Post Category: Back to School

How to Organize Your Backpack for an A+ Year


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.

Make back-to-school fun (or at least as fun as it can be) with Redbubble’s unique backpacks, pencil cases, notebooks, stickers, and more 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.
  • Find a backpack with sturdy, adjustable straps so the backpack fits appropriately and will last the entire school year from first-day icebreakers to the last final.

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.

Backpack with tartan couch fabric

Tartan Couch Fabric Match Backpack designed and sold by Laura Wright

Step 2: Empty the Backpack

If you’re reusing last year’s backpack, dig it out from wherever you chucked it at the end of last year. Turn it upside down, give it a good shake, and hope you didn’t leave any food in there.

Sort through the detritus that falls out. Recycle old notes, and organize any leftover supplies into two piles: what is no longer usable (hello ridiculously tiny pencil stubs) and what you can use again.

Tote bag with 90s colors

Liquid 90's Tote Bag designed and sold by KathrinLegg

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. (But not your newly organized desk drawer.)

Laptop sleeve with red, pink, blue, and green eyeball pattern

Eyeball Pattern – Version 2 Laptop Sleeve designed and sold by Bethany Dobson

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. Plus, the spirals won’t snag and bend.

Hardcover journal with dark pink lightning bolts on a pastel pink background

Lightning Pink Hardcover Journal designed and sold by JodiFeddon

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.

Pencil pouch with a galaxy check pattern

Galaxy Checker Pattern White Zipper Pouch designed and sold by Julie Erin Designs

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.

Water bottle with a sticker of a coffee mug yawning and the text "My coffee needs coffee"

My Coffee Needs Coffee Sticker designed and sold by siolin

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

A pin with a unicorn farting a rainbow on a blue background

Unicorn Fart Pin designed and sold by zoljo

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.

A drawstring bag with a "bad" apple playing guitar and wearing a leather jacket and eyeliner

Bad Apple Drawstring Bag designed and sold by wroos02

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.

White water bottle with image of the ocean

Morning in June Water Bottle designed and sold by ALICIABOCK

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.

Two people wearing a black t-shirt with the text "Science: Like magic but real"

Science: It’s Like Magic But Real Classic T-Shirt designed and sold by BootsBoots

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.

If you’re heading off to college this year, the backpack is just the start of it. Pack everything you need and then decorate your dorm until it’s the perfect reflection of you.

Header image is Tropical Fruit Salad Pattern by Rocket & Indigo.

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