How to Get a 14 Year Old to Clean His Room **Updated**

Updated on November 06, 2012
R.P. asks from Salt Lake City, UT
20 answers

I have done everything I can think of from taking away priviledges to taking actual things away to positive reinforcement. I've tried just closing the door and giving him his space. I don't think I've seen carpet in there for ages. I would go do it myself (which I have also done before) but I look at it and am immediately overwhelmed (which he probably is too). I don't even know where to start. Help. Is there anything you've tried to get your children to clean their rooms that's actually worked?

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So What Happened?

I was in him room with him last week. He did NOT want me to help him. He kept telling me to go away and I'll do it but it never did get done. Seems it only got worse. Things only seem to improve if I stand over him. Once, I told him he had a week to do it. Anything left on the floor was gone after a week. Didn't get done so dad and I did it, didn't seem to make much impression. He doesn't play the xbox much anyway so I guess that's not much of a motivation. I need him to have a phone because he school is so far away. He gives it to me when he gets home. He was banned from facebook and google mail but the room is still a mess. Might be different if I could see the carpet. I think the only thing to do is take everything out. Two trash bags. One for garbage and one to donate. maybe that will finally get his attention.

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answers from San Francisco on

I didn't give my kids allowance, so if there was something I really wanted done, I could usually pay them for it.

That's not necessarily the best way, but it worked. Other good ideas below.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you took away all access to cell phone & video games, and he could not have them back, at all, untill he cleans it up? I know you said you tried taking away priviledges but I just cant imagine a 14 year old boy that this would not be effective with! :o)

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answers from Columbia on

My boys are 9 and 11. They're messy too.

I simply go on strike.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I can't drive you to _______ when you aren't doing your chores."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I can't give you money to go to _________ when you aren't cleaning up after yourself."

"Oh, I'm sorry....did you need your clothes washed? That's too bad. I don't wash clothes when half of them are on the floor in your room."

"Oh, you were hungry too? Well, if you'd like me to cook you dinner, you have to contribute your part to the household."

Simply "quit."

And if he says "Fine! I'll do my own laundry and make my own dinner!" tell him, "Oh, I'm sorry, the cabinets and washer and dryer are off limits to people who don't clean up after themselves. If you want to use this family's stuff, you have to act like part of the family."

ETA: If I had to guess, I'll bet that he's not cleaning his room because he doesn't have a natural consequence that is incentive enough.

How long do you think it'd take to clean that room, if he really had the motivation? 2 hours? 3?

After breakfast on Saturday, I would tell him that all things are closed to him until he gets his room clean. The kitchen, the laundry, the TV, the computer...all of it. He might miss a meal because he's being lazy...but he's a teenaged boy...I bet he won't miss more than that. Don't wait on him, just eat without him.

Make sure that he cleans his room properly. Give him a big black trash bag for trash, and a box for donations. The floor should be clean everywhere, bed made, clothes hung and folded, and all surfaces clean and organized. Inspect when he says he's done, and DO NOT let anything slide. 95% is still not done and still doesn't get to come to dinner.

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answers from San Francisco on

I will just talk about our almost 13 year old son.(But our younger kids have expected jobs/chores too)

Our son is expected to do his laundry. (Sometimes I will do it but then he puts it all away.) But..I'd say 90% he does it. One time I knew he was getting down to slim pickings and he had to wear the same items...he then did his laundry when he got home from school.It was a natural consequence. He is in charge of cleaning one bathroom from top to bottom each week..includes sweeping and mopping. He mows the lawns with trading front and back with dad. He also has to clean up all video games/console/remotes after using or they disappear into "time out". He will often volunteer to help out in the kitchen too.

As for his room. We expect our kids to clean their rooms only once a week. The other days I ask them to close the door so I don't have to look at it. Cleaning own room is tied into their chore money. They do not need it to be pristine but the bed is made, clothes in laundry bins, desk organized and things picked up off the floor.

He gets this done each week without complaint. He knows clearly it is expected once a week and he will not go anywhere or have friends over til it is done. He will not get his chore money if he doesn't do it. I think the once a week rule has helped. I don't care that the room is clean daily..I want to know that he knows how to clean it and will do it on a set schedule. Maybe pick a day to tackle your son's room WITH sounds like an overwhelming task for him right now.

