Thank you to Wendy Taddeucci of Simply Organized, LLC for writing this guest post. You can find Wendy at www.putclutterinitsplace.com.
The Desktop Filing System - as illustrated in Donna Goldberg's book - The Organized Student
In The Organized Student Donna talks about star elementary school students who start losing their edge - or completely get derailed - when they enter middle school. There are a couple of factors to lend to the students' disorganization, frustration and confusion. First, their days are no longer monitored and regimented as in elementary school. Second, the student now has to tote books, binders, loose papers and a backpack to and from classes. Not to mention contending with the locker. Oh, yes and what does the student do with completed homework and tests? Keep them in the backpack of course - all year. Can you see how middle school students can be driven off course?
Donna recommends several helpful ways to help your student get organized and stay organized throughout the school year. First, de-clutter the locker and the backpack. Second create a place for your child's "traveling" paper, third create a desktop filing system (as shown above), create a space in your home that your student can work or create a portable office and finally, teach your student how to use a planner.
Whew! Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, let me frame this another way.
Scenario number 1 - it's 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night. The family is getting ready for bed. Susie comes to you to let you know that she just remembered that she has an essay due the next day. Panic!!!!! And you can kiss your 8 hours of sleep goodbye.
Scenario number 2 - it's 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night. The family is getting ready for bed. Since Susie recorded her essay assignment in her planner when it was given in class last week, and worked on it little by little, it is completed. Her backpack only has the papers and homework that she is currently working on so she does not have to wade through unnecessary paper to find what she needs. Her past lessons and homework are sitting in her desktop filing system - organized by class and then organized further by lesson.
Which scenario would you choose?
Now, back to all that work mom and dad. Here's the thing. In order to get your student to listen to what you have to say and help them with this project, you have to communicate with them on a non-threatening, non-judgmental level. I know, it's not going to be easy - but it will be worth it.
Some tips for working with your student:
1. Say to your student - I see that you seem to be struggling to get your homework done when you really want to be out with your friends. I've been reading a book about organizing students so that they can easily do their homework and keep their papers, locker and backpack organized. Can we schedule a session to work on your locker so it's more user friendly?
2. When you see an overdue homework assignment don't get upset about it. Place it in a box marked Paper and deal with it at another time. You are moving forward. If you address the overdue homework with your student, your focus will be taken away from sorting and organizing. And after that, your student may not want to work with you again for fear of what might happen if another overdue homework assignment appears.
3. Expect that it will take time for your student to learn the new systems. Introduce one at a time, give him/her a chance to get used to it before moving on.
4. Expect that what you have in mind and what your student has in mind may be two different things. If your student expresses an idea or a different way of dealing with the paper flow on his/her desk, try it. See how it works.
5. Don't do it for them. How will they ever learn paper management, time management, space management if you do it for them?
The stuff that makes up a student's bedroom
Kids have stuff - oh boy do they have stuff! Collections, magazines, toys, games - you name it. More often than not their rooms look like a tornado has just visited. You may want to rush in and pick up for your kids. I suggest another approach.
Ask you child how he/she likes their room. Is there anything they would change? (within reason). You may have to start the conversation by saying something like, "I see that you have a large collection of ______________. Would you like to work together to sort ___________ and figure out how we can store _____________ better?
This way you are not saying the words that strike fear into the hearts of children and young adults. Those words are clean, organize, toss, donate.
Once you can help your child sort their items it may help them see what they have, realize they have too many, or no longer need some items.
Once you have sorted with your child - keep them involved - after all, it is their room - then it's time to look at the groupings that have been made. What groups can be archived, what groups will be stored in the room? Decide what size and type containers you need for the groupings.
A quick way to add storage/display space is to add a book case or shelving. Takes up very little space on the floor but now you have the addition of very helpful vertical space.
From Layla Grayce - add clear containers to the shelves. I like the fact that this piece can grow with your child. It's not "kid" furniture.
Also, use the backs of closet, bedroom and bathroom doors for storage. Clear over the door shoe organizers work well to store toys, small dolls and their accessories. Or they are great for organizing winter hats, gloves, scarves. Behind a bathroom door you can store lotions, soaps, hairbrushes.
Think like with like when sorting items. Create zones in the room; play, study/reading, grooming.
Use clear containers with pictures of contents for small children and labels for older children. Use a half bookshelf securely attached to the wall to store containers.
From the Land of Nod. Hang above the craft area to hold brushes, pens, pencils, etc.
Make it easy for small children to put items away. Apply Command hooks to surfaces and hang a sewing bag from the hook. Keep like items in the bag.
If your student does not take you up on your offer of organizing assistance, do not push them - that is a sure way to end any future efforts. Your student may need time to process what you are saying.
If your student takes you up on your offer remember to be understanding and non-judgmental. Take things slowly. The room did not become a wreck overnight - it will take time to get it back into order.
Also, understand that the room may, and probably will, turn messy again. The good news is that once you have thoroughly de-cluttered and organized the first time, it is much easier to put the room back into order.
Since the launch of Simply Organized, LLC in October of 2005 Wendy has worked with clients to control the clutter and set up systems to save them time and money. Wendy's goal with her clients is to have them, "know what they have, where to find it and how to efficiently use it."
A Golden Circle Member and an active member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), Wendy is also a trained provider for NAPO in the Schools.
Wendy is also a member of the ICD (Institute for Challenging Disorganization). Wendy has earned her Level II CD Specialist Certificate as well as her Certificate of Study in Chronic Disorganization.
Wendy has been featured in the media on TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive, A & E's Hoarders, WNDU-Channel 16 news, Lakes Magazine, Momsmichiana.com, In Granger, Northwest Indiana Times and the South Bend Tribune as well as hosting Transformational Radio on WVLP 98.3.