Whether you’re shouldering a crisp new backpack or sweeping out crumbs from last year’s bag, it’ll be your constant companion. It’s an accessory that’s going to be your buddy from Monday through Friday, all year. Instead of shoving everything inside and constantly groping around for a pen, why not learn how to organize your backpack?
Organizing lightens the load. You won’t feel like you’re hauling a large bag of rocks on your way to the quarry. Bonus: If someone wants to borrow a pencil, you can whisk it right out instead of dumping everything on a desk first. To make organizing fun, you’ll find pencil cases, notebooks, and stickers in hundreds of trending styles.
Step 1: Choose the Right Backpack
Pick your backpack wisely, as it can be hard to find a good selection after school starts. That’s not the case at Redbubble, which has backpacks for every personality year-round.
- Make sure the pack fits your body size and style. If you’re a small person, staggering around with a huge backpack will make people stare. It shouldn’t weigh more than 15 percent of your weight. If you’re a packrat, just own it and buy the bigger one, already. If you’re a minimalist, try a lightweight sling pack or string bag.
- Whether you’re hiking in the mountains or through the halls at school, a pack with extra pockets and dividers will distribute the weight evenly so you’re not grunting through the day.
Look for extra padding. It cushions the laptop compartment and eases the weight on your shoulders so you don’t have a pained look on your face.
Image by @luisitopin
Step 2: Empty the Backpack
Is your old bag still stuffed with chemistry notes that escaped last year’s homework bonfire? Are you shocked that so many pencil stubs could land at the bottom of one bag? If you’re re-using your old bag, start by turning it upside down and giving it a good shake.
Image by @thewaveshavecome
Step 3: Lay Out All Your Supplies
Now take stock of your supplies. In one pile, put basics like shiny new folders, notebooks, glue, and headphones. In the second pile, put seasonable items like hats, scarves, and gift cards for pumpkin spice lattes. Place random things in the third pile: a half-used lip balm, that stale granola bar, and the lucky charm that got you through math class.
The first pile makes the cut and is going in your backpack. Put the second pile in your locker until the weather changes. Place the third pile in a drawer somewhere and forget all about it.
Image by @mialiamani
Step 4: Keep It Light and Lean
- Instead of one notebook for each class, lighten up with one spiral notebook for all math classes, one for all literature classes, and one for all science classes.
- You can divide up the notebook with stickers that boldly shout the name of each subject. Or, grab a 5-subject notebook so you can keep all your notes in one handy place.
If you do want a notebook for each class, stack them with the spines alternating in different directions. They’ll be more compact and won’t slip and slide.
Image by @fictionallyfloral
Step 5: The Case for a Pencil Case
You can use the inner pockets of your backpack for pencils or pens, but a pencil case is even better. Don’t worry, it’s not that plastic pocket protector that keeps ink off your pockets. Those will destroy your street cred. Pencil cases are cool organizers that come in every pattern from florals to space turtles.
Of course, you can just shove pens into your backpack. But they’ll mark up the inside like a graffiti artist. They’ll poke holes in the bag that will grow into bigger holes until your laptop charger falls into the street.
A pencil case ends the chaos with easy zip-top access. You can use it for makeup, sunscreen, and headphones, too. You can also buy travel-sized lotion or hand sanitizer and pop those in.
Step 6: Keep It Neat
Face it, those crisp snowy papers are going to be a messy, dog-eared pile soon. Even your paper folders are going to look creased and worn after a month.
If you want to keep everything fresh and brand-spanking-new (although it’s not clear what spanking has to do with it) try putting an expanding accordion file inside your backpack.
This isn’t a file for an accordion, because that wouldn’t fit. This is a plastic file that can expand no matter how many papers, folders, and notebooks you cram in there. It’s lightweight and will keep your stuff from getting battered and torn. There are pockets so you can sort papers by category. These files are durable, cheap, and available at most drugstores.
Image by @cottonbro
Step 7: Go for Glam
Patches or flair remind you that you’re not just a faceless person with a locker and desk like everyone else’s. Oh wait, your locker and desk are like everyone else’s. But your backpack doesn’t need to be. Whether you want to save the bees, promote peace on earth, or display your undying love for cats, you’ll find the perfect patch to express yourself.
Flair also helps you find your backpack when there are 10 other black packs sprawled on the gym floor.
Flair includes many fun touches:
- Try unique pins designed with everything from alpacas, which are trending for unknown reasons, to poetry
- Bright keychains dangle with leather fringe or even keys
Water bottles are splashed with cool designs and you can slip them into a loop on your backpack
Step 8: Prepare to Level Up
If you’re moving up a level, into high school or college, your supply list and backpack needs are going to change. In college, you’re going to want a heavier bag for your laptop and those meaty textbooks. But you’ll also want drawstring bags for the gym and classes with light reading (or at least you hope.) Check out this college packing list to get a strong start on the year.
Step 9: Be a Pro with Designer Accessories
For the ultimate organized backpack, consider top-of-the-class accessories like a special sleeve for your calculator and a cord taco. That last item might make you hungry, but it shouldn’t. It’s a taco-shaped bit of leather you can snap around all your folded cords to keep them from tangling beyond recognition.
Step 10: Remember Your Teacher with a Gift
For extra credit, pack a creative teacher gift for the first day that is not a candle.
Your teacher already has 3,472 candles. They’ve probably opened a secret online store to get rid of all the teacher-themed candle merchandise. Instead, try gifting them wearable, funny, subject-themed gifts they’ll actually treasure.
Go Forth and Conquer
Now that you’re all squared away (but not square) and have learned how to organize your backpack, do something special for yourself. Take time to explore new worlds with reading. Leave room in your pack for books to read just for fun, challenging yourself with these tracking lists. They help you set reading goals and plan rewards for hitting your target.
Finally, don’t forget to pack a journal so you don’t fly through the year without savoring it. A journal will help you look back fondly on all the events that will make this year special like no other.