Pens and pencils, chapstick, scissors, flash drives, cell phone, iPod, granola bars, random electronics cables, pens, calculators, flashcards, earrings, more pens … etc, etc. And not only do I wind up with all this unwanted stuff, when I do want something I can never find it! I most definitely need some help.
I thought about saving this question for Friday’s Ask Unclutterer column, but with school starting for so many students I thought earlier might be better than later.
The first thing you’ll want to do is assess what you need to carry with you each day. The list you gave is a good starting point, but you probably also carry notebooks, textbooks, paper, folders, keys, and a few other odds and ends with you. Whatever these things are, set them out on a table so that you can see them all at once.
Next, evaluate these things. Are you missing anything you regularly need? Do you have duplicate items? Are the items in good condition? Are the objects durable for constant travel? Get rid of anything you don’t need and get your hands on those things you do need for the school year.
When evaluating durability, you’ll want to be honest with yourself about how hard you are on things. When I was in school, I found that I couldn’t use paper folders. Three or four weeks into the semester they would be torn and tattered. I had to use three-ring binders for all of my notes and an aluminum portfolio for my artwork (I started college as a painting major). This also meant that I carried a small three-hole punch at the front of each binder so that I could immediately store all of the handouts. (I also loaded 100 or so loose-leaf sheets of notebook paper into each binder for taking class-specific notes.)
Be sure to use sturdy containers for food stuffs, like your granola bars. It’s never fun to find smooshed up food at the bottom of your bag. And, don’t forget to regularly clean this container.
You will also want a backpack organizer of some kind to give all of your tools a proper place to live. I prefer the pocket organizers like the one pictured, but you could easily get a pencil case and put all of your supplies into one zipper pouch.
Finally, set up a routine for when you get home to immediately process all of the contents of your backpack. Much like you would sort mail, you will want to recycle, trash, scan, file, wash, and deal with everything from your bag. Within five minutes of arriving home, your bag should be empty except for your tools stored in your backpack organizer.
Lisa, I hope this advice helps to get your backpack organized. Good luck at school!