Where’s my stuff: Improve organization and increase your child’s productivity and confidence | Sharon Saline, Psy.D. | 8 Min Read

Whether it’s a mound of dirty laundry, crumpled homework assignments shoved into a notebook, or toys strewn across a room, disorganization not only affects how you interact with your environment but also how you feel about yourself. Organization is not just a habit: it’s a key executive functioning skill that depends on motivation, time management, and prioritization. Many kids, especially those with ADHD, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, struggle with keeping track of their schoolwork and managing their belongings. They want to do things better, but either don’t know how or refuse help due to embarrassment. How can you assist your child or teen to develop more effective tools for organization and build their self-esteem?

In order to improve organization, you have to rely on collaboration. You may think you know the best way for them to organize their clothes, order their notebooks, and declutter their desk. But your methods have limited efficacy if your kids don’t have buy-in or lack the tools to follow through on your requests. They may not be able to follow your standards because they don’t share your standards, because they are uninterested in the dreariness of cleaning or because they feel overwhelmed by the task. If you are arguing regularly about neatness and order, your kids are sending you clear messages that another approach is needed. 

Kids often have their own ideas about order, cleanliness, and planning that seem completely logical to them. Perhaps they want to arrange the clothes in their closet according to color, put their tee-shirts and shorts on the bookshelves where they can see them, put their books in their dresser by subject, or have a notebook for each class instead of a binder. Whether these ideas seem odd to you is less significant than finding a mutual solution to clutter, and teaching them how to manage their belongings with fewer arguments. What matters most is that your child or teen is participating in the process of tidying their stuff and that you are honoring—or at least willing to try—an unusual idea that might make things work better. Kids want their ideas—however eccentric or simplistic—to be heard and considered. When you integrate what makes sense to them into whatever routine or solution you are creating, you increase their participation and their agency. Children and teens feel better about themselves because you are taking their ideas seriously and giving them…

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Sharon Saline, Psy.D.

Sharon Saline, Psy.D. is a top expert in ADHD and neurodiversity. Dr. Saline specializes in an integrative approach to managing ADHD, anxiety, executive functioning skills, learning differences and mental health issues in neurodiverse and 2e children, teens, college-age adults and families. With over 25 years of clinical experience, she brings a positive, strength-based approach to improving the challenges related to attention, learning and behavior. As a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Northampton, MA, Dr. Saline helps people reduce frustration, develop daily living skills, communicate better and feel closer. An internationally sought-after lecturer, workshop facilitator, and educator/clinician trainer, she adeptly addresses topics ranging from making sense of ADHD and executive functioning skills to managing anxiety to understanding the teen brain. You may contact Dr. Sharon Saline at https://drsharonsaline.com.