How to Help Kids Organize Their Room, Once and for All!

By Armin Brott
Author of Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change and founder of www.mrdad.com


No More Misbehavin'

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter’s room is an incredible mess. Actually, that doesn’t bother me that much. The problem is that nothing that ever goes in there ever seems to come out again. My daughter seems to spend half her life looking for lost items and the other half running around trying to figure out where she’s supposed to be. What can I do to help her get organized?

A: Some children are born with highly developed organizational abilities. Your daughter is not one of them. Fortunately, though, 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. She’ll love the feeling of accomplishment she’ll get the checkmarks for completed jobs start adding up.

  • 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.

  • Everything in its place. Resurrect the lost art of putting thins 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. Besides eliminating clutter this is a great way to teach your child about empathy and the importance of helping others.

  • Prepare for tomorrow. 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 need less and less reminding.

  • Collaborate with her school. 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 report.



A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be, The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year and The Single Father: A Dad’s Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.


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