Best-selling author and organizing consultant, Marie Kondo, published a guide called, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which has set off an organizational frenzy around the world. In a nutshell, the “KonMari method,” consists of a two-pronged approach in which you begin by purging all of the items in your household that don’t bring you joy or are not of service to you anymore.
Once you have carefully narrowed it down to the few items that add value to your life, it’s time to decide how to arrange them. Kondo recommends that you place these items in sight and that they’re easily accessible, that way you are more likely to grab them and put them back in their proper place when you are done using them.
Just as the “KonMari method” has been applied to households across the globe, students can easily adapt some of her key principles to de-clutter their backpacks and remain organized during the school year.
Step #1: Approach Organizing by Category, Rather than Randomly
As a student, organization was never my strong suit, and the only time I organized my backpack was when it was literally piping to the brim with useless papers and workbooks. Had I put greater forethought into organization and implemented a tried and true method, I surely could have done more to maximize my academic potential.
Kondo’s first principle of tidying is to organize by category. Start by dealing with all of your folders first, and then move on to notebooks and binders. Use the same approach when dealing with each one of these categories. Start by determining whether or not each paper is “of value,” meaning that you are still using it in class or it can be used to study for an upcoming test, mid-term or final exam. Keep all of the papers that you deem “of value.”
Step #2: Now, What Do I Do With These “Valuable Papers?”
Once you are left with only these papers, it is time to determine where they should be kept. A folder should be used to store work that both needs to be completed and work that has been completed and needs to be turned in. Open each folder and simply write, “To-Do” with a Sharpie on the left-hand side of the folder for work that your teacher has given you that needs to be completed and “Completed,” for work that you have completed that needs to be turned in.
Some students have one homework folder that holds multiple subjects, while other students may choose to have multiple homework folders for different subjects. Whichever option you decide upon is fine, as long as you are using each folder consistently.
Step #3: What Happens if a “Valuable Paper” doesn’t fit in either of these Categories?
When you come across a paper that you have deemed, “valuable,” and find that it doesn’t fit in the “To-Do” or “Completed” section of your folder, don’t fret, there are several practical suggestions for papers that fall outside of these categories. Some papers, such as: a graded test, graded homework assignment, graded essay, class notes or a hand-out are valuable and should NOT be thrown away, but don’t have a designated place in your homework folder. These papers can either be hole punched and put in the proper section of your binder (use dividers in your binder and organize it by subject) or you can set up an at-home filing system organized by subject.
The at-home filing system is recommended for papers that are valuable but not currently being used or drawn upon in class. A perfect example of a paper that would go in your at-home filing system would be a hand-out that you aren’t using that contains information you will need to review for a cumulative mid-term or final exam. By storing all of these papers in files, when it comes time to study, you will not find yourself running around trying to track down the material. You have been doing it slowly and methodically all along.
Step #4: Staying on Track and Minimizing Relapse
As Kondo suggests, you only need to undertake a major organizational intervention once if it is done correctly. The rest is just simple, basic maintenance, but the upkeep must be done daily or else the structure collapses and you’re back to ground zero. Finding ways to make organizational maintenance part of your daily routine will help make the process effortless. Before you start your homework each day, take five to ten minutes to go through your folders, notebooks and binders to ensure that everything is in its proper place. By getting in this routine and taking control of your organization, you can easily maximize your potential and attain your goals.