Back to school is the one time of year that drives parents crazy. New routine, new teachers, new clothes and shoes, new supplies and new backpack. Plus, a new vow to stay organized throughout the year. I’m one of those people who prefer everything within reach. That way there are no excuses from the kids like “I can’t find a red marker” or “We’re all out of paper.” If you don’t have a home office or dedicated spot for all the school paraphernalia, create one using a wheeled cart. It’s not only moveable, but it has enough storage space to suit everyone’s needs.
I was on the hunt for a vintage metal kitchen cart—the kind housewives used in the ‘60s to hold the coffee pot, cook books or extra bowls. We were at a party one evening and I mentioned this to my friend Tom who is also an antique collector. Tom told me he has just tossed one out that very day! What are the odds? In despair, I wished I had asked sooner. He said, “No problem. It’s still in the dumpster.” If you can’t ask your friends to go dumpster diving for you, who can you ask? And he did! Thanks, Tom.
The cart had a floral design printed on each shelf and was rusty, so I asked my husband to sandblast the entire piece, prepping the three shelves and four legs individually. If you don’t happen to own a sand blaster, use sandpaper to get a nice smooth finish. Metal will rust quickly after being blasted by sand, so I immediately sprayed on a primer.
If you want to skip the sanding and dumpster diving altogether, you can start with a new, store-bought kitchen cart.
The next step was to choose the color—the fun part of an interior designer’s job. I went with “aluminum” for the side supports and navy for the shelves. Pick paint colors that coordinate with your home’s decor or the room where you keep your school supplies. Or, get the kids involved and let them pick the paint. You can even assign a particular color to each child and paint each shelf their corresponding hue. No more excuses for not being able to find their homework or supplies!
After the paint dried, I screwed the legs to the shelves. My friend even found the original screws in the dumpster!
Gather baskets, boxes, trays and containers that fit your needs. Covered baskets hide all sorts of odds and ends, but you’ll want to keep basic supplies visible and handy. Cutlery trays (the kind you use in your silverware drawer) are perfect for organizing rubber bands, paper clips, scissors and rulers.
Vintage desk paper trays are not only nostalgic, but look cool and keep printer paper flat.
Reserve the top shelf for items that are used daily, or make it a drop-off spot for things that need to be taken to school. Fill open boxes and crates with glasses or bowls to separate markers, pens and pencils. Shop in your own home for storage accessories.
Most importantly, be creative and flexible. What worked for you last school year might not be useful this year, so adjust your system as needed to fit you and your family.
Wisconsin interior designer Merri Cvetan of MEC Design Studio is an avid collector of vintage home items. Merri writes on both interior design and her forays into collecting and upcycling for Home Depot. If you are researching rolling carts for your own home, you can visit a selection available at Home Depot.