Before Getting Started
Before you roll up your sleeves and dive into this 30 day ADHD Organization Challenge, I strongly recommend that you get the basics right. Please read the following to gain a better understanding of what ADHD is and what ADHD treatment options are available today.
- ADHD in Children
- ADHD in Girls
- ADHD Myths and Facts
- ADHD Medication Treatment
- ADHD & Learning Disability
- ADHD Test Online
Organization! A First Step to Natural ADHD Treatment
Take some time to have a good look at the above plan! For the next 1 month, you and your child are going to live and breath by this blueprint every waking moment. The activities in this plan have been spread over 4 weeks during which we target specific areas of development (by the use of Initiate, Continue, Sustain and Improvement cycles). So buckle your seatbelts and enjoy the ride. I guarantee, on day 30, you are going to thank me for it!
WEEK 1: Time to Change the World
DAY 1: Getting Started with the Bed
If there is one rule to start the 30-day organization plan for your child with ADHD, this should be this one – “The bed is meant for sleeping“. Call your child and make it very clear how big a mess the bed is in. Be very specific. The bed is not a platform to showcase her Logo pieces or the collection of toys. Ask her how the school notebooks and stationaries have mysteriously secured a permanent spot next to the pillows. Request her to assist you in de-cluttering the bed and change the sheets. Make it very clear, this is the only time you are helping her out. From Day 2 onwards, her bed needs to be clean and tidy when she retires every night. Make room for concession and incentive. If she keeps the bed tidy, she gets to carry her favorite stuffed animal to bed while going to sleep. If however, the bed is untidy, she needs to clean it up before retiring that night and she doesn’t get the company of her stuffed toy.
- Different things in life have their own purpose and utility – a bed is for sleeping and relaxing and not a place to unleash creativity
- If things are not done on time, it may mean more work afterward
- Parents are authority
- Good work may get rewarded
DAY 2: Turn to the Desk
A cluttered desk is not the sign of a genius in the making! There are absolutely no points to be earned by turning the study into a madhouse. Make a laundry list of what you need to get some organization going around the study zone – some boxes and pen-stands, file cabinets, Tupperware type drawers, etc. Take your child out to the next door stationary store. Let her pick the colors while you determine its fit-for-purpose. Have fun to explore multiple combinations. Pay attention to her ideas – as long as it sounds like a good plan, go with her instincts. When you are back, let her suggest how she wants things organized. Try different layouts and stress the importance of putting things back to where they belong.
- There is no value in keeping things cluttered
- Her ideas, if good, may get acknowledged
- Teamwork always pays off
DAY 3: Shelvy Sundays
Books are hard to throw away, and you should not. But there is no merit in piling up, in one place, all the books from your child’s 1st grade till now – they are for classwork, not classics. Use one active shelf! All the books that your child is currently using should be on one shelf and everything else needs to move out of her bedroom. Think what you may need to do with those. You can find other shelves or boxes in your home to stack them up neatly out of the reach of your child. Alternatively, you could request your child to donate or gift them to the juniors in the school or the less privileged ones – stress the importance of it might be helping someone else. Reserve every Sunday afternoon for her to sort through her active shelf and get the books organized. Go by her preference – she may want to sort them by colors or alphabets rather than by subjects. From your perspective, you should just give her a goal (cleaning the shelf on Sundays) and let her choose the method.
- The importance and fulfillment achieved by virtue of giving
- Correlation between priority and schedules – cleaning the bed is a high priority and needs to be done every day while shelf-keeping is a lower priority weekly business
- Planning her own method to meet the desired outcome
DAY 4: Trash belongs to the Bin
One this you would want to make very clear to your child on Day 4 – you don’t want to see a single candy wrapper underneath her pillow cushions. One of the most effective natural ADHD treatment strategies requires you to enforce discipline on your child. And making sure your child is using the bin to its full potential is perhaps the easiest way to do so. What you need to do, on your part is to make sure that the bin is readily accessible in the bedroom; if not, your child would have a valid excuse to keep using the entire room as a bin. Don’t be over-prescriptive on what category of trash goes into which type of bin. For example, don’t recommend that all organic wastes go into the green bin, stationaries into the blue and everything else into the black bin. While it is a good idea (and you can certainly try this after the 30 day period), it may initially confuse and put her off.
