15 answers

Teenager with a Dirty Room

I have a 12 yr old (soon to be 13). It is a constant batter for her to keep her room clean. I'm too the point now where I just want to throw stuff away so there's less to mess up. Over time I have learned to live with it because it is just a room. Any ideas?

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

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Don't clean her room. She is old enough to clean her own room. If she doesn't, close the door so you don't have to look at it. If she runs out of something to wear because her clothes are all over the floor of her room, make her do her own laundry. Do not pick up after her. Do not nag. Let her take responsibility for actions or you are not preparing her for life. I stopped cleaning my children's rooms when they were 8-10 years old. They knew how to use a vacuum cleaner and such. It 's their room right? AF

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Hi L.:

I have a 13-year-old daughter and am experiencing the same thing. Between school and activities, she just rushes around and doesn't have time to get to it.

She's a good student and a good kid (helps me watch her two siblings while I'm working), so I like to help her out with her room. ONce a week or so, I'll go in and straighten it very well. Still - in between...it does get very messy and I don't have time or desire to do it for her. And I think it's important for kids to learn responsibilities of being part of a family.

However, she doesn't view the "messy" room or the need to clean it in the same way I do. If I just say "Clean your room" - I get "it is clean" or "I don't have time." I think it's differences in perception and priorities.

So, I've found it helpful to write her very specific notes that I leave for her when she gets home. "Put dirty laundry in basket." "Put soccer clothes in your soccer bag." "Pick up the hair pins you left in the bathroom."

I also try to set basic ground rules and addresss those regularly so it doesn't become an overwhelming task or battle. For example, wet towels always get hung up immediately. Trash is always put in the trash can. Food isn't eaten in the room, but if it is - put dishes in kitchen immediately after.

If I ask her to do just the one or two things that REALLY need to be done that day, I find it gets done.

Beyond that...when the room truly is more than I can deal with, I shut the door and try to remind myself how lucky I am to have a mess that's created by a beautiful, healthy, happy, busy, loving child!

Best wishes,

D. Rice
Editor, Piedmont Family Magazine

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same problem with my 16 year old daughter. Had, being the operative word. It dawned on me one day that the most effective way to deal with this situation at this point, (after several years of battles, attempts at reasoning, awarding an allowance for cleanliness), was to go into her room one day while she was at school, find something she loved and destroy it, not saying a word about it.

I saw her treasured and very expensive lap top (a present from her grandmother) on the floor under a pile of dirty clothes, instead of being in the computer case where it belonged. I accidently stepped on it, and cracked the screen. OOOPPPSSSS! I said nothing to her.

About 2 weeks later (yes, it took her 2 weeks to dig her lap top out from the pile of dirty clothes), my daughter comes to me, very upset, and says "Mom, I don't know what happened, but my lap top is broken." Exhibiting extreme motherly concern, I asked her how she thought that may have happened. She said she had no idea, then I asked where it was. She said on the floor of her bedroom under a pile of clothes. So then we both surmised that she or one of her friends must have stepped on it without realizing it. I then told her that had it been in the computer case, whatever happened to it probably would not have happened. She couldn't argue.

Now my daughter is faced with two problems, 1. she'll have to save enough money to purchase a new lap top (before she goes off to college next fall), and 2. find a way to tell her grandmother that her lap top is broken.

Oh, by the way, her room has never been cleaner since that awful day of disclosure. It's now been 3+ months...

Unfortunately sometimes kids have to learn things the hard way. You know what your child responds to better than anyone else, but sometimes tough lessons can be very effective. As we all know, girls can be very stubborn, so being a step ahead of her will serve both of you well.

