Messy Dorm Room...Organization Problems

<p>This is an understatement. Bear with me for a moment...</p>

<p>Our son is a Nat'l Merit and Presidential Scholar who has had a happy and relatively successful freshman year. He is stressing out at the moment because he may have a gpa of 3.0, and 3.1 is necessary to fully maintain his scholarships. In HS, he was an almost effortless straight A student who had problems with organization--locker jammed with trash, books and important papers mixed in, notebooks a chaotic mess, etc.</p>

<p>So...when we arrived at his college to bring him home for the summer, his room was a shock. Open food packages mixed with trash amd dirty clothes banked under the bed, four packs of his half-used prescription medicine scattered about the room, latin flash cards everywhere, including in his shower caddy, sticky with spilled shampoo...you get the picture.</p>

<p>Don't get me wrong, we are proud of our son (not for his room!), but I'm wondering if organizational problems are holding him back, now that college demands are higher. He is baffled at the lower gpa. Could serious organizational problems be a factor? He has never used a planner or thought too much farther ahead than the next test, procrastinates freely. Now at college, maybe this is finally catching up with him.</p>

<p>Does this sound at all familiar to anyone else?</p>

<p>ya, it does sound familiar, and I've been living with it for years! </p>

<p>unless he's a hoarder and there's a risk of mental problems I wouldn't be concerned. There's actually psych evidence that people who put a lot of effort into cleaning and organizing their environment have little impact on the outside world. And those who don't care about their personal space have a big impact on the world.</p>

<p>If it was an organizational problem, seems like he should not be so 'baffled' at his lower GPA, i.e. he would know that he hadn't handed things in, was late, procrastinated etc and it should not be a surprise. It rather sounds like he thinks he is doing everything he should be and not getting the results he thinks he should. So??? I would delve into it a bit more and see where the disconnect between real life results and his expectations are.</p>

<p>Also, the state of the room seems bit extreme to me. Flashcards in the shower caddy? Was he studying in the shower? Prescriptions medications scattered about? That could be a bad plan. If it were my kid, I would have him tested by a neuropsych to see where things are not fitting together. </p>

<p>But you know your kid best and whether this is significantly out of line from what you would have expected. Good luck on the scholarship front too.</p>

<p>My room at school is routinely a disaster - I just seldom have time to clean it, since all of my time goes to studying and my jobs (and the few hours of sleep I can manage with my schedule). I wouldn't describe it as the result of organizational problems as much as a complete dearth of time - my room at home does not get to that state. I'd hesitate to assume that organizational skills are the crux of the problem - college is just different than high school and takes a lot of adjustment. That's not to say it's not the problem, but I don't think we can tell from the state of one's room.</p>

<p>francie12--your description sounds like my oldest!! NMF, top scores, math awards, etc. She definitely has organizational problems and they have tripped her up time & time again. It is tough to watch as a parent. We have tried various things, some of which have probably helped. I keep hoping she will get it together. I actually think her professors do too because she is evidently so bright and very likeable.</p>

<p>pacheight--I appreciate your comment!</p>

<p>Since you pose the question and know your son well, I'd follow ihs76's suggestion to do a neuro psych eval. over the summer. For many capable students, the organizational issues aren't as prominent until they arrive at the decreased structure and increased work load of college. While the testing doesn't solve any identified problems, understanding how one's brain works and what types of strategies can be applied to make things better day to day is often helpful. He may benefit from both testing and then if specific issues are revealed, the chance to work with some one over the summer on how to best tackle them in a college context.
I know college students whose dorm rooms are deplorable, but their grades are high and their school work well organized with pro-active plans for long-term projects. No connection between room appearance and performance. For others though, the space truly reflects executive function struggles across the board. Worth checking it out, especially since he is concerned. Good luck.</p>

<p>Both my kid's rooms looked pretty much as described. My son had Arabic flash cards scattered far and wide. Since his shower caddy no longer had anything shower related in it, it could easily have had flash cards too. That said, I think the time wasted looking for things in a messy room can be deceptive and may have contributed to your son's grades, or it may just be that college is hard and he took difficult courses. Worth checking out in any event.</p>