- Discipline is not just about big things in life but also about small everyday chores
- Simply getting rid of unwanted junk may drastically cut down the time required to organize everything else
DAY 5: Importance of a Comfort Zone
Remember the cycle of Rewards and Reinforcements that I was talking about? If your child has been cooperative this far i.e. up till day 5, its now time to set her up for a reward. Identify a corner in the bedroom that she can call her own. Take her out to the IKEA next door and get her to select something that she finds comfortable – like a bean bag or a lounge chair. This is where your child can unwind and relax doing things that she likes; for example, reading a book or playing video games. Allot a specific time and duration in the day where she can be just herself! Remember, that area is off limits for you – it purely belongs to her and she sets the rules. For example, she can keep a couple of books or other items scattered in the zone if that’s what she really wants. However, be very specific in establishing boundaries – “The zone between the south-west corner of the wall to this starting edge of the study table is yours”. Any violation of that, and she doesn’t get her “me” time that day.
Note: it is extremely important for girls with ADHD to have a personal space and some personal time. Boys, may not care much but girls really need it.
- Everyone has a place they can call their own, now I have mine!
- My private space is respected as long as I respect its limits
- I need to earn good things in life and I can’t have them all the time
DAY 6: The Habit of Using Sticky Notes & Labels
This is where you need to exercise a bit of caution. Encourage doing it, but not overdoing the same. Typically, kids with ADHD tend to be highly disorganized and they need some help remembering things to do and how to get them done. This is where post-it notes and labels could be an effective tool. Try to use different types of notes; various sizes and colors, each having its own purpose. For example, the yellow notes may be related to classwork and homework. The green work for the regular household chores like feeding the dog or executing the activities mentioned in this article. The pink ones could be used only to tag high priority items. As I mentioned, the line between doing it right and totally overdoing it is very fine. Use post-its as enablers to try and help your child get organized. Overdoing it would mean that she will ever become more and more dependent on using references to remember things rather than exercising her own memory and prioritizing skills.
- Sorting and categorizing necessary elements
- Applying the right priorities
- Remembering and staying more organized
DAY 7: Keep the Trash belongs to the Bin
By this time, your child would have already started to apply some of the organization techniques. However, she may be trying to cut the corners. You should not be surprised if you discover that her idea of cleaning the bed is by simply shoving everything under it! The best way to deal with that is to kill the opportunity. Remember those excess books on the shelf. Why not neatly stack them up under the bed in sealed cartons. Also, grab some of those plastic bins and pile up all the sheets and pillowcases. If there is still some space left, fill it up with anything that needs a home in labeled containers. Remember, the more the real estate to spread things across, the more discouraged your child would be to keep things in order.
- Shortcuts in life often result in limited or no success
- Trying to outsmart people can often backfire
WEEK 2: Carry on the Good Work
DAY 8: Plan out the Attire
Week 2 starts with a bit of proactive planning as far as the wardrobe is concerned. Many of us often lay out our clothes the night before in order to save those crucial minutes during the morning rush. For children with ADD/ADHD, this activity needs to be stretched to an advance weekly plan. Here is what you need to do. Make room in your child’s closet (like a small shelving unit) with just enough space to lay out five outfits. In the evening, just before your child goes to bed, work with her to pick out what needs to be worn throughout the week. Let her do the selection as long as it is appropriate for the occasion. Do not change the set of attired over the week even if your child insists.
- Importance of planning and executing to the plan
- Wrong decisions (a wrong selection of attire, in this occasion) are a part of life. Its okay to take a few wrong choices as long as you take away the lessons learned.
DAY 9: Seasonal Clothing
Its now time to stow away the unused off-season clothing that may be consuming a significant chunk of the closet space. Patch them up neatly in containers, label them and stow them somewhere out of reach of your child.
The top shelf of the wardrobe or underneath the bed could be a nice option. Don’t do it all by yourself. Guide your child on how they need to be arranged and leave the pick-pack business to her.
- Optimal utilization of limited resources. The assumption here is that the closet space is limited and too many outfits is almost always an obvious cause of clutter.
