How to Organize Your Backpack: 10 Helpful Hacks

Whether you’re just starting a new school year or are carrying your backpack to work every day in a commuter town like London, learning how to organize your backpack can mean the difference between spending precious moments rooting through piles of trash and actually knowing where you store stuff.

“Why do I need to know how to organize a backpack?” you might ask. “How many different ways can you do it?”

Well, judging by the number of people who turn their backpack into a complete disaster, it might benefit you to check out these tips on organizing your backpack that take into account the different ways we use backpacks to get us through our daily lives.

The first step in organizing your backpack is actually making sure you have one that is able to be organized.

This means that it’s probably time to say goodbye to the backpack with only one cavernous compartment.

You want a backpack with at least two compartments, ideally 3.

You don’t need a backpack with 36 compartments and 86 ways of opening it, but having some compartments will really help.


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1. Dump Everything Out Of It

When you’re first going to organize your backpack, you need to completely dump everything out of it and actually wash it if it’s washable (here’s how to wash a backpack).

This is the first step to organizing your life in a week.

A lot of backpacks can be put in the washing machine, and we put ours in inside out to really make sure it gets clean as over the years it can accumulate everything from old banana peels to stains from pens.

Regardless, you’re going to want to dump it all out and then figure out what to put back in and how.

Don’t try to organize it without taking this step, as you need a full clean and a chance to see the garbage you’ve accumulated over the years.

2. Think About Your Daily Routine and What You Need

Before putting things into your backpack, you want to think about your daily routine and what essentials you need to go about that routine.

If you’re someone who is forgetful, it can help to basically always have your backpack prepared for the whole week, but if you can stand it and want to go through it each morning before you leave the house, then you can get away with packing less into it.

This also helps to figure out what to put in because there are some things that you just don’t need in your daily routine.

Maybe you used to carry a protractor in there because you did Geometry last year, but this year you’re in Calculus and there is no need to carry it around.

Or maybe you have full access to water fountains all day and you don’t actually need to carry your water bottle when you’re on your daily routine.

The less you can bring with you, the better for backpack organization.

3. Limit Backups to 1 Extra

You don’t need 36 pencils in your backpack.

Even if you’re nervous and want to make sure you have backups of some important things in case you get caught without it, whether that’s pens, pencils, or chargers.

You only need 1 backup.

Yes, technically you could end up in a situation where both of your items fail, but the chances of that are so low that it’s not worth being obsessive about it.

4. Get A Pencil or Pen Holder If Not Already Built In

Now, pulling out a pencil holder like this one from your backpack can be, let’s say, less than “cool,” but guess what, this isn’t about being cool, this is about being organized.

And there’s nothing saying you have to flash your Hello Kitty pencil holder all over the office, it’s just something to keep in your backpack to make sure that your pens and pencils are easily found when you need them.

Some backpacks have a pocket in the front compartment for pens and pencils, and you can also use that if it comes with it.

I find that pens and pencils are the easiest things to lose in a backpack, so prepare for it.

5. Use a Two Pocket Folder

Inevitably you’re going to have some sort of paperwork in your backpack from time to time, and most definitely if you’re using your backpack for school.

Never shove papers in a backpack by themselves.

They’ll get crumpled, stained, torn, and it will be your one way ticket to an unorganized backpack.

I like using a two-pocket folder like this one to keep important documents in.

Just using a folder with one pocket means everything has to go in one and there is less of a chance for organizing it.

6. Organize by Size of Items

The reason I suggest getting a multi-compartment backpack is that it makes it easy to choose ways to organize your backpack because you’ve already got separate compartments to use.

One method of organizing your backpack is to organize by the size of the items.

This would mean that larger items, like maybe your lunch, would go in the biggest compartment.

The second smallest would hold things like folders and papers.

And the tiniest compartment is where you’ve got your keys, your pens and pencils, and smaller items that would be the most likely to get lose in the other compartments.

You can also arrange it in a way to be easier on your back, as keeping the larger items in the largest compartment, which is usually the one closest to your back, will keep your weight distribution safe.

7. Organize By When You’ll Need the Item

Another option on how to organize your backpack is to think about when you’ll need each item in the day.

For instance, if you’ve got a lot in there, say your gym gear, lunch, work documents, and an item to give to a friend, think through your schedule and put the things you’ll need or use first closer to the top, while the things you’ll need later can go on the bottom.

Then, as you use the items throughout the day, they can get put back under the pile and the items you then need next will be closer to the top.

8. Organize by Category or Use

You can also organize by category or use, which is particularly helpful when it comes to organize your backpack in college or school.

Keep the math items with the math items, the science notes with the science notes and tools and so forth.

This works better when you have more compartments in your backpack or have multiple folders within your backpack.

9. Use Color Coding

The number one mistake many people make when organizing their backpack is not using color coding.

I’m not saying you need to put colorful stickers on everything, but built-in color coding by choosing different colored folders is going to be a lifesaver.

That way, you don’t have to pull out all of your identical folders or binders to find which one you want, you can just glance at the colors and grab which one you need, knowing that Math is blue, Science is Red, English is green, etc.

10. Clean Out Your Backpack Every Day

After you’ve organized your backpack for work or school, the best way to keep it organized is to start a good habit and clean it out every single day after you get home, making sure it’s ready for tomorrow.

This should take just a few seconds when you do this daily, as you take time to get rid of any garbage or items you no longer need and making sure to put in what you’ll need for the next day.

Congratulations, you’re now probably more motivated to study and feel like you have your life on track because your backpack is organized!

How to Organize Your Backpack: 10 Helpful Hacks via @allamericanatlas

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