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David Baxter PhD

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8 Ways to Help Your Teen Get Organized
By Julie Morgenstern

Struggles between parents and teens over getting organized are common -- but altogether unnecessary. Organizing together is a rare opportunity to learn how your teen thinks, to share goals and dreams, to discover what's truly important to him or her. Try the following organization strategies:

1. Don't insult your teen. Eliminate the phrases "You're so disorganized!" "You are such a slob!" "This room is a pigsty!" "You are such a procrastinator!" Build your teen's confidence by recognizing the areas where he or she is organized.

2. Avoid prejudgments. You can't tell if your teen is organized or not just by looking at his or her space or notebook. Ask what works and what doesn't. You may be surprised by what you learn.

3. Respect your teen's own way of thinking, goals and attachments. Maybe you'd group shirts by short and long sleeve -- but your teen prefers to group by color or style. You might be a morning person, while your teen is a night owl. As long as a system works, support it.

4. Make the project easier physically. Gather containers, tie up filled trash bags, help with labeling, transport giveaways, return objects that belong in other rooms to their original homes.

5. Keep your teen focused from the "inside out." If your son or daughter asks "should" questions ("Where should I put this?" "How should I categorize this?" "Should I throw this out?") turn the question around, asking, "What do you think?" or "What are your instincts telling you?" If you do share your opinion, preface your remarks by saying, "Well, what would work for me is ... but you may find a better way for you."

6. Reinforce your teen's commitment. If your teen gets overwhelmed or discouraged, remind him or her of the reasons for wanting to get organized. Remember, teens must get organized for their own reasons, not just to please you. What are they trying to get out of it? What's the payoff for them?

7. Pace your teen. Help your teen mastermind and prioritize a list of all the areas he or she wants to organize. Encourage your son or daughter to focus on one area at a time and complete it before moving on to the next. One organizing project per semester is more than enough.

8. Teach by example. Reorganize a common area like the front hall closet, kitchen or bathroom. Let your teen experience the freedom and ease that organizing brings, then offer to help in his or her room.

Helping your teen master the skills of organization can actually offer a means by which the two of you can build a relationship -- or strengthen an already existing one. If your teen has invited you to help him or her get organized, consider it an honor and proceed with care.

If you sense that your teen could use some help getting organized but wouldn't be caught dead discussing it with you, have him or her check out Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens. This book is written specifically for teens, so they can tackle the process on their own, while you watch unobtrusively from the sidelines.

Most important, be patient, encouraging and confident in your teen's ability to succeed. Don't expect instant results -- becoming organized is a process, mastered and refined over a lifetime. But do remember that organizing and time management are life skills (not talents) that can be learned. You can facilitate your teen's mastery of these life skills ... even if you never learned to get organized yourself. Read this book alongside your teen -- it may help you organize your own life!

About the Author
Julie Morgenstern is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Organizing from the Inside Out and Time Management from the Inside Out and coauthor of Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens. She has been a guest on many television shows, including The Oprah Show, Today and Good Morning America. She hosted a popular PBS special on her first book and is a contributing editor to O: The Oprah Magazine.

You can find more tips and tools from her book Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens at
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