Kids Messy Bedrooms

Updated on August 21, 2011
H.B. asks from Allentown, PA
24 answers

OK, I am curious how you moms feel about your children's bedrooms. I have two boys, ages 6 and 12, who have bedrooms that look like a tornado went through. You know what I am talking about....books, clothes, toys all over the floor. I can't even walk through my 12 yr old's room without stepping on something. I feel like I am constantly nagging to clean it up. His preteen arguement to me is that it is his room and if he likes it messy then it shouldn't bother me. I can just close the door and not look at it. Does he have a point?? I am not sure if this is a battle I should be having. I want to instill good values in my children and keeping things neat and orderly is important to me. Not to the point that I am obsessive. My house gets cluttered and messy at times but I clean it. He doesn't see the need to clean his room. There are many times when he can't find something because of the mess and that drives me crazy. Now my younger son is picking up his older brother's habits and he is only 6! What are your views on the neatness of childrens' bedrooms?

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answers from Washington DC on

For the teenager, I agree that you should let him have some autonomy in how neat he keeps his room. However, I draw the line and say that you need to be able to at least walk to the bed from the door without falling over something (say it's a fire hazard) and it has to be clean/hygenic. How clean is up to you... does he clean it once a week/every other week/or once a month...vacuum the whole room, dust, and change the sheets.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have had this question /battle for years now with my 16 yo. The 14 yo will keep clean, but the 16 yo will not. My first advice is to realize early that you will NOT win the war.

I just go thru on a regular basis and clean it up...hoping that he will someday learn to appreciate a clean room. I also sometimes ask him to gather all his laundry and bring it down. Or bring down his bathroom trash...small tasks. Did you read today's blog about being grateful? I try to remind myself to be grateful that he is a good kid and around to make a mess. Someday soon he will be gone...and that perfect (empty) room will make me sad. :(

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I shut the door. If they can't find something it means they can't have it and have to choose something else. My daughter was horribly messy as a child as has the best house keeping habits as an adult. Who knew that would happen????

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answers from Cleveland on

Hi, H.,
My view on the kids' rooms is: I expect my children's rooms to be kept neat. It is one of their daily chores. After breakfast, they tidy up their rooms and make their beds. They do not question it, or argue about it. It's one of their chores, and I expect it, so they do it. All of their chores have to be done in the morning, or they don't get to do anything else all day. So they do them.

I have explained that we all live in this house together, and as a family, we work together to keep it neat. It is not spotless, by any means! But at least we keep the floors cleared of toys and clothes and shoes. As a member of this family, we are all responsible to do our share. And they do not get paid for it. I have never believed allowance should be tied to doing chores. Chores are part of one's responsibility as a member of the family. (I do, however, pay them for going to school, which is their "job" for right now, and they get a weekly pay of five dollars; three - 60% - of which they get to keep. The other 40% is broken down and put into the following "accounts" - church, charity, college, short term savings.)

Sorry - I digressed!

If my 12 yo (or my 8 yo, for that matter) ever told me that I should just close the door because it's their room and they like it messy, I would 1) give them "the look", which immediately lets them know they overstepped; and 2) inform them that yes, it IS their room, but it is in OUR house, and we owe it to each other to keep it as neat as we can.

That argument is just not acceptable. You are still the parent. You are running a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy! Expecting your children to keep their rooms clean is not detrimental to their psyche or their development or anything else! It does NOT make you a control freak! It makes you a good mom who is trying to instill good values in her children.

Stick to your guns! You know what's right - that's why you're the mom! : )


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

First of all, your son is NOT A GUEST in your house. The house we live in is ALL of our home.

Also, I am SHOCKED by these responses! I asked this same type of question and most of the responses were to let them keep their room the way they want and to just shut the door.

I feel it is the one spot in the house that they have control over and it isn't a battle worth fighting. So much of this time in their life is controlled by a parent, teacher, schedule, coach etc that I don't see a problem letting them have their own space the way they want. I refuse to be a control freak.

