6 Ways to Teach Teens to Tidy and Declutter

21st June 2023

Cleaning up after kids can be a never-ending task, but as they get older we can teach teens to tidy for themselves.

Learning ways to teach teens to tidy helps them develop independence skills and start taking responsibility for their mess.

Professional Declutterer and Organiser, Daisy Cordell, came onto my podcast Mind Vox recently, to explain how decluttering helps our wellbeing. She gave some great advice for how to declutter both alone and as a family, which you can listen to here.

Daisy has also kindly provided the following useful tips to teach teens to tidy and declutter.

Image with text explaining the content of the Mind Vox episode 3 that features Daisy Cordell, about How Clutter Affects Wellbeing.

Daisy’s Tips to Teach Teens to Tidy and Declutter

Were you a tidy teenager? 

Unless you were a neat freak like me, chances are you were like most teenagers… messy!

When you walk into their room, you’ll likely find clothes on the floor and surfaces littered with bits they’ve used and not put away. 

Teenagers are also great at losing things! How often do yours come to you in a school-rush panic because they’ve misplaced something they need?

And you can be sure that the mad dash around trying to find the item will only create more mess too!

Teenagers need some help to stay tidy and organised. It’ll come more naturally to some than others, so patience is required.

Here are some practical things you can do to teach teens to tidy.

1. Encourage Your Teen to Declutter

It’s difficult to teach teens to tidy if they have too much stuff in their room, as it’ll be harder for them to keep it tidy. 

We don’t tend to consider decluttering until it’s necessary. Your teen might never have done it before, so go easy on them.

If you feel your teenager’s room is getting a bit ‘full’, talk to them about setting aside time to declutter. 

Your teen might like to do it alone, and that’s fine, but decluttering together can be a lovely opportunity to reminisce. 

Encourage your teen to work on one area of their room at a time, such as a bookshelf, desk, or chest of drawers.

White teenage girl putting clothes into a bag in her bedroom. Part of a tip to teach teens to tidy.

It helps to think about what space they have.

If they’ve got too many books for their bookshelf, try to cut down on the number they have rather than finding new homes for the remaining books. 

Whilst you can and should encourage your teen to let go, you must also respect their decision about what to keep. Forcing them to part with things can lead to hoarding tendencies later in life.

Make it easy by giving them three boxes or bags, labelled rubbish, donating and recycling.

Offer to help by taking their things to the charity shop or arranging a boot sale together if they want to make a little extra cash. 

2. Work with Their Strengths and Weaknesses 

In order to teach teens to tidy, we need to understand their skills and struggles in this area.

Talk to your teen about the difficulties they face with staying tidy.

Rather than labelling them as ‘messy’ and holding it against them, try to find solutions to each issue using their strengths.

If your child likes visual reminders, embrace this by installing a pinboard on their wall or storing things in clearly labelled boxes so they can see what they have. 

For those who struggle to get ready on time in the morning, encourage them to prepare for the following day in the evening. 

Change takes time, so slow and steady wins the race.

3. Inspire and Motivate Your Teen

What interests and hobbies do they have? Can you use it to motivate them to tidy their room?

For example, they might be into make-up and enjoy separating products into pretty containers and setting up a dressing table.

If they like reading, their motivation could be to create a cosy reading corner.

Gamers might enjoy theming their bedroom around this.

White teenage girl putting clothes into a storage box.

Remind your teen about their ‘whys’ (our motivations) regularly. 

Set a good example, as it should eventually rub off! 

Another way to motivate and teach teens to tidy is to use television.

There’s many programmes about tidying and organising at the moment.

While children often hate listening to their parents, they’re very impressionable about what they see on TV, so it’s worth a try!

4. Reward Them for Being Tidy

Rewards motivate us, so don’t be afraid to use them.

Try to keep them centred around the benefits of organising, as suggested above.

Storage solutions for their hobbies are fantastic motivators, as are activity-based rewards.

Encouraging your child by paying them or buying them gifts will only lead to more ‘stuff’. 

You can also create checklists for your teen. Ticking something off a list is a small, simple way to get that rewarding feeling.

Keep lists short and sweet, with just three or four basic things they need to do, like make the bed, unpack their bag, or prepare their lunch for the following day.

This ensures some, if not all, items will be completed to reward them and maintain motivation to keep being tidy.

A free activity-based as a reward is a great way to teach teens to tidy. Four girls facing the opposite way, holding hands and jumping in the air of a playground.

5. Avoid Overwhelming Your Teen

When it comes to tidying, we can all struggle with where to start. The messier the space, the more difficult it seems!

Teach teens to tidy by encouraging them to avoid overwhelm through tackling one small area at a time.

Once in the flow it’s possible to go for hours, but this can have its downsides; If they’re not careful, they could end up with stuff everywhere.

Even if they manage to tidy their room all in one go, they’ll still need to learn the habits to keep it that way, as change takes time. 

To help this, get them to work on their space once a week or fortnight for an hour or two for maximum benefits.

Building tidy habits over time prevents all-or-nothing thinking, which can only lead to failure and feeling defeated. 

Break down instructions into small steps, one at a time. Rather than telling your teen to tidy their clothes/wardrobe, get them to put dirty washing in the laundry basket or go through their shoes to see if there are any old ones they can throw out. 

A Black teenage boy is vacuuming a white carpet, in a white room. You can only see from the shoulders down to their feet.

6. Teach Them to Be Responsible

We’re not born knowing how to be organised. 

Teach your child by giving them responsibility for parts of their maintenance, allowing them to fail occasionally, and supporting them when they do.

One example is to make your teen responsible for cooking dinner once a week. Let them choose what to make. Help them if needed, and encourage them when it goes wrong. 

Teach your teen to do their own laundry. Once you’ve shown them how, remind them to do it once a week or fortnight.

Part of being responsible is messing up, so let them run low on clothes occasionally, rather than taking over and doing it for them.

Teens are notorious for adding single-use jumpers to the laundry basket so they don’t have to put them away; – You’ll be amazed at how much less they put in their washing baskets if they know they have to wash it!

These basic skills will be invaluable when they finally leave home, but don’t just leave them to it.

Remember to support your teen and make sure important things get done. 

Teach Teens to Tidy Using Patience

These tips should help teach teens to tidy, but patience is required when using them.

Sometimes it helps to accept that your teen’s going through a messy stage.

Do what you can, then try to let go.

This phase should pass, but if it doesn’t, find comfort in the knowledge they’ll eventually move out and into their own (messy) home!

Daisy’s website, Whole and Home, features more tips on becoming organised and the various ways Daisy can help declutter your home and life.

If you have any other handy tips, please add them to the comment section below!

This post features guest writing by Daisy Cordell. No payment was made or received, and all opinions are honest and Daisy’s own.

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