20 Things You Really Need in Your Locker

Getting a new locker is a ritual part of going back to school.

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Will you be lucky and get one outside your form room in a corridor, so that you can access it at any time? Or a locker that’s in a handy central location so that you can easily swing by between classes to pick up a textbook? Maybe this year you’ll draw the short straw and get a locker that’s right on top of a radiator; bliss when you’re taking out a clean PE kit in the middle of winter that’s been nicely warmed, but unpleasant when you’ve had PE first thing and your smelly kit has been cooking in there all day…
Wherever your locker ends up being, it’s a useful resource for your time at school, especially if you happen to be assigned a locker that’s a decent size. It’s the one place in school that’s entirely yours, under lock and key. You’ll want to leave most of the space in it free to store your PE kit, textbooks, exercise books and other school essentials. But if there’s still room left with all of those things stored in there already, you might like to consider how to make the best use of the rest of the space. Here are our top suggestions for what you should be keeping in your locker this year that won’t take up too much precious room. You’ll be prepared for anything if you have all of these things – but having even a few should leave you enviably well-equipped for the challenges and surprises of the school year ahead.

1. A spare pair of tights or socks

A life-saver – though not necessarily in these colours.

Is there anything worse than wandering around all day with wet socks if your shoes have leaked, or in a pair of tights with a hole that your toe sticks through, threatening to cut off your circulation? Tights or socks – depending on your preference – take up very little room in your locker and on the day that it decided to pour with rain when you wore summer shoes to school, you’ll be very grateful to have them.


2. An umbrella, beanie hat or folding poncho

A folding one might do very well.

There are other plans that you can make for unexpected changes in the weather. If you have enough space for a folding umbrella then your locker capacity must be enviable, but most lockers should be able to fit a beanie hat to keep your hair dry in a deluge, or at the very least, the kind of mac-in-a-sack or plastic poncho that you might see for sale for a couple of pounds in bus stations. You won’t look glamorous, but you will look dry, and at times in the coming school year you might be willing to make that trade.

3. A mirror

You never know what could be in your teeth.

In girls’ bathrooms at school, mirror space (especially if the mirrors are directly over the sink) can be fiercely contested. In the boys’, you might find it easier to get a mirror but more likely to be made fun of for caring about your appearance. Yet everyone’s had the experience of getting spinach in their teeth and needing to get it out. Make it easier for yourself by keeping a small mirror in your locker – you could even hang it up on the inside for extra style.

4. A toothbrush, floss or breath mints (or all three)

Smelly breath and a fuzzy mouth can be off-putting.

A small folding toothbrush and tube of travel toothpaste takes up very little room, and a reel of dental floss or tub of Tic Tacs takes up even less. But they could be a lifesaver if you went for the garlic bread at lunchtime. It’s also handy if you end up having an impromptu sleepover at a friend’s house, and don’t want your mouth to feel fuzzy the next day.

5. Other personal hygiene items

Think what you use regularly and incorporate those items.

Similarly, there are other personal hygiene items that you might like to have handy. That could be sanitary protection, a small roll-on or spray can of deodorant, a comb, or any other personal hygiene item that you consider to be an essential – maybe even dry shampoo if you’ve not had the chance to shower after PE. Buy travel miniatures to avoid any of this taking up too much space.

6. Sunscreen

It might seem unnecessary, but you would be surprised how the weather can change.

If you live somewhere where the weather is unpredictable, or you burn easily, or both, remember that a small tube or spray bottle of sunscreen takes up very little space indeed, and could let you fully enjoy an unexpectedly sunny lunchtime without looking like a tomato for the next two weeks. You might think that the start of the school year in September is a daft time to clutter up your locker with this, but the chances of you remembering when there’s the first day of a heatwave in April are extremely low.

7. A favourite paperback

Boredom can be as bad as stress, so always have a book.

An additional book sounds like it might take up a lot locker space, but a cheap, slim paperback need not take up too much of your precious locker real estate. There will be times when you’re unexpectedly held up at school, or your journey home is set to take longer than usual, or you’re waiting around for an after-school club and don’t have any homework that you can catch up on. It’s handy to able to pick up a book that you’re fond of even if the school library is closed. Beyond that, if points of the coming school year prove stressful, spending a little time in your favourite fictional universe is a great way to make yourself feel better.

8. Enough money for a bus fare

Spare cash covers all sorts of annoying eventualities.

Sometimes you leave your purse or wallet at home, sometimes there’s a school trip that you need to pay for in a hurry, sometimes things get lost or stolen, and sometimes you just really fancy the special at your school canteen that day. You can stop a bad day from turning into a worse day by making sure that you always have the resources to get home, and save yourself an embarrassing phone call to your parents.

9. A long-life snack bar

Food – a basic necessity, but something we don’t often think of.

It’s hard to concentrate when you’re hungry. There will be days when you have to leave the house without breakfast or all of the options available at the canteen unaccountably contain something you’re allergic to. Find a snack bar that doesn’t become horrible if it’s not always stored in a cool, dry place, and that has a use by date far into the future, and put one or two into your locker. And then remind yourself that it’s also OK to eat them on days when you’re just really hungry, as well as in emergencies.