I feel sorry for the kids that have moms that feel they don't belong in the home except for their own bragging rights. Shame on some of you Mommas!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My view is that it's my house and if they actually did clean it properly and put things away every so often, then I'd deal with some clutter. But the reality is that their idea of "cleaning" means all clothes from the floor goes into the hamper which makes work for ME! And most everything else gets stuffed into the closet or under the bed.

Perhaps you can still "work" with your 6 yr old and devise some simple reward system for keeping his room clean. (Also I've found for my kids that 90% of the mess is due to too much stuff in their rooms, lack of storage they can reach well and "old" stuff like out of season clothes/too small clothes/lots of books, etc. Get the clutter out of his room, buy him some new storage and he might be inclined to put everything in it's place.)

As for your pre-teen, maybe he has a point? He wants to have some privacy and boundaries - then why not encourage that...Mommy style! If he wants to deal with his room, clothes and personal affects, tell him you're not helping him - when he's lost something, doing his own laundry, vacuum and dust, etc. Let him get a taste of "adulthood". Let him find his lost library book. Let him dig out that missing soccer cleat. And finally, start HIM on doing his own laundry. Maybe giving him what he's asking for will help him to appreciate all that you do for him. And IF he comes crawling back to you, asking for you to "help" him do his laundry, then he needs to keep his room immaculate, except for maybe his closet.

The bottom line is, I'm in to "giving my kids what they ask for"...and then enjoy watching them squirm when they seen all it really entails. Then I get a compliant child who doesn't want to do all the work, but will happily follow my requests, without any screaming or nagging.

BTW - my kids are young grade schoolers. So for them (like your 6 yr old), I give them time to clean up their rooms. When it gets really bad, they are "stuck" in their rooms (like grounding) for that day, until it's cleaned. If they argue or put up a big stink, I come in with a laundry basket and CLEAN the room - all toys, clothes, etc. on the floor become MINE and they have to earn them back.

They now know that I'm serious when I tell them to clean up. I've explained that this is OUR HOUSE and that no room should be a "pit" of dirty laundry and unable to be vacuumed.

So whenever they want a taste of responsibility, I'm happy to comply...Mommy-style!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Each family needs to navigate and find their own way. In our home, the kids are expected to really clean their room once a week (Saturday works for us). They don't get to go anywhere or do anything until this is done -- and I set a time it needs to be completed by.

I try not to sweat it too much during the week -- unless it gets really out of hand, then I'll tell them to pick up.

In my mind, one of my jobs as their parent is to teach my children HOW to do things and WHY it's important to me. No, they don't get it when they're 12 -- or 14 or 16 either, for that matter. But, eventually (so far, when they move out on their own seems to work) they DO get it. And when it starts to matter to them they have the skills I've taught them to get the results they want.

Teaching and expecting kids to keep their room clean is way beyond "whose room is it , anyway" in my house. It's about self-respect, about organization, about being able to keep track of your own self and your own stuff -- it's about self-reliance. And, sort of like brushing their teeth and eating their vegetables before dessert, these may not be skills they want to learn at the time, but it's in their best interest to learn them.

I understand the argument about autonomy & personal space and the "why battle about clutter; just close the door". Really I get it -- I just don't agree.

Good luck. Now that this will not go away. Choose how big a deal it should be in your house. Don't allow it to continue to escalate, but stick to your guns.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

Hi H.:

It is your house. He is a guest. He will be moving out and it is still your house.

He doesn't value your property by having it look like a cyclone has hit it.
If he doesn't get in a habit of valuing not only your property but his own, what is he going to be like as a father and husband to his wife and children?

I had a fella staying in my house. He is 60. My room was so beautiful until he moved in. Well, needless to say, he was asked to leave after one week.

