Operation Organization: Back To School

Aug 24

Each back-to-school season my sweet southern friends Christy and Amy, of 11 Magnolia Lane, host a fun series called Operation Organization. The first time they reached out with an invite to join, they had me at the series title. And I haven’t looked back since. They invited me again during this crazy season (thanks girls!) and this time they’re hosting a blog hop. Instead of jumping over to their site to see my post, you can instead read it here and then pop over to the other blogs I’ll share at the end of this post. Get ready for some serious back-to-school organization inspiration!


If you’re new here and stopping by through the hop…welcome to Simply Organized! I’m a professional organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area and work with families to create systems, declutter, simplify and get organized.

Today I’m sharing something new and a few systems that have stood the test of time….for me and for 3 very active kids.

As far as what’s new, I’m changing up the lunch making routine around here. My 10 year old is on the Autism Spectrum and has sensory issues around food. Making meals for him is stressful enough, but making lunches he actually eats is an even bigger challenge. This summer his stomach took a turn for the worst so we started by eliminating gluten from his diet…which of course, caused me to re-think all things school lunch. At first I was stressed at the idea of how I would make gluten-free lunches for him. This of course was on top of everything else school food related for all 3 kids. Ultimately, I took a deep breath and shifted my way of thinking to create more fun around the topic.

Let’s start with my fridge. Your fridge and pantry is where healthy meal planning and easy prep begins…


My fridge doesn’t look like this every day of the week, but it does look like this on Sundays. During the school year, I grocery shop on Sunday and dedicate time to cleaning, organizing and prepping foods in my fridge, freezer and pantry for the week ahead. It really does take the stress out of every single meal in this house. Does it take a little time on a Sunday when I’d rather be laying by the pool or working out? Yes. But it pays me back 100-fold over the rest of the week. That’s worth it to me.

The containment I use in my fridge is Ziploc VersaGlass and pantry bins from The Container Store.

Having the fridge organized this way helps immensely with lunch making. This year I’m trying out the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox system. My neighbor is trying EasyLunchboxes. It’s game on over here as every morning we text a photo of the lunches we make using these varying systems. Clearly, we take lunch-making to another level. Don’t be us. Or be us…cause it’s kinda fun to drop the mic on each other.

Here’s an example of my guys gluten-free lunch…


He loves hummus with crackers so this system, with it’s blue ice center, keeps it cold.


The blox system has been a game changer and can’t wait to add fall foods like warm soups and chili’s. My crock pot works overtime in the fall and my kids love a home cooked hot lunch.

My neighbor has 3 school-aged children and here was her mic drop this morning using EasyLunchboxes…


I loved it when she said, “I’m so happy because my kids actually eat all of this!”. It’s true, lunches can be more than a sandwich and chips….and a whole lot more fun. Consider looking into either of these systems or similar. It changes up lunch making blahs for you and your kids will be excited to see what you packed each day!

If you’re looking for more fridge organization ideas, here’s a few!…

Organized Freezer Drawers

Organized Top Door Freezer

Organized Overflow Fridge

Over my nearly five years of blogging, I’ve shared a lot of great back-to-school or school related organization tips and ideas. Here’s a quick rundown to inspire you! But don’t forget to use the blog search function on the sidebar. Over the years I’ve talked so much about productivity, scheduling, organizing papers and more that it’s too much to wrap up in one post!

When it comes to homework, you don’t need a desk or full office space dedicated for the kids. Most kids generally do homework at the kitchen table anyway. All that matters is they know where to find their supplies and they have what they need. Here’s a DIY free-standing homework station I created a few years ago…

DIY Free-Standing Homework Station

If you do have a little desktop area to carve out, here’s an example of what you could do…

Desktop Homework Station

I’ve also helped families organize homework stations in their homes, like this one…

Homework Station

One of my best time and money saving tips for setting up a homework station is to wait. Many parents set up a station before knowing what their child’s homework requirements are. Don’t feel the need to rush on this one. Just wait until you hear from their teacher, then purchase the supplies and get organized.

