5 DIY back-to-school projects you can get done this weekend

Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | January 19, 2016

Students young and old are heading back to the classroom, and now is the perfect time to tackle some home projects that will make the school year run a bit more smoothly.

Each of these projects can be easily completed in a weekend, and most are adaptable to any budget.

Create a command center

If your home doesn't already have a command center, make this the year you get your family's schedule organized in one place. Every family's command center will be different, but many typically include the following elements.

  • Family calendar
  • School calendar
  • Inbox for each family member
  • Place to post notices and reminders

Other items that may be included in a command center are weekly menus, containers to hold pens and pencils and student artwork or certificates.

Start by finding an open wall in a well-trafficked part of your home. Then decide which elements to include and how you will display everything.

Corkboard and magnetic boards are popular choices for posting notices and hanging inboxes, but also consider using chalkboard paint to create an erasable surface for family notes.

One of the easiest ways to create a timeless chalkboard for your command center is to use a large photo frame and spray the glass with a multi-surface chalkboard paint. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for the best finish.

Make a mudroom

Mudrooms come standard in practically all new houses, but if you live in an older home, you probably don't have the luxury of a dedicated entryway room.

Fortunately, it doesn't take too much money to transform an open wall or small foyer into a quasi-mudroom. All you need are a few simple upgrades to create an orderly drop zone inside your door. If space allows, you can also combine your family command center with a mudroom set-up.

Depending on your home's layout, consider starting with a fresh coat of paint or some new trim or paneling on the wall that will serve as your mudroom area. Not only will this provide a facelift for the wall, it can also serve as a way to designate the drop zone from the rest of the house. Then add the following elements to meet your family's needs.

  • Hooks for backpacks and coats
  • Wall shelf with bins on top to collect keys, wallets, or other miscellaneous items
  • Mats for wet shoes or boots
  • Shelving unit with bins and baskets to store winter gear, outdoor toys, and other items out of sight
  • Chair or bench

Crafty folks may want to create their own cubbies or shelves while others can find plenty of pre-built pieces in the stores and online.

Convert a closet to an office

Whether you are looking for a homework spot for your child or need a home office of your own, one of the latest trends is to repurpose little used closets into work areas.

While converting a closet can be as easy as taking off the door and placing a desk inside, you'll be more likely to use the space if you take some time to create an attractive work area.

The first step is to be sure your closet has enough space, specifically enough depth, to accommodate your computer as well as any binders, books or other supplies you plan to store in it.

Then, paint the back wall a bright color to brighten up the closet and create the illusion of more space. Consider how to add or improve lighting as well.

For your desk, a built in shelf may be better than trying to squeeze in a full desk. Put a second shelf on the wall above, affix a hanging file system, or use a magnetic board or corkboard to contain your paperwork and keep the clutter off your desktop.

Transform a wall into a work of art

If you are wondering what to do with all those art projects your children bring home, a wall collage may be the ideal way to showcase the best pieces. Collages are also great for filling empty walls or highlighting family photos.

To create a collage, pull together the items you want to highlight and gather frames for each piece. The frames don't have to match and having some variation in thickness and style can add to the overall look of your collage. However, make sure there is some common theme, such as a similar tone or material, to pull the entire display together.

Then, make construction paper templates of each frame. Use these to try different placement designs until you find the one that provides the most appealing layout.

Once your wall collage is created, you can easily update it each year with new artwork and photos.

Design some college dorm storage solutions

Finally, don't forget your college student. Surprise them with some artfully created storage solutions that will brighten up their dorm room or apartment while providing much needed clutter-control.

For example, take a small plain white bookshelf or wood storage cubes and cover the back of the interior with some bright contact paper, wallpaper, or fabric. You can also paint or distress crates for more rustic looking storage. Shop the thrift stores for a compact desk that can be painted or refinished and look for dual purpose items such as end tables with drawers.

With the school year just starting, now is the time to evaluate your home for much needed improvements. All it takes is a weekend to create a living space that is both functional and beautiful.

About the Author

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.