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Tips from a Teen: Messy Rooms

Updated on October 8, 2008

If you told them once...

You've told your teen a thousand and one times, "Clean up that disaster zone of a room!"

Does it get done?

Generally not.

You see, moms and dads, us teens really don't buy in to your threats. You might be lucky and have a kid who's so brainwashed by your parenting skills that they'll believe everything you tell them, but for the most part, we've grown past the stage of simple grounding threats and possible cell phone/iPod lossage. We've learned to meander around your rules and regulations. That's what being a teen is all about; finding new ways to get around the rules, and changing them for your own benefit. Our minds work in a way that creates change. Change is a good thing.

Without change, I wouldn't be able to post this hub on Hubpages, because the internet wouldn't have been invented.

Inventions are a form of change.

With change comes possibilities.

And with possibilities comes responsibilities, an important thing for teens to learn.

Now, as a teen myself, I will say cleaning my room is THE HARDEST responsibility I have ever had to deal with. Another great thing with still being a teen is that I know how our minds work, and I know what motivates us and gets us to do crap we really seriously do not want to do. And so, because Ntathu's request made me laugh way too hard at how close to home it truly hit, I have graciously decided to create the Hub every parent should read:

Motivating Tips and Tricks to get your teenager to clean his/her room!

Please read responsibly.

Discussions pave the way to breakthroughs.

Talk to your teen. Why is he having such a hard time getting around to cleaning his room? Why does she procrastinate against seeing her bedroom floor for the first time in months? Why are they avoiding it?

To give a good perspective, the average messy teen's room looks something like this:

In case you're wondering, those are honest to goodness pictures I took myself.

That's my bedroom.

If your teen's room looks even remotely similar to this danger zone, the most likely reason for their procrastination is sheer lack of willpower and the feeling of being overwhelmed with personal possessions. When our rooms get to be this bad, it's a sign that we don't have good time management skills. We keep telling ourselves, "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow." "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow." "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow." It's like the broken record concept. We put it off and put it off until we can't put it off no more, but by then, the mess has become so gargantuan that we're afraid we're never going to finish (or that we'll get lost and the rescue team will never find us in time).Thus, we stop thinking, "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow," and move on to, "Oh snap, I don't even know where to start. Maybe I should do this when I have more help."


It's right there, in black and white:


Your teen needs help.

The problem is, he's not going to come right out and say, "Mom, could you help me clean my room?" because he doesn't want his mom to think he can't do a simple task on his own. We don't like to feel babied or childish, and asking for help on something as menial as cleaning our room is just absurd in our minds.

And that, parents, is where we fall, and you need to jump in and hand us a parachute. There are several ways to go about doing this, but for now, we'll just list a few for future reference.

Offer Advice

Don't tell us how to do it. We're not going to listen. If you give us advice, such as good storage ideas or places we can donate/sell our extra things, we'll be more inclined to take it.

Teens are not good with taking orders. Any parent can tell you this. Our will power is extremely strong, despite common misconceptions. We're stubborn. We want to do things our way. By giving us advice on how to do things, we'll twist your words a little in our heads (still keeping the original thought there) to make us believe we thought of it.

You can either verbally do this, or you can write up a list of ideas to help your teen along. Just be careful not to make your ideas sound like we absolutely must follow them, else we won't. Tape the list to their bedroom door. Mention some tips in a casual conversation. Keep everything light and nonchalant. It's how us teens roll.

Get Them Started

If organization's the main issue, go out and buy storage bins. Buy a whole bunch; they're pretty cheap. Set them out where your teen can see them, and when he asks about them, say, "Oh, I just thought you might like these for your room." again, keeping that nonchalant attitude. Using words and phrases like I Thought and Might plants the seed of inovation, instead of making us feel like you're pressuring us.

In all honesty, we like organization. We like knowing where specific crap is. We feel more secure when it takes us all of two seconds to find something in a well organized place than wasting half an hour just to find that stupid shirt we must wear to school today.

(This is for all you teens out there) Don't you feel better when your room is clean? It gives you a sense of accomplishment, and it makes you feel like you could tackle just about anything. You feel more responsible. You feel more reliable. You feel like an adult. So why not get organized?

Parents, if your teen is struggling with organizing, even after you've gotten those dang bins, offer to help. Help is the key word in this hub. Ask them where things go, and help them put those things into the appropriate places. Get active with your teen; it shows us you really do care about our lives, instead of making us feel like you only say you care because you have to.

Encouragement Means A Lot

Yes, I said we teens like having things clean and orderly, but we don't like having to do the cleaning and organizing. Really. We don't. A great way to keep your teen motivated is through encouragement.

