In my carefree kid days, homework was often left behind—sometimes on my desk, in my unmade bed, or even under it, falling victim to the morning rush. And, yes, I usually left assignments for the last minute—when I remembered them at all. Made my grades suffer and my mother gnash her teeth. In fact, it got so bad she finally declared, “Young lady, this is my house, and I’ve had enough.” There was no turning back. She had me in her sights—no wiggle room. And so she single-handedly remade my seventh grade self. By organizing my life, her house looked better—and so did my grades and attitude. Now I’m passing along the favor.

While some kids are remarkably organized, many are frequently in a state of disrepair, searching for misplaced papers and playing catch-up. Sound familiar? To start, check off the following statements that ring true about your child, and then we’ll talk solutions.

____ 1. Sometimes/often leaves projects and reports to the last minute.
____ 2. Sometimes/often studies for tests at the last minute.
____ 3. Sometimes/often drops clothes on the floor.
____ 4. Sometimes/often neglects to record assignments, so we don’t know what needs
____ 5. Seldom/never posts upcoming tests, projects, or reports where they are readily
____ 6. Does not have a storage place for school supplies.
____ 7. Has a notebook that’s a jumble of papers.
____ 8. Seldom sorts and correctly files the day’s papers.
____ 9. Sometimes/often tosses out returned worksheets and tests at the end of a unit
of study—or even before!
____ 10. Sometimes misplaces completed homework and so loses points.
____ 12. Sometimes/often leaves schoolwork strewn about and then rushes around in the
morning trying to gather it all up—sometimes unsuccessfully.

Now, add up your checkmarks. More than eight suggests your child, like me in days of old, needs an organization makeover. With four to seven checks, some fix-ups are still in order. Start by shopping for school supplies together, including an assignment book and sturdy binder—nothing spiral-bound—together with a pencil case, a made-for-binder three-hold punch, and pocket folder for holding completed assignments. New assignments are stored in the right pocket throughout the day and moved to the left one upon completion. This way, no misplaced homework. Also purchase plenty of dividers—one for each major subject, plus one each for its accompanying notes, tests/quizzes, and returned homework. Usually one divider will do for minor subjects, such as art and health.

At home, keep such supplies as notebook paper, pencils, pens, highlighters, index cards, poster board, printer ink cartridges, etc. on hand. You’ll also need a dictionary and thesaurus. Then, once school starts, make sure assignments are recorded every day. Not sure? Then request teachers’ signatures. And, to avoid forgetting, it’s also helpful to display a large calendar for recording long-term projects and reports, important dates and activities. Meanwhile, help your child sort and correctly file papers, so nothing is ever misplaced or lost. Call it “housecleaning” and make it a weekend habit. Additionally, maintain an over-sized notebook or box for storing completed units of study for later reference and final exam preps. Finally, create a Drop Spot for gathering all school-related materials at bedtime, ready and waiting come morning.

So there you have it, a start-up kit of tips for sorting though the clutter and helping your child put and keep everything in its rightful place, findable at a moment’s notice. As a Wal-Mart ad once declared, “Life is so much easier when it’s organized.”