How to Get Kids to Organize Their Desks

Neat and tidy aren't typically the first words that come to mind when describing a kid's desk. But you don't have to put up with your child's desk looking like a tornado just blew through, either. Kids are more likely to keep their rooms or desks organized if they have some input into how it's done 1. So take your child with you to pick out some inexpensive, colorful organizers, or decorate small sturdy boxes and empty jars to serve as receptacles for books, art supplies and favorite odds and ends. Show them how to keep the things they use most often in easy reach, and allow a little room for non-essentials, such as a favorite picture or a stuffed animal.

Go through the items on your child's desk with him. Talk about which things he uses most often and which things he doesn't really need. Decide together what he will use the desk for, then discuss simple steps he can take to make his desk neater, better organized and more user-friendly. Give him input into the organizational steps he needs to take -- this makes it more likely he'll want to keep it organized.

Pick out a series of colorful folders or binders with your child for her desk. Help her label them according to the materials she normally keeps and works on at her desk. Your grade school child might have folders for each school subject, along with a few additional folders for Scout badge work, favorite drawings or church confirmation class. Your older kids may also have a folder for each school subject, along with one for college information, another for bank statements and another for sports schedules. Purchase a variety of different folder colors, to make them readily identifiable and easy to distinguish from other materials.

Decorate a few empty jars or containers to use for pencils, paintbrushes and markers. Give your child a few simple drawer organizers and show him how to use them to keep erasers, a calculator, a ruler and other similar materials neatly arranged and accessible in his desk drawer. If space is tight, let him use stacking cubes or an overhead bookshelf to keep the desktop free of books, papers and other clutter. Label each container or organizer compartment so your child knows exactly which items go in each one. Add a wastebasket under the desk, and remind him to use it for stuff he no longer needs.

Keep the approach used to organize the child's desk simple and appropriate to her age and abilities. Don't expect perfection or military precision in how her desk is organized, but do tell her what your expectations are -- keeping the desk top mostly clean and putting away materials in their assigned place on a daily basis. Include picking up her desk on your child's list of daily or weekly chores, and praise her for maintaining it in a neat and orderly fashion. When you're sorting out your desk occasionally, remind her to go through and get rid of extraneous stuff in her desk at the same time. Model the behavior you want in your child by doing it yourself.