When Cheryl Newsted helps her son Tyler sort through his cluttered bedroom, she remembers her husband’s favorite saying: Don’t poke the bear.
“My husband and I made a pact that we are going to choose our battles,” says Newsted, a mom of three teenagers. Instead of arguing, she shuts Tyler’s bedroom door and reminds him that it is almost Saturday. The Newsteds started “Chore Saturday” when all three of their kids were in elementary school: bedrooms must meet a minimum standard of tidiness before the kids can hang out with their friends.
While the Saturday tidy-ups are helpful, Newsted finds that seasonal purges are also necessary to help tame the chaos in her son’s room.
How to Help Your Teenagers Organize Their Rooms:
1. Get them on board.
The first step is getting your teenagers buy-in. Newsted’s teenagers receive a set amount of money to spend on fall and winter clothing; the purge inventory helps with their shopping list.
Parenting coach Sarina Behar Natkin, LICSW, recommends starting the conversation long before the purge happens. Put major clean-ups on the calendar and ask open-ended questions to help teens come up with solutions.
2. Help them make a plan.
“Examining the room together is how parents and kids can figure out solutions,” says Stephanie Antunez, vice president of California Closets for northern and central Ohio. “Tally what needs to be organized, and then start planning. If you know your teenager has 10 hoodies, you can create space for them. There should be a place for everything.”
Antunez offers these proven tactics for helping your teen get and stay organized:
- Relocate the sports gear from the bedroom to the garage.
- Place a cleat hook on the back of the door for that wet towel.
- Drill grommets into the desk to thread electronics cords through.
- Organize items in the closet by color and length to save time.
- Use drawer dividers to separate items (like socks from underwear).
- To make a closet more accessible and functional, take off the doors, add drawers, and vary the rod heights to accommodate long and short items.
- Install a pull-out valet rod in the closet where teens can place tomorrow’s outfit.
- Designate the space under the bed for seasonal storage.
3. Create a work space with them.
Annoyed by your teen’s inability to find and turn in assignments? Resist the urge to help them find missing homework in their room’s clutter. Lost points in the teacher’s grade book may be the incentive they need for creating a functional homework space.
The solution, says Antunez, is to “organize the teen’s workspace so that they have access to everything they need to complete their homework and are able to grab what they need in the morning as they run out the door to get to school.” Make sure there is a designated place for their laptop, keys, and papers to turn in, for example.
Antunez also recommends personalizing their space to make it more enticing. “Put shelves above their desk for personal items like pictures and trophies, to make it a space they enjoy,” she says.
4. Step out and close the door.
Once you’ve organized the room together, step back and let it be their space. “When our kids are teens, their rooms become their practice apartments,” says Natkin. “As their landlord, we can set some ground rules, like snack plates need to make it back to the kitchen, or you need to straighten up for ten minutes on weekends.”
In fact, Natkin’s daughter no longer participates in the family’s weekly 10-minute room clean-up. “I wish she did, but I need to respect her need for ownership and privacy,” she says. “Between purges, a shut door can help your parent-teen relationship thrive.”
In other words, don’t poke the bear. Wait until the next seasonal purge to see what’s behind bedroom door #1.