The Tidy Student:  Organizational Skills for Students

We are taught a lot of things in school, but sometimes organization gets overlooked.  Teachers may have systems that work for most students, but others need a little extra attention.  Here are the top organization skills you can teach your student so they will succeed.

Start With Clearing The Clutter

One of the first signs of a disorganized student is a messy backpack, desk, or locker.  Create equilibrium by helping the student clear out the clutter.  

Start at home so your student can learn the STEPS to Organizing.  The process will be the same whether at home or school.  

steps to organizing

The STEPS are:



Establish a Home

Put it in a container

Schedule Maintenance

Starting with the backpack and binder pull all the loose paper out and sort items by category.  Toss or file what is no longer needed. Determine where the items are going to live. If needed use a container to corral items and then put maintenance on the calendar.

Go through the same process with the binder.  See below for some help with products to keep students organized.

Now that the clutter has been cleared at home, you may need to make a trip to the school with your student to check out their desk and locker. Ask your student how they feel about this.  It can be embarrassing to have your parent come clean out your desk. Shoot for a time when peers are not around and your student can focus.

Organizational Tools for Backpacks and Binders Use these products to get the most out of both.

Pencil Pouch 

These are a must-have for the markers, pencil sharpeners, and extra writing utensils.


Sheet Protectors 

Use these for papers that must be kept for historical purposes or is reference frequently.

Divers with a Pouch 

These dividers act as a folder in a binder.  Easily access papers without having to hole punch

Accordion Files 

This is another way to store papers instead of hole punching them

Case It Binder

My favorite binder.  A three-ring binder with an accordion file.

Pouches for small personal items

Chapstick, earbuds, and scrunchies will stay contained with these cute pouches.

Set up your routine

Being organized starts with planning.  Set aside one day a week to clean out the binder and backpack and recalibrate.  Organizing is an ongoing process. You can’t just expect things to stay organized without putting in some effort.

A lot of the students I work with like to prepare for the week on Sundays.  Your student may prefer Fridays after school or even Saturdays.

Put this recurring task on the calendar to help everyone remember.  The process will take 30-60 minutes. Expect the timing to get shorter as your student gets used to the routine and the process.

Other routines you may want to consider:

  • After School
  • Night Time
  • Morning

Establish an after school.  Write it down and post it for reference. Students with ADHD can benefit from visual reminders.  Having checklists available will help students stick to their routine.

Avoid Judgement

Students are often embarrassed by their disorganization.  They see other students who are organized and don’t understand why they can’t follow the same steps.  The simple truth is that they haven’t discovered a system that works for them. Talk to your student about what is and is not working to tweak the systems to suit them.  

There may be executive function disorders keeping your student from being organized.  Teachers and schools can help you with ideas to keep your ADHD student on track. Also, seek out medical advice and diagnosis to better aid your student.  Psychiatrists and Therapists are there to help your student to succeed.

Same Place Every Time

Do homework in the same place every time.  Set up a desk or space at the dining table.  When you work in the same environment every day it allows you to focus in and achieve a state of flow faster.

Also, keep school supplies in a central location.  There’s nothing worse than settling and then having to get up for supplies.  Make it a part of your weekly routine to stock up on supplies in this area.

You can also create a launching pad for where you store the items you need when you walk out the door.  Storing these items in the same place every time will allow you to head out the door on time with all of your supplies.

Reward good organization

Your student has been coming home, putting their supplies on their launching pad, turning in homework and keeping their binder and backpack in order.  It’s time for a reward!

Everyone loves to hear when they are doing a good job.  Treat your student to extra computer time or if they knock off everything on their checklists may be a trip for ice cream.  Rewards do not have to monetary. I like to have students create a “Treat Yo’ Self” list. Include things like sleepovers, time on the phone, a warm bath, or new school supply.

Use a planner

Teach them to use their planner for due dates and what was covered during the class.  This helps your student to remember what they have learned. Writing down due dates makes the date more concrete to the student and they are more likely to get the work done.

Students should work with their planners every day.  I highly recommend the Order Out of Chaos Academic Calendar.  Two features I love are the ability to schedule tasks for after school and that you only have to write your schedule once.

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