Teenagers, by nature, seem to be messy. If your teen’s space is so cluttered that she has trouble seeing the floor, you’ve discovered a colony of missing socks under the bed, or she can’t ever find her homework, an organization intervention might be advisable. Because teens can also be moody and unreceptive to orders to, “Clean your room!” you might need a plan. Here are four tips to help your teen organize his or her life.
Explain and define
As my own teenager recently pointed out to me, my definition of clean and hers vary quite a bit. To avoid constant battles, explain to your teen why organization is important and what you expect. For example, I define a clean room as having the bed made, dirty clothes in the hamper, the floor relatively clear of items, and desk and dresser uncluttered.
As to why I expect a clean room, I tell my daughter that we need to keep our house in good shape, and a room that cannot be dusted or vacuumed cannot be kept up. I also remind her that her future roommates and family will appreciate her keeping clean. Organization in life, such as keeping up with school assignments and remembering deadlines, is good practice for holding a job and being an adult.
Shop for organizing tools
You can ease the pain of cleaning up, and even make it fun, by purchasing bins and items like hangers and wastebaskets to make your teen’s space, and life, more organized. If you have a limited budget, shop at a dollar store. Secondhand stores might yield interesting items that can be repurposed for organizing. Target and IKEA have more modern organization tools which might appeal to teens. Once your teen has a place for everything, it’s up to him to put everything in its place.
Encourage lists and planners
Many schools want students to use planners to keep track of homework assignments, projects and schedule changes. If your student uses a smart phone or tablet device, use the calendar app to sync their schedule to your phone and family calendar. There are also individual apps available for homework tracking. In addition, many teachers have their own classroom blogs, Facebook groups or other ways of connecting with students. If your teen is struggling to keep up, make sure you have access to school sites and teacher communication methods to help him stay organized.
I often communicate with my daughter via a to-do list, particularly if there are several tasks she needs to complete and I don’t want to nag her to get them done. Giving your teen a list and a reasonable time to complete it will eliminate struggles and frustration on both sides.
Some people are very organized, others aren’t. If your teen isn’t as clean and organized as you would like, do your best to teach him how and why to be clean and organized. Then, let him figure it out. I’ve decided to check my daughter’s room about once a week and try to ignore it the rest of the time. I don’t have to supervise my daughter’s homework habits, but my son is a different story. He is quite forgetful and has had to learn the hard way that it is his responsibility to listen to the teacher and write down homework assignments.
I have high hopes that one day my messy teenage daughter will turn into the queen of clean, or at least keep the mess contained to her room. These tips have helped me in my quest to help my tweens and teens become organized. Put them into action and see if they work for you too.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.