires you to create an organised school drop zone for your kids!
How do YOU organise your kids for school?
Check out the rest of my back to school series!
Back to school series
Wishing you a house full of sunshine,
P.S. Liked this post? You’ll also love this one!