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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

9 Organization Tips for Kids with ADHD

By Kerrie McLoughlin

If you have children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you know they struggle every day. School challenges them even more as they try to plan and do homework, keep track of permission slips, attend to hygiene, and accomplish other activities. Here’s how to help them have a successful school year.

Make a fresh start…every month. Begin with a massive cleaning session, and clear out the clutter from last school year. Empty out backpacks, closets, and bookshelves. Then, to keep up with the influx of new paper, put monthly cleaning sessions on the calendar.

Let them own the system. Your children won’t keep up with any organization or homework system they don’t help to create. Let them figure out what will work for them.

Limit choices. Less is more. “I got my son all these binders with tabs, but [his teacher] said one simple folder is sometimes more helpful,” says one mom.

Buy color-coded supplies. School psychologist Lisa Adams, PhD, suggests, “[O]rganize and color-code binders. Use the same color for all math, etc.” Choose colored binders with clear front/side areas for visible labeling. Buy various sizes and colors of Post-it notes and tape flags, bins, flat-drawer organizers, and Washi tape for extra personalization. Don’t forget to get pens, pencils, Sharpies, and highlighters they love and will actually use.

Create a homework haven. Designating a spot just for doing homework and nothing else is key. No phones or other distractions should be allowed. Start with the most difficult subjects first, and take frequent 15–20-minute activity breaks. Dana Baker-Williams says her daughter used special pens to write out assignments and due dates on her closet doors. “Then she could prioritize better,” she says. For large or long projects, they’d break assignments into bite-size pieces. 

Develop a homework system. Work with your kids to create a system that includes specific times for retrieving, doing, and turning in their homework. “Provide continuous parent oversight until the system is learned,” says Adams. If you need a helping hand with homework, check out tutoring services (see “Tutoring ABCs” on page 14).

Create a place for everything. Once homework is finished, teach kids to put their binders and textbooks back into their backpacks. Always keep backpacks in the same spot. File papers in a milk crate system. Once the mess is out of their brains, they won’t have to worry about constantly losing things or waste precious time trying to find what’s been lost.

Work that planner! Commit 15 minutes of each morning to prepare for the day. Then commit 15 minutes in the evening to review and think about what could have gone differently. Rebelling against the planner is normal; create rewards for sticking with it. (There are a zillion different planners, so review a bunch on YouTube before you buy one.)

Just say no to paper explosions. Have kids keep a small notebook with them to jot down notes. And then, in a timely manner, have them transfer the little jots over to one spot (the perfect planner). This goes for notes created on phone apps as well. If reminders aren’t put in the right place, they will be lost forever. 

Kerrie McLoughlin ( is a 40-something ADD writer and homeschooling mom of five.