DAY 10: Two-Part Laundry Baskets
Most children with ADHD are just used to leaving clothes all around the floor. The easiest way to avoid that would be to get a large laundry basket and position it in a prominent location in the room. One option would be to place it right in front the closet door or just next to the bed. At first, you could start with a simple basket into which the kid can dump all her laundry-ware. As a next step, you can upgrade it into a two or three-part basket (like the one shown here) to categorize the kind of clothing. Again work on the reward vs reinforcement technique – if in spite of providing a laundry basket, the child continues to dump clothes all around, then she needs to clean it up as well as do her own laundry. If, however, the laundry basket is used to its true potential, you can do the laundry for her. Children with ADHD are typically lazy. So the idea of not having to do extra work often motivates them.
- Stitch in time saves nine – putting laundry in the basket ensures that she doesn’t need to spend hours on the weekend trying to get clothes sorted
- Getting more organized with small steps at a time (initially just a simple basket which later get upgraded to a segmented one
DAY 11: Categorize the Clothing
From this point onwards, you should observe that your child is slowly getting into the groove. From this point onwards, you may want to notch it uplevel with by letting your child execute the organization plan while you guide and supervise. Its now time for getting the clothes categorized and neatly stacked. The idea would be to have different placeholders for different type of clothing. While the shirts can take up the hanging space, the trousers can be tucked away in drawer chests. The innerwears and hosieries could have their own dedicated rack spaces. If space or closet size is of concern, fear not! There are plenty of cheap closet organizers available on Amazon ranging between $10 and $35, some of them are actually pretty good. * From here on, it’s more about honing the lessons already learnt and applying them through improvisation in real life scenarios. Therefore, unless there is any new lesson to be learnt from a particular day exercise, we will skip the lessons learnt section.
DAY 12: Final Day to Tip Over a Shoe
Mark this day as the last when you tip over a show lying on the floor of your child’s bedroom. Buy your child her own personal shoe rack. Let her choose the design and color. It is a proven fact that having something that the child can call her own is likely to motivate her to use it more. Put the shoe rack in her bedroom, that way she can change her clothes and shoes at the same time. For some families, additional space for a rack in the bedroom could mean a constraint of space. In this case, the best solution would be to have an over the door shoe organizer that could simply hang off the back of the door and not interfere with space.
DAY 13: A Place for Toys
Collecting all the different toys that have been carelessly laid out in every corner of the house is a problem. The first step to handle this would be to get a place to stow them away when not in use. Look at the toy storage section in Amazon to get some ideas. Such modular storages are always a good idea as they take up less space. Do not clutter it with too many toys, just the ones she generally plays with. While floor playing activities, apply the 80-20 rule for your child. What this means is that any point in time, she can bring out and play with 20% of the toys that she generally uses. If she needs more, she has to put something back – it’s more like a public library system where you are the librarian who would only allow the issue of x number of books (in this case toys) at a time.
DAY 14: Toss & Downsize Toys
There is absolutely no value in retaining the old and unused toys – they are neither wine nor vintage cheese! However, there is a specific time to do this piece. The first lot that you throw must be done without the knowledge of your child, and therefore, either after she has gone to bed or when she is in school. You can always keep a few which may have sentimental value, but the vast majority must be tossed or sold off. Chances are pretty high that your child would not even realize that they are gone. In that case, after a couple of days, you should let her know that those old toys have been “dealt with“. Initially, she may get mad at you, but eventually, she will grow over it.
Week 3: Sustain and Improvise
DAY 15: Repurpose Wherever Possible
Well, so far I have already suggested you to buy a lot of new items and discard/stow away the unused ones. But the plan is to start the 3rd week with a twist. Today, you would need to scan your home (and garage) for unused items that could be repurposed for your child’s play. For example, if you have a white bed sheet that you no longer wish to use, you can use it as a tablecloth in your child’s playroom for her to paint. Similarly, old cardboard boxes could you used as bins for paper waste or as toy storage. Request your child to join you for the inspection to identify objects that could be repurposed and then work together to set them up as a mini project
- Resources are not unlimited in life, sometimes you have to make do
- Things often have more than one utility – identifying different use cases for the same object
DAY 16: Importance of a Play Center
You may have a lot of space in your home (lucky you!), but when it comes to kids and their toys/gadgets, the more space you got, the further off they seem to travel. There lies the importance of a play center. You will find quite a lot of options here. If your child is too grown up to be constricted to the boundaries of a playpen, you could still use the concept of area demarkation – may be used a large floor mat. The zone within the playpen or the floor mat is okay to mess with toys and teddies, but be very specific to warn your child not to test the boundaries.