Pick a day really soon. Tell him you want him to turn on some of his favorite music and turn it up then go in his room with him and help him clean and tidy his room. Tell him up front that when you are both done then you will take him to get a treat or smoothie. While you are cleaning keep the mood fun and lighthearted. Then when it is all cleaned up talk to him about a plan to keep his room cleaned up. Have him come up with some ideas and the expectations for the room. Then go out and have a treat together.

We really try to focus on positive reinforcement, setting clear,age appropriate expectations and also let natural consequences follow. We don't harp,beg,nag or yell at them. This has really helped. I also use a positive parenting tip that really has made our lives more simple. As a parent we ask a question rather than tell them what to do. Let them state what needs to be done. It is so much more effective if they say it rather than you tell them.

For example. You see the bed isn't made. Instead of saying "make your bed" ask, "What can you do to your bed to make it look nice?" They say "Pull up the sheets and cover." Then you say, "Sounds great!!" If they (and they will) say "I don't know!" Then you just ask it again. If they say again, "I don't know!" THen you calmly ask "I know you can come up with some suggestions of what you can do to make your bed look nice." Don't give in and give the answer...let him fill in the blank.

The point is to ask them to come up with the idea...and the clincher is that they say in their own words what to do. It really works. I may sound like a broken record but it really works to give them ownership of their responsibility. We carry it over into many situations in our home. It has been a miracle parenting tip that has really changed the mood in our home.

Good luck and best wishes. Something else I learned from a professional was that as long as the main living space in your home is somewhat clean and organized and your child does know how to clean then they will eventually grow up into an adult that will keep a somewhat tidy home. Your son's pig pen of today does not mean he will live in a pig pen in the future.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

We do it like Momma W too. My girls are 10 and 13. They can keep their rooms as they wish, but Saturday morning is clean up time. No screen time, going out privileges, or weekly allowance money given out until room clean is done and inspected. I do laundry once a week, Friday. If it is in their basket, I wash it. If not, it stays dirty. And if it's in the basket next Friday, I'll wash it. Otherwise, they can wash it themselves. I DO NOT pick up mess on their floors. This works for us because our 13 year old is motivated to get her allowance money, or go out and do something on the weekend. And our 10 year old usually wants to have some time watching a movie or TV show with her Ipad by Saturday evening. My youngest is actually starting to see the benefit of keeping her room clean during the week (no huge Saturday chore!). But my 13 year old still struggles. I just shut her door. Whatever is lost, dirty, ruined, or whatever is her own natural consequence, and there are plenty of those.

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answers from Honolulu on

Is his room infested with ants/bugs/roaches and old rotten food too?
Get him some "roach motels" and place it in his room.
Tell him those can be his pets.

One thing that can make an impression on him is:
go in there, with a trash bag, put everything that is on the floor IN the trash bag, and put it by the door to take out.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Rewards and punishments alone are likely not going to work no matter how severe, and cleaning it for him isn't either. Unless he has a massive clothing supply - or unless he likes to wear dirty clothes - won't he eventually run out of clean clothes? We are working on 'natural consequences' with my 11 year old, and I told him just last night in fact, that if he wanted his clothes washed, he needed to put them in the laundry room. I will then wash them. If he wants his clean clothes, then they will be in their usual location stacked and folded in the laundry room. I'm not going to nag him to clean his room or put his clean clothes away any more. When he runs out, I will remind him that he made the choice not to clean his room, and running out of clean clothes are the consequences. If he loses something in his room, then he will have to go without until he cleans his room and finds it. If your son DOES decide to wear dirty clothes, set up a 'rule' that he has to be 'stain free' and smell clean before he can say... eat breakfast - or something along those lines. Be sure to let him know he has a choice to do these things. I would also suggest reading either the book called "Empowering Underachievers" or "Drive: 9 Ways to Motivate Kids". My guess is your son is like mine, and cleaning his room is not the only thing you nag him about (please don't take this personal). These books were eye opening and can work magic if implemented appropriately, and no I'm not a publisher or anything, just a parent that has been driven nuts by her capable, yet lackadaisical 11 year old. :)

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answers from Chicago on

With my 11 year old, when things get bad I just go in and do it.