This example you shared has many connotations:
1. Respect for your wishes as his Mother.
2. Respect for your property?
3. Respect for his property?
4. Demonstration of his values of cleanliness and ordiliness.
5. Demonstration of his values of you as his mother.
6. Respect for Authority.

Just my thoughts.
All the Best.
Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I agree with Ladybug. I go in and clean it on occasion for them. I tell them I'm going to do it a couple weeks before I do. I mention the things that i have noticed they play with and tell them that those are the things I'm keeping. They will say...oh, don't forget my whatever...they want to make sure I don't get rid of them. And then I go in and do it. I think its much easier for them to stay of top of it when there is not that much in there. And I also so this right before the holidays and their bdays (last 4 months of the year) so there is room for the new stuff they get. I by no means is am a clean freak and don't expect my kids to be. But I do expect their dirty clothes to be in the hamper and stuff off the floor and not under the bed. Anything else i'm ok with. =)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Things he can't locate? Don't help him locate them. If he needs them for school --let him take the consequences there.

Clothes not in their hamper when dirty? You pick them up and they vanish. He wants that special t-shirt to wear today? Sorry, it was on the floor, so I assumed it was no longer wanted. It's gone. (You of course will have it hidden away to restore once he improves.) This one may not work with your son like it would with my daughter, though....

Anything you step on when you come into his room for a legitimate reason? The stepped-on item is gone. Instantly. Goodbye. He will accuse you of taking his stuff and violating his space. Sorry, but there is no "violation of space" if something is causing a hazard to other members of the household.

In other words, if he expects you to do his laundry the laundry must get into the hamper. If he wants to take over his own laundry, great, teach him how and say "From now on if you go to school reeking because you didn't do it, so be it. Any comments you get are all yours." "If you can't find something in the mess, there will be no assistance locating it, even if it's your textbook to study for a test the next day."

In other words, keep your room as you like, but all the consequences will be on you. It may take ages but maybe after he faces some real issues at school because of it, or loses something he really wants like an electronic game he loves, maybe he'll figure out he needs to deal with it himself.

Alternatively, be sure he has set chores around the house cleaning other areas you all use. Same for your six year old, adjusted for age. If they do those chores willingly and well you could back off on the room except for clothes and stuff that is stepped on.

And if they get allowances, and you don't want to go the "keep it messy but take the consequences" route, you can tie the allowances to the condition of their rooms as well. I would do that in a heartbeat.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I think kids should learn how to take care of all their things. Just like earning money, taking care of your things teaches kids how to care and value what they have. Cleaning their room is part of that training.

I do encourage my kid to clean up after himself and I don't let my kid's disorganization bother me unless he loses something of mine or makes me late for something b/c he can't find something.

I always wondered if an adult argues with a pre-teen, does the adult ever win? It sort of goes along the same line as "if a tree falls in a forest...".

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My kids' (7 1/2yrs & 5yrs) rooms have to be cleaned by dinnertime. I will make their beds, but, they are responsible for picking up their toys. Soooo many times they lose something like a shoe, or shirt, or toy and ask me where it is. I just say, "It's wherever you left it. If you put it where it belongs, it wouldn't be lost now would it?"

I am a clean freak and just am very anal about having a clean house.

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answers from Williamsport on

His reasoning is typical, but I don't think he should succeed in having you ignore his room. Habits are forming now for his entire life. It would not be obsessive to have him keep it reasonably tidy with a few scattered items.

I believe that kids should understand they are privileged to have use of a room in YOUR house where all family members tow the line. Tell him if it was REALLY his room, it would be in a house where he was paying the mortgage. Do a good de-clutter/clean up so that there isn't too much stuff, and everything has a place. Then explain that he must keep it from tornado status. Then set a time of day where he always tidies it up (if done daily, it will take no time, and he'll get used to it). Also, tell him to clean it before he ____x (insert fun activity he's about to do) and enforce so he gets used to "earning" daily privileges by being responsible. It's good for him to do it on every level. Don't feel bad.

