Kicking the Clutter: Eight simple steps to help your child get organized

Summer break is coming to a close, which means it is time to get ready for a new school year. Help your child succeed in school by encouraging him or her to organize their belongings. Acquiring good organizational skills is a crucial component for success in school and in life.

1. Start with checklists
Help your child get into the habit of keeping a "to-do" list. Use checklists to finish assignments, household chores and reminders about what items to bring to class. Your child should keep a small pad or notebook dedicated to listing homework assignments.

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2. Help prioritize homework
Before starting a homework session, encourage your child to number assignments in the order in which they should be done. Start with one that's not too long or difficult. At the same time, ask them to put a deadline on the assignments that appear difficult and long. To avoid overwhelming, show your child how to divide a big project into smaller chunks they can work on every day for 30 minutes until it is finished.

3. Allocate a study space
Your child should study in the same place every day. It pays to know your child and how they function. Does he or she like a quiet environment in their bedroom or prefer being in the living room with the family. Insist that they keep homework in a designated area, not scattered all over your living room.

4. Establish a study time
Children thrive on structure and predictability. Help your child develop healthy habits and a strong work ethic by making sure assignments are done at the same time every day. Let your child unwind first with a healthy snack and plenty of water. Encourage them to choose and commit to time for homework, reading or working on future assignments.

5. Keep organized notebooks
Help your child organize papers in a binder or notebook. This will help them study the material for each day's classes and to organize the material later to prepare for tests and quizzes. Use dividers to separate class notes, or colour-code notebooks. Separate “to-do” and “done” folders help organize worksheets, notices and items to be signed by parents.

6. Schedule a weekly cleanup
Have your child declutter book bags and notebooks on a weekly basis. Old tests and papers should be organized and kept in a separate file at home. Papers, wrappers and other waste should be thrown out. School supplies that have made their way to the bottom of a backpack should either be placed in a special pocket or put back in their study space at home.

7. Create a household schedule
Try to establish and stick to a regular dinnertime and a regular bedtime. That will help your child fall into a pattern at home. Children with a regular bedtime go to school well rested. Try to limit television watching to a specific time during the day.

8. Prepare and praise
Before your child goes to bed, they should pack away their schoolwork and books. The next day's clothes should be laid out with shoes and accessories. Devices should be plugged in to charge. This will cut down on morning chaos and allow your child to prepare quickly for the day ahead. Praise your child for a job well done.

Support your child to become more organized by setting a good example and getting yourself organized first.

Ranka Burzan owns a professional organizing company based in Powell River and has written several books on reducing clutter and becoming more organized. For information, go to solutionsorganizing.com.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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