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Shopping Tips

Lani’s Best Back to School Finds

Do you love back to school time? Some people never tire of the back to school excitement, whether they have kids or not! Back to school is a great excuse for a fresh start. But most of all, school supplies and new clothes! Am I right???

I’ve compiled a few of my favorite lunch and school supplies, as well as some toys for kids of all ages (ahem, grownups too). Because what’s the point of life without some fresh fun?!

Happy Shopping!

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Remember Chandler’s?

But first, a trip down memory lane. Can you see the date on my planner from high school resting on top of my current Bloom Annual Desk Calendar below? We used to decorate our “Chandler’s” with magazine cut-outs. Clearly, I had already found my passion by 10th grade! This is the only one of my many Chandler’s that I saved.

Chandler’s academic planner

In those days I didn’t even know the word “planner”. Most students took this school supply for granted as being practically required in the suburbs of Chicago beginning in middle school. “Why was it that no one on the east coast knew what I meant when I used the word ‘Chandler’s’ as shorthand for a kid’s academic planner?”, I wondered for years.

Until I “searched it up” for this blog and learned that the now defunct company was an Evanston, IL institution that once employed John Malkovich as he gained fame at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. I wonder if they actually gave them to all the students. Someone please leave a comment and let me know!

School Supplies

I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate our schools moving to pre-purchased or provided school supplies. However, we now have no excuse to purchase any of the amazingly patterned Decomposition College Ruled Composition Notebooks. Can I just get one for myself???

Decomposition Ruled Composition Notebook

Decomposition College Ruled Composition Notebook, $15

Plantable pencils? Yes, really! I’ll be buying these when we run out of pencils in the year 2062…

Sprout Graphite plantable pencils

Sprout Graphite Plantable Pencils, $11.40

One of my kids loves to draw and is always going through the black markers first. Purchasing a set of “only black” markers was one of my smartest, most appreciated mommy moves ever.

Ooly InkWorks Pen Set

Ooly InkWorks 5 Pen Set, $14

I’ve discovered that a pencil holder that goes into the giant binder itself is essential for older kids. This ZIPIT Grillz Pencil Pouch for Kids is fun, holds a ton, and doesn’t break like most of the other brands.

ZIPIT Grillz Pencil Pouch for kids

ZIPIT Grillz Pencil Pouch for Kids, $10

My 6th grader’s (OMG!!!) school gave them their school supplies this year, including this awesome Case-It Classic Zipper Binder. The kids aren’t allowed backpacks in the classroom, so the optional shoulder strap and zip around feature are brilliant. I should send flowers to the school administrator who came up with this idea! And, I should add, my boy child was very mature about being given one in purple. His mom’s favorite color, not his!

Case-It 3" Zipper Binder with Expanding File Folder

Case-It The Classic Zipper Binder 2″, $25

I purchased this Passion Planner Tools for School Sticker Book for one of my kids last school year. Although he uses it some, I find myself sneaking stickers out of it when he isn’t looking. It is sooo good!

Passion Planner Tools for School Sticker Book

Passion Planner Tools for School Sticker Book, $25

Do your kids use a planner for school yet? My older son’s school has a school issued planner which is part of the curriculum. I am so grateful! But if you are able to help your child choose a planner of their choice, the brand Papier has many covers to choose from in their fantastic academic planner line. Academic planners sure have come a long way since my time (see above)!

Use the referral link here from my favorite planning podcast and blogger, Best Laid Plans, to get $10 off your Papier purchase! And if you haven’t already checked it out, listen to this Best Laid Plans podcast episode I recorded with Sarah, “Planning Your Style with Lani Inlander.”

Papier 'Rise and Shine' Academic Year Planner

Papier ‘Rise and Shine’ Academic Year Planner, $27.20

Lunch Time

Choosing the right lunch box and containers is dependent upon so many factors. What does your kid eat for lunch, how big is their backpack, how neat are they? And in my house, how often do they lose said lunch bag or containers? For instance, I love the idea of the environmentally friendly LunchBots Stainless Steel Lunch Container that Sarah of Best Laid Plans and The Shu Box has been recommending for years. But when your kid loses 3 lunch bags a year? Plastic it is.

I do need to make a special shout out for the PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box. No need for an ice pack!!! And so easy to clean. Has anyone tried the Whiskware Justice League Stackable Snack Containers yet? I may buy them for myself!

PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box

PackIt Freezable Classic Lunch Box, $21

Back to School: LunchBots Large Trio Stainless Steel Lunch Container

LunchBots Large Trio Stainless Steel Lunch Container, $38

GoodCook EveryWare Lunch Cube

GoodCook EveryWare Lunch Cube 3-ct, $8

Whiskware Justice League Stackable Snack Containers

Whiskware Justice League Stackable Snack Containers, $12

Whiskware Marvel Stackable Snack Containers

Whiskware Marvel Stackable Snack Containers, $15

bloom daily planners Lunch Box Note Card Deck

Bloom Daily Planners Lunch Box Note Card Deck, $8

Oliver's Labels Mini Labels

Oliver’s Labels Waterproof Customizable Mini Labels, from $20


Although I can’t keep up with Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, I did get one incredible tip from it when I was listening regularly. Create a File Box with one hanging file folder per year of your child’s life. Then just pop what you want to save into the file folder each year. I didn’t do it until the kids were 1 and 3 or so, but it’s never too late. And take my advice to go ahead and set up all of the folders through at least 8th grade (I did it by grade once they started school) at once. All of your folders must match! Yes, I’m serious :).

The Container Store Weathertight File Boxes

The Container Store Weathertight File Box, $22.40

The container store Animal Letter-Size Hanging File Folders

The Container Store Animal Letter-Size Hanging File Folders, $11

We bought our older one a “grown-up” desk this year. It replaced an indestructible white melamine desk I had purchased for something “temporary” when we moved into our apartment 12 years ago. Then it became his for 2020/COVID homeschool. So of course now I’m constantly walking by and telling him to put a coaster under his water. “That’s real furniture!”, I feel the need to remind him.


CB2 Drommen 3-Drawer Wood Desk-super on sale now!

I’m totally obsessed with this light fixture! I discovered it in one of our client’s closets. We told her she must get a new light in her closet because it was so dark in there. Her husband came up with this masterpiece. Not only can you choose from many different light temperatures, which are then dimmable, but there is also a nightlight setting! This solved a major lighting issue for me in one of my kid’s rooms.

Ashburrow 15 in. LED Color Changing Flush Mount

Hampton Bay Ashburrow 15-inch LED Color Changing Flush Mount with Night Light, $75.97

Fresh Fun

We have a Kindle Paperwhite obsession happening in my house. (Thank you again to the client who turned me on to these!) One of my kids used his so much we had to replace the cover recently. How funny is this Fintie Slimshell Case? If you know my kid, you won’t be surprised by his choice of covers.

Just make sure you search for the one that matches the Kindle Paperwhite version you own!

Back to School: Fintie Slimshell Case

Fintie Slimshell Case for 6.8″ Kindle Paperwhite, $21

Do you know about The World’s Smallest Toys? These are reissues of cool, classic toys, but in miniature. “Baby Glo Worm”, as we call him, is our family’s newest toy. To be honest, he is Mommy’s toy! But I share him with the kids. I did buy my kids some too. In fact, I was super impressed when a kid came home from camp without having lost his beloved miniature Hot Wheels. He is now angling for the miniature Magic Cards.

Worlds Smallest Glo Worm

World’s Smallest Glo Worm, $8.50

Worlds Smallest Hot Wheels Series

World’s Smallest Hot Wheels- Set of 3 Cars, $24.50

Want your kids to make friends and stay out of trouble? Send them to camp with a 70 piece collection of fidget toys!!!

Fidget Toys Set, 70 Pack Sensory Toys

Fidget Toys Set, 70 Pack Sensory Toys, $22

Are your kids into Magic cards or is this just a camp thing? We kept getting letters home, “Send Magic cards.” I am such a sucker… And then he came home and there were Magic cards everywhere! So of course you need to buy the pretty Deck Boxes. I think we already need more.

Magic: The Gathering Commander Legends

Magic: The Gathering Commander Legends- 100 Card Deck, $35.50

Mlikero 4 Pack Card Deck Box

Milkero 4 Pack Large Card Deck Box, $28

Best of luck and happy back to school!

Real Life Style is a style consulting firm that teaches busy women to wear their power so they can live their lives fully and confidently. Lani Inlander and Kyle Dunphy are based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and serve clients nationwide. We offer personal styling services, an on-demand e-course, corporate services, and training to become a personal stylist.

Once in a while, you can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Mostly, they are happily busy serving their fabulous clients, not hanging out online!

(2) Comments

  1. I kept several of my Chandler’s! I could never have made it through high school without them. Had no idea they were out of Evanston, we got them at OPRF HS for free each year when we bought our books, if I remember correctly.

    1. Love that! Thanks for sharing! I don’t know why I still can’t remember where or how I got mine. You would think all of my shopping memories would be so clear ;).

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