Walk by your teen's room while she's working. When you begin to see progress (and what could very well possibly be her bedroom floor), praise her. Tell her you're proud of her work and efforts. Tell her you're excited to see what she decides to do with her space. Offer some sort of treat or reward for when she's finished, like going out to her favorite restaurant or buying her those shoes she's been oggling at the mall. Keep the reward nice and small, but still something they'd really enjoy.

"Why'd you stop?" Sometimes, when our rooms are just that bad, we need breaks. Don't punish us for these, it's not entirely our fault that our brains have been overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of our mess. You get breaks at work, don't you? Well, why can't we have a break or two? Tell her she can take it easy for 30 minutes or an hour, but once that time's up, she should get back to cleaning so she can achieve her reward. Keep reminding her that there is indeed a reward, and she'll push herself to get that bomb-went-off of a room finished.

We like having our work recognized. Recognize our hard efforts, and we'll be glad to work harder.

I happen to like cleaning my room. I like having my things in certain places where I can find them easily. But when it gets to be the disaster it's become, a little help is greatly appreciated.

I offer you my words of wisdom, as a teen myself, on simple and effective ways to help your son or daughter get their dang room cleaned up. I know these methods work, because they work wonders for my dad. As long as you remember that we are teenagers and we get things done our way, your kids will have their work done in no time. Good luck, moms and dads!


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    • profile image

      Rebecca 5 years ago

      I do not like cleaning my room because it is always a lot of work. But I want a clean room I just don't want to do the work. I will often start but never finish cleaning.

    • profile image

      brenda 5 years ago

      I'm a teen, and you know what pisses me off? my room is absaloutly spotless, everything looks beautiful, that room up there looks like $#!? , and my mom freaks over my closet, where I have a couple stacks of really messy clothes, not even a 1/16th as bad as that room. she acts as if my room is a warzone, but when compared to a real messy room, compared to my MOMS room, it looks spotless. so please, tell me wth I'm supposed to do.

    • profile image

      TJ easter 5 years ago

      hello my sister and i have the messiest rooms eva so dont be to sure that i can be fixed....x xx x

    • profile image

      Your Room Stinks! 5 years ago

      Wage war against the messy room! Visit A place to share and shame your friends, family and loved ones into tidying up their bedroom, living room, working place, wherever! Take a picture, submit it and share your discontent with other likeminded people.

    • profile image

      Riaan 5 years ago

      Instructions for teens aqnd or Parents

      Things You'll Need to clean a room

      • Cleaning Cloths

      • CD Stack Organizers

      • Feather Dusters

      • Laundry Baskets

      • Plastic Storage Drawers

      • Storage Organizers

      • Vacuum Cleaners


      o 1Provide plenty of shelves and drawers so that your teen has a place for everything.

      o 2Teach your teen how to vacuum, sweep, fold clothes, dust and wipe down walls. Let him or her know that these skills need to be exercised in the bedroom.

      o 3Help tackle a big job once. Maintenance is easier with a clean start.

      o 4Work out a "clean plan," creating an actual map of where things go. Put trophies, stuffed animals, Barbie collections, CDs, shoes, pens and pencils and the laundry basket on the map. Tape the map on the inside of a closet door.

      o 5Work out a reward plan. For a month of cleaning, add a little extra allowance or buy the sneakers or CD your teen has been wanting.

      o 6Encourage teens to throw out the unused, unwanted and unloved.

      Tips & Warnings

      • Neat and tidy is often copied from big sisters and brothers and moms and dads.

      • New bedclothes, curtains and painted walls can make a teen proud of a room and more likely to keep it picked up.

      • Fun storage items such as CD stacks, color-coded plastic bins and hampers can help organize.

      • No matter how bad the room gets, sometimes you have to bite your tongue to respect your teenager's privacy and sense of who he or she is.

      • Dirty laundry, wet towels or old food can end up being a health hazard. Keep an eye on things.

      9. Put away your supplies and any other miscellaneous boxes.


      After you have successfully completed this project together, take a moment to reflect on how much nicer the room looks and feels. Congratulate yourselves and celebrate. (Go out for ice cream or decide on a more meaningful reward).

      If your teen did not keep your clean up date, showed up late, or refused to participate, you need to coach her about cause-and-effect. For example, if your teen had plans to meet with friends afterwards, she can go out after the room is organized and clean. Depending upon the specific circumstances, he may end up having to do it without your assistance. (Remember, it’s your responsibility to teach your teen to become accountable!)

      Know that by coaching your kids how to competently handle basic household responsibilities you are teaching them life skills. Each family member ought to have regular household responsibilities. This not only helps the household function smoothly, but builds community within your family. Start early and don’t make the mistake of linking fundamental chores with an allowance.

