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Why Some Kids Have Messy Backpacks

By The Understood Team

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When your child brings worksheets or papers home from school, what do they look like when they come out of the backpack? Are any of them flat and clean? Or are they crumpled, torn, and dirty from being crammed in a messy backpack with all kinds of stuff? Can you or your child even find them in that mess?

Often, messy is in the eye of the beholder. If a few pieces of clothing are on the floor, some people might see a mess. Others might see some items that need to be picked up, or not notice them at all.

But most people would agree: A book bag or backpack that’s overflowing with things that are randomly thrown in is messy.

If that’s what your child’s backpack looks like, you may wonder why it’s always such a mess. Especially if it looks like that right after you cleaned it out and organized it. Does your child not see the mess, or not care about it?

Learn why some kids have messy backpacks, and what you can do to help your child stay organized.

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Is Your Child Choosing to Be Messy?

For some kids, messiness is a choice. There are things they’d rather be doing than cleaning up and getting organized. If it’s up to them, they’re going to do the stuff that’s interesting and fun. Having to sift through a mess is a small price to pay. But if they need to get it together and clean up, they have no trouble doing it.

For other kids, organizing a backpack (and keeping it that way) is a challenge. Messiness is not a choice. They’re simply having a hard time. That’s because cleaning up a messy backpack takes a bunch of steps. And it involves a bunch of skills, including staying focused.

So how can you tell what’s going on? One way is to see what happens when it’s time to clean up the backpack. If your child knows all the steps, keeps focused on them, and follows them to the end, you’ll know the task isn’t a challenge. You may need to help set up a system. But your child can do it after that.

But if your child is struggling to keep things organized, it may not be so obvious. You might see behavior that doesn’t even seem related. Your child might get really frustrated or angry when it’s time to do homework. Or just walk off without taking out a single thing. It’s also possible your child will throw most things away without looking at them.

It may seem like your child is choosing to ignore the responsibility of cleaning up or is being defiant. But is the messiness limited to the backpack? Does it only happen when you tell your child to clean up?

Another way to tell if the messy backpack is a choice or a challenge is to think about the other spaces your child needs to keep neat. Are your child’s clothes in drawers or all over the floor? Is your child’s locker or desk as messy as the backpack?

Kids have a hard time keeping their backpack and other spaces neat for a lot of reasons. Some may have trouble with focus or with following directions. Or they may have difficulty with organization and planning.

What Can Help

There are lots of ways to help kids who have a hard time being neat. Watch this video on how to organize your child’s backpack. Download and fill out a backpack checklist so your child knows what to put inside. And get tips and strategies for helping kids get organized.

Once you come up with a system, it should be easier for your child to get and stay organized. If you’re still concerned about your child’s messy backpack, learn more about why kids have trouble with organization.

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom