Do you have a teen whose room is a disaster? Maybe it’s not their fault. Perhaps they have a small room and too much stuff making it impossible to get it clean and organized. And yes, maybe they’re just lazy.
So, how can we get them to clean up and organize their space? Below, you’ll find a step-by-step process for tackling this job once and for all. You’ll also find some ideas that may help motivate your teens to keep their rooms tidy.
But first, let’s go over why you should insist on a clean and tidy room as well as some things you probably should avoid doing. In the end, my hope is that your teen will be able to maintain their neatness with very little prompting from you.
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3 Important Reasons Why Your Teen Should Learn To Clean and Tidy Up
Number 1: Teaching them to clean, organize, and maintain a tidy bedroom are important life skills. It is part of growing up and therefore our job to see them through it.
I can’t begin to tell you all the stories I hear about messy spouses. And it all started in a home where mom either did all the cleaning and/or didn’t require their kids to keep their rooms clean.
So the best thing you can do for your children is to teach them basic cleaning skills. Don’t be afraid to give them chores. Your future daughter- or son-in-law will thank you later.
Number 2: Teaching them to organize and store their belongings properly is a great way to instill a sense of respect for their property. It is how they learn to take care of their items.
Number 3: It is also a matter of personal hygiene. Dirty clothes and dirty dishes, strewn all over a floor, can contribute to foul odors. Teach your teen to care for themselves so that they don’t become “that smelly kid” in school.
Things You Should Avoid Doing
The following are a few things I advise not doing when it comes to getting your teenager to clean and organize their bedroom.
Do Not Threaten to Clean and Organize Their Room While They Are Not There
First, this is not a positive way to get them to cooperate. In the long run, we want them to want to clean their room on their own without you having to tell them to do it. Forcing their hand doesn’t accomplish this.
Second, the whole point of having them take care of their room is so you don’t have to do it yourself. So, this really only works in their favor and not yours.
Third, if you threaten and don’t carry out your promise, your teen has just learned to ignore your threats and now knows not to take you seriously.
And finally, this can put a dent in your relationship. Teens love their privacy and you going into their room while they are away can feel like a violation.
If you are going to follow through with this threat, then do it while they are there. Besides, it’s possible that they will feel guilty watching you clean their room and may just gradually pitch in here and there.
Do Not Make Them Do Anything You Don’t Do Yourself
If you are also messy and your home is in dire need of decluttering and organizing, you can not expect the same of your teen. Honestly, that just isn’t fair.
You are their most important role model. Get your home clean and organized then come back to this post to help your teen.
Do Not Expect Perfection
We want our teens to clean and put things away but don’t inspect their room with a white glove. Simply point to a couple of things they can improve on and leave it at that.
This works very well with my boys. While their rooms are not up to my standards for the rest of the home, their items are neatly put away and their room is clean.
Don’t Remove Their Door
Again, this is not a positive way to get them to cooperate. There is really only one good reason to ever take a door off and that is if you feel they may harm themselves. A messy room is not so drastic a situation that you need to go to this extreme.
Don’t Use Bribery*
This is your home and you have rules. Don’t resort to paying off your teen with gifts in order to get them to clean their room. *However, there is something you can do to reward your teen but more on that later.
When Is My Teen Old Enough To Do Certain Chores?
As soon as your teen became a teen, they should have been doing chores most adults can do. Believe it or not, chores should begin as early as two years old. While they are not expected to vacuum at that age, they can match socks and put away toys (as best they can).
By the time they are 13, they should be able to vacuum, mop, do laundry, and even cook. Do not let them get away with telling you that they don’t know how to do something. This is when you set aside some time to teach them and then add it to their list of chores.
The Pre-Planning Phase
I am writing the following steps assuming that you have a pretty messy teen and need help. And I’m assuming that this is going to be a joint venture between you and your teen(s).
If it’s your first time dealing with this, then, your and your teen’s cooperation is required. However, any tidying up after this first session should not really involve you anymore. Let’s hope!
Ok, so let’s talk about some things to do before tackling your teen’s room.
Set Up Three Dates
First, set up three dates. The first date involves spending some time with your teen to talk about cleaning and organizing their room. This is also when you will put a plan together.
The second date is to go shopping with your teen to buy anything they will need to complete the plan you’ve come up with.
And the third date is reserved to get the job done. I suggest you take on this project on a day when you both have off from school and work. This is especially advised if your plan involves any DIY. A two-day weekend would be best, if possible.
First Date: Get Them Truly Invested in a Plan
A good way to get your teen(s) motivated is to give them a say in how their room and things should be. Don’t get me wrong. If you absolutely refuse to let them paint their walls black then that is your right. It is still your home.
But keep in mind that even though it’s your home, their room is their sanctuary. It’s the place they go to relax, blow off steam, and just be themselves.
So, my advice is to approach them with a plan for a room makeover. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate project. You are not expected to rip down walls or buy an entire bedroom set.
