The 10 Things I Declutter Every Fall Once My Kid Is Back in School

updated Sep 21, 2022
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Credit: EE Berger

January might be the most popular time to declutter, but for me, fall is the best time to dig in and edit my family’s belongings. Back-to-school season has always felt like the true start of the year to me, even in my single, post-college years when there was no school in my life. For me, nothing feels quite like a fresh start like a tidy house. Plus, there’s something about knowing we’ll be stuck inside soon that makes me eager to get my house in order. As a parent, it feels good to get organized at the start of the academic year, but more importantly, with the kid at school it’s a lot easier to get the decluttering done!

Fall is also a strategic time to declutter because it’s a pivot point from warm outdoor life to colder inside time. At summer’s close, you have a clear sense of what warm-weather gear never got used, and you can look at your cold weather belongings with a truly critical eye. Here are 10 things I declutter every fall.

1. Outdoor toys

By the end of August, my kid usually has managed to amass a ragtag collection of junky outdoor toys things like a frisbee that came home from camp, a random beach toy he found, and any number of party favors. As much as I hate to send this stuff to the landfill, I don’t want it to stick around cluttering up my house on the off-chance it might be played with next summer, so I purge this category ruthlessly.

2. Indoor toys

Part of the beauty of summer is that kids spend way more time playing outside. In my home, toys often are left untouched during the summer break days, so it’s easier to see what toys are second and third-tier choices. If, like me, you sometimes spirit away toys without telling your kids, this is a great time to do so without them noticing.

3. Books

With a developing reader, it seems like our home library is in constant need of editing. Post-summer, I find that somehow the books I wasn’t quite ready to let go of at the end of one grade are easy to declutter at the beginning of the next.

4. School papers

Dealing with the pile of art and writing projects that come home from school at the end of the year has never been my strong suit (I’m super-sentimental about art), but by fall, I’m ready to weed through last year’s papers with more willingness to let things go.

5. School supplies

I am a big believer in reusing whatever school supplies you can from year to year, so I take the time to peel stickers off of plastic folders and sharpen old colored pencils for another year of service. But for the things that my son and I deem not fit for the pencil bag, I get rid of them ASAP, so they don’t hang around clogging up our drawers.

6. Lunch containers

Fall is also the ideal time to do a thorough edit of your lunch containers. Get rid of anything with a missing top, a leaky lid, or that your child has outgrown. (PS: Toss your kid’s lunch bag in the wash on cold and let it air-dry while you’re thinking of it.)

7. Pantry items

Summer cooking is geared more towards fresh fruits and vegetables, but as we head into the fall, I like to try to cook through the pantry’s dry staples to clear out the cabinets. I try to get creative with using small bags of pasta, lentils, nuts, and other bits and bobs for lunches (both mine and my kid’s), to make granola, and as a way to bulk up salads. 

8. Summer clothes

At the end of the summer, I toss any clothing that’s full of unrepairable holes or stained beyond laundering. While I’m okay with my son wearing somewhat ragged clothes to camp, I try to make sure he looks neat for the classroom. Plus, there’s sure to be a new crop of worn-out play clothes by the time next summer rolls around. Anything in good shape that is outgrown I mail off to his younger cousin.

9. Winter clothes

A pre-edit of winter clothes is a handy way to figure out what you need for the season ahead, so you can pounce on a sale or nab a great second hand piece when you see it. If you can get your kid to try on all the long sleeve shirts and pants, you can figure out what is too small; if a garment is borderline on getting too small, I tend to pass it on too, since I know it won’t last the season and it might get more wear if it’s handed down before it’s looking shabby.

10. Socks

Singleton socks are a forever problem in my household, but summer seems to lead to even more lost socks than usual. When I do a full round of laundry, I gather up all the lonely socks from every drawer; then after laundering I try to match them to the others. Any sock without a mate is deemed trash.

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