Less Messy in 30 Days!
Tired of the screaming matches over your kid’s messy room? Try this month-long plan for organizing your child’s bedrooms, desks, closets, and more — written specifically for children with ADHD who lack organization skills.
Children and teens with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) are notoriously disorganized — which can lead to messy rooms, frustrated nagging, angry blowouts, and hurt feelings.
Following this detailed, straightforward 30-day plan for getting organized — and keeping your child involved every step of the way.
Day 1: Clear Off the Bed
Your child’s bed should be for sleeping, not storage.
- Clear off any clothes, stray papers, or food wrappers that may have mysteriously made it into your child’s bed, and enlist his help in changing the sheets.
- Have your child pick one stuffed animal that will stay on his bed — all others are sent to the playroom or to the toy box. Ensure him that he can swap the stuffed animal for another one any time he likes — as long as only one comes back.
Day 2: Sort Through the Desk
If your child’s desk is more of a madhouse than a workspace, you’ll need to revamp it with a whole new organizational system.
- Buy brightly colored boxes, Tupperware-type drawers, or hanging files to separate your child’s belongings into labeled places. Important papers can go in the big bottom drawer, while pens and markers can go in boxes in the smaller top drawer.
- Tell your child she can help you organize it however she wants — as long as she works hard to keep it that way.
Day 3: Set Up a Clear Spot for Trash
If the room is short on space, this can be as simple as a bag on the door handle. The important thing is to give your child a designated spot for trash in his personal space — so you’re not digging out candy wrappers from under his pillow.
Day 4: Organize the Bookshelf
- Set aside a few hours on a Sunday to go through all your child’s books. Which can be donated? Given as gifts?
- Talk to your child and figure out how she thinks they should be organized. Does she like them alphabetical? By subject? By color, even? Remember, the easier it is for her to find the books she likes, the more likely she is to read them!
Day 5: Set Up a Reading Spot
- If your child is a big reader, set up a comfy chair or a beanbag near the bookshelf so he can curl up with a book whenever the urge strikes. Keeping books close to the bookshelf — even when they’re in use — gives them a higher chance of being put away properly.
Day 6: When In Doubt, Label
If your child is particularly prone to disorganization (as many kids with ADHD are), stick labels everywhere — and we mean everywhere. Bookshelves, dresser drawers, hangers. If your child is younger, try putting pictures next to the words.
Day 7: Monsters Under the Bed
If your child’s idea of “cleaning her room” is to shove everything under her bed, make that tougher for her to do by using the under-the-bed space as extra storage.
- Get some clear plastic bins and throw in sports equipment, extra sheets, or anything else that needs a home. Just make sure the boxes are clearly labeled.
Day 8: A Week of Shelves
We’ve all heard of laying out your clothes the night before to save time, but imagine how much stress you’d save if you conquered a whole week at once!
- Set up a place in your child’s closet — like a small shelving unit — where he can lay out five outfits. Then, on Sunday night, work together to pick out what he’s going to wear throughout the week. During the week, he can pick whichever one of the five he wants, giving him a bit of autonomy while keeping his closet neat.
Day 9: Store Off-Season Clothes
- Get some more large plastic boxes and put in your child’s unused seasonal clothing — winter coats in the summer, shorts and swim suits in the winter. Label them clearly and put them on the top shelf in your kid’s closet, where they can be easily accessed the second you need them.
Day 10: Put Laundry Front and Center
Don’t hide the laundry basket in the back corner of the closet — if it’s difficult to get to or easy to overlook, your child will be more likely to throw his clothes straight on the floor. Instead, put it directly in the center, or right outside the closet door. If you’re extra ambitious — or looking to give an older child a little more responsibility – consider getting a two-part laundry basket so he can sort the clothes himself.
Day 11: Categorize Clothing
Sort clothing by type, so all the pants, shirts, sweatshirts, etc. go together. To make this easier for you and your child, consider getting cheap closet organizers like these.
Day 12: Shoe Racks
Say goodbye to the days of tripping over stray boots! Get simple shoe racks for older kids, and for younger kids, clear plastic bins. During the winter months, move the shoe bin to the front door so your kid doesn’t track her wet boots all over the house.
Day 13: A Place for Toys
The first step in tackling the playroom is simply making sure every toy has a distinct place.
- Get large brightly colored bins to keep like toys together: LEGOs with LEGOs, Barbies with Barbies, and so on. Pull out your trusty labelmaker again, and make it clear what goes where.