My kids only have a small bin of toys, a small bookshelf of books, and clothes in their bedrooms. The clothes are edited after every laundry load and fit in their drawers easily. This way, it's very easy for them to put everything away.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I had a terrible bedroom and it was a struggle for me to be clean and/or neat. I don't know if it was my age or the fact that my dad re-did my old bedroom, but when I was in my early teens he let me help design built-in bookshelves on one wall, pick paint colors, he put in baseboards, new thermal windows, light fixture, carpeting, etc. (I know that is a big expense--we were living in an old farmhouse that we were also slowly working on and my room was "next," but you get the idea--some kind of personalizing and newness.)

At that point my mom made a deal that I could burn candles in my room IF I was in it and ONLY IF my room was clean and picked up. Because I had such a beautiful room I loved keeping it cleaner. Once I went to college I had an obsessively clean dorm (most of the time) but now that I have three little boys I have a wreck of a house. I try to focus on safety (can we exit the house without obstruction in the event of a fire?), health (are there vermin living in the house or serious air quality issues directly related to cleanliness?), and hygeine (did my 4-year-old smear poop in the bathroom again? or is the toilet just so gross I won't even use it?). These are seriously lowered standards, I admit, but if you can ask your children these, or similar, questions, I would try let it go. As long as they have an appropriate respect for everyone else's posessions in the house and they understand that breaking and losing things are not grounds for frivolous replacement, you might just give it some time. My kids share a room and are only really in it for nap/bed time, but the floor is usually covered in books and a few toys that creep upstairs. I try to pick it up and vacuum it at least weekly because the spiders find themselves feeling a little too welcome on the floor. (Again, critters, vermin, ick! Good reasons to clean!)

My favorite aunt has had an immaculate home for my entire life. My mom finds it hilarious because apparently she was a total slob when they were growing up. For some it is a real struggle and probably not worth it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My children are busy. They get straight As in school. Their job is academics, marching band, and their after school activities. Their rooms tend to get messy. I don't complain. I don't nag.
Once a year -- some times twice a year -- I go in and clean their rooms. I give them a few days notice that I'll be in to clean. (Personally, I think they make it even messier if they know I'm coming...) I pitch what I think should be pitched. I organize. I deep clean. (I do NOT allow any food or drink in their rooms at all.) They have yet to complain that something important got tossed or misplaced. They normally don't even know what is missing. :-)
They both go to summer camp.
They've not lost anything.
They know how to be neat and organized.
Do I really want to sweat the room? Nah!
Sometimes I tell them that we are having company and miraculously, the rooms get picked up. I tell them when I'll be vacuuming in their rooms, and the floors get picked up.
It is what it is...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

My mom spent SO much time nagging at me as a teenager to clean up my room. I was the same clothes were all over etc. Never anything gross like the garbage, just primarily clothes. I think we battled about it until I grew up and moved out. As an adult I'm still not a clean freak. My house is picked up, my garbage is in the can, my dishes are in the dishwasher. My toilet is scrubbed... but my room is a clothes mess. (I'm a single mom, so it's MY room) I don't know why that habit has never gone away, but I still have an issue with my clothes all over.

My little brother always trashed his room and she always cleaned it and it suited him just fine. He's now 22, still living there, and she's still cleaning it.

So I guess in a sense as long as it's not anything gross or unsanitary you could say that it's his room, his problem. If he can't find anything that's his problem. If it needs to be clean he should be at least partly responsible for cleaning it although you sure can help him organize. Sometimes my problem is I don't know where the heck to put things so the cleaning seems overwhelming. Tough call on the messy room battle, but Good luck!!

