I used to loooooove back to school shopping when I was in school! There was nothing more refreshing than a brand new start to the school year with fresh new supplies.

In this video I take you back to 1998-2002 when I was in high school and tell you everything I used and tried (at least the stuff I remember!) to stay organized (which led me to get better grades). All of the reminiscing of my binder, school supplies, dividers, and locker make me sort of miss those days. One thing I will say is that I still remember my locker combination (5-15-36)- how crazy is that?! I guess some things you never forget!

If you’re heading back to school this week or next week, good luck this year! Although it seems like you’ll be in high school forever and you can’t wait to graduate and move on, enjoy it while it lasts because once its over, its gone for good. And before you know it, your 10-year high school reunion will be around the corner (mine’s in November).

Back to School Organization

Hi, everyone. So a lot of people have requested a video on back to school organizing since school starts next week or the week. So even though I’m not in school anymore, I just figured I would just do a quick video and share with you guys the things that I did do and that I remember in high school to stay organized. The video is primarily going to focus on how to set up your binder like the things that I did in my binder to keep it organized and the types of supplies that I use.

Now, I would love to do a video on how to organize your locker and a few people have asked me to do that. But I don’t have a locker to demonstrate. And yeah, so it’s kind of hard to do without having a locker. So, let me grab the camera and show you guys my binder and then some supplies that I like to use.

The Best School Supplies

Let me start by showing you guys my favorite school supplies. So I’m not really a pencil person because I’m left-handed and when I’m writing with my left hand I get ink on the side of my hand right here because I’m writing over the thing I just wrote. So yes, I prefer pens. But when I have to use a pencil for something like for math or for drawing something then I’ll use mechanical pencils because I feel like I don’t know, I just like mechanical pencils better because there’s no sharpener needed so it’s one last thing to carry and I feel like they just write thinner and neater and just cleaner than a normal pencil. So these are my favorite pencils.

[VIDEO] Back to School Organization

Back to School Organization

So these are my favorite pens. They’re the Uni-ball, Jetstream, Fine Point 0.7. I am really picky with the pens I write with. I feel like if I write with a bad pen like something that doesn’t write very smoothly, my handwriting is really sloppy. But when I write with a good pen, it’s really neat and legible. So these are the pens I like to use. I’ve been using them for a while and they just write very smoothly and I just love them. So if you are a pen person where you have to write with a good pen and you’ve never tried these, you have to try them out, Uni-ball, Jetstream, Fine Point 0.7.

These are my favorite markers. They are the fine points that Sharpie makes. Sharpie makes a lot of different points like thick. They make just – I don’t know what they all are but they make a lot of different ones. The fine point just writes smoothly and it’s not too thick. You can write small with them and it still comes out legible.

My Favorite Markers

My Favorite Markers

I like getting the multipack just like in color code things that I’m using markers. Costco sales them at a really good price. This is not the Costco version but Costco sales a big pack for not as expensive as if you bought something like this at a normal office supplies store.

So another marker I really like are these Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Markers. They have ultra fine point like I just said. You could see how small it is. I feel like these markers are perfect for writing in your agenda book because they’re so small that you can write or the point is so small that you can write really small and still be able to see it as opposed to these fine points. You can write small but you can’t write that small. So yes, these ones are nice.

So when I was in high school, we always have like speeches in English or some type of presentation to give and that would always require writing out your speech or writing out your presentation and memorizing it. So I always used to use colored index cards because I felt like if I use a different color index card for a different page like if there were ten note cards I was trying to memorize and each page is a different color if you like, it would just be easier to remember. Like I remember that blah, blah, blah was on the green card. So yeah, so I just felt like using colored note cards made memorization for speeches a lot easier than like traditional white index cards.

So color flags are another thing. I don’t really remember using them as much in high school like I’m not sure I have them in high school. But I definitely had them in college and always used to use them in my agenda book and in my notepads to kind of place mark or to kind of remember where a certain note was or a certain page was. So these come in five different colors. They’re made by post-it notes. I still use them for different things. But I specifically remember using them in college for my agenda book.

I always used to carry a separate eraser with me in my pencil case like different from my mechanical pencils in case that eraser run out, I always had a backup eraser because I feel like these erasers are just so small and they run out easy. So it’s just good to have a backup one in case you need an eraser.