    • profile image

      megan 6 years ago

      rewards that big?? whoa! that's like my birthday every time i clean!!! i think that we shouldn't get all that for doing what we should do anyways and honestly, as a 14 year old i would HATE my mom trying to help and i dont like all that "encouragement" i looked at this cuz im supposed to be cleaning but i took one look in my door way and had no idea what to do.. i just picked up all my clothes and dumped it in a bin so i could go through it later and then i couldn't keep it up... i got bored!! that's our real problem... its boring and hard.. difficult combination..

    • profile image

      lafenty 8 years ago

      you all suck

    • lafenty profile image

      lafenty 8 years ago from California

      After trying for many years with my four kids to get them to clean their rooms, I finally gave up. I decided to save my battles for more important things. Just shut the door.

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 8 years ago

      I find very difficult to trained them. some are good some are bad

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 8 years ago from Minnesota

      Heeeeey, I actually cleaned my room. :P Well, I'm almost done with it... Just gotta finish up cleaning the floor before I move on to the tougher stuff like my bookshelves and closet... -_- UGH!

    • 49er profile image

      49er 8 years ago from USA

      Wow, you do indeed have a messy room ;)

    • profile image

      Leta S 9 years ago

      :) You can do anything you really want to do, I really believe that. Definitely being a teacher works with being an artist or writer. It is also a profession that will be highly needed in the future.

      One thing about being a writer is that you can do/write about almost anything you want. I really had the same dilemma when I went to college--for me, journalism was the practical thing, that made the day to day living expenses, and I have done art and writing as much as I can in between.

      I'd say, just get to school. You'll figure it out--you don't need to know today.

      It's good to see a smart kid! I live with my boyfriend and he has two sons--one your age, and they haven't the faintest notion of what a book is or how to use it.

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      I want to go to college really bad, but I have to go about a long and pathetic process before I can get in. I graduated this past May. Everyone keeps telling me I should be a writer, but I'd much rather be an English teacher or an Art teacher. I love teaching and languages and art. I love History, too. Basically, I'm indecicive on what I want to be; I also would love to be a veterinarian or a nurse, yet I have a huge passion for food and fashion.

      I have nooooo idea what I want to do in life. -_- Ugh. Maybe I should just listen to everybody and be a writer. At least I know I'm good at that. **insert my super-inflated ego here** lol

    • profile image

      Leta S 9 years ago

      Hey, Kika!

      Forget messy rooms and parents....and being fat and your mother being negative about it. It'll all work out... More importantly--are you going to college when you graduate? Planning on being a writer? You should think about it.

    • profile image

      Ananta65 9 years ago

      It's all very nice, Kika :) There's just one little thing. Where do you come in?

      I'll put things in perspective for you. Yes, I'll offer my daughter advice. Yes, I'm willing to help. Yes I'll be the first to 'reward' her for her efforts, by telling her I'm proud of her. Having lived up to my end of the bargain (generally according to your advice here) it remains HER responsibility to do it. Whether she does it for herself or for me is irrelevant. It's something that has to be done. Just like in my work things I don't like have to be done. So it's not one or the other. It's both. :)

    • A-cam profile image

      A-cam 9 years ago from LA

      Hey, Kika. As a teen I had a super messy room, and I can tell you now that it never ends. The floor of my room is covered in books and half the bed is for clothes, more books, and receipts dumped out of my purse. I only clean it when someone is coming over. Anyway, thanks for the kind comments on my Hub.

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      Who says I need enough money? I just need someone who can clean well and work for next to nothing. xD Better start recruiting for laborers in the high school!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      May be sadisitic. But it will be a strong motivation - just what you seem to need :P

      And sure you can hire somebody - providing you have enough money ;)

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      Wait, so you're telling me to BREAK AN ARM OR LEG IN MY BEDROOM?!

      ... That's sadistic. :-P And nasty. Very, very unhygenically nasty. Bleh! o.<

      Could I just hire someone to do it for me instead? :-P

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      Sure you will :)

      As for motivation - try breaking a leg or an arm in this clutter. This might finally motivate you to clean up :P

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      Probably. Wait, I'll be like, 38! That's old! :O lol Kidding, that's not too old. But hopefully by then I'll have a couple of kids and a husband and a career. You never know.