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answers from Philadelphia on

Maybe if you ask him if it's ok, he wouldn't mind if you clean it for him sometimes?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm sure this has been said, but compromises would probably work well here: he can be messy, as long as the floor is picked up every Friday morning so it can be vacuumed, kind of thing - or - the floor can be messy as long as he vacuums the entire floor (not just around things) once/week and there's always a clear path; books don't have to be on the shelves, but at least stacked on the floor next to the shelf; toys don't have to be in certain bins, but at least in bins (assuming enough storage is provided); he must do ABC and you will do DEF. Its your house, but his space and you want to respect each other. Then you can decide from there, what happens if he doesn't do ABC, like make the dining room his bedroom where he has zero privacy :)

If i didn't make my bed, my dad would make it backwards some random day later (so I never knew when it was happening). If I didn't get out of bed by the 3rd snooze, he'd drag me out by my big toe. LOL

You also have to make sure your husband leads by example - it was hard for my mom to get us to pickup our clothes when my dad tossed his anywhere.

Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My mom always said that battles not fighting were clothes (as long as they weren't obscene), hair, and rooms(as long as they were just messy and not dirty). I am taking that to be my mantra too. But a quarterly cleaning seems reasonable to me, and then lay off the in between times. And, if he's going to be that messy, obviously no food in his room, ever!!!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi. My kids are younger, so I'm not dealing with this yet, but I was interested to read everyone's responses.
There are a few things I think are missing from the responses. First, it is quite possible that your son is overwhelmed by his mess & doesn't know where to start. Instead of saying "clean your room", try saying "I want you to pick up all your laundry and put it in this basket/hamper", "I want you to put all your video games in this bin", I want all of this toy in this bin", etc. I've learned (from other mom's) that this works best with my kids (at least so far). I could never get them to help me clean the living room until I started breaking it down into small pieces. They could handle each small direction, and once the accomplished it, they felt confident to move on to the next piece.
2. You could get a timer & make him clean for 15 mins each day. Tell him he has to work the entire 15 min or until his room is clean. I think he will be surprised how little time it takes.
3. If he still refuses to do it, you should warn him that you will come in and clean his room tomorrow & ANYTHING that is on the floor will be taken by you. It will either go to good will or to his little brother (this way you can keep the really expensive stuff, that you don't really want to get rid of). Imagine how he will fee if his brother is wearing his favorite shirt, while playing his favorite video game. I don't think that you should hide his stuff & return it later, that only invalidates the punishment. If something is gone it should really be gone.
4. As for the younger son, I think you should help him clean and organize his room, so he has a clean room to start with. Then each night just before bed, make him put away anything that is left out. If he refuses, tell him that since he's not taking care of his stuff, he must not want it & you will just have to give it to good will. Give him one more chance to put it away. If not, pick it up & put it in a box in your room. As soon as reasonably possible, take it to goodwill (or a similar place) & make sure your son knows its going.
Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

As and adult who struggles to keep my house clean, I wish my mom had instilled better habits in me when I was young. Saying that, I am now determined to start trying harder with my own kids. Going to make the beds now.


answers from York on

I am more bothered by your 12-year-olds response to you than by the messy room. It may be his room but you are his parent and it is your house. He should respect your rules. My son is 3 and I have already watched a Berenstein Bears episode about the cubs having a messy room. We talked about why we need to clean up our toys. I don't think it is ever too young to start teaching the values/habits that will stick for life.



answers from Philadelphia on

Messes drive me absolutely BONKERS! It's not 'his' room until he's paying for it. Ha ha. And, now that his habits are rubbing off on his brother, you definitely have a valid argument. Maybe he can have some 'organized chaos' by getting him a bunch of big bins that he can throw his stuff in. (one for books, one for clothes, one for toys, etc.) And you can always get a GIANT bin that you can throw everything into when you can't stand the clutter anymore....... He can dig for it if he needs it...

Good luck! I completely understand your situation...



answers from Harrisburg on

My husband is an only child. His mom followed him around and picked up everything for him. How I WISH she would have taught him to clean up after himself. It would have saved us so many arguments over the course of our marriage.

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