I’m talking about maybe painting an accent wall in their favorite (parent-approved) color or repurposing containers to create cute storage. You can also rearrange furnishings or add some decorative pillows.
So, sit down with them and have a talk about what you expect from them. Try to be open to their suggestions, many of which may be temporary and can be removed without destroying the room. Come up with ideas, especially those that incorporate their favorite things and hobbies.
Pinterest is such a great way to tap into your teen’s style and find the latest trends. Have a kid who is into sports, music, fashion, dance, or steampunk? Then Pinterest has you covered.
There are some really cool things in boys’ rooms that can be copied and modified in your teen girl’s room and vice versa. For example, if your daughter plays the guitar or loves to skateboard check out some of the boys’ rooms for more inspiration with those themes.
To put your plan together, use our free project planner pdf <–click here to check it out. This is available in my resource library. To gain access, just fill out the form at the end of this post.
Now, get the popcorn out, lay out some of your plans, and make it fun.
Second Date: Collect Your Supplies
Next, you’ll want to have all your supplies ready. This may mean a small shopping trip to make sure you have all the cleaning supplies you need. You’ll also want to have boxes and trash bags handy as well.
Lastly, you’ll also want to have any DIY and/or repurposing supplies like paint, paintbrushes, drop cloths, sewing supplies, etc.
Third Date: It’s Game Time!
Now, comes the nitty-gritty. Follow the steps below for getting their room clean.
Empty Their Entire Room
If possible, see if you can empty the entire room (minus large furniture pieces). You’ll want to empty their closets, dressers, everything! Set aside items in the hallway and place clothes on a table or on a nearby bed. I know this step sounds drastic but it is temporary and serves three purposes.
First, it will make you uncomfortable having stuff blocking your hallway as well as make your teen uncomfortable by having their stuff exposed. This will drive you both to hustle and get to work.
Second, your teen will become aware of how much stuff they have. It may just encourage them to get rid of some of their items.
And three, it will make cleaning their bedroom so much easier.
After you have emptied their room, go ahead and clean the room from top to bottom.
**If you are planning on any potential messy DIY, then skip to the DIY step and then come back to this one.
Make sure to dust everywhere including the ceiling, window sills, and wall surfaces. Next, clean windows and mirrors. Then sweep, mop, or vacuum the floor.
Finally, change the bed linens. If your teen doesn’t know how to do this, show them. It should be done every week and not by you.
Time to DIY
Next, do any DIY while the room is still empty. Put up curtains or wall art as well as put together any storage units you may have purchased for the room.
If you are planning on doing any repurposing, find the time later to do this. Right now, you want to concentrate on getting all the items outside the room back inside as quickly as you can.
Purge & Declutter
Now it is time to go through all the items one at a time before bringing them back into the room. Set up a box(es) for donations, another box for possible repurposing material, and a bag for trash.
While you can help in the purging and decluttering of items, try to let your teen decide their fate. If you see items that really should not go back into their room, remind them that if they keep them, it is one more thing to clean and take care of.
Try to be sensitive when convincing them to give up items. Telling them their favorite teddy bear is raggedy and needs to be tossed is not going to be met with cooperation. However, suggesting that they clean it, sew some patches, and perhaps donate it to a kid in need might convince them to let it go.
Here are some suggestions for determining the fate of some items
- Throw away any broken items.
- For items they have outgrown such as clothes, toys, hobbies, etc., and are in good condition, consider donating them.
clothingand accessories that are in good condition, perhaps entice your teen into making money by having a garage sale or putting them up for sale at a local consignment shop.
- You can also sell items like sports equipment and electronics on Craigslist, Nextdoor App, or on Facebook. (Just be careful and make sure all transactions take place at a police precinct. Many offer this solution for these kinds of sales.)
Next, put any dirty clothes in a hamper. If it is full, then put a load to wash. This is a great opportunity to teach them how to launder clothes if they do not know how.
Teaching them to do laundry will also show them the work that goes into washing, drying, folding, and ironing clothes. Doing laundry may just prevent them from tossing clothes that are not dirty into the hamper.
Return & Organize Items
For clothes that are clean, go ahead and hang them up in the closet and fold items that are going into drawers.
I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo’s way of folding items. It takes patience but it is so worth it. No more stuffed drawers and your teen will be able to find their items easily.
If you are unfamiliar with Kondo’s technique, my advice is to find some videos on Youtube. Just enter Konmari folding clothes in the search bar. If you want to learn more, her second book, Spark Joy, has some illustrations you can follow.
Once you have taken care of the
Keep Storage Simple
For our laziest and messiest of teens, try to keep organizing and storing very simple. And above all, make sure they have their own hamper.
If they have to put away things that they use very often then they will stop putting those things away. Use open shelves and baskets to hold their stuff. It may not be pretty but it will be off the floor.
Creating Storage Bins
Now, you don’t have to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on storage bins. You just have to figure out what your teen likes.
My son is into that “mustache” thing. So I found some decorative duct tape and used it to make bins out of shoe boxes and other stuff around his room.