When she's not around I sort her things, trash, donate and put away. I throw away things that are broken. I put things I haven't seen her play with in a while in the "donate" pile. The donation box goes into the garage for 2 weeks. If she doesn't ask for anything that's in the box (and I don't allow her to see what's in the box) then the whole box gets donated. If I let her see what's in the box, suddenly she wants to keep EVERYTHING. She does not have the ability to throw anything away.

Things I'm not sure if she wants to keep go in a box and that goes in the middle of the room. Her job is to put those things away.

Really, he probably has too much stuff and he hasn't developed any habits on how to take care of it. You will probably need to help him get down to the bare minimum.

I would stop grounding him and taking away his privileges. It's not doing any good! He may be at the point where he doesn't care anymore.

My husband grew up in a house where if he left anything out, it got thrown away. He quickly learned to care for his things. As a result, he is a very neat, and organized person.

I can't bring myself to throw away my daughter's things, but I do put them in a timeout box if she leaves them out. She must then do chores to earn them back or they get donated.

I think natural consequences are the way to go. You will probably end up donating a lot of his stuff! In the long run that will be good for him! He will either step up or lose out.

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answers from New York on

OPTION 1 (the nice way)

Set aside a day, or several implement a plan and have him get to a fresh baseline.

4 boxes or bins, marked keep, donate/ sell, trash and recycling.
have him make decisions on every single item in that room.
when you are done, revisit the Keep box and see if you can winnow it down by at least 1/3.

Deep clean everything.

Set up a cleaning schedule. laundry, dusting, vaccuming, spring and fall cleaning.

disallow food anywhere but sat at the kitchen/ dining room table.

To keep stuff from accumulating, establish an even exchange formula. i.e. if he has 7 pairs of jeans, he can't get another pair of jeans unless he discards, donates, or sells an existing pair of jeans.

OPTION #2 (the hard way).
Remove everything from his room to the garage, I mean everything, including the furniture, and lightbulbs.

Have him deep clean the room.

He can cart things back to the room 1 thing at a time.

He can earn the right to get his stuff back (you sort out how).

Anything which doesn't get collected in x amount of time, he wasn't really fond of, and you can sell, donate, recycle discard.

Impose a cleaning schedule, if he fails to abide by it, you can make his room spartan all over again.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

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answers from Los Angeles on

If it has been allowed to get to the point where it is overwhelming than I would help him.

I would either set up a schedule for each day of something he needs to accomplish in his room:
Monday: Pick up all trash and take it out.
Tuesday: Pick up all clothes and put in hamper or if clean put away.
Wednesday: Do laundry and put it away.
Thursday: Pick up any and all 'toys' or extras on floor & vacuum
Friday: Organize bookshelves, dresser and whatever else he has that holds his other things
Saturday: Go through everything with your help and donate what isnt needed anymore or too small, etc.
Sunday: Make a schedule for next week.

I would just go in and get it started while he is at school. Pile all his clothes on his bed so he can sort through them (donate, trash, etc) when he gets home from school and then he van pick up the rest of the floor.

I am a 'helper' b/c I didn't have any help growing up...what works for our family is a basic 10MinuteTidy every night where EVERYONE gets a room and has at it for 10 minutes before we go to bed and then on (usually) Saturday mornings we all go VOOM...the radio is blasting and we *really* clean up the house, all of us at once... as a T-E-A-M! I do laundry throughout the week and saturdays is usually hubby's work clothes and bedding only.

~I too, am at a loss at the fact that you have a 14y/o BOY that isn't motivated enough by the loss of his Xbox/Playstation/Computer/Phone/Ipod/whatever to clean up his room! Amazing!

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answers from Washington DC on

I would figure out what level of clean you need. And I would work with him on having it clean enough every so often but wouldn't expect it to be spotless most days. We have someone come and help us clean the house so every other Saturday, the kids' rooms needed to be clean enough to vacuum or they'd also be vacuuming. In between, we closed the door. My mom hated my room. It was so bad that you couldn't see the carpet. Clothes I can tolerate - it's the food that SD had in there that would drive me bonkers. First, it smelled. Second, it was just gross. So we made a rule that if we found food (or if our dear cleaning lady did) that there would be a consequence for it. Like an extra chore. Especially if she left it and we found it and she wouldn't be back for a week.

