How do you get your teen to clean his/her room?

A source of contention between my daughter and her father and I:

If we don’t do something soon, she will earn a place on the show “Hoarders”. Just kidding, but I’m going to see if I can help organize her things while she’s at school today. Clearly, she’s overwhelmed.


65 Responses to “How do you get your teen to clean his/her room?”

  1. 5kidswdisabilities Says:

    This may sound awful, but I’ve given up trying. I just shut the door and when they only have dirty clothes left, they are forced to clean.
    Lindsey Petersen

  2. I am happy to be in the diaper changing stage. I have no idea how will solve that issue in the future.

  3. Just let her live in her room the way she wants to. Close the door and don’t look (unless you think something untoward is going on, then it’s your responsibility to investigate.) Set the limits, though. She can’t live like a slob in the common areas.

    This could have been any one of my four kids’ room when they were teens. They all grew up to be neatniks. If this is her only form of rebellion, you’re lucky!

    • I totally agree with you. I was a mess as a teenager. MY mother and father literally decided to close the door and not look. The rule: not allowed to spread this anywhere but my room.

      When I moved out to University and started living on my own I became such a neat freak it irritates my mom now. So two things I learned for when I have kids-one: close the door and two-nobody ever satisfies their mother. haha.

  4. Lisa Schlesinger, CPO-CD, COC Says:

    The comment you made that you were going to help her while she is away at school is troublesome to me. How is she going to learn to make decisions regarding her things if she is not involved in the organizing and cleaning process. If there is contention, it would be a wise choice to hire a Professional Organizer to work with your daughter. Having someone else who is not emotional involved is well worth the fee of the Professional Organizer. Your daughter will learn valuable tools that will only help her in life. It also appears there is more stuff than adaqute storage and I’m curious where she is sleeping as the bed is not properly made. Does she know how to make a bed with the proper bedding? What consequenses are in place if she doesn’t keep her room up to your standards? Have you explained to her what your standards are and what you expect? What is she overwhelmed by? Her stuff, her life?

  5. That generally is the consensus; teens simply get overwhelmed. They will let things build up slowly overtime, and then they become overwhelmed when the problem finally becomes too large to ignore. Then they must tackle it head on, begin working on fixing the problem, or simply ignore it because it is so big.

    Sometimes they only need a little help to get going, to feel like they’re not alone in tackling this enormous problem. I’d get started, and when she gets home, get her started helping you. This could also be a great bonding experience!

  6. wandertales Says:

    Could be motivation that she needs. If I were you, I would tell her she could invite her latest crush home for dinner on Saturday and would personally give him a guided tour of the house, including her bedroom.

  7. Probably the worst thing is doing it while she isn’t home. My mom did change around my room while I was gone when I was little and I was so pissed that she touched my stuff while I wasn’t there. What I do recommend is maybe finding some nice looking and inexpensive things to organize her stuff. give the supplies to maybe decorate some cool boxes from a consignment shop (modge podge is fun with some paints) or some shelves from ikea. They have a lot of inexpensive storage items. Make it a more interesting designing project rather than a clean-your-damn-room project. Look into tips from the show “Design on a dime”.

  8. just let them be : ) I’m a teenager and it’s just natural for my room to be a mess! Your room is supposed to represent your mind, right? Well a teenagers mind is messed up with hormones and random crap going on – their room is just a reflection of this! lol

    check out my blog!

  9. Hi,
    I like the comment about giving a guided tour to her latest crush to see the house including the room. Unfortunately, I have a friend who when she was young she had a room like this and now she is married with children her house looks like this. Yikes, indeed.
    Sure, speaking as a Dad I can imagine the young lady is overwhelmed but indeed, when she wants something that is hidden in the piles or wants a friend to come over motivation will get her to take action. It truly has to be her inner motivation otherwise she will always need a nudge. I find in my work people of all ages only make a change when they have the internal motivation.
    All the best,

  10. well, i’m a teenager and my mum has been telling me that i should clean my room so i’m gonna let you know about a little secret…teenagers hate cleaning…i do! And I hate more when someone cleans it up for me and changes the place of my personal stuff so you’ve got 2 options to make her or him clean the room:

    option 1 : do not tell her to clean the room , just let her/him do it their way…
    in a couple of weeks she’s gonna notice that her laundry is pilling up and her shoes are everywhere and she/he can’t figure out the clean from the dirty and she’s gonna start acting upon that!! and you’ll notice it …he/she are gonna ask you about how to turn on the dryer or the washing machine… warning….make sure if she leaves her stuff IN HER room and not all over the house…she can do anything she wants as long as it is in her room!!

