5 Tips for Keeping Kids Organized

Organization doesn't always come naturally. How can you teach kids to stay organized?
Organization doesn't always come naturally. How can you teach kids to stay organized?

You've finally got the kitchen organized, everything's put away exactly where it should be, when the kids come home from school and dump the contents of their backpacks all over the table. As papers and folders cascade out, and pencils and pens fly off in every direction, you might think to give up hope. But hold on now -- there are several strategies for keeping kids organized when it comes to school stuff. Check them out here.

#1 - At Home

Keeping tabs on schoolwork can be a chore for many families. So one of the first things you'll want to do is teach kids how to organize their workspace, whether it's a temporary location like the kitchen table or a more permanent station like a desk. Lots of things should be within reach -- such as a pencil sharpener, paper, eraser and calculator -- but beyond the essentials the space should be relatively uncluttered.

And while you'll want to encourage the kids' to get in the habit of keeping a calendar, it's a good idea if Mom keeps the master calendar to help everybody stay on top of things. Bulletin boards and dry erase boards are also a good way for families to keep track of each other.

#2 - At School

Were you one of those kids who had a disaster desk back in your school days? The kind that made the teachers groan and shake their heads? Or were you one of those tidy students with everything perfectly organized? If the latter, it might be your fate to shudder in horror the next time you crack open your kid's desk at a parent teacher conference and find they have not inherited your fastidious faculties.

Dividers are one strategy -- they help separate stacks of stuff so one pile doesn't tumble onto another. Kids also make great use of pencil cases and other containers that keep pens and erasers and the like from sliding around -- even a Ziploc bag can do the trick. Labeled folders can be a big help too; they give a home to important papers like permission slips and handouts.

#3 - In Their Room

Kids can be real packrats, but beating back the piles of clutter often helps improve their ability to get stuff done in a timely way. Storage devices in all manner of shapes, sizes and models can usually be found for pretty cheap, and they're a good way to get stuff out of sight and out of mind. Same thing with closet organizers and under-the-bed bins.

Then it's a matter of deciding what stays and what goes, and sorting the keepers into categories. This helps your child remember where everything goes and makes it easier to put it all away. It's fun to save old artwork, but keep it fresh by regularly changing what's displayed and then tucking it away in a box for safe-keeping. The same goes for A+ papers and other projects -- these can just add to the confusion when something current goes missing. Help your child develop a system for dealing with items they might need later, but can do without for the moment.

#4 - In Their Backpack

Backpacks with lots of compartments can help kids remember where everything goes. With a little time, they'll know in a snap where to fish for pens and paper. You'll also want to make sure they're only hauling around items they really need. Too much clutter gets heavy in a hurry.

It's also a good idea to get them in the habit of putting all the homework and other stuff they'll need at school the next day into their backpacks before it's time for bed. That way you and the kids can avoid a morning scuffle to get everything together in time to make it to the bus stop.

#5 - In Their Homework

Color-coded notebooks and folders can be a great way to help kids keep things straightened out. Binders can also be categorized by color, and are great for holding tight to loose sheets that might otherwise become mixed up. A filing system is a must, and don't be afraid if the first one you try doesn't appeal to your child -- find out what they think. Maybe they'd prefer trays with labels like -- to do, in progress, done and waiting for Mom's signature -- or maybe they'd like something a little simpler. The point is, just keep trying until you stumble upon a system that works for everybody.

A calendar is a must for remembering due dates and other events, so encourage kids to set up a routine that involves checking their calendar on at least a daily basis. Kids' workspaces for homework should be large and uncluttered -- this means less distractions while they plug away.