Inside the mind of a professional organizer: Back to school 2022

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

We are approaching the 2022-2023 school year.

The tradition of back-to-school looks different each year as we continuously adapt to our ever-changing world.

When I recall going back to school in my younger years, the simplicity of getting a new pair of tennis shoes, a couple of new outfits and selecting my bookbag style was the extent of planning and choices I needed to make.

How times have changed.

As I comprehend the latest and greatest things to purchase for the school year, I wonder how our needs have evolved to us consuming so much stuff.

Recently, I was shopping in the storage section, along with two groups of women conversing about supplies for first-year college students.

They were stuck, unsure of what was needed, living arrangement expectations and efforts to get organized, while planning for a new chapter in life.

The majority of people typically already own what is needed to start the school year. But here are some things to consider:

• What is usable from the previous year?

• Do you fit into your clothing and shoes?

• Have you honestly worn out what you have?

If you need something, get it. If you want something, think about your possession and how adding to your inventory will impact your household, mind and bank account.

While preparing to go back to school, here are some additional tips to simplify the process:

• Don’t complicate things.

• Get the basics and test the water. After a short period of time, it will become clear what supplies are needed.

• Create a schedule and stick to it.

• Be realistic about your daily routine. Plan ahead and consume your time wisely.

• Enlist all household members (or roommates).

• Create a reoccurring to-do list and assign all capable residents to pitch in.

• Practice gratitude. Team efforts matter and deserve positive reinforcement — kids, parents, partners and roommates appreciate acknowledgment and praise.

• Evaluate your finances.

• Consider your budget when it comes to expenses for activities, memberships and extras. Younger family members (or college students) might not understand finances and can learn the importance of budgeting.

• Have fun.

• Make the effort to experience moments with each other — family and friends. Time goes fast, and we can never get it back.

Are you are relocating for college? Here are some other factors to consider:

• Is this a temporary move?

• Focus on taking the basic essentials. You can retrieve items as you learn what you need.

• Is this a permanent move?

• Make the effort to downsize and dispose of unused items before packing, moving and storing.

• What is your new space like?

• Is it furnished? Will your (or parents’) existing furniture fit? Get an idea of how you want to stage your new place and what will compliment the space.

• Do you have sufficient storage?

• Rolling hanging/shelving is one of my favorite alternatives. Space-saving vacuum bags and clear bins are a good overflow option.

• How large/functional is the kitchen?

• Again, rolling shelves might be your best option if the home is lacking cabinet space.

• Are you taking stairs/elevator?

• Collapsible totes are perfect to consolidate items coming in/going out of the house.

• Consider a multifunction rolling cart. I use a folding hand truck/two-wheel cart that stores flat in my vehicle. Save your back and number of trips.

• Do you have a garage?

• Get things off the ground to prevent hazards. Create a surface space to load/unload vehicle.

• Are you moving things because you have them or because you use them?

• The one-year rule is a great way to decrease the amount of unused items in your possession. If you haven’t used it, let it go to someone who will. Sell, donate, repurpose or dispose.

• Are sentimental items holding you back? This is something to consider at every age.

• If you have something of meaning, display or use it. Create functional space by taking advantage of walls, floor to ceiling.

• Consider asking a family member or friend if they have an interest in items holding you back.

• Whoever gave you said item wouldn’t want to burden you. Once an item is yours, you decide its fate.

• Childhood memories and creations are something to evaluate when leaving the house. As a young adult, this is your opportunity to address the mindset of keeping everything. This is a valuable decision-making process you will use throughout your life.

• Do your possessions make your life easier?

• If you have something, use it often and create a home for it.

• Items that take up valuable space and goes untouched easily is identified as something to part with.

Heading back to school is an exciting adventure, regardless of your age or academic background. Embrace the experience and opportunities that lay ahead.

The greatest advantage of organization is there is no right or wrong way to do things. You can modify your strategy. The most important step is to start.

Jessi Bushman is a professional organizer, member of the Iowa Professional Organizers Association and owner of Organizer Jessi in Dubuque. Visit her at or on Facebook at OrganizerJessi. You also can email her at

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