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How does a free spirit get organized?

Vertical shelves, like the CB2's Array Bookcase, make great space-savers.
Vertical shelves, like the CB2's Array Bookcase, make great space-savers. CB2

It’s a sound heard up and down neighborhood streets, mostly from households with adolescents: the shutting of bedroom doors. These parents are exhausted by efforts to get their kids to keep clean rooms.

Teenagers aren’t often glorified for their organizational skills. Whether that’s a fair rap or not, it’s enough of an issue to keep professional organizer Anne Steppe busy year round.

Steppe, of Simplicity Organizers in Charlotte, frequently gets calls from parents looking for help organizing a teen’s bedroom.

But not all people organize the same way, and that, said Steppe, is often at the root of a family’s problem.

“A lot of times what we see is that a parent is trying to force their idea of organization onto their child,” she said. “But everybody’s organizational style is different because everybody’s brain is different, and so much of how we organize is linked to that.”

Still, there are strategies for organization that typically can work for anyone in need of a little organization.

Here are a few ideas to help your teen. With a little practice, he or she can start a new routine before the next school bell rings.

Place solutions where the problems lie

If crumpled papers congregate by the window, the trash can might work better over there instead of tucked in the corner. If your teen drops clothes on the floor near the bed, maybe it’s time to give in to practical solutions. GeckoTech Reusable Hooks can solve those types of issues. Place the micro-suction hooks wherever they’re needed – on the wall to hang a backpack, or on a bedpost to keep that favorite sweatshirt off the floor. The hooks are available in 1/2, 1, 3 and 5-pound capacity. Each one is reusable and designed to prevent damage to surfaces. $8-$15 at staples.com.

Choose furniture that fits your teen’s space and style

Stuffing a bedroom with too much furniture – a bed, dresser, desk, nightstand, beanbag and shelving systems – can clutter a room and a teenage mind. That doesn’t mean you need to skimp on furniture that helps organize. The Array Silver Bookcase by CB2 has a 14-inch footprint and takes advantage of a room’s vertical space. Best of all, each of its 10 shelves can hold up to 9 pounds of calculus, English literature and physics textbooks. $189 at CB2.com.

Give electronic devices a home base

The average teenager these days has multiple mobile gadgets. Keeping them in one location is good organization. The Multi-Charging Station from Great Useful Stuff can charge a laptop, tablet and three mobile devices. It’s compatible with most makes and models, and it allows cords to snake through the bottom for a clean, tangle-free look. Available in white, harvest and denim hues. $50 at greatusefulstuff.com.

Quarantine gear for after-school activities

Nothing halts the morning carpool like a teenage tornado caused by that last-minute search for a tennis racquet or trumpet needed for practice later in the day. Steppe recommends using one shelf for each activity and labeling it as reminder of what belongs there. She uses IKEA’s Kallax Shelving Series for most teen room organizing jobs. They come in a variety of sizes, with features such as cabinet doors and castors for mobility. $15-$269 at IKEA.com.

Set up a filing system

With the onslaught of papers coming home with students, there’s no time like the middle and high school years to teach teens the benefits of organizing paperwork. “It’s really about life skills and teaching them early,” said Steppe, who recommends a filing system for school subjects, club notices and anything else that may need to be referred to in the near future. With a rainbow of bright colors available, Poppin’s Stow File Cabinet is marketed toward teens. Its locking drawers can keep snooping younger siblings out of the loop. 360-degree swivel castors allow it move around the room as needed. $249 at poppin.com.

Keep a schedule front and center

Football practice, college admission exam dates, dance recitals, geometry tests – the average teen has a lot going on. Keeping a calendar out in the open can give enough advance notice so nothing gets missed. Steppe cautions, however, that displaying activities too far ahead can cause anxiety. “Know how far your child can think ahead,” she said. The Self-Adhesive Chalkboard Dry Erase Calendar from Oriental Trading Co. is a fun way to keep track of a month of activities. It comes with 35 squares, a notes section, and a sticker to name the month. $10 at orientaltrading.com.

Tips to help organize a teenager’s bedroom

▪ Ask questions. Teens and parents often have different ideas of how to organize. Letting teens make some of the decisions may help them take ownership and encourage them to maintain their system.

▪ Start with a clean slate. Determine what’s truly needed in the room, then return an organized version of those items.

▪ Avoid too much furniture. Most rooms aren’t designed for a bookcase, bed, dresser, shelving system and desk. In fact, desks are often dumping grounds that hinder organization instead of helping.

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