Day 14: Toss Old Toys
If your child hasn’t played with her toy trains in a year, it may be time to donate them.
- If she starts to panic at the thought of losing all her old toys, get her involved in the process so she doesn’t feel quite so helpless. If she still insists she needs to keep everything, set a clear limit — try something like, “All the toys that you can fit in this red basket can stay.”
- Take used toys down to your local thrift store together, so your child can get some closure and see the good her unwanted toys can do for another kid.
Day 15: Repurpose Whenever Possible
Search through your garage to find things that can be reused in the playroom.
- If you have old sheets that were on their way to the garbage, consider using them as a tablecloth that your child is free to get paint on.
- If you have old bowls, use them to hold crayons on the art table.
Day 16: Create Play Centers
- Store the toy food in the toy kitchen, the train cars near the train tracks, and video game controllers near their consoles.
- Encourage your child to keep play as close to the designated area as possible, and make sure he puts away what he’s playing with before moving on to the next toy.
Day 17: Make Things Double Up
- Hide storage wherever you can.
- If you have a table in your child’s playroom, for example, use small brightly-colored storage boxes as chairs. Just make sure they’re sturdy enough to hold your child’s weight!
Day 18: Use the Walls
- If your child likes to play dress up, add hooks so he can hang his costumes up when he’s done with them.
- If he collects cars, add magnetic strips so he can display (and store) his Hot Wheels proudly. There are a lot of things you can do with all that empty space — get creative!
Day 19: Get a Planner…
…and teach him how to use it. Work together for the first few weeks, making sure all homework assignments, sports practices, and playdates are entered into the planner. He’ll learn responsibility and boost his self-esteem, and you won’t feel like such a nag.
Day 20: Master Calendar
Take the planner one step further and get one big master calendar to keep track of your entire family’s schedules. Help your child add her appointments to the calendar, and make sure she’s paying attention when you add your own — she’ll learn an important lesson about how everyone’s schedules overlap and interact with each other.
Day 21: Make a “School Shelf”
Set up a small shelf or table by the door where your child can put anything he needs to bring to school the next day, like permission slips or PE uniforms. Get your child in the habit of checking it each morning before you leave.
Day 22: Tackle the Backpack
Buy a backpack with multiple compartments, and use brightly colored labels to assign a subject to each compartment. That way, everything that has to do with math — notes, homework, calculator, etc. — can be found in the same place.
Day 23: Keep It Clean
We all know how gross backpacks can get — food crumbs, dirty napkins, and paper scraps can add up fast!
- Before you start putting stuff back in the backpack, shake it out over a trashcan or give it a quick vacuum.
- Schedule a regular appointment with your child to clean out her bag — depending on her level of uncleanliness, this could be anywhere from once a week to once every two months.
Day 24: Sort Supplies
Group supplies together by type — so notebooks and folders go together, pens and pencils go together, and so on. Assign everything to an easily accessible place in the backpack, and then…
Day 25: Make a Map!
- Draw a simple map of the backpack, labeling where everything needs to go.
- Have your child empty the bag out a few times and put things away according to the map.
- Keep the map in the front pocket of your child’s backpack, so she can reference it whenever she needs to pack up.
Day 26: Check it Off
Buy a cheap clear luggage tag and slip in a checklist of the things your child needs to bring to school every day. Practice checking the checklist with him for a few days, then encourage him to do it on his own.
Day 27: Ask for Extra Textbooks
- If your child frequently leaves his textbooks at school, set up a meeting with her teacher and ask if you can keep an extra set at home.
- If your child has an IEP, consider requesting it as an accommodation.
Day 28: Display Your Child’s Best Work
If your child has art projects or A+ essays that she doesn’t want to throw away — but that don’t need to be in her backpack — buy a large corkboard and display them prominently in the kitchen or another common space. Having her best work front and center will give your child a boost of confidence, and the compact corkboard will keep everything sorted and out of the way.
Day 29: Designate a Study Space
This could be his desk, the kitchen table, or any other place where he has minimal distractions and can focus to the best of his ability. Whenever he starts his homework, set up his “study spot” with a snack, a drink, and all the materials he needs. He’ll soon learn to associate the spot with getting his work done.
Day 30: What Time Is It? Study Time!
Similarly, on a consistent homework schedule — same time, same place, every night. Remember, organization is more than a physical process — it’s about getting in a habit!
Updated on January 6, 2020