- Respect physical boundaries
- Understand the importance of sticking to the rules
DAY 17: The art of Space Preservation
Well, you may be thinking – “How is this any fair?”. After all, we have been recommending that you maintain a chillout zone, a study area, a play area, a laundry zone and what not. All that takes up space and you don’t live in a 10 bedroom mansion! I know that. But have you observed what we are actually recommending? We are suggesting that you only keep handy stuffs that you need on a day to day basis, everything else goes to storage! You will be surprised that just by stowing away the items that you don’t use on a regular basis, you will be saving acres. But storage also consumes space, you say? I disagree! Just Google “home storage” and you would be surprised at the options you may get. Look at this child seat for example. You could safely park all the stationaries that are used rarely and still use it as a regular chair that your child would love! How is this taking up more space than any other seat?
DAY 18: Space Utilization: Part 2
Let me ask you this – what do you see when you look at an open wall? I see opportunities and lots of space! Imagine how much space you could actually save by mounting your bikes on the wall. How about investing in an additional wall unit (or maybe hone your DIY skills to build yourself one)? Just look at the ideas that cost less than $50. The opportunities are endless.
DAY 19: The all-important Planner
The importance of a planner for treatment of ADHD cannot be undermined. If there are 3 things that your child absolutely needs, those would be a Planner, a Calendar, and a To-Do Checklist. The picture above represents how 12-year-old Jim (real name not disclosed) used to plan his daily life. The highlights on this page is science for him. The greens went according to plan, the orange ones are beginning to get off track while the purple ones have missed the plan.
DAY 20: … and a Calendar
You may ask, why a planner first and then a calendar? Which planner on planet earth exists without a calendar? Isn’t it obvious, how do you plan without a calendar? Well, that’s the idea! You know it, but are you sure your child understands as well? When you give them a planner to chalk out their activities a week in advance, they would want to refer to a calendar. They would understand its practical utility. That, to me, would be an opportune moment to introduce a calendar with note-taking abilities.
DAY 21: Planning the night before School
So far, your child would have acquired some skills in proactive planning. We have covered exercises that require her to plan for days, and often, weeks in advance. It is now your turn to learn the importance of short-term planning. This type of planning involves activities that need to be conducted in preparation for an event happening in very near future. Preparing for school the night before is an excellent example. Dedicate a rack/shelf in your child’s study area for items that need to be carried to school the next day – textbooks, notebooks, the school bag, a globe for geography lessons, a plant seedling for the upcoming biology project, etc. Plan it the night before going to bed. Recognition of success is important! If all your child needs to do, before going to school the following morning, is to pick up the bag before jumping onto the bus, then she should be told that her planning was efficient! If however, she had forgotten something, she may need to be reminded of the improvement opportunities.
Week 4: Continuous Improvement
DAY 22: Compartmental Backpack
Getting a new backpack is a highly efficient way to keep things organized for children in school. Buy one with lots of compartments and pockets (like the ones here). Make sure that you do label each of those pockets and compartments so that your child is never confused on what goes in where. Use separate compartments for notebooks and textbooks. Dedicate pockets for purpose based on subjects. For example, choose a big pocket for Maths – all math stationaries like calculator, geometry box, etc goes into that pocket.
Tip: To make sure your child always carries the planner with her, dedicate the front compartment of the backpack for the planner.
DAY 23: Keeping the Backpack clean
Organizing is NOT a one-time activity! Unless your child develops a habit of keeping things organized, things are going to spiral out of control pretty soon. One way to ensure that your child continues to be organized in school is to ensure that the backpack is kept clean on a regular basis. The best time to do this activity would be just before starting homework in the evening. Things like food crumbs, paper napkins, and scrap paper should be trashed to the bin. Then again, before your child prepares the shelf for school next day (check Day 21), she needs to ensure that the contents of the backpack are re-organized to the specific labels.
DAY 24: Sorting out the Supplies
This is an important lesson for all school going children with ADHD. Stationaries will be in different places in your child’s bedroom – the study, the shelves, the backpack are just a few to name. Sorting those supplies in the right places, so that they could be accessed at the right time is crucial.
A sort-supply planner like this one (click on the attached PDF icon) could be helpful for your child. The idea would be to color and cut the individual pieces, arrange them in the order of size and assign them a destination. For example, the planner is always kept on the lower shelf for the study (except when carrying to school). Stick this label on that designated spot so that your child is never confused.