      Seriously Misha, bedroom clutter can kill! O.< I swear! It's a hassle just to get to my bed every night and to the bathroom every morning! I'm lucky I haven't been eaten by that mess! Like, 3:30 in the morning, I went scouring around by the head of my bed, looking for my watercolor paper so I could draw a picture, and I nearly died from slipping on some random clothes and books and landing head first into another pile of books! God, I need to clean up sooooooo bad... But I just can't figure out where to start and how to get myself motivated enough to do it. I've tried everything, literally everything, to make myself clean up, but I can't do it. It's crazy! lol

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      LOL my older one is 25 and my youngsters are 2 and 4. :P

      It's too late to start doing this things in teenage years. Well, no, it's never to late, but it is much easier on everybody to start from the very beginning. Then by teenage years you already have a thinking person with lots of first hand experience, who does right things because s/he knows by own experience what happens when s/he does wrong things, not because parents told him/her what to do. Who can safely survive all experiments with drugs, alcohol, sex, and even bedroom clutter :D

      And we'll talk about it like in 20 years, I bet you will understand this way better by then :)

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      My dad uses positive reinforcement with me. Always has. And I listen to him a heckuva lot more than I ever would with my mother. Her idea of reinforcement is screaming how stupid I am and how ugly I am and how fat I am and how lazy I am and how I never do anything right... ... Yeah, you get the picture.

      You might have a better understanding of parenthood (I dunno about that one, I've seen way too many parents fail miserably with their kids), but I'll have to say I have a better understanding of the teenage mind. ;) I am 18, after all. I'm a firm believer in positive reinforcement. Then again, I'm also a firm believer of spankings. Parents are too soft on their young'uns nowadays! It drives me nuts! And then they wonder why I won't babysit their munchkins anymore...

      The only problem with letting teenagers decide for themselves on almost everything is that our brains aren't fully developed yet. We don't understand how things work in the real world, despite what we may think. Unless we're taught how to deal with money, how to dress for an interview, how to write a resume, how to be safe on the internet, when certain things aren't appropriate, and that it's a really bad idea to let our rooms get to the state mine is in (you must've seen the pictures, they're right in the middle of the hub!), it's going to be a long, hard, cruel road for us. And while some teens get over this, some don't. I've had too many classmates do too many stupid things because of this, and if they just would've listened to me instead of saying, "Dude, Monika, don't act like my mother!" they might not be drug addicts, alcoholics, severely mentally impaired from different accidents, or dead.

      Misha, I'm sure you're a great father (and if you're childless, you would've been one), but I mean it when I say you have no idea how things are for us anymore. I will admit, though, I do get where you're coming from, and I can understand it. I just can't agree with it.

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      LOL Not to be rude, but I am sorta have better understanding of what does it mean being a parent. You can be my grand daughter theoretically :P

      Well, not exactly probably, but close :)

      Anyway, positive reinforcement only good for bringing up "bricks in the wall". I bet your parents failed on positive reinforcement, cause you are obviously not a brick, but quite a thinking person :)

      And no, no rewards for A's. In fact, no A's, too. As well as B's, C's - you got the picture :)

      The thing to do to bring up independent thinkers is to let them decide for themselves what they think they can decide, and let them do what they want to do - with grave danger situations constrain, of course. And share both their joy of success and grief of failure... :)

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      ... Misha, I heart you and all, but seriously.

      Since when has a teenager cleaned her room for herself?

      We do it because our parents tell us to. Plus, positive reinforcement brings the idea that cleaning our room is a good thing. And even when we move out, and our parents are no longer around to reward us, we can reward ourselves. Take ourselves out for a nice meal, go to a fun hang-out place with the gang, rent a movie and just chill out.

      That's like saying kids shouldn't get rewards for getting straight A's in school. Seriously hun, does the phrase "positive reinforcement" mean anything to you? :( That's one of the biggest fundamentals of being a parent. Unless you like having heartless, self loathing children who think they can't do anything right and the world will always look down on them. But hey, some people are like that. :-/

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      That's exactly what the "wrong" message is. :)

      You do cleaning for yourself, not for your parents. ;)

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      How could praise and a possible reward for hard work send the wrong message? o_O If you want someone to do something, you sure as heck better give them something in return, else they're not going to do it. You get paid to do your job, don't you? You get bonuses for working extra hard, don't you? You get vacation time for doing your best and sticking to it, don't you? Why would it be any different with a teenager?

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      Nice hub Kika :)

      Not sure about praising and rewards, though. I think it sends a "wrong" message, and sets "wrong" expectations. However, it is definitely wise move to acknowledge what you guys achieved on your difficult way, and to share the joy of this discovery with you :)

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 9 years ago from Minnesota

      *falls over laughing* Dude, I didn't even think of that, but now that you mention it, I do! xD

      It's true, though. Change is a good thing, and it usually stems from new creative minds. Which is why education and good upbringing mean so much nowadays. Maybe I should run for president! lol!

    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image

      fishskinfreak2008 9 years ago from Fremont CA

      Man, in this article, when you talk about change, you're starting to sound like Obama