10. A calculator

You won’t be allowed to use your phone in an exam.

We haven’t included most of the things that your phone can do on this list (such as a torch, a map, a camera or a notepad) because it’s reasonable to assume that for anything you’d need to do outside of school, you’ll have access to your phone. But, understandably enough, your school might not like you using your phone in a Maths or Science class if you’ve left your calculator at home. So save yourself some trouble, and keep a spare. Even a basic mini one (like the kind you might get on a keyring) can be a help.

11. A mini first-aid kit

It needn’t be so obvious, but you get the idea.

It’s pretty embarrassing to have to go to the school nurse or similar for every minor ailment, especially if that means you have to fill in an incident book for every paper cut. We’re not suggesting you keep a full first aid kit in your locker, complete with bandages and burn cream (please do go to the school nurse if those might be necessary) but you could keep the most essential items handy – for instance, a couple of plasters, a basic painkiller like paracetamol or aspirin, and a pack of cough sweets.

12. A birthday card

Nothing is more embarrassing than forgetting.

Forgetting a friend’s birthday is mortifying, and yet it happens to us all. If you’re in the situation where you log onto social media at breakfast and the first thing you see is a notification telling you it’s a friend’s birthday, help yourself out of the nightmare of forgetting something so important by keeping a card in your locker. With a bit of ingenuity, you can write an IOU or voucher in it (e.g. for a surprise day out) that will get you off the hook for having forgotten a present, too.

13. A pack of cards

Keep it clean, and the fun lasts forever.

Secondary school is full of occasions when you’re with a group of people who need something to do. Maybe it’s a rainy lunchtime when you were planning on playing football, or your drama group waiting for your rehearsal space to be free. A pack of cards takes up very little room but could save the day.  It doesn’t even need to be a conventional pack of cards if that’s not to your taste – stripped off the packaging, a game like Coup could fit neatly in a locker instead. Just don’t be tempted to gamble with your friends, even if it’s just for sweets – depending on your school’s code of conduct, you could find yourself in all kinds of trouble.

14. A plastic spork

One of those useful little items that so often get overlooked.

If you bring in your own lunch but you’ve forgotten a fork for your salad or a spoon for your yoghurt, save yourself the trouble of having to beg one from the canteen by keeping a spare plastic spork (a cross between a spoon and a fork) in your locker. You can pick up a spare if you’re buying yourself a takeaway salad and just stash it for when you need it.

15. A spare hair tie

Spare yourself the annoyance of stacking them up your wrist.

If you have long hair, being without a hair tie can be a complete pain. You might need your hair tied back so that it doesn’t get in your eyes during PE or so that you don’t set light to it doing a Chemistry experiment. Yes, you can usually get an elastic band as a replacement but that can get tangled and wreck your hair. A spare hair tie in your locker takes up no space at all.

16. Nail clippers

Really? Now that’s just overkill.

You probably can’t get away with keeping a full Swiss Army knife in your locker (nor should you!) but a set of nail clippers should be fine, leaving you with the option to trim or file your nails if you need to. If this seems unnecessarily vain, wait until you get a split nail or hangnail; at that point, you’ll be grateful to have a pair of nail clippers. You might even be able to get them from a Christmas cracker.

17. Glasses or sunglasses

If they get smashed, you have problems.

If you need glasses in order to see, it’s always wise to have a spare pair, as they’re so easily misplaced or smashed – and it’s inevitably on the day when you have a mock exam and really need to be able to see. Even if your vision is perfect, a pair of sunglasses can be a handy thing to have for those hot days when the sunscreen that’s also in your locker is so useful.

18. A phone charger

You forgot to charge it again, didn’t you?

In the days of universal chargers, you’ve probably got a spare phone charger at home, so bring it into school and save yourself all manner of difficulties when you’ve forgotten to charge your phone or you accidentally leave the torch on and drain the battery. Plus the USB charger part could be handy if you don’t have a memory stick and want to save a file from the school computer system; just put it on your phone instead.

19. A list of important phone numbers

Can you trust yourself to remember them all?

A phone charger is handy, but if your phone is dead beyond the level that a quick charge can fix, you could be a bit stuck. You probably know your home landline number off by heart, but what about your parents and friends’ phone numbers? If your phone is beyond repair, you might want to call your parents to let them know, but you’ll struggle if your only record of their number is on your phone itself.

20. A small bag of long-lasting sweets

Not ideal to eat all the time, but perfect in a pinch.

Because in a stressful school year, you’re sure to need a pick-me-up at some point, and some Haribo cola bottles or flying saucers could be just the thing.
What are your locker essentials? Let us know in the comments!

Images: tights; girl with umbrella; girl with mirror; toothbrush and toothpaste; make up brushes; woman putting on sunscreen; books; bus seats; snack bars; calculator; first aid bag; birthday card and pen; playing card; spork; hair bandsnail clippers; glasses; phone and mobile battery; list; sweets; lockers; locker key