<p>Have you never seen an all-male dorm room before? This is absolutely par for the course. College is hard. He'll settle in. Don't most schools give a semester or two to get grades up before yanking merit aid?</p>

<p>Even without psych testing organizational skills is something that is helpful in life. My older daughter is so incredibly organized (although her room is a mess) it allows her to do way more than many other kids. It's sort of a new "buzz word" and I bet you will be able to find someone who works with people in this area and it might be worth a few sessions for your son. Even if he just walks away with 2 or 3 ideas that he implements it would be worth it. Good luck!</p>

<p>I'm wondering about the prescription meds lying around. (Depends what the prescription is for. . .)</p>

<p>What he needs is a wife ;) (I know a lot of guys who can't maintain a very civilized lifestyle--unless there is a woman around to make them do it.)
Or at least he should start using a planner. (They force kids to use them in our school district from 2nd grade on. . .this has really helped my kids.)</p>

<p>He sounds overwhelmed. Did he have a roommate? Sometimes a roommate can add to the problem, but in other cases the roommate might only tolerate so much mess and force the messy one to clean up occasionally. Or he might be more ashamed to let it go so far if there if someone else in the room. Clutter is one thing. He should at least be getting rid of the rotten food/trash. We're messy, too, but it does sound pretty bad to me. I'd talk to him about it.</p>

<p>Does he have a large laundry basket? Sometimes dirty clothes end up places they shouldn't because the laundry basket is to small for the needs (and laziness) of your average college student. You might think about buying an extra laundry basket or a larger one. Ditto for trash cans. He may need more than what the college is providing him. </p>

<p>As for organizers, definitely a good idea, but try to integrate that with stuff he already does. For example, if he's online a lot, encourage him to use an online planner/calendar/organizer like Google Calendars or a desktop based one like iCal. Especially good if he can set his calendar as his computer background, so he can always keep an eye on what's coming up.</p>

<p>When S was in the 3rd grade he had a teacher who commented about his messy desk. Told me that I had to take care of him cleaning his desk. I told her he came from a long line of messy desk people and if she ever found out how to get people to clean up their desks to tell me because I sure could use that skill.</p>

<p>Both kids rooms look like a bomb went off when they are done with finals. Grandparents were appalled. I figure that it's part of growing up.</p>

<p>D is organized with school things. S is not. I know D uses a planner. Don't know about S. But college is much harder than HS and you have to know what is coming up. But everything is on the computer now and nothing seems to be written down. In fact, they think I'm so old fashioned for having a calendar and not just putting everything in my phone.</p>

<p>you made my day! I just can't stop laughing at the thought of the latin flash cards in the shower caddy!! I could have said, "been there done that" in reply to your question, but can't say that flash cards in the shower is something i've come across before!</p>

<p>Thanks for the responses. Admittedly, no one in this family is terribly into neatness, but what we saw in his room was just over the top. Anyone who read one of my first CC threads, which had over 800 responses, about this son procrastinating in the summer before senior year will remember that some of these problems existed before college. I am thinking though that what he could easily get away with then doesn't work as well any more now that the demands are higher. </p>

<p>I'm hoping to convince him to see the academic support dept at school to get advice on time management. Also, he'll be getting some tutorials from us this summer on use of the laundry basket, etc. He is capable of taking his heart medication every day, because he knows he has to, so more organization is probably not hopeless. Anyone know of a good book that might appeal to college students?</p>

<p>I liked pacheight's comment too!</p>

<p>Online planner, organizer is a great idea too.</p>

<p>He has a very patient and flexible roomate who got him to do a joint clean up every Saturday, but now the roomate is starting to lapse into my son's habits. He probably just gave up. They are still best friends though, one of the many great things of son's freshman year.</p>

<p>I'd also ask the U & any funders if he could have a grace period & retain his merit awards while he settles down & does better next year. Many are flexible IF you ask in time. It's worth a try.</p>

<p>My D is also EXTREMELY messy, but can't seem to get her to change. She doesn't have food everywhere tho, manages to keep it in the kitchen. Also, she doesn't get her Rx mixed with anything. Good luck in figuring out what to do--let us know what works so we can try it for ourselves & our kids as well. :)</p>

