Introduction to
Organizing for “Kids”

Organizing is a useful and important activity in our daily lives.  Our family life is organized, and so are our schools, sports teams, businesses, neighborhoods, cities, countries, everything.

There are many books about how to organize things.  Most of the books that are written for kids are full of very specific suggestions about how to solve typical organizing problems.  These books teach kids how to arrange their stuff in their bedrooms, their backpack, and school locker. They also suggest how to manage their assignments in a time planner and notebook.   These are useful skills, but there’s a better way to learn about organizing.

KIDS, PARENTS AND TEACHERS!  Read this part carefully!

This book is based on an award-winning college/professional book called “The Discipline of Organizing” (you can download a copy for free). That book defines organizing as a skill that combines concepts and methods from many fields, especially library science and computer science, with some help from  psychology, philosophy, economics, law, and other areas of study.  This new approach teaches more general concepts and methods that can be used to solve for  ANY organizing problem.

This book, “The Discipline of Organizing for Kids,”  is aimed at children in late elementary or early middle school because at this age kids face many organizing challenges.  In lower elementary school grades, children usually have a single teacher who organizes almost every aspect of school. But when they get older,  many children start spending lots of time with personal computers, mobile phones, and other technologies that compete for their attention.  These things  disrupt the organization provided by the teacher.

In middle school another big change happens.  Students now have different teachers for each subject. This requires students to organize their time, their school work and supplies, and their study habits with much less help from their teachers.  That’s why they need the organizing skills that this book will teach them.

Managing time is a challenging skill to learn, and it is more difficult for kids now than it was for people who are now adults because today’s kids have grown up with digital clocks, digital watches, and digital time displays.  Kids can learn to tell the time, but digital time lacks the context of hours and days that must be understood for a kid to learn to manage time.  Digital time is always NOW, which makes it hard to be sensitive to duration and the passage of time.  At least one of the digital clocks in your home or school should be replaced with one that has moving hour and minute hands!

It wasn’t  easy to adapt a book aimed at adults so that kids could read and understand it.  Drafts of this book were successfully used in a Zoom-based course in which 5th and 6th grade students were first given a preview of the important concepts in chapters they were assigned to read.  Most of the students said the concepts and vocabulary were understandable.  But guidance and discussion with parents and teachers helped a lot.

How this book is organized

This book is organized in five parts.  Each part contains several short chapters that introduce some important ideas about organizing.  Most chapters also have some questions or activities to help you understand these new ideas.

  •  PART 1 is  “Organized and Organizing.”  It explains what it means to be organized, and introduces three questions that you must answer whenever you create an “organizing system” — WHAT are you organizing, WHY are you organizing, and HOW are you organizing.    One of the chapters uses an organizing problem that every kid faces every year — sorting  the stuff collected on Halloween.
  • PART 2 is  “Using Categories to Organize.”   A category is a group of things that are treated as equal for some purposes.  The chapters in this part explain different ways of creating categories — called “category structure” — that determine how you decide if something belongs in a category.   Think how the category structure differs in these three categories:  (1) things that are red;  (2) things that are birds;  (3) the 50 United States.
  • PART 3 is  “Patterns for Organizing Systems.”   Here you’ll see how the organizing systems for different types of things — physical objects, animals, people, libraries,  documents on the web —  follow predictable patterns that you can use to analyze and interact with them.
  • PART 4 is  “Organizing Time.”   Organizing time is an essential skill and activity, but it is a bit tricky compared with other kinds of organizing.   That’s because there are two very different ways of thinking about time.  Time is a thing being organized when you say things like “I don’t have enough time to do that” or “We have lots of time so we don’t have to hurry.”  Most of this part of the book is about how to organize your time effectively.  But time is also a principle we use to organize other things, like when you arrange people by their ages to put them on sports teams.
  • PART 5 is  “Concepts and Methods for Master Organizers.”  The chapters here discuss some challenging and interesting topics about organizing that will make you a master organizer.   One of these topics is called “The Santa Question.”  Saying “I saw Santa at the mall” blurs the distinction between individual things (like a specific Santa at a particular mall) and a category of things that we treat as equivalent (the “mall Santa” category). It turns out that we do this all the time, but to be a master organizer you need to understand when it matters and when it doesn’t.

KIDS!  Read this part carefully!

This book will teach you how to notice and analyze the organization that is designed into everything you experience. It will teach you how to design an organizing system for anything that YOU need to manage and interact with. This book will start you on the path to becoming a master organizer with skills that will help you now and for the rest of your life.   Instead of feeling bad because you aren’t organized at home or at school, you will feel good about being organized.  You will be able to find things when you need them, you will be on time for activities and events, and be more in control of your life.

Maybe you’re thinking — this book can’t be for me because I am NOT a “kid.”   Then ask yourself “in what age category of children do  I belong?” The law defines a “child” as any person below the age of 18;  an “infant” is less than a year old;  a “teenager” has an age in the range of  13-17 or so.    For some people  the “kid” category doesn’t have clear boundaries based on an age test, but for most people this category fits near the middle of the 1-17 age range.  So “kid” seems like the best choice if we’re defining it using an age test.

Because this book is on your computer, we can ask you questions that will help you think and learn. Here’s the first one. After you answer a question, select “Check” to see if you got it right:


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"The Discipline of Organizing" for Kids Copyright © 2022 by Robert J Glushko is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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