So another thing I would carry with me in my backpack or my pencil case or my locker is a stapler. And I wouldn’t carry a regular size stapler. I would just carry a mini stapler because it’s lightweight, it doesn’t take up so much space and I would just like to always have my own stapler in case the classroom stapler wasn’t available or there was no stapler around that I could use. I always had my own.

Now, I just love this stapler. I got this a few years ago. It’s a piece of sushi in a shape of stapler and it’s just so cute. I got it in one of those gag gift stores. When I saw it, I was like, “Oh, that’s so fun.” Yeah, it’s just like so fun.

So I prefer to use lighter highlighters like yellow or a pink as opposed to a blue or green or dark purple highlighter. I just feel like when you use a dark colored highlighter, it crosses out the text and you can’t really see the text that you’re trying to highlight. So it’s kind of like pointless. As opposed to the yellow or the pink, it just highlights it and you can easily see the text underneath the highlighter. So I would stick to yellow – stick to the lighter color as opposed to darker colors.

And these retractable ones, I really like. It’s not like too thick of a point or when you highlight something, it goes on to the next line or the line above. It’s small enough or it’s a perfect size to highlight like one line.

Back to School Organization: How to Organize Your Binder & School Supplies

So let me show you the fake binder that I put together for you guys. I put some pictures inside of the cover just like I did in high school. It has like one of those plastic covers. So usually, I’ll either like put – I’m saying usually. I’m not in school anymore but when I was in school, I would put my schedule inside of the plastic cover or I would put photographs that were like taped down to a piece of paper so they wouldn’t slide around or move when the binder was moved. So these are just taped down to this piece of paper and then put inside the cover.

So let me quickly show you the pictures. This was me during my high school graduation. I had blond hair like three out of the four years in high school. This was my best friend, Daniela. We were just like inseparable all four years.

This was my college graduation. These are my two best friends from college. They were also my roommates. Yeah, it was graduation. I dyed my hair darker or back to my normal color for college.

How to Organize Your BinderThis was my senior year picture. I had dark hair. I got rid of the blond in my senior year.

This was – this is when Ed and I met. This is like maybe the first two months that we met.

This was our poodle in high school named Prince.

So this binder is one and a half inches thick. When I was in high school, I never really carry anything bigger than two inches because I feel like anything bigger than two inches is just like so thick to carry. I mean if your binder is two inches thick and you need more space then you can always take stuff out that you’re not using and leave it at home or keep it in your locker or something. Yeah, I just feel like anything bigger than two inches is too thick. So this is one and a half inches just to show you guys.

So these are the dividers that I have in this binder. Now, are these the ones that I used ten years ago when I was in high school? No, probably not. I don’t think these were even around ten years ago. But I like these ones. I’ve mentioned before that these are my favorite dividers of all time. They are the Avery color-coded dividers that have a nice table of contents in the very front where you could label that sheet.

Binder Organization Tip Use Dividers With Pockets for Added Storage for School Papers

Binder Organization Tip Use Dividers With Pockets for Added Storage for School Papers

The reason why I chose these ones in the video and why I would use them now if I was still in school is because they have this nice pocket in the very front of the divider. Now, there are a lot of times that – I’m just trying to remember back to high school. There were times when teachers would hand out papers or assignments and there would be no holes in the paper. And you would just have to put the piece of paper in the very front of the binder and this pocket until you got home and put holes into the paper and then put them into a divider.

So having a little pocket here with the corresponding class that it belong to is just really helpful. And then also, it’s nice for things that – like small pieces of paper that you obviously can’t put in the binder or maybe you can. You can put it like in one hole but then it slides back and forth and around and stuff. So it’s nice to have a pocket for smaller things also. So yes, so these are nice dividers.

How to Label Your Binder

So let’s talk about labeling that tabs in your dividers. Now, these dividers just came with these little inserts right here to stick inside the tab to write the class name on them. But I feel like every time you label these things and you stick them in, they will just like fall out the other side or they start to come and you’re always like fixing them, trying to get them lined up. So instead of using these, all I do is label the actual tabs itself with my label maker.

Now, I didn’t do this when I was in high school. But if I was in high school now, this is what I would totally do. So I’ll just grab my label maker and I use my clear tape with my white font or my white text and write the subject and then just label the dividers. Now, nothing is going to come in and out because it’s stuck to the tab.

