Smiling widely, Haley Levin ’20 opened up her planner, revealing brightly-colored illustrations alongside her well-organized notes.
“I really like to doodle, so [my planner] is mostly just a vehicle for those,” Levin said. “Doodling lets me get organized in my own way. I know what I have to do, and I can manage my time, but I also get to spend time practicing drawing. It’s a unique way to plan my own week.”
Levin has been using her planner as an artistic medium since seventh grade. She has transformed pages in her planner into creations such as a purple and orange Halloween display featuring ghosts and witches and an homage to the Harry Potter franchise. Along with illustrations, Levin also occasionally decorates the pages with stickers or song lyrics. Her notes for all of her classes are similarly decorated with doodles.
“I’m the type of person that listens better when I’m doodling,” Levin said. “To have a designated place to doodle in class is nice because then I am more focused.”
Although Levin has followed her own organization methods since seventh grade, other students are just now becoming more neat in their work practices. Following the release of the Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Jan. 1, in which organization consultant Marie Kondo gives advice to families cleaning up their households, a number of students altered their organizational practices based the advice she gave to her clients in the show.
For example, Philip Moon ’20 said he found Kondo’s tips to be helpful.
“I’ve watched a few of the Marie Kondo episodes on Netflix, and the few times that I watched those types of videos, it really motivated me to start organizing my life more,” Moon said. “I think that one thing that the show helped me notice is the correlation between physical and mental organization.”
Moon’s organization habits consist of practices such as writing in his planner and using different notebooks for his classes. He said this has helped him become a better student.
“Like all students, I struggle sometimes with being completely organized and planning ahead of time for assignments or tests,” Moon said. “But generally, my planner, separate notebooks and meetings with teachers frequently really help me stay on track.”
Blythe Berk ’19, who watched every episode of Kondo’s show, said she thought Kondo’s theories could help students declutter school materials.
“If pieces of paper in students’ notebooks and binders don’t spark joy, they could throw them out,” Berk says. “I know many students who have overly large binders.”
Sarah Bagley ’20, who also watched the show, said she did not think the show had such an applicability to school.
“I thought [Kondo’s] method could help someone who needs to be really organized,” Bagley said. “Personally, I don’t have that much of an issue with organizing so it didn’t help me that much. I don’t know if it would help with schoolwork. From what I’ve seen, it’s more about organizing your spaces.”
Bagley, unlike Levin and Moon, does not use her planner regularly, saying that she finds little value in mapping out her schedule and assignments with it.
“I usually forget to write out my assignments in my [planner], and I sometimes don’t have enough time in class to take it out and write it down,” Bagley said. “When I did use my planner, I didn’t really check it. It was just to make myself feel more organized, so my study habits were the same.”
As an alternative to writing in a planner, Bagley said she relies on the Hub to map out what homework she has due. Despite this, Bagley said students who struggle to keep track of their daily tasks should use planners and maintain clean working spaces.
“I would say to definitely use a planner if you have trouble with keeping track of assignments,” Bagley said. “Making sure your room and desk is clean is important too since it’s easier to work in a clean environment.”
Jaya Nayar ’20 has developed her own system of organization with her planner. This method involves “squiggling” out homework she’s finished.
“When I squiggle stuff out, it makes it look like I have less work to do, so it helps reduce stress in that way,” Nayar said. “It’s not only about organization but rather about conceptually reducing my workload, so that I can move from one period to the next. It’s difficult to switch from math homework to history repeatedly.”
When it comes to faculty opinions on organization, upper school dean Jamie Chan said she believes that students ought to keep planners, use separate binders for classes and take advantage of weekends to stay organized.
“A more organized student will be more successful in their studies,” Chan said. “I would assume that students that are more organized physically also have a calmer mental state when it comes to studying and preparing for a test.”
Drawing and painting teacher Claire Cochran took a different perspective on student organization. In her classes, students often use shared materials in developing new artwork, which she said can create a mess within the art room. However, Cochran said she does not think this is necessarily a flaw.
“When it comes to art making, sometimes it is nice to produce in chaos since when you are working in a really clean space it inhibits experimentation,” Cochran said. “The ability to make a mess is freeing. However, there are also certain types of art that do need to be very nice and clean.”
To account for differences in students’ learning habits, Cochran has adopted her own cleaning methods inside of her art classes, which entails using labelled containers to store similar objects and separating wet and dry painting materials to ensure nothing is wasted or ruined.
Cochran also warns her students when class is almost over so they have ample time to clean up the room.
“Working well requires understanding that organization needs regular maintenance and a little bit of extra time,” Cochran said.