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Organizing With Teens

Teenagers tend to leave a lot of evidence that their life is being well-lived. Messy trails of food, dirty clothes, personal care products and more can clutter up a once-organized home. There’s a lot going on in their lives, so they may not take the time to consider what happens if their cereal bowl doesn’t get rinsed out. But helping them stay organized is what is going to keep them from missing a beat...and growing mold cultures under their bed! You just have to figure out how to impart this skill without fanning the flames of rebellion.

The Unique Challenges of Being a Teenager

  • They have a lot more independence and, in many ways, know what they want and don’t want.

  • They make many choices for themselves and endure bigger consequences for those choices.

  • They can struggle with prioritizing what they want now with what will benefit them in the long term.

All of this, plus the attitude, can make organizing with a teenager seem like a monumental task. But it doesn't have to be. I don't consider organizing with teens very different from organizing with an adult. The difference is that teens lack life experience that helps them understand “the why” of organizing. When they become aware of how it helps them, the task gets a lot easier.

Teenagers are in this interesting transition from living in the moment as a young child does, to living with a more multi-dimensional view that takes the past, present and future into account. It's our job as caregivers to help connect the dots so they see how their actions now affect them in the future.

If You Want Your Teenager to Be Organized…

  1. Listen to them. Really listen.

  2. Model an organized life for them.

  3. Coach them in good decisions.

  4. Help them "see around the corners" to predict where their actions may lead.

  5. Let them experience natural consequences and guide them through.

  6. Help them set realistic, attainable goals.

  7. Celebrate their successes…even the small wins.

Here Are Some Additional Tips

Establish healthy routines together. Talk with your teen about how routines are not about limiting, but rather about creating structure in our lives. Having no routine is chaos, but too much routine could insight a revolt. Finding balance is key. For example, when creating a morning and evening routine, find out what would help them get prepared for the next day…from their perspective. If they’re always scrambling to find their socks when the school bus is coming down the street, work together to create a system that makes them easy to find every time. Talk about how laundry is managed and what might make things more convenient for them. It may be that everything needs to be laid out the night before to make dressing less of a scavenger hunt in the morning. Or, if they’re a mood dresser, just making sure everything is clean in a designated location can make easier work of last-minute style decisions. Bottom line though, it has to be their system that functions the way they think and approach life…as long as there is some semblance of order.

Let them express themselves. The idea of “creating systems” can sound like a cold and robotic adult-imposed structure to a teenager. But if they put themselves into the process, there is a ton of room for individuality when it comes to organization and time management.

Does your teen struggle with structuring their schedule so that they have time for friends, school, sports, and possibly a job, too? It’s hard to figure out how to fit everything in without missing a beat, but there are tools that can help them manage those priorities. They just need to find a tool that they like. If your emerging artist wants to use a paper calendar that they decorate with stamps, stickers and washi tape, let them be creative. If your tech-loving teen wants to create a digital calendar with automations and syncing capabilities, encourage that. If it works for them and they can take ownership, let them…even if it looks entirely different than what you would do.

Just remember, you will most likely still need to check in to gently remind them to update and keep current on their systems. Or, if you sense that their system isn’t working, it may be time to brainstorm other ideas. It’s important that they understand that finding what works for them may take a little trial and error, and that’s okay.

Empower them with opportunities to succeed. Being a teenager can be incredibly stressful with intense emotions to navigate as they approach adulthood. At home, order and routine can help them feel more in control. Giving them choices and decision-making practice on their own turf can be empowering and confidence-boosting. Look for opportunities to either give them more independence or at least a chance to influence the situation. It can make a huge difference!

Teenagers, like adults, may think they have everything figured out, but there is always more to learn. Let them know that you are still learning too. And remember, we’ve got lots of experience we’d love to share. Contact Us if you want help creating a unique organizational system designed just for your teen!

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