1 mom found this helpful

Don't clean her room. She is old enough to clean her own room. If she doesn't, close the door so you don't have to look at it. If she runs out of something to wear because her clothes are all over the floor of her room, make her do her own laundry. Do not pick up after her. Do not nag. Let her take responsibility for actions or you are not preparing her for life. I stopped cleaning my children's rooms when they were 8-10 years old. They knew how to use a vacuum cleaner and such. It 's their room right? AF

The best thing to do is go the "tough love" route. Give her 3 warnings on different days. Buy a 10 box supply of office storage boxes. The 4th day go into her room and box up all the things that are out of place. Leave some things.
Tell her that each day you go into her room and see it all in order that she gets a box back, which MUST be put away immediately or the second time the stuff goes into the trash!!
It may take going to that second step. Let her see it in the trash, but then hide it away, even if you have to store it at a friend's for a few days while your daughter will be MOST unhappy with you.
Then break the news to her that not all is gone--return the box. Order may not last long, but it should last a few weeks.
Grandma N.

My own children are still very small, but I was a teenager who liked to have a messy room (sometimes I would even mess it up on purpose). I think I needed it as an outlet for rebellion. Fortunately, that was as rebellious as I got! In hindsight, I am glad that my mom didn't get on my case about it, as it was a minor offense in the big picture, and sometimes you need to pick your battles for the important stuff. That being said, I put true trash in the trash (food, used tissues, etc). That's where I would draw the line, but otherwise I think it's ok for teens to be messy. Like another comment said, I am also a bit of a clean freak now! Good luck!

Hi, L., Don't sweat the small stuff. If the worst problem you have is a messy room, count your lucky stars! Teenagers have to rebel somehow. As long as it isn't dirty dishes, or something else really gross that could affect health or safety - let it go. You can always just require she keep the door shut. Good luck!

I don't have a teenager yet but I've been to a few parenting seminars and have learned that if you want the room clean, it should be cleaned. You set the rules. Also I learned to let children suffer consequences. An idea is to collect everything on the floor into a plastic bag and put the bag 'away'. If the room is kept clean for a week the items will be returned.

Unfortunately many preteens go through this phase. I am currently fighting this same battle with my 12 year old daughter. It is compounded by the fact that she shares a room with her 6 year old sister. I honestly, just continue to remind her that she needs to keep her living space clean. We also have consequences for clean clothes brought down with dirty laundry, which has at least affected the change that her clean laundry makes it to the drawers. I would try charging her for cleaning services if the room is messy at the end of the day or week. It has worked for us. We charge them 25% of their allowance if I have to go in there to find the floor.

Wow - this brings back memories.

I was the same way when I was a teenager. My mom tried everything to get me to clean up (including threatening to toss anything that was on the floor in my room) to no avail. She finally gave up and just told me to keep it in my room. Honestly, I eventually grew out of it and am sort of a "clean freak" now. I think it's one of those teenage rebellion things - the more you get on her about it, the less likely she is to want to do it (after all, she sees her room as "her room", her private sanctualry in which she is supreme ruler).

My advice is to stop cleaning up for her and just tell her to keep it contained to her room. I don't think anyone coming over to visit will be mortified that you have a typical teenager, just keep her door closed when people come over. Once she realizes that it's not irritating you, she may actually start cleaning it up.

What kind of dirty are we talking about here? Are we attracting cockroaches and mice, or is it perpetual clutter/toys/clothes? I keep all food out of the bedrooms as a matter of habit. Is there just too much in the room? Try to get rid of / donate clothes/toys that are out grown / are no longer used and are of no sentimental value. Once you're down to the things that she needs to keep, you need to find easy storage solutions. Yes, it's her room, but as the adult you need to set certain safety standards. Attracting vermin is not acceptable. If the house caught on fire in the middle of the night, would she be tripping all over her stuff trying to get out to safety (or would the firemen be tripping over the stuff trying to get her out)? Is there so much stuff it's a fire hazard in itself?
If she's just not making her bed, I'd let it go. It might not be neat, but it's hardly life threatening.

hi L.,
i've got a fairly neat boy, and a fairly piggy one. the piggy one gets pretty dang bad, and from time to time i tell him that it's getting smelly and it's got to get dug out. he laughs and does it....not as well as i might want, but at least it's better. i figure it's their space and as long as it's not infringing on the rest of the house (ie teenage boystink) i don't need to be controlling about it. i think as long as they're willing to comply from time to time, say when you're having people over for christams or something, let them wallow in their sty for the most part. teenagers do need their own space after all.
i have to add that i find the idea of deliberately breaking something dear to them and then lying about it to be absolutely heinous. i would never advocate doing something like that to anyone, much less a loved one.

