Ask the Experts

Q: How Do We Get Started on Better School Organization?

Teenagers don’t always welcome our input and ideas. Sometimes they need to learn the hard way, and other times we need to make sure they’ve got specific supports in place. Here are six essential organizational strategies that will make a big difference in your son’s academic life.

Q: “How do I get my 13 year old to use ADHD-friendly strategies for organization such as writing assignments in his agenda, handing in homework, having one book for school and one for home, etc.?” — TamaraRT


Dear TamaraRT:

Over the years, I have seen so many students struggle with trying to manage all the organizing tasks that come with school. It’s overwhelming to say the least. Most students need a simple and manageable system to organize themselves for school.

Here are my general rules of thumb.

1. Clear is king. If your son can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Clear folders, dividers, etc., will give him a natural way to receive reminders of where everything is and also prompt him to remember to turn that math homework into his teacher!

2. If it takes more than two steps…your child won’t do it. So perhaps, for your son, writing in a planner is too many steps for him at this time. He may find it easier to take a snapshot of the whiteboard, record an audio reminder or even text it to himself. Think unfussy and streamlined when coming up with systems that will work for him.

[Read This: 25 Great Mobile Apps for ADHD Minds]

3. Pair like with like. In other words, ditch the homework folder. They are dumping grounds where important assignments and papers are easily misplaced. Group materials by subject. Math homework goes in the math binder. Science lab in the science folder.

4. Simplify supplies! Any way you can. I can’t stress this enough. Less stuff to manage = greater organization. Most students need a simple, manageable solution to organize school papers, so they spend less time on the looking and more time on the doing!

5. Set up a launching pad for your son. This is a designated place in your home to keep his belongings that go back and forth to school every day. This will take the stress of “I forgot to bring my homework to school!” or “I don’t know where that book is!” out of the equation. Pick a location that is heavily trafficked by your son. It could literally be outside his bedroom. His completed homework, books, backpack, etc. should all be stored here.

[Free Download: Your Guide to Solving Disorganization at School]

6. Make a reminder checklist… for his locker! It’s one thing to have organizing systems in place at home. It’s another at school. Have him post a reminder checklist on the inside door of his locker so he is reminded everyday what needs to travel home with him. Make sure to include items, such as his lunch bag, gym clothes, musical instrument, etc., as well as his school supplies.

If you want more tips and tools for getting and keeping your son organized, please check out our website at orderoochaos.com.

Good Luck!

[Free Webinar: How to Start (and End) the School Year Organized]


ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

Updated on October 1, 2019

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