Now OK, so labeling the tabs. So what I used to do was label the tabs according to my class schedule. So the first divider would always be like period one, so English. And then period two was Science, period three was Math, and then period four was Spanish and so forth. There are only five tabs here. What you could do is if you have – like we always had eight periods in the day. Actually, we had seven plus lunch. So what I would do is just get two more and stick them behind, so period six, period seven or period seven and period eight. So yeah, so that’s what I did with my dividers.

Organizing Papers in Your Binder

So something else I would do is behind each divider like the first piece of paper behind here would always be the class syllabus class schedule. That would always be the first piece of paper behind each divider. And usually, you get that like the first day of school or the first week of school. So yeah, so that’s the first thing.

And then what I would keep traditionally in the binder is I would keep homework assignments, worksheets given by teacher or what else? That’s me. I would always take all of my notes in a separate notebook that I’m going to show you guys.

So the paper in front of the divider is paper for homework assignments and also for assignments that you’re going to complete in class and turn in that day or turn in at a separate time. It’s not really for note taking. I always took my notes on a separate notebook like this and kept them all together. I’ll show you guys that after. But yeah, this is just for homework and assignments here that you’re doing in class.

And then my pencil case. So pencil case, sometimes I would keep it in my binder and sometimes I would keep it in my backpack. But I would always use something that was clear so you could easily see what you had inside. Usually, my pencil case would be inside my binder in the beginning of the school year and then as my binder got full, I would just pull it out and keep it inside my backpack.

So the front sleeves of the binder. So like I mentioned before, anytime you get papers from teachers that don’t have holes in them and you need to go home and punch the holes or maybe you have a hole puncher right here in front of the binder, I actually never used to like these things right there because I feel like they would get in the way. I would either keep it in my locker or I would just keep it at home.

But anyway, papers that don’t have holes can go here temporarily until you go home and punch holes. You want to avoid getting into the habit of every time you get a piece of paper back from the teacher or she gives out paper just sticking it in here like you want to get into the habit of immediately putting it in its section so your binder stays organized.

Tips for Keeping Your Binder Organized for School

One thing I would do when I was in high school was every Sunday night, I would go through my binder and clean everything out like if there are papers here, I’d put it in its section. If there are papers in each section that could be taken out or I don’t need them anymore, I would get rid of them or I would put them in a filing cabinet at home. What I wouldn’t do is keep my binder a mess and start the week out like on a messy note. I was always very good about that. So that’s one thing that I would recommend doing.

The same thing with the back pocket here, I actually never used to put papers back here because they feel like it was just like so far away and you just really couldn’t see the stuff there as opposed to the front cover, you always saw it first thing when you open up the binder. But this is the place where you could put papers that need to be hole-punched. But as soon as you got home, hole-punch them and put them away in its section.

So one more thing about binders before I move on to show you guys my notebook, I always like to using one binder as opposed to like three or four smaller binders like one inch binders. I feel like having everything together just made more sense for me and it was easier to remember where things were and it was less trips back and forth to my locker, having to switch binders and stuff. So having one binder just worked really well for me.

How to Organize School Work in Folders

So if you’re not a binder person, meaning you don’t like the rings in the binder and because you don’t like the binder then papers don’t get put inside. You want to eliminate that obstacle all together because it’s just preventing you from getting more organized in school. So if that’s the case then you could try using folders.

Staying Organized in School: Organize Papers in Folders

Staying Organized in School: Organize Papers in Folders

I used folders in college and I found that it kept me organized. They’re light to carry. You can color-code them so like pink for Science, blue for English and so forth. So it just makes it easier to find out what you’re looking for because maybe a month into school, you probably have it memorize that yes, pink is Science. So that’s just one way to not use a binder if you’re not a binder person.

So if you’re not a binder person and you’re not really a folder person because you feel like folders don’t hold enough paper for you. They do make another product, it’s like a a binder with out rings. It’s a cross between a binder and an accordion but it doesn’t look like an embarrassing accordion that you would be embarrassed to carry at school. It just looks like a binder but it’s an accordion style where you can just like shove the papers inside. There are no rings in the binders. Yeah, there are no rings. You just like shove the stuff inside.

Have Trouble Organizing Papers in Your Binder? Try a Ringless Binder!

Have Trouble Organizing Papers in Your Binder? Try a Ringless Binder!

