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Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life

Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life

4.3 12
by Julie Morgenstern, Jessi Morgenstern-Colón

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From Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens:

Jessi Says

What's My Payoff?
My bedroom is my home base and keeping it organized is a must. If my room isn't in solid condition, it's difficult to keep the rest of my life on track. Here are some other reasons that motivate me to keep my room organized:
- My room is the only


From Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens:

Jessi Says

What's My Payoff?
My bedroom is my home base and keeping it organized is a must. If my room isn't in solid condition, it's difficult to keep the rest of my life on track. Here are some other reasons that motivate me to keep my room organized:
- My room is the only space on the entire planet that is solely mine.
- My organized room allows me to maximize my space and time.
- My room boosts my confidence.
- My room gives others (especially my mom!) confidence in me.
- Organizing my room allows me to do what I want, when I want.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Another mother/daughter team joins forces in Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern with Jessi Morgenstern-Colon. The comprehensive volume opens by assessing the symptoms of disorganization, providing a diagnosis and offering a prescription for change. Subsequent chapters put readers in "Analyze-Strategize-Attack" mode as they take on messy bedrooms, backpacks and cluttered social calendars.

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Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens

The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life

By Julie Morgenst, Jessi Morgenstern-Colón, Janet Pedersen

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2002 Julie Morgenstern and Jessi Morgenstern-Colón
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9817-8


What's Holding You Back?

If you're reading this book, chances are that you think you are a disorganized person (or someone you know thinks you are). You've been sometimes lovingly, and other times scoldingly, referred to as a slob, mess-aholic, or pack rat.

We're going to bust a lot of myths about getting organized, and here is the first one. Organizing is not about discipline. It's about design. If your system is a custom fit for you, maintaining it will be a breeze. You don't have to change who you are to get organized. You have to work with your natural habits and goals. You design the system to support you, not to change you.

In the game of organization, substance is what matters, not style. Many people keep their rooms looking so neat and clean, you'd think you could eat off their floor. However, when push comes to shove, they can never find anything — because inside their drawers and closets, it's utter chaos. Others have rooms that are all piles, a stack of papers here, a mountain of clothes there, but when it's time to look for something they need, they can find it within seconds.

Messy does not equal disorganized. It doesn't matter if people think that your room looks like a disaster area. Here's the definition of organizing this book is based on: If you know where your stuff is, are able to find what you need when you need it, and are comfortable in your space, then you're organized! If you're happy with your schedule and comfortable with where your time is spent, then you are a good time manager. In that case you probably don't even need to read any further. But be honest with yourself. Take the following self- assessment to see if your piles are a help or a hindrance and if you're really as organized as you'd like to be.

You've tried to get organized in the past. Many times. Well, at least you've thought about it. You've spent marathon weekends sorting through the clutter in your room, getting rid of as much as you can, yet within days you're right back to the way it looked before. Your parents have doled out big bucks for every kind of calendar, Palm Pilot, and pager ever invented, alarm clocks that sing your favorite show tunes ... but you still find yourself racing behind the clock.

You're envious of the kids who seem to have it all together, who fit in a million after-school activities, get straight A's, are never late for anything, and always know where their keys are.

Is organizing a mysterious talent some lucky people are born with, while the rest of the world's poor, unfortunate souls (like you) are left to suffer? The truth is that organizing is a remarkably simple skill that anyone can learn. We have both learned it. And you can, too. That's what this book is all about.

Say it out loud: I am not a disorganized person! The fact is, everybody is organized somewhere. No matter how messy your room is, no matter how often you have lost your library books or scrambled at the last minute to do your homework, there's no doubt that somewhere — buried under the piles, hidden inside the chaos — there are some systems that are working for you. Right now, before reading any further, take a moment to define where you are organized by consulting the "Where Are You Organized?" assessment on the following page. Why start there, you ask? Because it builds confidence. It gives you energy. And it's the truth.

"Look at all this junk!" "I gotta get rid of this clutter!" "I've got way too much stuff!" Many of us believe that organizing is about getting rid of as much "junk" as we possibly can. But organizing is never about throwing things away. It's about discovering what's important and giving yourself access to it. So instead of looking at organizing as a punishing process, like being stripped of all your treasures and gold, think of it as identifying what's important to you and honoring it by giving it a place in your space or your schedule.