DAY 25: Mind-map Visualization Technique
Mind mapping is an important visualization technique used for the treatment of ADHD. Mapping events and places is often a good tool to ensure that your child with ADHD always stays organized. It gives them a visual reference that they can apply in order to put things into context. A simple example would be to hand draw the map of the room with its current layout – this should include the storage and furniture as well. Draw a large map and stick it up above the bed. This way the child will always have a ready reference of what stays where. For example, the laptop always stays on the study table-top while the laundry bin is always stashed under the bed.
DAY 26: Basics of Task Management
You would use day 26 to teach your child a very important lesson – Task Management! By this time, you would have already bombarded the poor kid with so much of information, so many rules and too many things to do. So how does your child keep track of all that? The answer lies in the optimal usage of what we call the Organizer Trio: A planner (Day 19) to plan out activities in advance, a calendar (Day 20) to specify when they need to be completed and a to-do checklist maintained on a daily basis to check out the progress.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a highly sophisticated checklist would end up confusing your child. A simple template like this one (click on the PDF link) should do the trick. You may, however, want to consider using different checklist documents fit for purpose. For example, one list just of school, another one for all the home activities discussed so far and the third one for everything else.
DAY 27: Separate Set of Textbooks
If your child has been officially diagnosed with ADHD, she would be entitled by the Federal U.S. law for IEP (Individualized Education Program). In case you haven’t done so already, you need to talk to the child’s school authority to get her enrolled in the program. This would allow her special privileges, such as maintaining an additional set of textbooks – one for school and another one for home. Having such flexibility is great, especially if your child is forgetful and leaves things behind at school.
DAY 28: Showcase & Inspire
By now, you should start observing some strong improvements in your child. She should be more receptive to changes and should start diverting her focus on things that are important. A little bit of encouragement from parents and/or teachers would carry a lot of weight and would act as a confidence booster. It is okay to show her that you are proud of her achievements – and there is no better way to achieve this than by showcasing her best work. A nice essay, a creative painting, a school project dissertation – anything that has been well accomplished should deserve a place on the wall. Not only will it improve her self-confidence, but such display of admiration would motivate your child to perform better and excel you renewed expectations.
DAY 29: Designated Study Zone
By this time, you would have already organized your child’s world. One of the key considerations for teaching organization skills to children with ADHD is to communicate your expectations efficiently. On day 29, you will clearly communicate to your child that there is only one place to get work done – that place being the study zone. Make sure you have a corner in the study to keep some snacks and refreshments.
DAY 30: Study the Progress and Determine Next Steps
The final day of the 30 ADHD Organization plan is all about retrospective thinking and proactive planning. Go back to the top of the post again, and go through all the activities completed over the last 30 days. Its is time to think what worked well and what did not. This will also help you to plan for the next 30 days in advance. Grab a piece of pen and paper and sit down with your child and work out the answers to the following questions:
- Did my child complete all the goals?
- Has my child incorporated all the activities taught over the last month into her daily schedule?
- Has my child shown any symptoms of oppositional defiance?
- What activities did my child enjoy doing?
- What are the activities my child hated the most?
- In which activities did your child meet or supersede expectations?
- Which activities still have ample opportunities for improvement?
- Which activity was the easier to incorporate
- Which activity was most effective in delivering the desired outcome?
- Which activity absolutely failed in achieving its objective?
Once you have agreed on the answers to the above questions, it is now time to spend some time introspecting to yourself. This is the last step in the puzzle where you try to fit and missing piece by incorporating lessons learned over the last month into the plan for the next month. Ask yourself these questions and make adjustments to your plan for the next 30 months
- If I were to formulate my own plan, what would I have done differently?
How can I inject a bit of fun in these regular activities so that my child enjoys doing them?
- Activities where I could have done better to support my child?
- Which other family members can I include in these activities to foster team spirit
- How can I improve mechanisms for rewards, recognition, and reinforcement to better establish my authority?
It is highly unlikely that a 30-day organization bootcamp will do wonders for your child. However, I am sure you would agree that this is a crucial first step in the treatment of ADHD in a progressive and natural environment. Keep repeating these 30-day cycles 3 to 4 times and you would very soon see a tangible difference.