<p>I feel for you!
I've posted this on its own thread a long time ago, but here is a link to "Generation <strong><em>" tools for planning and organization.
<a href="http://generation"&gt;http://generation&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/strong&gt;.com/tools/&lt;/p>

<p>Oops - I forgot that this site screens out the three initials that are in the site. The first is a w. The second is a t. The third is an f. Substitute these letters for the asterisks and you will get to the site. Despite the name, it has some useful organizational tools and ideas in language geared toward this generation.</p>

<p>I'm going to start this with:</p>

<p>"I'm a doctor, trust me" (The first part is true, the second part is at your discretion :D).</p>

<p>If one is not familiar with the field or the process, having your son undergo neuropsych testing may sound like an overkill. I am here to tell you that it may be one of the best things you will ever do for yourself or your son.</p>

<p>Here's our experience with it:</p>

<p>When our otherwise bright DS was in 4th grade, he became very disorganized, not turning homework in, getting distracted etc. He had an organizer but couldn't put things in there, and generally was driving us, himself, and his wonderful teacher crazy. At the recommendation of a knowledgeable person, we had him undergo neuropsych testing which is basically 3-4 hours of one-on-one with a neuropsychologist. DS had fun doing it.</p>

<p>What we found out was that he was not very good at "visual sequencing without motor activity." Huh?? we said. What this means is that he is not very good at watching things unfold in front of him, putting it together, while sitting still. Sound like 4th grade? Our solution was simple. We got him an artist's eraser, the moldable kind, and he made funny shapes out of it during class. He also started doing origami during class (with the teacher's blessing). Just this simple act of being able to 'do' something while the class was going on, was enough to focus him and he has been fine in school ever since. I hate to think where things might have gone if we hadn't made the very simple intervention. It also explained why this kid, who has played baseball, hockey and is on a varsity team at college, never had any interest in ever watching any sports on TV. </p>

<p>So, I recommend neuropsych testing. They will provide a roadmap to how your son's brain works. You will find out where the roadblocks are so that you/he can find a detour around it and figure out ways to specifically support the areas where he is weak. In cases like this where a bright kid is frustrated and having a hard time, possibly due to specific processing difficulties, what have you got to lose?</p>

<p>I'm not as academically accomplished as your son is, and I've been struggling a bit in college with my new major (the beginning classes aren't geared toward my strengths..at least since I haven't made it to biology), but I definitely am disorganized and messy on my own (at least without college to whip me into shape!).
I called this process "Project get my life together" and it worked something like this:
1. I got a planner. Never had to use one in my life. Then again I've never been this busy, haha.
2. I sat down with all of my syllabi with a giant calendar and marked exam dates down in the beginning of the semester.
3. I made a schedule of my classes on excel (with room numbers) and printed several copies out - one to hang over my desk, and one to stick in my binder.
4. I bought a cellphone holster and now keep it at my hip. This helps enormously.
5. I bought a caravener and keep my keys hanging next to my door on a hook (the plastic ones with the removable back). I religiously put it there or I'll be searching for keys for forever..
TO THE ROOM:
1. Get a trash bag and throw out all unnecessary papers laying around. Don't remember what it's for? It's probably not important. Same goes for drinks laying around (I have a really bad habit with water bottles) and/or all other wrappers.
2. Think like you're in 3rd grade again. Purchase a BIG CALANDAR to hang up with all important dates/appointments on it (also highlighted important events like exams).
BUY STICKY TACK and post up different schedules around your desk.
BUY A PENCIL ORGANIZER to organize pens and pencils.<br>
GET A CHANGE BUCKET to put spare change in for laundry (I try to get $20 in quarters at a time once every few months)
BUY A PAD OF STICKY NOTES and use them to remind yourself of appointments the next day (I stick those on my door)
BUY A WATCH to always always always know what time it is when you're going about your day.
Most importantly, use your planner to write things down as they are assigned or resort to writing on your arm, hand, etc. Most importantly WRITE THINGS DOWN SOMEWHERE and transcribe onto the sticky note system or the calender depending on importance.
I'm still working on it, but that's the basic jist of how I've constructed my life.</p>