6 Ways a Backpack Is a Mirror into the Teen Soul

I clean out a lot of backpacks.  One of the first things I do with new clients is to sit down on their bedroom floor and dump out all of their notebooks, papers, half-eaten pencils and papers (one time there was a bagel that was so green and hard it should have been biochemical waste).

I have noticed a few patterns in what I find in a backpack, here is my key:

1. Pocket Packer

Have you ever noticed that some kids shove every single paper into the inner pockets of their notebooks and never once hole punch or file anything away?  Unlike, what you might think, pocket packers are actually not the least organized or most lazy.  In fact they usually desperately want to be organized but have no idea how to.

2. Hoarder

“Why do you need four calculators?” Hoarders tend to have the most emotional time emptying out their backpack and insist on keeping pens that don’t work (because they are pretty), 2 calculators (just in case) and 4 reams of lined paper.  Hoarders are actually organized…in a sense.  They hae their own systems and even though their backpack doesn’t seem organized, I can ask them where something is and they always know.  Hoarders should never be (but often are) underestimated for their passion and intelligence.

3. Museum Matron

You know how people say that they walk into a house and it is so sterile it feels like a museum.  Occasionally I run across a museum matron (I do not have a lot of these clients, because there is nothing to organize!).  MM’s tend to have perfect handwriting, everything is labeled and there is not so much as a hole punched dot at the bottom of the bag

4. Non-Backpacker

Lots of girls are now just taking totes or messenger bags to school.  I do not particularly like this because I never feel like there is enough room and it hurts your back.  Yet, these people tend to appreciate being organized and will be organized if it looks good.  Their organization stretches to areas that other people see (no moldy food, not lots of loose papers and will be organized enough to combine three notebooks into one to carry less).

5. Backpack + Babies

Opposite of a non-backpacker.  Some students start middle school with one backpack and as the years progress, it seems, their backpacks have babies—an extra purse, a messenger bag, an athletic bag.  These students tend to have lots of extra activities and stay organized just enough to get by.  They are usually constantly overwhelmed, overtired and overworked.

Have you noticed any patterns about your student?

7 Responses to “6 Ways a Backpack Is a Mirror into the Teen Soul”

  1. JBM
    September 5, 2008 at 8:38 am #

    Mine is #5, the backpack having babies. All well and good until she leaves one (usually the one with all her afterschool soccer clothes) at home, or on the bus, or in homeroom, etc. I’ve got to design a clip system to keep them all hooked together. :-)

  2. holly
    November 12, 2008 at 8:33 am #

    my 7th grade son is def a pocket packer. at least once a month, i seem to be sitting down with him to help him organize his school work. apparently what i’m doing is not working. how can i help him get organized the right way!?

  3. Vanessa
    November 12, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi Holly

    Yes most are. I would schedule clean-outs once every two or three weeks and start there. If he gets annoyed with the cleanouts he will keep it cleaner in between and if not, it still keeps a semblance of organization

    Thanks for reading!

  4. Stevie
    April 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    Haha i’m mixture of 1, 2 and 5.
    1 because I never seem to have time in between classes to put things in the right spot
    2 because i like to have lots of extra supplies, though they just emmn to get in the way
    5 well i need my gym bag, field hockey bag, art supply bag, math book bag and a little makeup/purse they varie on the days i need them

  5. Vanessa Van Petten
    April 9, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    thanks for that! I think it depended a lot on the years I was doing sports etc, and my class schedule, oy my back!

  6. online games for kids
    May 11, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    i was #5! after few years, i started to realize it’s kinda disturbing, then i slowly became #4, the non-backpacker. nice post.. haha enjoy reading it! thanks

  7. Vanessa Van Petten
    May 16, 2009 at 8:04 am #

    cool, thanks!

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