I am stealing this idea from the Flylady.com
I like to do the 15 minute quick clean. set a time and give her 15 minutes to "clean up" .Daily! by the end of the week things will be caught up and then just continue that! also something else fun...from the fly lady as well...is the 27 fling boogy....I modify it for my teen and say 10 item fling boogy. he will find 10 items that no longer fit, he no longer wants, maybe it's just trash? and then we decide whether it gets donated, trashed or fixed? try it! it's quick and fun and again it only takes 15 minutes a day! versus 2-4 hours of moaning and groaning from your teen about having to "waste" time cleaning! haha!

I have the same problem with my 8 year old DSD. MY DSS is so neat and clean - but DSD cannot keep from making a mess - she can go from clean to disaster area in .2 seconds. Usually, I keep her door somewhat closed and no one goes in there, but I tell her if she wants to have a friend come in, she has to keep it clean....so she has learned that she needs to keep on top of it. So, usually during her 'chore time,' I make her pick up her room. It's never exactly how I would like it to look, but if it is fairly good, I let it slide, since it is her room (but she is in no way allowed to let her mess creep into the rest of the house). Even though she has some flexibility to keep her room the way she likes it, she is not allowed to be completely lazy - she tries to get away with not cleaning well, so I make her go back 3 or 4 times till she gets it right - she knows HOW to clean, she just doesn't want to. So, I check and if it's not good enough, then I tell her she needs to make it better and not to make me walk up the stairs again if she knows it's not good enough. I showed her once, so that is good enough to know she knows what she is doing. Once in a while I will go through a bunch of junk and get rid of it....and give specific goals - like she was growing out of all her toy box toys, so I told her to go through and save one, give one away or trash it if it was not good...so she cut it down by half. She got tons of new toys to put in there for Christmas.
I am a bit more understanding than my DH because I was EXACTLY the same when I was young - and now I am a clean freak! So, I have faith that she will grow up to be nice an tidy too from my example. She will be out on her own and have to keep her own space clean, but it may not kick in till she's in her 20's! (I attribute a lot of this to attention to detail - she may be too focused on one area, so she misses the total picture...so just be sure to give specific details - clean off desk area, put clothes away, etc). My parents would tell me to clean my room - I would be in there for 2 hours and only get one drawer done, but that drawer was PERFECT! Haha.

Close the door!
Seriously, I have a 14 yr old and go through the same thing. Sunday is cleaning day. He must run two loads of laundry (yes, if his clothes do not go in the wash daily he must wash them and it STILL he does not do daily cleaning - he does his own laundry on Sunday), pick up and vacuum. The rules during the week are NO food or dishes allowed in the room before going to bed.
Otherwise I just try and ingore it during the week and enjoy looking at it Sunday evenings!
He knows if it is not cleaned up on Sunday (without my nagging) he losses a week of electronics, so it gets done!!
I remember being a teen and having a messy room, so I try and not go crazy over it. My mom used to call them "black bag" days. She would give us 24 hr notice to clean our rooms or my dad would black bag everything in our room on the floor and put it out by the garbage. I can't count the number of times my brothers had to run out and drag everything back up to their rooms!
Best of luck!

My mom just shut my door. I was a disaster.

With my stepkids, everyone does a good cleaning around the house twice a month (the weekends we have them). If they don't clean, they don't get to hang out with friends. It doesn't have to be perfect, just decent. No clothes on the floor, no trash, clean sheets...

If she's overwhelmed with the process (I was), then make each day a different goal. Day 1, change your sheets. Day 2, pick up all the clothes and either put them away or put them in the hamper. Day three take out the trash. Day four vacuum. You get the idea.

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