In addition to getting snacks and lunches prepped, setting out school clothing is an easy task to check off the list the night before. We’ve all been there – running around the house in the morning with 2 minutes to spare looking for socks or jackets or a missing paper. I created a simple DIY mudroom in my home on an empty wall in the garage…

DIY Garage Mudroom

Shoes, jackets, backpacks – even socks! – all live right here. It totally changed my morning routine as well as having a designated spot for after-school sports and activity stuff. Each evening I make sure we’ve checked all the boxes and everything is waiting right here for the next morning.

I’ve created versions of this for clients, like here in this garage

And here in this laundry room

I’m sure you already know allllll about this by now, but we spend more wasted time than ever searching and hunting down items. Creating a simple mudroom of your own (even if it’s a wall version like these) will save you time and headaches!

The school paper landslide is on the way. Are you ready? I keep some papers in my office, but more often than not find myself sorting through or looking for info while standing at my kitchen counter. To get the paper off the counters, I created this simple paper command center inside one of my kitchen cabinets…

Looking for a school & activity planner printable? I’ve tried many and this year ultimately settled on making a version of my own. You can grab your own copy right here


If this hasn’t been enough to inspire some back-to-school organizing, don’t forget to hop over to see the other bloggers and their ideas! Happy school organizing, everyone!

11 Magnolia Lane – The Calendar Pad

Dixie Delights – 4 Tips For Back To School Organization

Duke Manor Farm – 4 Back To School Tips To Stay Organized & Keep Kids Happy

Just a Girl and her Blog – 5 Systems That Will Get Your Family Organized

Organizing Made Fun – 5 Tips For Back To School Organizing & Cleaning

Bless’er House – Wire Rack School Supply Organizer

Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss – Free Back To School Subject Binder Printables

Sincerely, Sara D – Back To School Organization Ideas

Sunny Side Up – Back To School Organization

This Is Happiness – Back To School Organization Ideas

Simply Organized (you’re here!)

operation organization back to school 2016

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  1. Tracey says:

    Your lunch organization looks amazing! Great ideas here!

    Do you mind if I ask what kind of gluten free bread your son likes? My 13 year old DD just went GF 5 days ago. My husband has been for almost 2 years. I really think bread is the hardest change for most people so I’m always interested in what others suggest.

    • Samantha says:

      Hi Tracey!

      Thank you so much for the sweet comment! Yes, there are 2 I have found he will eat. One is Schar bread (found in the bread aisle) and the other is Udi’s bread (found in the freezer section). My son won’t eat the break with nuts or grains, he likes a smooth bread and both of these brands have a white option that is soft and without that texture. Hope that helps!!


  2. Erin says:

    Sam! You are the lunch packing QUEEN! Oh my word. You’ve totally motivated me to up my weekend game and prep food for the week ahead. Food is my weakest area of organization! I also love your new printable! I’ve been experimenting with making my own too. Such a fun and motivating post! Love your blog. Love you! xo

    • Samantha says:

      Awe! You are so sweet, my friend! xxoo

      My neighbor is dropping some serious lunch images on me each morning…I’m in competition mode over here. haha! I’m kidding of course…sorta. 😉

  3. Sara says:

    Your fridge is AMAZING! And I would eat one of those lunches – they look delicious!

  4. Becky says:

    So many great ideas Sam! I have major frig envy 🙂

  5. Sara says:

    I am so inspired by your fridge filled with healthy, prepped foods!

    We are also Udi’s bread fans at our gluten free house (my oldest son has celiac disease). If you need other GF ideas, we love Bell & Evans gluten free chicken nuggets, Udi’s frozen pizza crust, “peanut butter crunchies” – rice cake thins spread with peanut butter, and deli ham wrapped in a slice of provolone cheese.

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