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Not In My House! When You Can’t Take the Mess in Your Teenager’s Room

For many parents who prefer a neat and ordered home, a teenager’s messy room can be aggravating to say the least. Our expert Dr. Lisa Damour offers a new way for parents to think about the teenage messy room.


Some parents may respond to a teenage messy room, “This is a room in my house, and as long as you are living in my house and I am paying for you to live in this house, you need to keep it in a way that I feel good about.” And I understand where they’re coming from on that one, but could you frame it in a different way? Can you think about the fact that this is the first space that your teen will occupy that will really feel like it’s theirs, and they have a right to have some time and space to figure out how to manage what they own, and what belongs to them, and yeah you may pay for it and you may own it but let them practice owning and having something.

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So they may keep their room messy for when they live in your home, move into an apartment or a dorm room that they keep messy and may even keep a messy house as an adult. They may also find that having their room a mess starts to bother them or means its hard to find their things, and they ay in their own way and under their own terms come to keep their space more organized and more tidy, but for the time they live in the house with you, you might consider seeing their room as a space how they want to live their lives, how they want to manage their own possessions and the spaces that surround them.

Lisa Damour, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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