    Option 2: Arrange your room , add a cute cupboard..she might be jealous and want the same to her room….:)) ( no guarantee that this option will work but you just might want to try it out!)

    I wish you good luck and don’t let it get to you at all!!

  11. Tim Coote Says:

    Move out without telling her.

  12. geckograce Says:

    I’m thirteen, and come from a very messy family. I’ve always had trouble keeping my room tidy! But I think if you help get her to a stage where it’s relatively clean, and work out ways she can keep things all worked out nicely, she should be able to get along just fine. Things like washing baskets (you could have a specific time/ day, when you force her to bring it down), boxes for different things (boxes make things look a lot tidier).

    But maybe posting pictures of her room on the internet may not be the best way to go? I’d be distraught if my mum did that to me. x

  13. Just hide some important staff 🙂

  14. I have a 10 year old daughter and we used to butt heads over her room all the time. We decided we would dedicate a afternoon to making her room more organized and tidy. We started by getting rid of nick nacks and clutter and together we sorted through everything. We even went through her clothes and weeded out things she hasn’t worn in months. One thing she struggled with was clothes and how to keep them put away rather than on the floor so I bought her a hanging wardrobe and she now hangs all her shirts which makes deciding what to wear a lot easier.

    I do find that she gets overwhelmed easily so giving her a headstart by helping organize and creating better storage as well as getting rid of clutter made her feel better about her space. Since the re-org she has been keeping up on her bedroom and takes more pride in how it looks. She also mentioned that she feels better about herself when her room is tidy and organized. These are skills that will help her in her school work and life and the younger they can learn them the better.

    As a Interior Designer I really feel that loving your space no matter your age is key and that will be motivation to keep it looking it’s best!

    All the best to you!

  15. I really go back and forth with this issue. My overall premise is that the room is hers to do with as she pleases as long as it doesn’t smell (NO FOOD in the room).

    I’ve tried cleaning it with the hopes she will maintain it (even with my great little OCD Brother-Ptouch). I’ve tried giving her the 15 minute warning before bed–telling her if she spent 15 minutes every night, it wouldn’t get so bad. I’ve tried screaming and yelling.

    I think that we are going to go back to the rule that she can keep it as she wants UNTIL it affects grades or activities–if she can’t find homework or supplies for activities, clothes needed for sports–then the room must be cleaned.

    More than likely, this won’t work either.

    On the plus side–I was a slob growing up and I’m fairly neat now. My sister was OCD growing up and now is a total slob. So who knows.

  16. I just gave up. I figured when they were grown up and had places of their own, they might change.
    My (single) son has chosen to live in hotels. He has a serviced apartment, attached to a hotel, with a daily cleaning service.
    My daughter is a little bit tidy, but not a lot.

  17. quinntessentiallyme Says:

    Having a teenager keep their room clean is as difficult as curing the common cold. It just isn’t going to happen, in our life time! I’ve raised two daughters, who are amazing in all aspects of their lives, except the messy bedroom.

    My youngest daughter would get the “clean it up or else” ultimatum and it worked, or so I thought. Her room had never looked so amazing. It wasn’t until I opened the attic door, only to find an entire WALL of paper sacks stacked on top of each other, with all the contents, from her room. Neatly stacked, I might add. Be careful what you ask for and be VERY specific too. Still laughing about it, after all these years.

  18. Jim Hagen Says:

    Most of the problem is that she is just too “busy” (in her mind) to keep her space organized. What with text messages, cell phone calls, Facebook updates, American Idol, etc. You’ve let the genie out of the bottle by aiding and abetting her ADD. Slow her down a little bit and you’ll be surprised at the results.

    • maryrestaino Says:

      How did you know? She is very fixated on her friends and chatting. I told her she couldn’t go on the computer until she at least put some sheets on her bed! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  19. […] and would personally give him a guided tour of the house, including her bedroom.”  There are pictures of how messy her room is on the blog as well ^^ Lovely. It gives a whole new concept to the word […]

  20. Occasionally, when my girls rooms looked like this, it was because they were overwhelmed. I would offer to help or sometimes they would give me permission to clean it up. They just needed help. There were times that we just shut the door also. We tried to get them to tackle it on weekends. Good luck. Have a nice day. Linda

  21. Holy Smokes!! That room belongs to a girl! Who woulda thunk?

  22. Are you kidding me? Whose the Parent here? Whose the one paying the mortgage and for her food and the electric. I can tell ya, when I was a teen, I saw the long end of a belt growing up if I didn’t keep it clean, but of course, all the weak kneed, pansie acting, wussified parents of today have to be afraid of Child Services butting in if they use a belt today.

