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In partnership with families, the Greater Richmond ARC creates life-fulfilling opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Getting Organized: What’s in a Label?

 'A Place for Everything and Everything in It's Place' sounds so organized and peaceful. We can all see the benefits. But it can be a tough rule for busy families to follow. And sometimes it feels downright impossible if that family has a member with special needs.

Children and adults with special needs often struggle with skills necessary for being organized: sequential reasoning, short- or long-term memory, and reading, for example. But there's a simple tool that can help everyone in the family, regardless of needs, abilities, or age: labels.

Julie Morgenstern, author of the book Organizing From the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life, says that her 'secret weapon' is the model of a kindergarten classroom.

There, things that are used together are grouped together and stored where they're used. And they are stored in easily accessible containers that are clearly labeled.

Labeling items and locations can be a great help in keeping things where they belong. And it can also be a fantastic tool for increasing independence and life skills. A teen can put the groceries away more easily if the pantry shelves have labels. And a preschooler will learn how to put away clean laundry much quicker if her drawers are labeled.

Whether the label is a picture or a word depends on the people using it. If the label will be used by someone who is learning to read or who cannot read, it must be a picture. Word labels only work when they can be easily read by everyone using that item.

On sale, a word labeler at an office supply store can cost as little as $10, and is a great investment. Digital cameras and velcro make picture labels easy and versatile. ('Goo Gone' can remove any adhesive when it's time to change a label.)

So try labeling your places, and see if things find their place more often!

Olivia Acree, Ed.S., helps people get organized at work and at home with her company, A Sorted Affair. She is a former school psychologist who is proud to have potty-trained at least fifteen children with autism. Contact her at

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