I really want to show it in this video but it’s only available online. And unfortunately, I wanted to do the video this week before school started so I wasn’t able to actually get the product. But I will show you – I will order it and I will show it to you guys in a separate video because it’s great for people that love to pile instead of file. So if you are the type that piles and you don’t like binders and struggle with paper management, I will do a video coming up very soon on that very cool product that is very helpful for those types of individuals.

So like I mentioned while I was talking about the binders, when I was in high school, I preferred to take notes from all my classes into one notebook as opposed to writing them on a loose leaf piece of paper in the binder and then just filing away inside the divider that it belonged in.

How to Organize Your Notebook

So this is a notebook that I use right now for work, and I love it. I search like all over the place for the perfect notebook for me to use. This is actually from Office Depot. It’s the Cambridge Limited and I got it recently. But I always search for good notebooks to use because I’m very picky with the ones I use.

Back to School Organizing: How to Organize Your Notebook #AlejandraTV

Back to School Organizing: How to Organize Your Notebook

Now, let me tell you why I liked this one. I liked this one because it had dark lines. Now, I’d like to write on dark lines. What really bothers me is when you have paper with really light lines and you have a dark pen and you just like – I feel like the text is just floating on the paper because I can’t see the lines. So I always like paper with dark lines so this one had a really dark line so I really liked it.

And also, the lines, it was kind of a cross between wide-ruled and college-ruled. Like I feel like wide-ruled is too wide and college-ruled is too small. So this one was kind of like a combination of both into one. So it was like the perfect size.

And then it had up here where you could just write the page number or the date or what I’d like to do is I just write the subject into the blue line of what I’m taking notes on. So if I’m taking notes on something in history about World War II then I would just like write World War II – blah, blah, blah or whatever I’m taking notes on. And I would write that in – what I usually do is I write it in a marker so it kind of stands out. So when I’m looking for certain notes, I can kind of just flip through and check out all the subjects and easily find exactly what I’m looking for.

Something else I really like about this notebook is that it’s perforated on the edges so if I need to tear something out, I can just tear it out along the line and not have to reap it out of the rings and leave like a fringe on the side of the paper.

Now, the one thing missing in this notebook if you are in high school and you are taking notes for like five or six different subjects, it’s missing dividers like the seven-subject notebooks or the five-subject or the three-subject. Like this is only one subject.

Now, they might have had a three-subject or five-subject, I’m not really sure or this brand might make one, Cambridge Limited. You just have to check. But what I would do is if you want to use something like this style that I showed is I would just use a flag at the top of the paper and kind of divide out where like where Math starts, where Math ends, where Social Studies starts, where Social Studies ends and so forth. So kind of create your own dividers.

Like I said, I used to write all my notes inside a one notebook as opposed to writing them on like single sheets of paper and then putting them inside my binder. Everything would just be in one notebook.

So those are my tips for heading back to school and how to organize your binder and the types of supplies that I like to use or I think are good to use. If you’re about to head back to school and you have an organized binder, backpack or something really just cool that you want to share with us that you think will help others, create a video response, upload it here or leave a comment below and tell us exactly what you’re doing. I would love to see it and I’m sure everyone watching would love to see.

And also before I leave this video, I just want to say, if you’re about to head back to school, have a great year. Yes, I know organizing requires a little bit time upfront and also maintaining. But if you can manage to stay organized throughout the school year then you are going to be more productive. You’re going to be more focused. And you’re just going to get better grades because you’re going to know when you have assignments to do, projects to do, you’re going to know when you have a test coming up because you’re organized and you’re on top of things.

And at the same time, you are not going to be turning in homework late because things are going to make it out of the binder, back into the binder, into your backpack on a timely manner unlike people who are not organized who might leave their homework at home or leave in the bottom of their locker or have it get lost in the bottom of their backpack with like smooch with all these paper and stuff. Like you’re going to be the person that’s going to know where things are, get them in on time, and that’s going to lead to you getting better grades.

So that’s all I have for you guys. I hope you have a great school year. And I will see you soon. Bye!

About Alejandra

About Alejandra

Since 2008, organizing expert & certified life coach, Alejandra Costello has taught thousands of students in 132 countries how to get organized through her video-based training programs. Her YouTube videos have been viewed 100+ million times. Named 1 of the 5 most organized people in America by HGTV and “The Decluttering Queen” by Good Morning America, Alejandra’s expertise has been featured in The New York Times,, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Parents Magazine, and CBS. 


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