Try going in there with him and helping him sort and clean. Maybe he just needs a hand. It might help if you say, "Okay, all your clothes that you will never wear again - let's put them in this box if they are in OK shape and this trash bag if they are not." Then donate the ones that are still good to kind of give him a purpose.

Or give him a loose timeframe. I hated deadlines. If my mom said "today" and today wasn't convenient for me, it made me angry. In college we said that everyone needed to clean their assigned common area by Sunday night. You had all weekend to find the time. Would that help him? Give him a whole weekend?

Remember, you are not alone:

ETA: Every kid has a motivator. My SD would watch you throw out her stuff and not flinch. But if you told her she couldn't go out til the room was clean? Done. Find out what his motivator is and use it.

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answers from Kansas City on

I'll be watching for the ideas you get. Your question is so close to what the situation is with my 14 year old boy that I could have written it!!!

:) M

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answers from Tyler on

I am going to borrow from Dr Phil, you have to find his "price". Everyone has one. Sounds like you are doing a lot to try to figure out what he cannot live without, but you haven't struck gold yet. I really truly found the "Love Language" book and philosophy very helpful with dealing with motivating each individual member of my family. Each and every one of us is unique in our desires both in what we desire from others to achieve personal happiness and what we like to give to others in order to bring them happiness.

Figure out his key to happiness, and you will figure out what motivates him.

good luck :)

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answers from Norfolk on

A lot of kids just have too much in their rooms.
It becomes too much to deal with.
You want clothing (but not more than will fit in his dresser and closet) and a bed in there and not much else.
I once knew someone who's philosophy of cleaning/clutter was - each room (maybe one a month) gets emptied out completely, cleaned, repaired, painted (if needed) and things are placed back into the room organized/cleaned/dusted (only things that have a place and are needed - clutter gets tossed or donated).
It's not a bad habit to get into.
For a teen, it might be good to have them do it over the summer, but there's no reason they can't do it over Thanksgiving break (if you are not entertaining).

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answers from Wichita Falls on

We started removing things from the room. First toys and 'extras', then clothes (other than very basic school clothes), lastly furniture. When there is no stuff, there is no mess. When they start cleaning their room, stuff is returned, slowly.

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answers from Dallas on

I know some of the "take everything out of there" responses seem harsh -- but that's just what my mom did to me. I came home from school one day and all my stuff was bagged up and in the garage. I earned the stuff back - and I learned to keep a clean room the hard way.

Still keep a clean room to this day!

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answers from San Francisco on

Personally, I would just tell him to go in there and don't come out until it's clean. If that's the entire weekend or a full week starting the minute he got home from school - whatever.

I really don't get how kids think they have a choice to do or not do what they're told to do. Seems to me that if the child has respect for the parent, they do what they're told. They only balk when they know they can get away with it.



answers from Provo on

If it is overwhelming, then the easiest thing to do is make it not overwhelming. Focus on one thing at a time. Start with clothes. Have HIM pick up all the clothes off the floor. Either put them away or put them in the hamper to be washed. With the clothes out of the way, then look at the room and see what category of stuff can be cleaned up next.
Another strategy I use when it's overwhelming is to first put everything in a big pile -- just push it all together and then start at the top of the pile and whittle it away little by little. This only works for me because it clears up some space on the floor which makes it look like I have already accomplished something.
Good luck to you!



answers from San Francisco on

Give him a TODO list and a deadline......if the room isn't clean take everything out except a mattress, pillow and blanket.



answers from Denver on

When you say you are going to take everything out do it and take EVERYTHING out. I mean leave the boy a pillow and a blanket and the rest of the room even posters on the wall should be gone. He'll have to "pay" you back for your cleaning by keeping his space clean and orderly. The first thing he'll need to do is make up his sleeping space every morning if he wants clean clothes. He'd better make sure that when those clean clothes get dirty they get to the laundry room so he can get his TV or computer or whatever he thinks is most important back.
In this way by taking baby steps at learning to clean his room it won't be so overwhelming and believe me, a simple reminder will make him run to clean up his room. Also this method of discipline truly fits the crime, you're not just running around in circles grounding him and yelling at him, you're making him responsible for his things.

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