If the last time you walked into your teen’s bedroom you walked right out, shocked by the sheer disarray, you’re not alone. Whether due to hormones or disinterest in cleaning, your teen’s bedroom can easily become tornados of dirt and mess. But it might not be her fault–and it might be up to you to help her organize. Read on for tips to help you teen maintain some order–without taking away his share of the responsibility.
“Teenagers’ brains are full,” says Jennifer Snyder, a certified professional organizer and owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing and Cleaning, who works with teens and their parents on ways to keep their rooms tidy. “They have school, driving, tests, sports, work, and other activities. Keeping their rooms clean is usually at the bottom of their priority list.”
Another factor is parents are often the ones who design the layouts of their kid’s rooms—often without the child’s input—which is usually not consistent with how the teen wants to live. Here's how to mitigate all of this.
Set Her–and Her Room–Up for Success
Leslie Josel, an academic/life coach for teens and a parenting coach in Westchester, says parents have a responsibility to help their teens keep clean. “When parents ask me how to get their kids to organize their room and keep it that way, I lob a question right back at them,” she says. “I ask if their child’s bedroom is set up in a manner that makes it easy for them to create and maintain an organizing system. If they can’t answer that, I send them on a tour of the room.” Then she asks parents to answer the following questions to help them configure a neater space:
• Can your teen open his closet door easily or is it partially blocked?
• Can she reach the rod and shelves?
• Are the dresser drawers hard to open?
• Is his dresser crammed full?
• Is there enough room for your teen to store all of her clothes?
• Does he have enough hangers, hooks, storage bins, and boxes?
• Does she have adequate shelf space for books, memorabilia, electronics, etc.?
• Is there a bulletin board or cork squares on the wall?
• Is there a trash can and hamper? Are they in good condition and easy to use?
• Is there a nightstand for a phone charger, tissues, lamp, water bottle?
• Are there items that belong to other family members stored in your teen’s room?
• Does your teen know where everything in her room goes?
Tackle the Mess Before It Gets Worse
The first rule of thumb when organizing is everything needs a home. “It’s really that simple,” Josel says. “No matter what your organizing style, if you don’t know where something lives in your room, you’re more apt to let it sit wherever it lands. That partially explains the landmine that is their floor!” Josel offers 10 steps to get the cleanup underway.
Before organizing begins, purge. Is the room loaded with empty water bottles, food wrappers, cords to electronics he doesn’t own anymore? Grab a garbage bag and out everything goes.
Start designating specific “homes” for all her belongings. And make sure these spaces are clearly labeled. When your teen is tired after a long day, visual reminders make cleaning up that much easier.
If your teen needs to see his stuff, remove the closet door. If you hate looking at his crowded closet, hang curtains above the opening so he can close it off when friends come over.
Replace her dresser with bins lined against a wall to store shirts, jeans, socks, and underwear. This gives her an easy and simple way to get and stay organized.
Hang hooks if he can’t seem to grasp the concept of putting clothes on hangers.
Put all essentials in your teen’s “prime real estate,” which means these items should be stored between his shoulders and knees for easy access. If you have to reach high or move several items out of the way in the closet to put something away, then the likelihood of your teen doing it is super slim.
Leverage the walls. If there’s ample wall space in your teen’s room, hang a bulletin board, cork squares, or even a peg board. They all come in fun colors, are easy to hang, and provide space for notes, invites, and anything else that is hard to organize.
Maximize space with a clear shoe bag. Hang one in her closet or behind the bedroom door and stash small items, like device chargers, jewelry, socks and underwear, belts, and toiletries, for an instant catch-all.
Clear is king: If your teen can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Don’t stop at clear shoe bags! Consider purchasing transparent bins to help your teen remember what he owns and strategize where it goes.
Pair like with like. This means storing printer paper, ink, toner, and even batteries together. The fewer places your teen needs to look for things, the more likely she will be able to find what she’s looking for quickly and efficiently.