Q My daughter’s room is an incredible mess. Nothing that goes in there ever seems to come out again. She seems to spend half her life looking for lost items and the other half trying to figure out where she’s supposed to be. What can I do to help her get organized?

A: Organization is a teachable skill. It’ll take some time and effort on your part, but the following strategies should help:

• Create checklists. Encourage her to write down things that she needs to be reminded about – she does NOT have to remember everything. Help her break large jobs into smaller, easier-to-manage steps. Get her into the habit of creating to-do lists, perhaps separate ones for homework assignments, household chores, materials to be brought to class, and so on.

• Prioritize assignments. The most difficult or time consuming tasks – whether it’s homework or household chores – should be done first.

• Establish routines. If possible, homework should be done at the same time and in the same place. Creating this kind of pattern will make it easier to study.

• Resurrect the lost art of putting things away where they belong: both shoes on the shoe rack, toy drawers for toys, files for artwork, and schoolwork in a file cabinet.

• Put up a calendar and offer incentives. Write down appointments, assignments, class events, and chores on a master calendar. Come up with some kind of award every week or month for following through and give a special prize if she remembers on her own.

• Clean up. Spend the day going through your daughter’s possessions – many of which she probably hasn’t seen in years – and giving away unused stuff to Goodwill or some other organization that helps less fortunate children.

• Have your daughter pack up her homework and books in her backpack before she goes to bed. And have her lay out the next day’s wardrobe as well. As she learns the joys of stress-free mornings, she’ll start to need less and less reminding.

• You may be able to get your child’s teacher to base part of the students’ grades on organizational skills and study habits. Children can be asked to submit their plans for prepping for tests, writing reports.

Armin Brott’s most recent books are “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, Second Edition” and “Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change.”

You can reach him through his Web site at www.mrdad.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.