You can make magazine holders out of cereal boxes, decorative baskets out of old laundry baskets, and even bins out of old pots. If you or your teen are especially crafty, the possibilities are endless.
Other Ideas You Can Try
If your teen has lots of papers strewn about, have them go through them and decide what stays and what goes. Then find an appropriate organizer for it like a binder, file folder, etc.
Have a teen with lots of books and no space for a bookshelf? Go vertical. Click here to see the bookshelf my husband and I DIY’ed for my son, the bookworm.
Are comic books scattered everywhere? Use magazine holders to keep them tame.
Sports equipment should be kept elsewhere like in a garage but if they have to keep it in their room, purchase “under-the-bed” storage” where they can also keep their uniforms.
Is makeup taking over surfaces? Repurpose a small night table and create a vanity.
Does your teen want a wall painted black? Purchase black curtains and hang them up high. It’s simple, temporary, and is a great compromise.
Again, these are just a few suggestions for items. You can find more on Pinterest. Just enter the name of the item followed by “organize, storage solutions, or DIY” in their search bar.
If your teen refuses to give up their stuffed dolls, toys, or favorite shirts that don’t fit them anymore convince them to repurpose the items.
You can turn those stuffed dolls into a blanket or a backpack if it’s large enough. Depending on how many Lego pieces they have, you can even create new furniture like a nightstand. Again, Pinterest is the go-to for upcycling ideas.
If your teen has a collection of objects that they treasure, get them to display it rather than let it sit in shoe boxes. If they collect unique rocks, marbles, or game pieces, try using a shadow box.
For those who have expensive/rare/in-the-box types of collectibles, consider a display that shows respect for the collection.
Creatives & Artists
Got yourself an artist, musician, or photographer? Then chances are that their room easily looks cluttered because of their equipment, tools, and work. The best solution is to find appropriate storage that respects their items and their work.
For artists, consider getting them a portfolio bag. Encourage them to use their portfolios in case they need to show their work to prospective buyers or heads of art schools.
For art supplies, I love the Recollection Storage from Michaels. However, it can be pricey. So try to wait until they are on sale AND you have a 20-25% coupon that covers sale items as well. I have a few of their pieces that I was able to buy little by little.
If it really isn’t in your budget, you can always create homemade storage through repurposing.
For musicians, a composition journal is a great place for them to keep their lyrical scribblings and notes.
For photojournalists, a camera bag is great for protecting their gear on the go. You can also encourage them to frame and hang their best work. Consider letting them hang a few around the home if they are especially good.
Now that the room is clean and all items have been returned to the room, it’s time to tackle that box of items you both agreed to repurpose.
Get on your projects as soon as possible. You don’t want or need another box of items lingering around the home.
Maintenance is always the hard part. So make it easy on them and yourself. Let them know that you expect them to tidy their room daily and clean it weekly.
You may need to create a checklist so that you don’t have to continually remind them. If you prefer, I have created a free checklist pdf you can use. Just remember to click the pink button at the end of this post to gain access to our resource library where you will find this checklist.
So, if you use our checklist or prefer to make your own, I suggest laminating it and hanging it on their wall. This way, it eliminates the “I forgot” excuse. They can simply use a dry-erase marker to check off items they have done.
And every once in a while, check to see if they are completing their lists. Eventually, it will become second nature to them and they won’t need the checklist anymore.
A Word About Bribery*
Now, I am not one for bribing my kids in order to get better behavior from them. So I don’t recommend the following for kids who just won’t comply with your rules for a clean home. However, if your teen is trying, here are some suggestions for more motivation.
If they have a smallish room, consider giving them a larger one. Perhaps you have a basement, den, or office that is bigger. If some renovations are needed, believe me, they will be on board with helping.
Now, if their room doesn’t provide much privacy, again consider a room change. If it’s one thing teens cherish, it’s their privacy. Perhaps a room at the back of the house offers more privacy (and a place they can play their music a little louder).
Again, a basement or (if you live in a warm place) the garage can make a teen’s dream come true (a chance to be somewhat independent).
Final Thoughts on Getting Your Teen Organized
Make this “chore” an opportunity for you and your teen to bond. This is especially needed if things have escalated lately over their messy room.
- Avoid threats and bribery
- Set up expectations
- Be reasonable and open to their ideas
- Don’t baby them–they are quite capable of keeping their room clean
- Agree on a plan you and your teen are excited about
It’s up to us to encourage, inspire, and support our teens as they ‘find’ themselves and this project can be the jumping point for that.
Good luck and let me know how it turned out for you and your teen by commenting below.
Articles That Can Help Get Your Teen Organized
- How to Get Rid of Too Many Clothes
- Create a Simple Bra Organizer
- How to Organize Your Feminine Products
Free Checklist and Project Planner PDF for Your Teen’s Room
To get your free checklist and/or project planner, just click the pink button below. You will receive an email with instructions for accessing our free resource library. You should receive this email immediately. If, after a few minutes, you have not, please check your spam folder.