Many of us are collectors at heart. Fortunately, organizing doesn't mean saying good-bye to all our treasures. You don't have to live like a monk to be organized. Instead, celebrate all your worldly possessions by arranging them in one place. For instance, you can keep your vast collection of concert T-shirts folded on one or two easy-to-reach shelves rather than leaving them strewn about your closet and stuffed in random drawers. Or, consolidate your zillions of photos into a matching set of boxes and albums so you can actually enjoy looking at them. After all, what's the point of gathering all of those wonderful treasures if you can't find them when you want them?

You may be wondering: If organizing is a skill that anyone can learn, why am I so disorganized? Most people believe that clutter is caused by laziness, sloppiness, or pure incompetence. That could be the biggest myth of all. All messes are not created equal. There are actually more causes for clutter than you can imagine, and none of them have to do with your being lazy (even if you are sometimes!).

Rather than beating yourself up and dismissing yourself as a hopeless case, take a look at the ten most common causes of disorganization described below. The good news is that every problem has a cure. By pinpointing the real reasons for your chaos, you'll take the first steps toward solving the problem and save yourself lots of time and energy in the process. Read through the following symptoms and see if you can get to the root of your clutter.

Organizational Roadblocks


[] I never put things back in the same place twice.

[] I have new clothes, games, papers, or books and can't figure out where to put them.

[] There are so many things I want to do, but I have no idea when to do them.


The bottom line is, you can't put something away if there's no place to put it. And you won't be able to plan a friend's party or finish your chemistry lab work if you haven't set aside time in your schedule to do it. If your room is overrun by piles and clutter, one reason may be that you have not designated homes for many of your things. As a dynamic and changing person, you probably acquire new possessions on a daily basis: every new year brings new interests and the accessories that go with it; every new class involves a new set of books. Your to-do list grows right alongside your expanding commitments. You end up with so much stuff to do and track, you get to the point that you don't know where to put anything anymore. So, you drop things anywhere, tuck tasks into any available pocket of space, and end up not getting to a lot of things.


Create one single, permanent home for each item (or category of items) that you own. For example, pens, pencils, and markers could go in the top desk drawer; calculators, compasses, and rulers in the middle; spare paper and stationery in the bottom, permanently. That way, if you are in the middle of math homework, you know exactly which drawer to look in for your graphing calculator. It's actually not so complicated to designate a home for every item. Chapter 2 will give you a memorable and clever way to figure out what goes where so you'll never forget.

This rule also applies to your to-dos. You need to assign a specific home (or time) to each task on your to-do list. Pick the particular day and the time you will do various projects and take care of responsibilities — being specific will ensure they won't be forgotten. Part 3 of this book will teach you more about finding the best times to do various tasks and how to keep track of your plans.


[] I can't reach places where things belong.

[] My doors, cabinets, and/or drawers are stuck.

[] My bins are piled too high.

[] I find that it becomes too hard to put things away.


More than half the time, you have designated a home for your belongings, but those homes are just too hard to get to. The shelves are too high to reach. The dresser drawer is broken and too hard to open. The closet door is blocked by a big chair, which you have to shove out of the way just to hang up your clothes. The hamper is down the hall in the bathroom. No wonder your dirty clothes are piled on the floor of your room!


Nobody will put things away if it's too hard. You've got to make the process more convenient. The secret is to store things where you use them, not necessarily where they fit. And fix or remove broken doors and drawers. This entire book is full of tips and suggestions for relocating items within arm's reach of where you use them.


[] My filing system is way too confusing to me.

[] I have boxes inside boxes inside drawers on my shelves.

[] I tried organizing my CDs with number codes, but I can't remember what the codes mean.

[] I have too many drawers and cubbies to remember what goes where.


An overly complex system becomes a black hole — things go in but they never come out. Trust in your system disintegrates faster than a sumo wrestler in quicksand, and you stop putting things away because you're afraid you'll never see them again.

Erez was working on a community service project that he was really excited about, but keeping track of all the paperwork was a huge challenge. There were flyers and announcements for volunteers; letters to the city to ask for special permissions; plans and invitations for fund-raising events; phone numbers and e-mail addresses for all the volunteers; multiple copies of meeting notes. He created a new folder for every separate piece of paper he acquired, and pretty soon he never knew where to look. His filing system got so complicated, he stopped using it, and all the papers ended up in a big pile on the floor next to his desk.

