organizing with ADHD

10-day plan and 5 tips for organizing a messy room of a kid with ADHD

By Fatima Malik


Kids with ADHD are notorious for having messy rooms. The low blood flow to their brain’s executive function doesn’t physically allow them to be organized in the more traditional sense. 


So, we need to find non-traditional ways to help kids with ADHD stay organized (or at least keep their room from becoming inhospitable.)


Here are some tips that could help, but remember, your kid needs to be part of the process. If you end up doing everything for them, they wouldn’t learn the skills to help them when they are older. 


The 5 tips


  1.  Divide the organization of the room into tasks that are planned over a few days. This is so that neither of you is overwhelmed by the project. Assign one day for each task, no matter how small (try not to make the tasks too big).
  2. Label everything. I’ll go into more detail below, but it will help to have some labelling material from the dollar store or staples etc. 
  3. Colours are important. So when we’re organizing desks or workspaces, having different coloured organizational boxes is a visual aid that helps the child stay organized.
  4. Closet organizers are essential in keeping a child’s room from looking like a tornado went through it.
  5. Utilizing the space under the bed. Instead of having the area under the bed be an ‘escape plan’ for the child’s mess, use it so that it keeps the child from shoving things under the bed in an attempt to ‘clean up.’ 


When planning to organize the room, establish some unbreakable rules; for example, the bed is for sleeping; it is not storage for unused clothing or toys or a trash can for food wrappers etc. 

See also our 10-tips for parenting kids with ADHD


The 10-day plan


Day 1: Start by having your child clean out the bed. Trash goes in the trash can, and clothes go in the closet or dresser.

Then get them to help you change the sheets and set up a schedule (a reminder in the child’s or your device) to change the sheets every two weeks or once a month (depending on how dirty the sheets get). Depending on how old your child is, changing the sheets can be assigned to them directly. 

Assign one toy that stays on the bed and store the rest in a big plastic box and label it. The child is allowed to change the toy for another from the box, but only one stays in the bed at a time.


Day 2: On the second day, it would help to organize the closet. If you’ve arranged closet organizers, the labels will come in handy now. 

If there is a shelving unit in the closet, assign each shelf for something; for example, the top shelf is for clothes for school the next day. This shelf will be assigned new clothes each day for the following morning. 

If you feel the child should pick out clothes for the week, then five shelves can be used for assigned clothing for each school day. These will be replenished every Sunday for the week. 

Lable the shelves by day or by items depending on what you decide to use the shelf for.


Day 3: Shoe rack. Shoes need space, and having a shoe rack (that hangs behind a door or inside the closet) will help the child keep their shoes organized and away from the floor to avoid adding to clutter. Label the shoe rack as much as possible. Alternately you can use the organizational boxes to put shoes in and store them under the bed (remember to label them).


Day 4: Desk/workspace. If your child has a desk, buy brightly coloured boxes to organize the items on the desk and label them clearly. Pens and pencils go in a separate container than important papers. Label the drawers.


Day 5: Set up the creative space/play area. Depending on how old your child is, if there is a play area, use old bedsheets or towels to cover the floor so the child can play freely, especially if they are painting or colouring. 


Use brightly coloured boxes (labelled) for toys but not before filtering out some toys to through away or give to charity. 

Organize the toys by category, for example, cars, trucks, trains together, and stuffed toys together.

Have the child pack up toys in respective boxes once they are done playing.


Day 6: That dark space under the bed. All these boxes with toys or shoes (if you choose not to get a shoe rack) or art supplies etc., can be stored under the bed to utilize the space and prevent the child from hiding stuff down there when they don’t feel like cleaning up. 


Day 7: If there are projects or toys the child likes to display, try adding hooks or a magnetic strip (for tiny cars or other small metal toys) for them to display on the wall. 

For papers, or projects or drawings, have a small corkboard display their achievements or art. For projects they did well in, place them in the center to boost the child’s self-worth and confidence (something children with ADHD lack).


Day 8: Making the bed every day. It seems simple enough and takes less than five minutes yet, so many people do not make their beds in the morning. 

Making the bed will help the child keep it from turning into ‘storage space.’ It also adds a calming effect on the brain (psychologically) – and so does using subtle colours for the bedsheets. 

Shades of blue and green in the bedroom are known to help a person feel at ease and calm. Any combination of pastel colours or whites and greys have the same psychological effect.


Day 9: Keeping the room brightly lit. It might not seem like a big deal, but dimly lit rooms can actually cause depression. Of course, it is not the same as a dimly lit restaurant where you’re having a nice candle-lit dinner – your child’s room is nothing like that dinner date. 

Their room is where they live, so to have it brightly lit or having the option to have it brightly lit is essential. 

There should be enough lamps or lights (or the watts used) to light up the child’s room so they can do their projects, read a book, do their homework, play or make art. 

Once it is bedtime, one lamp for ‘winddown’ time can be used to facilitate. 


Day 10: Organizing the bookshelf. If your child’s room has a bookshelf, help them organize the books however they prefer, for example, oldest to newest, by colour, alphabetically or by genre (remember to label it). This will encourage your child to read on a regular basis as well as keep it organized. 

If there is one household bookshelf, have the child organize their portion of it however they want and label it. 

It would also help to assign a comfortable reading spot for the child so as to encourage reading.


Organizational skills are learned through practice. A child with ADHD requires additional help and probably a little more practice than a neurotypical child but these are skills that can be taught and learned. 


If you need additional help parenting a child with ADHD or need professional advice, please contact us at 1-866-503-7454

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Positive Kids
Author: Positive Kids

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