Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Back to school – organise your home

By Rebecca Milligan

When the kids head back to school it’s a great time to clear up. We look at creating storage solutions, with tips from our endorsed Which? Trusted traders.
child under a shelf with toys on floor - home that needs organising

The end of the summer holidays usually means a scramble to find pens, pencils and PE kits; iron the uniform; and sort out shoes for growing feet. But once the chaos has subsided, the children’s return to school can be an ideal opportunity to make space for some home-improvement projects.

If you need to find a handyman, carpenter or painter and decorator, you can search for one of our Which? Trusted Traders-endorsed businesses. Only the traders that meet our high standards get to call themselves Which? Trusted traders, so you can feel confident that they’ll do a great job for you.

Extra storage for bedrooms

With the kids back at school, it’s a great time to clear their bedrooms, removing all the outgrown clothes and any toys that can be recycled or taken to the charity shop. Then you can add more storage – cupboards, wardrobe space or shelving can help to keep the clutter at bay.

Heavy shelves, wardrobes and cupboards need fixing to the walls, to prevent them falling on to people using them. Marc Voss Property Solutions’ Marc Voss told us that the type of wall you’re working with will affect the fixings you require.

Your trader will work to your specifications, but bear in mind that internal walls won’t always be suitable for heavy shelves or fixings. Check with your trader, if you are unsure about the type of wall you are working with.

  • External and solid walls work well. You can use a brown 7mm or red 6mm rawl plug on a solid wall of brick or block, which will be nice and secure.
  • Plasterboard or stud walls require special plasterboard fixings, but this will still be effective.
  • Paramount walls, that are found in a lot of 1980s housing, can be very difficult to work with. Your trader will be able to advise you what is and isn’t possible to fix effectively.

If you’re on a tight budget, freestanding flat-pack furniture in standard sizes is often the cheapest option for new storage space. If you want fitted storage, there will be some additional work to do. Marc points out that many homes, particularly older properties, won’t have neat angles between walls and ceilings.

He said: ‘You have to take three measurements: ceiling height, from one side of the room to the other, and in the middle. [This is] because the ceiling can drop slightly and isn’t always level.’ A good fitter or carpenter will be able to fit shelving or cupboards so they are level, and fill in any extra space.

Bespoke storage solutions

If you’re investing in bespoke cupboards or shelving, Roy Hogg from RAH Carpentry advises thinking about the finish you want before contacting your trader. Shelves, cupboards and wardrobes can be painted, stained or laminated. Solid hardwood is the most expensive material, but you can expect it to last a lifetime. Veneered board (where MDF or soft wood is covered with a thin layer of another wood, such as oak) is a more economic option, which still looks stylish – although it’s not suitable for surfaces that are likely to come into contact with water.

Once you’ve decided on the finish of your wood, another consideration is whether you want ‘floating’ shelves (where you can’t see the fixings) or not. RAH Carpentry’s Roy Hogg says floating shelves are often used in the space between a wall and a chimney breast. Roy says these are relatively quick to install – he could do about six a day.

A bookcase would be a bigger job. Again, there are multiple cost variables depending on the size and materials involved, but Oxford-based Roy said an 8ft-wide floor-to-ceiling bookcase could take two to three days to complete, and cost £1,500 or more for an oak-veneered board finish. Costs will vary around the country. Which? Trusted Traders has endorsed carpenters who can give you a quote for your precise specifications.

Organise study space

How about a home-office makeover? Now might be the moment to get your home in shape for the academic year by sorting out some study space – whether for the kids or yourself. If you need to upgrade your hardware, Which? has lots of advice about the best laptops to buy or the laptops to avoid. If you need some extra shelving, a fold-down desk or even a purpose-built bookcase, then why not contact a Which? Trusted Traders-endorsed carpenter to do the hard work for you?

If you want a new desk, things to think about include: what you want to use it for, where you will sit, how many drawers you would like, where your sockets will be, what size chair you will use with it, and whether you need cut-outs for computer cables. All this information can help you find the right desk for you. And if you can’t find one, a Which? Trusted Traders-endorsed carpenter could create one for you.

Organise the kitchen

The best kitchens are well organised, with plenty of workspace. If you don’t want to splash out on a new kitchen, how about adding an accessible shelf for smaller members of the family? You can leave healthy snacks, sandwiches and lunchbox ingredients within easy reach – no need to scramble on top of stools or chairs anymore.

If you’re struggling for space, you could install a pull-out shelf between your fridge and the wall. It’s often redundant space, stuffed with spare shopping bags. But if you’ve got enough space to fit spice racks, cans or jars, a pull-out shelf makes for great extra storage. Marc Voss told us that standard pull-out larder shelves range from just 300mm to around 600mm in width, making them suitable for a variety of uses.

If you’ve got room for an extra shelf, remember you can hang pans, cooking implements and baskets underneath. This will save space on your worktop, keeping it free for food preparation and cooking. See our article on space saving tips for small kitchens for more ideas.

Marc told us that pull-out storage and extra shelves often form part of a larger kitchen refit. If you’re thinking big and want to go for a whole new look, Which? Trusted Traders has kitchen designers and fitters who can turn your dreams into reality.

Organising the art work

Got a spare wall? If you have small children, why not create an art gallery with the creations they bring home? A dark colour will set off their artwork, while a light one can mimic a professional gallery. It’s a great way to display their work – or yours – and might save the fridge from being buried under certificates and pictures. 

Organising activities

An organisation station can help with the practicalities of who needs to be where, when, and with what kit. Find some free wall space, and either hang a board or ask your Which? Trusted trader to install some clear Perspex over the wall, so you can write up your weekly schedule. Hang or place a basket under the board where you can store karate outfits, swimming kit, football boots and so on for each member of the family. No more looking for kit at the last minute.

There's plenty to do once school starts, but getting your home set-up right can help the term go smoothly. If you are looking for help with your home improvements, you can find a Which? Trusted trader with our easy searchable database of endorsed traders in your area.

More on this…

Here are some other articles you might find helpful