July 13, 2014

Back-to-school Help from professional organizers

Success in school often depends on how well a student manages to organize everything from demanding schoolwork to a dizzying array of after-school activities to technological distractions.

That’s a lot to ask of a child, or even of busy parents.

For those with disposable income, a new breed of experts is stepping in to help: professional organizers for kids.

“Nine years ago, when I started Order Out of Chaos, I had to explain to people what a professional organizer was. Now, it’s not what’s an organizer, but who’s your organizer?” says Leslie Josel of Mamaroneck, New York, who offers to help kids manage everything from elementary school to dorm life.

“As parents, we walk into the house and say, ‘Go get your soccer cleats,’ ‘Go get your dance things,’ ‘Do your homework,’” says Josel. But organization is like a muscle, she says, “and if you’re the one spewing all those instructions out, the only one working out that brain muscle is you. You’re ending up nagging instead of training.”

Ask children before they head out the door what they think they will need for the day. “After a while, it becomes as much of a habit as brushing teeth or putting on a seat belt,” Josel says.

And come up with systems for paper and time management at home and at school. “If it takes your child more than two steps to do something, they’re not going to do it,” she says.

Many of the hundreds of professional organizers nationwide are mothers or former teachers who have helped children deal with “executive dysfunction,” the technical term for the problem. Some earn certification from groups such as the New Jersey-based National Association of Professional Organizers or the St. Louis-based Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

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