Most parents complain at some time or another about the mess of their teenager's rooms. As parents ourselves we can empathise - it seems that even if you go in and clean and tidy for them, their rooms are back in a mess within 12 hours. And of course the intrusion on their space is rarely welcomed!
Teenagers have a lot going on - there are academic expectations, choices for their future, friendships to maintain,non-cluttered and in more recent years, social media to keep up with. It’s no wonder that they cannot concentrate on keeping a room tidy too.
It can help to understand exactly why teenagers tend to have messy rooms and to realise thay they are not necessarily being deliberately unhelpful.
To some extent, the messy room phase can be seen as simply a stage in their development. Because of the way the human brain develops, the prefrontal cortex does not develop fully until the age of around 25. This part of the brain is responsible for planning, organising and decision making. So it's fair to say that in some ways they literally can't help it!
Having said all of that, you may of course feel that you would like to encourage your teens to be tidier. After all, they live in your house, and you want it to be at least reasonably presentable, plus of course learning to keep their own space tidy and organised is a valuable life skill.
Not only that, but studies have shown that working and relaxing in a non cluttered environment is far more beneficial than being in a cluttered and chaotic one.
So if your teenager does their school work in their bedroom it will be beneficial to the way they work and will make it easier for them to concentrate and also reduce their stress. (A very difficult point to convince a teenager of, when you are trying to get them to pick their wet towel off the floor or put their dirty clothes in the washing basket!)
So how do you get your teenager on board with the idea of a tidy bedroom?
It’s important to remember that all teenagers are at the age when they are finding their own self expression and their rooms are an extension of that. It is their space and as such we believe there is only so much parental interference that should take place.
So our advice is broken down into 4 parts:
Have a conversation and put some time aside to make their room as they would like it to be. If you have the time and money to redecorate then let them choose the wall colour, bed linen or accessories. Let them know this is their space and you respect their privacy within it.
If a full redecoration is not something you can do then offer to help them get the room as they would like it to be in other ways, maybe rearrange furniture, sort out unused toys or clothes, remove more childish items.
If sorting through all the childhood memories seems too daunting then we, as professional declutterers we can help with this. There are lots of options from memory boxes to photographing precious items, to donating them to people in need. Involving your teenagers in what to keep/not to keep can also be helpful and you might be surprised by what they do (or don't) feel sentimental about.
Show them how
You can’t assume that teenagers instinctively know how to tidy up a room. Actually spelling out exactly what you want them to do can help e.g "here's a binliner, could you go round your room and put all your rubbish in it" or "could you bring all the dirty cups downstairs please". Try to break it down into small tasks as it could be that "tidy your room" is just too vague a concept for them!
You could offer to tidy with them a few times, ask them where they want their belongings to be in terms of ‘which drawer or which cupboard’, put on some music or chat to them whilst you are doing it, try to make it, if not fun – at least not too arduous.
Pick your battles
It is not going to be a major problem to you or them if they have a jumper or jeans thrown over the back of a chair, but a damp towel on the floor will smell if left and it is never nice to reuse a damp towel. It isn’t the end of the world if their school work is left out over the desk, but if they don’t unpack used lunch boxes or festering PE kit it is unpleasant, smelly and unhealthy. So a few simple rules that are agreed by both could be a way forward, and yes, they may still need to be reminded, but at least the confrontations are fewer.
Make things easy
It may seem like a little thing but if their dirty clothes are continually on the floor and don’t get to the washing basket, put a washing basket in their room. If they keep forgetting to open the window in the morning or bring down their used cups, write a note or set a reminder on Alexa. We know parents who have sent their teenagers WhatsApp or text reminders – if the technology works for them, use it.
Going on and on about a tidy room is just ‘white noise’ to a young person with other priorities but a conversation about how clearing up a little as you go saves a lot of work later, and how a clutter free environment has proven benefits to concentration, may help. We think it’s fair to say that we all have a tendency to stop listening if the feedback is constant and negative.
So perhaps try praising when they do have a tidy room, rewarding the gesture in some small way like a favourite supper or the suggestion of inviting a friend over. Try to remember it is their space, it may not be how you want to live in a room but as long as it is not impacting on the rest of the family, it is up to them.
If you need our help with your childrens or teenagers bedrooms, or indeed any other part of the home, feel free to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or books some time in our diary for a free consultation here.
We look forward to speaking to you!
Sue & Claire