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Smart and stylish back-to-school organization ideas

At the end of every summer, I look around at our workspaces and think about how they can be a little bit better. My goals are to improve the productivity while sitting at those desks, and create an atmosphere of inspiration so it’s an attractive and feel-good place.

When it comes to creating that perfect back-to-school or home office desk area, it comes down to the personality, work habits, and motivation required to get even the most unappealing project done, whether it’s that first giant research paper or bookkeeping for a business.

I like to think about a workspace as having a few key elements that can make it a winner for even the most difficult teenager or finicky spouse. Here are my top four design elements to consider.

Location. Just like with anything else in life, where you plan to do an activity can make set up that activity for success or challenges. Doing homework in a child’s room might sound like a ‘why not’ location, but really, is that bedroom the perfect spot. Are there distractions like other preferred activities like a guitar or video games, windows that attract a daydreamer’s eye, or is it too private that it’s possible to never know if homework is ever being done? In a very tech-connected world, we need spaces devoted to non-tech use. So leave that smart phone on ‘do not disturb’ during homework or bookkeeping, and find a spot that is quiet and calm so that work can be performed at optimal levels. For kids on the spectrum, finding a little nook, maybe take over the lower part of a closet or create a stimulus-free little cubby so your child can truly feel safe and stay focused on homework.

Color. After selecting the space, think about color. If you want to create a calm space, select the favorite color of calm-inducing blue. Orange and purple inspire most people, while yellow is a happy color. If you need to feel energized, motivated, overall psyched to be at that desk, look for red. The other side of red is that it can also make some of us feel aggressive, so it’s not a color best used in large amounts if the child is on the spectrum or if the grown-up has a tendency to deal with high-pressure situations while at that home office space.

Décor. The easiest way to transform a workspace to feel that sense of ‘this is me’ is through décor. If you love Pinterest for ideas, you already have tons of visions of little containers repurposed into charming organization items for pencils, pens, paper, and more. Using inexpensive mason jars or vases spray painted with a glass-friendly paint can personalize the look to fit the color preferences. Old drawers can become wall shelves to contain almost every kind of desk supply, from traditional glue and scissors to back-up drives and headphone. Little flower pots can create a charming look, and are easy to paint with any aged child for a homework desk or nook. Taking inspiration from the old-school peg board of tool organization, those peg boards work terrific to organize every kind of school and office supply you might need.

Furniture. A major element to making sure work is done on time and to the best of our abilities involves furniture. I’ve typed blogs in the car, on a plane, and well, anywhere else you can imagine besides the bathroom (I just won’t do that). When I have a comfortable chair that promotes my favorite and most thought-engaging sitting posture with an easy spot to place a keyboard and mouse, and can view a screen, it’s easier all around. Same goes for reading and writing on actual paper. So think about chair height, whether there should be a back to it, arms to it, if it should be padded or if you have a fidgeter who would do better with a wobble chair that allows motion. The best part about planning furniture is it’s the opportunity moment to contain future clutter. ‘Work stuffs’ expand to fill the work space. Having more than what’s needed--for a tabletop, drawers, shelves, and other little nooks--means that there will be objects discovered to fill those spots.

How are you getting organized for back-to-school? I’d love to know. Join our weekly #HossColor Twitter chat Wednesdays at 1pmET, or send a note now. I’ll be looking for your questions and tips.

  • Where do your kids typically do their homework? Why?
  • What’s your favorite organization element at your homework spaces?
  • Have you ever upcycled to add organization to ease the back-to-school paper stacks?
  • What do you think about these homework / home office spaces? (photos)
  • Do your kids (or you if you work at home) have any specific challenges to finishing work?
  • What’s your favorite work inspiring color? How about your kids’ favorite homework space color?