When it comes to time management, disorganization can result when you take an overly complex approach to certain large projects. Ariele had an oral history project to do. Although she was only required to interview three people, she decided to interview ten. In preparation for each interview, she also decided she needed to read five or six history books. Once she finished interviewing so many people, it would take her months to weed through and interpret all her data. She had unnecessarily overcomplicated it.


The solution here is to simplify your system. When it comes to stuff, always look for the broadest categories to sort your belongings into. When it comes to overwhelming projects, you need to learn how to break them down into small, manageable steps. The kindergarten model in Chapter 2 will help you simplify both organizing and time- management systems so that there's only one logical place to put or find any item. Part 3 on time management will give you lots of specific examples of breaking tasks down into smaller parts.


[] All of my drawers, closets, and shelves are filled to capacity.

[] My containers are bulging with overflowing contents.

[] My to-do list goes on for six pages. I have way too much to do, but not enough time.

[] No matter how busy I am, there's still so much more to do.


If your dresser is buckling under the pressure of crammed drawers, your closet is packed to capacity, and even your windowsill hasn't seen the light of day in years, you may be suffering from a clear-cut case of object overload. This can happen in a little room or a big room but the feeling is that your stuff is squeezing you out. If your to-do list never stops and you barely have time to eat, you may also be suffering from an unrealistic workload. We don't need to tell you: a teen's life can be very hectic and demanding. Things may have been pretty calm and manageable in elementary school, but once you hit junior high school, BLAM, the pressure started to pile on. Too much work, too much responsibility, and too many expectations.


There are two main ways to tackle this situation:

1. Reduce the amount of stuff/activities.

2. Maximize the amount of storage/time in your day.

Getting rid of things can be one of the hardest parts of organizing, but there are ways to make it easier if it's really necessary to make sure you still have room for your bed! No matter how large or small your space is, making a little space go a long way is one of the crucial organizational skills this book will help you acquire.

In every chapter, you'll learn how to sort through your items and decide what to keep and what to toss. You'll also discover new ways of stretching space and finding storage where none seems to exist.

On the time front: When your workload gets too heavy, you need to learn how to say no, how to delay certain tasks and maximize your energy and time every day. Part 3 of this book is entirely devoted to giving you the time-management skills needed to find the right balance, eliminate procrastination, and work with your natural rhythms and preferences to get the most out of each day. You may actually have enough time on your hands, but simply need to use it better.


[] I'm afraid if I put anything away, I'll never find it again.

[] If I can't see things, I forget I own them.

[] I leave things out to remember to do them, but forget they are there.


Many of us are afraid that if we put things away in a closet or a drawer we will forget they exist. So we leave things out to remember them, a visual to-do list. For example, you stack the overdue library books by your door so that you'll remember to grab them before you leave for school. On your dresser, you may have a pair of jeans that need mending, a sweater that you have to return to your friend who left it at your house last time she slept over, and a permission slip that you have to get your mom to sign. Visual reminders are great if they actually work. However, for most people, leaving everything out in the open makes their sight go blurry. Piles blend into one another, making visual reminders virtually invisible, and you begin to ignore them.


If the piles are not doing their job to keep you on track, the solution is to find a new, more effective reminder system. This usually involves combining a simple storage system so your stuff is always in the same, reliable place, along with a to-do list, planner, or calendar to tell you what you need to do. The kindergarten model in Chapter 2 offers a foolproof way of organizing spaces so you never lose or forget what you own. Chapter 7 will teach you how to select and use a to-do list, planner, or agenda to remind you what you need to do and when you need to do it.


[] I share a room with a disorganized sibling.

[] My stuff keeps getting taken by my sister/brother.

[] I want to move to the attic — any space that's just mine.

[] Everyone in my family is a pack rat.

[] My house is too cluttered to bring friends home.

[] Every time I set aside an hour to tackle one of my to-dos, my parents ask me to do something else.


In your quest for a sane, peaceful, and organized environment, living with a disorganized family can be one of the most difficult hurdles to clear. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to establish order in a room you share with a sib who is only too happy to live out the rest of his or her days in a pigsty. It's equally frustrating when you have your supplies really well organized, and family members keep borrowing them without returning them because they can never find their own. In a chaotically run household, everything often happens at the last minute, making it very hard for you to make and stick to any plans of your own. If everyone in your family — from your grandfather on down to your parents, aunts, and uncles — is disorganized, carving out your own little oasis of order can present a major challenge.


