Ask the Experts

Help! My Teen Loses Everything In Her Room

Medication can help alleviate ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity or distractibility, but it doesn’t automatically improve executive skills like organization. Our coach has tips to teach teens how to keep desks and backpacks in order in high school, and beyond.

Q: “My teenage daughter takes medication for her ADHD. Most of her symptoms have decreased dramatically, but she still can’t seem to organize her room so that she can find stuff — clothes, makeup, the homework she just completed. Can you help? She loses everything!”

Organization is a challenge for many people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) — whether they are 13 or 30 — and it results in a lot of lost items, and a lot of unnecessary stress. To get your daughter started on better habits, teach her the two basic principles of getting organized: Group like with like (by function), and everything needs a home.

Place related items (like makeup) in a container that she selects, so it’s easier to remember where it “lives.” Increase the likelihood of maintaining this system by keeping the container near the area where she applies her makeup.

These concepts also apply to clothing: Keep similar items together in a drawer, or on an open shelf for greater visibility and convenient retrieval. Avoid crowding, which will create a mess. Label drawers and shelves to remind her of which items belong where.

As for homework, returning completed work to her book bag should be part of the homework process: Explain that she’s not done until the homework (and notebook) are back in her bag. Have her use a reminder alarm.

[Free Resource: Boost Your Teen’s Executive Functions]