    Place a list of rules of how you expect the room she uses (not here room, she’s not paying the mortgage/rent, you are) to be. Place it on the list, the items should be in the drawers, dirty clothes in a hamper, etc. Put it in writing. Then tell her you expect the rules to be abided by.

    Then give her 24 hours to get it in order. Then all the clothes that are left on the floor, and any other items not in their proper place, get confiscated by you. Those items are placed either in a yard sale or given to charity within the next 48 hours if she doesn’t put things in order with the remainder of the room. And the funds you get from selling the items, well, put it in the college fund, or use it to go out to eat, (not with her), or something. Make her be punished for unacceptable behavior.

    This is a tough world we live in. She needs to suffer consequences for unacceptable behavior in YOUR home. You’re the parent, not her buddy or pal. You set the rules, and who cares if she likes it or not. It’s not about her being pleased, it’s about her learning to do what is proper and correct in this world.

    And all this bargaining with your child that everyone is suggesting is crazy! You’re the parent… Be the parent…. you are in charge.

    And if taking her items don’t work, then take her bed…. Take her phone…. computer. She needs to be punished for unacceptable behavior… and must learn that life is full of consequences.

    • maryrestaino Says:

      Thank you for your reply. I received many wonderful responses, but yours is one of my favorites. I agree, firm limits must be set. And closing the door and pretending it is not going on just makes things worse.

  23. erebusetnox Says:

    I think it must be addressed. I have proof that it needs to be, in the form of pictures of the living areas of our last tenants (ever): my brother and his wife. They were both allowed, in their respective homes, never to have to deal with it. Now, they live in the kind of hellhole that one sees on Cops, or as you said, Hoarders. Imagine, for a moment, your future grandchildren growing up in that sort of nastiness. Now you know how my nephews live. They come to visit, or to see my mother, and they don’t want to go home. I’m not talking like the teenage years were that long ago, either.

    You could go for the “I sense you are overwhelmed approach” – trust me that screaming and threatening never worked for my brother – nor did me helping him/them numerous times to clean up. My best advice is to go for the multifaceted approach – offer strategies, organization classes, have a family tag sale, promise something really shiny for 6 months of clean room, that you’re embarrassed to have ANYone over with her room like that – trust me, it pays dividends in the end. And you won’t be wanting to scream when you walk in on her in 8-10 years, and find her 2 year old standing in a garbage can. True story. It was full of spaghetti from the night before, and she said, “We just can’t keep him out of there….”

    • maryrestaino Says:

      Thank you for your reply. From what you shared in your response, I can see that you have some experience to share in this matter. I have decided that I can no longer just close the door. Thanks again.

  24. Wow! That brings back haunting memories of when my daughter lived at home. Now she’s off to college and has an adorable, and relatively clean and organized room.

    So, I agree with Adela, she’ll grow out of it. A neat freak I once knew confessed to being a SLOB when she was a teen at home. Now she’s neat as a pin!

    Where’s her sheets??? Close the door!

  25. I am glad my teen isn’t the only one in the world with no sheets on her bed! It drives me insane! Hopefully when they hit “the real world” they will be cleaner!

  26. As a professional organizer, I enjoy helping others become (and stay!) organized. One of my greatest challenges? My 11-year-old daughter. About once a month, we spend an afternoon together in her room sorting and tossing (and let’s not forget cleaning). She makes the decisions about how to handle her “things” but I help her generate ideas about how to store what she keeps. She is not a neatnik by nature but she knows there is an acceptable level of “messy” allowed in her room. When she is closing in on “really messy,” I just close her door and we set our next time to organize together. Being organized is a process – not a one time event. Just for fun, why not plan a little treat for the both of you afterward? Perhaps a movie, a trip for ice cream, or a manicure would be a fun “reward.”

  27. I am multiply impressed with your daughters ability to function in that messiness. Impressed!

  28. Does her room need to be neat? Teenagers are learning how to organize their space so that it works best for them. If she’s opted for the “a place for everything and everything all over the place” strategy, that’s her choice.

    If it’s becoming a problem for the rest of you (her mess is overflowing into the rest of the house, it’s attracting bugs, etc), then you can address it. Otherwise, she’ll eventually learn by experience that keeping neat is a good idea.

  29. But she’s the one that needs to live in her room, not you..

    But anyhow, I think if you would want to help her, do so by cleaning up together with her. Maybe it’ll be fun too! (;

  30. Sadly this all too familiar to me, too…I’m a member of the “close the door” club, too. I wonder if my overzealous cleanliness created a form of passive-aggressive rebellion (aka messy room) because I know by now she has to know how much it bugs me.