Aspiring to neatness in a disorganized family can be like trying to lose weight in an overweight family — there can be lots of guilt and anger on both sides. Recognize that organizing can start with just your space. In fact, if your family seems disinterested in getting organized, give up trying to motivate them to see things your way and focus exclusively on your own individual area. Let everybody know that you're not trying to convert them. You just want your space to be organized.

If you are sharing a room, try subdividing the space in a way that gives each of you your individual sections. Screens, beads, and furniture can all work well as room dividers. Label your supplies with a label maker — and start charging your sib a lending fee every time he or she has borrowed things without returning them. Also, give special consideration to who's in the front half of the room and who's in the back. If you can't stand looking at the clutter, think about taking the half of the room closest to the door. If you prefer the privacy, you can go in the back and let your sibling have the front so that your sib doesn't have to walk through your space to get to his or hers.


Excerpted from Organizing from the Inside Out for Teens by Julie Morgenst, Jessi Morgenstern-Colón, Janet Pedersen. Copyright © 2002 Julie Morgenstern and Jessi Morgenstern-Colón. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

The author of the New York Times bestseller Organizing from the Inside Out
(0-8050-5649-1) and Time Management from the Inside Out (0-8050-6469-9), Julie Morgenstern makes regular appearances on Oprah and is a contributing editor to O Magazine.

The author of the New York Times bestseller Organizing from the Inside Out and Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern makes regular appearances on Oprah and is a contributing editor to O Magazine.
Jessi Morgenstern-Colón contributed to Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers from Henry Holt and Co..

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Organizing from the Inside Out For Teens 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book simply tells you how to get ORGANIZED! And not in the way your mom and dad tell you. Jessi is a student herself so she understood us. Its simply perfect for the person who wants to get organized (even for adults)!!!It was funny sometimes too. GET THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is for every teen looking to get organized. It shows helpful hints, pictures, stories, and much more. If you really want to get organized and scheduled GET THIS BOOK. Kudos!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a great book!!!! i used to have an absolutely awful room. i spent a couple precious hours every couple weeks trying to organize it but it just got back to the way it was before. i feel so on top of things now and i have so much more time to devote to tennis, dance, and a social life!!! Everyone needs this book!!!!!!! it is the best! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. If you are a teen, you HAVE 2 read it. It is essential to teen life. I have the book and i've read it twice now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect book for anybody trying to do it all and still have a life (like me, hehe). It makes it easy to organize your time and your room by breaking it down, listing the tools, and even giving examples. Don't miss this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hi, I am a 13 year old, and my mother was constantly yelling at me to clean my room, 'You're so unorganized and sloppy!' she'd yell. One day, I went to BORDERS bookstore, and I found this book, so I figured I'd buy it. I bought it and started to read it as soon as I got home. This book helped me soooo much, I helped me get rid of clutter in my room, and in my closet, it helped me organize my time, my locker, & my bookbag. It helped me find more time for my family and friends, and it helped me balance my time between school, xtra cirricular activities, a job, studying, friends, and family. This would be a great gift for your child. Theres also and adult verson for adults. This is a very helpful book and i loved it. It helps you develope a unique system to fit your lifestyle!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has seriously helped me. The analyze, strategize, and attack method really helped me! The book's real examples were so easy to relate to. Thanx a million, Julie and Jessi!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book single-handidly turned my life around. i and almost flunked out of school before i read this book. after reading these amazing tips i suddenly new how to juggle my scoial life and school work. now im getting straight A's and ive never been happier! thank you so much.
CasualUnclutterer More than 1 year ago
I’m writing this as a 52-year-old, not a teenager. But for my money at least, this is NOT just a reprinting of Julie Morgenstern’s “Organizing from the Inside Out.” Julie’s daughter Jessi offers an independent, spirited and insightful young person’s fresh opinions about Julie’s techniques which hopefully make organizing relevant and accessible to teenagers. Jessi translates her mother’s techniques convincingly, and adds in a few of her own, to help her audience achieve accomplishments as diverse as having more time for a church youth group to playing more music. Julie and Jessi polled a wide range of young adults to define this book. I have tremendous respect for the results. Lauren Williams, Owner, Casual Uncluttering LLC, Woodinville, WA USA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really didn't like thiis book at all because... well i have a 'system' already but my mom thinks it = mess! none of the orginazing tips helped me...AT ALL!! I really just didn't like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nothing in this book helped me at all. The writing style was very poor, and the figurative speech bothered me.