What to do with unused school supplies

Now that school’s over, the kids are at home and all of their stuff is with them. Having a break from school is great, but what can be done with the half-used notebooks, stubby pencils, worn crayons, and more?


First, and most simply, use them. They’re good practice for your kids and their writing or maybe for keeping a summer journal. Have them draw on the pages or send letters to far-flung family and friends.

Another, less obvious idea is to find every half-used notebook that’s hiding in backpacks, on bookshelves, etc. Go through them and decide: is what’s written in here important? Do I want to save it? If the answer is yes, tear out those pages and scan them into the archive software of your choice (I prefer Evernote). If you’d rather not go digital, a quality three-ring binder will do the job as well. If the notebooks in question still have a decent amount of blank pages inside, consider donating them. Fiends of Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and often accepts donations of school supplies. Likewise, Operation Give helps members of the US military supply those in need with a variety of items, including notebooks, as does Project Smile.

Alternatively, old notebooks can be upcycled into scrap paper notebooks quite easily. Here’s a great tutorial from Instructables for making a handy scrap notebook to keep by your computer, on your desk, in the kitchen, or where ever you typically jot down quick notes. In this video, Martha Stewart describes a similar project that looks great.


Kids love crayons until they get too small to use. It seems wasteful to toss them away. Instead, you can make them super appealing all over again. You can follow a tutorial that explains how to use some candy mold, your old crayon numbs and a microwave oven to make great-looking crayon characters.

Alternatively, send them off to Crazy Crayons, a service that essentially uses the above process to upcycle unwanted crayons and make them available again.


One idea for those frustrating pencil nubs is to use them with a pencil extender. This clever little device does just what you’re thinking it does: holds the nub in a larger case that lets you continue to write until the thing is completely gone. This might be a unitasker, but if you actually use it then it won’t be a unitasker in your home.

If you’re willing to saw off the eraser, the pencil can be tossed into a fire. Also, the graphite can be a good “dry lubricant” for keys and locks.

Whatever it is you decide to do with old school supplies, just be sure to turn that after-school clutter into something useful or get it out of your house so it’s not still sitting in your kid’s backpack at the start of next school year.

5 Comments for “What to do with unused school supplies”

  1. posted by Sabz on

    Thank you for this very timely article. With two grade schoolers my house is drowning in school supplies. I’ll be making some scrapbooks and putting the mini crayons to good use now thank you.

  2. posted by Sharon A. on

    Any tips on where to donate school supplies?

  3. posted by Helen Moran on

    I find that retirement and nursing homes are receptive of supplies such as this, since they sometimes do have art classes for their residents. There is probably one in your neighborhood and all you have to do is stop by, no mailing anything, and leave the things at the desk.

  4. posted by Sondra on

    Teachers love to be gifted with supplies! Books, coloring books, puzzles, games and even gift wrap! I am a frequent business traveler, so I often have a supply of hotel pens. My teacher friends are happy recipients!

  5. posted by Talley_Sue_NYC on

    Re: the pencil extender

    I have a friend who is an artist working with colored pencils. Her pencils cost tens or twenties of dollars, and she wants to use them as long as she can.

    Plus, the length of the pencil affects how easy it is for her to manipulate it.

    That’s who pencil extenders were created for. And they’re indispensable.

    Me, I have hundredy thousandy pencils from my kids’ goodie bags over the years; I’ll never need to buy another one, and I can toss the stubs without guilt.

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