  31. annaloans4u Says:

    Apparently i’m agree with wandertales. Sometimes it works. As much as i remember myself in this age. I hated to clean up, but possibility to show up all my mess to the guys was terrible…:)

  32. I would suggest going with her to get new organizational stuff ( the see through drawers etc) and appeal to her sense of logic (I’m sure it takes a really long time to find something). That’s what my mom did with me.

    Chaos is not okay, semi organized chaos…is workable. At least have a hamper for dirty clothes. : }

  33. Yikes! Here’s a great idea. Try the Five Minute Clean Up. Worked for me. Go to for more information and other great ideas.

  34. Funny enough this looks exactly like my room as a teen. Just keep her at it, have her watch hoarders, keep saying you don’ t want to be like this do you?!?

    As soon as I got my own space, I learned quickly that this was not the way I wanted to live my life, as an unorganized mess that is!

  35. P.S. Another thing that fixed the problem real quick was my mother used to go in my room when I wasnt there pour EVERYTHING into a huge pile, and sit on my bed and MAKE ME organize EVERYTHING!! It took hours sometimes, but my room was spotless when we finished, and after being so tramatized you better believe I kept it as clean as I could!

  36. I found a trick that worked at least once. Find something that is more boring than clearing up a room. For my daughter it was wine tasting. She told us one day “Wine tasting trips are more boring than clearing up my room”. After that it was easy. Wine tasting trips planned every Sunday until the room was done!

  37. Livewithin Says:

    To be kind to our children in their time of need – reflects on good parenting. A messy room is a messed up mind – a mind that is anywhere but here – it’s out there looking for love, happiness, joy.

    99.9% of teen rooms are exactly the same – where are the parents? Where is the guidace?

    Take the time – with him or her and help each other out to de-clutter the “mind” which is reflected in the room.

    Find peace within – do something good….give some stuff away….then you both can Breath.

    Love & Light

  38. Is your child trying to tell you something? Are they harboring feelings or hiding something from you? Building themselves a fortress of GROSS in their room?! Really would have to agree with the earlier posts that taking their best friends and/or date to their room as part of the tour might help.

    I know that working with kids and when I was a teen some habits if you don’t form early will fester either in rebellion or as in bad habit. I know that I have the “pile” technique that was taught to me. You might want to show them some design magazines to inspire and talk about it. Even take them out to pick their own storage supplies on a budget. Make it fun! I know that every other Sat on the weekend my mom would crank on her music and then my fav music and we would clean so it was always a blast! We made a game out of it until it came routine. Of course there were times here and there I still get busted for dusting (the most obnoxious chore) but I at least learned that making a pile of small clutter is better.

    So as I add in the the pile I clean up on Friday and I can wait for it then. Cleaning here and there along the way. I f you simply ignore it it’ll probably get worse. As much as a teen would hate it, cleaning up their space would help at first or take all their things out and throw it in the living room or the teen’s common hang out room and tell them to put it back neatly would be better then they would have to set it right. If not trash it! Cause there’s no sense in having a messy unsightly room.

    Then again I’ve learned that being fair and firm on the subject is better than just being rude and nasty, good luck! Yet another inspiration for my blog, have a great day and happy cleaning!

  39. wOw!! I was going to say something thinking it was a guy’s room, but wOw!! That’s a girl’s room?! I don’t know I’m shocked. My mom used the embarassment technique for me… I wasn’t allowed to come downstairs and/or eat breakfast until my room was cleaned. And it had to be to her approval! So I had to call her upstairs and tell her my room was cleaned and she’d come and check and I put up a fit at first, but I don’t know… maybe it comes with age? I love my room cleaned, now.

  40. My daughter was the same & it went on for years. I even upturned the bed, emptied the drawers & wardrobe then tipped them on top of the pile. When she got in from school I just said ‘I think you should tidy your room’, she replied ‘I will’ and sat down to watch TV. I said ‘No, I mean I think you need to tidy your room NOW’. Didn’t see her till the next morning.

    It didn’t work but made me feel better.

    Only thing that did work was when she moved out a few years later & got a place of her own. With a job, 2 dogs, a 2 year old kid & a husband she can still keep a 2 bedroom house clean & tidy.

    Only she knew where the switch was.

  41. It’s simply the proper age to age, you can not expect the
    youth have to study and also have fun and have ordering the room too much.
    I think they learn from their parents is something innate, if not obligations of child
    to be ordered to age of teenager is very difficult, usually belong to the same group of
    friends as they have to visit between them, therefore do not think it’s a surprise to see the friendships room´s messy.
    You must create incentives and hire a lady ones a week who make clean the bedroom.
    But things began to withdraw to put away and force them to collect elsewhere,

  42. jstjessie Says:

    wow… that is…. woowww. the best thing i think is just like cleaning it everyday! like making your bed when you wake up, and putting stuff away after you use it. And maybe once she cleans it, then she will keep it tidy, that was what it was like with one of my friends. Hope this helped.

    • maryrestaino Says:

      Keeping up with cleaning makes a lot more sense then letting it get so out of control. Good common sense. Thanks for commenting.

  43. I think there is a lot of good advice posted already. We have 3 nieces who have lived with us for 5 years now and their former living situation looked like something you’d see on cops or hoarders. Due to their former lack of good cleaning habits, we are pretty firm about expecting them to clean their rooms. Our family counselor advised letting it go, keeping the door closed and seeing how bad they’d let it get – well, we learned very quickly they’d let it get as bad as or worse than your daughter’s room and do nothing until we ordered them to. One of her suggestions was to make them (NOT YOU, they have to do it themselves) put anything that was on the floor or out of place in a garbage bag. 1st time, they could earn it back, 2nd time they could ear in back, 3rd time they’d lose it forever. I have to admit, we haven’t tried this – instead we tell them they have to clean it up before they get something they want – maybe they simply want cookies after dinner, maybe they asked for a ride to the mall – but it has to be to OUR standards before they get what they want. On occasion they’ve managed to take off for a visit to mom’s without us catching their mess When this happens we pile everything up in the middle of the floor & they deal wtih it as soon as they get home. I have also made them keep their mom (or friends, or?) waiting while they finish cleaning their rooms. Also, we have one niece that doesn’t like to make her bed. If we see that her bed is not made, we remove all the covers, sheets, etc. from her bed and pile them on the floor. In our case, we figure if they have to spend MORE time cleaning it up than they would have if they’d done it correctly in the first place, they will learn to keep their mess under control.

    Our counselor has advised that letting them have their room their way is not going to hurt them or anyone else and some mess, as long as it’s not overflowing into the house or causing problems for any other members of the household is fine (or damage to the furnishings, carpet, etc.). Our issue, of course, is that we want to be sure to TEACH them how to clean and foster good habits since they were not taught any at an early age.

    I think if you’re teaching your daughter to clean and she helps with household cleaning on a regular basis, then probably just insisting she clean her room before she gets xyz or goes to xyz is probably going to be effective enough. Purchasing organizational items is certainly a good idea too and maybe a “reward” for cleaning up her room in the first place.

  44. Ah Ha! I feel your pain. I remember being a teen and I remember a messy room, but somehow I don’t remember mine as all that messy. Could be faulty memory though!

    If you have a chance take a look at what I did over at

    My daughter is still talking to me. God bless her!

    Good luck!

  45. The organizational problem inherent with being a teenager is that you’re expected to fit your entire life into one room. Clothing, school books, electronics, sports equipment, keep sakes, makeup, musical instruments… The list goes on. An adult can spread things out over an entire house, each object in its place, but teens have to fit all this into a 3-5 meter box and still have room to sleep. 🙂

  46. if you really want your daughter to clean her room, it’s simple. pay her. kids nowadays do not comprehend the value of money, and if you’re giving them allowance for “good behavior,” you’re wasting your time. you need to give this so-called “allowance” under the guise of a reward for good grades and discipline (maintaining a clean room, doing chores, etc).

  47. That’s like my room.


  49. Have you seen the A&E series ‘Hoarders’? While I am not experienced with teen age kids yet as my son is in 4th grade, I do think this sort of behavior can be more serious than people think. Hoarding is fast becoming an epidemic in America., not saying this is your child, but certainly would encourage you to look into it. It is a form of OCD, and symptomatic of what you show in your photos. While the consensus may be this is just ‘teenagers being teenagers’, the question might be, do you think this particular child will grow out of it, or is it something they do in other areas of life. If there is a pattern, you may want to speak to a Psychologist. Best wishes with some resolution to this.

  50. I have two teenagers and both of their rooms look like this. Trust me – there are plenty of potential battles that will matter more than keeping a clean room. Close her door, walk away, and spend some of the energy you’d spend bugging her doing something for yourself.

    Mine was just as bad as a kid; but my house is very neat and clean as an adult. There’s still hope – when it matters to HER 🙂

  51. It was suggested that if you put all the stuff they have left on the floor and around the house for that matter, in their bed they will have to do something with it! Hopefully they will put it away!

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