Here’s a painless solution for frustrated parents who want help on how to get their kids to clean and organize their room. Often parents get tired of nagging and decide to wait it out, hoping their teen will get to cleaning before it becomes a hygienic necessity! Of course, simply keeping the door closed doesn’t help your teen to organize their clutter. So, don’t get mad, don’t do it yourself, and don’t ignore it; instead, coach them how to do it!

Some parents make the mistake of thinking that teens ought to be able to organize their room or clean a neglected room without help. That’s an overwhelming task for any one. Even adults need help. Organization or cleaning isn’t everyone’s strength. I suggest you model the process by first partnering with your teen, chunking the task into manageable pieces; it’s faster and a lot more fun. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

1. Schedule a couple of hours with your teen in advance when you are both available to work together.

2. Have the following supplies ready: dust cloth, hamper, plastic storage containers, spray cleaner, garbage bags, trash can, and vacuum cleaner.

3. Label boxes: “Storage” for items to be kept elsewhere and “Donate” for items to go to your favorite charity.

Now that you have your supplies ready and you’ve scheduled the time, you can use this quick method to clean up. If you have preteens and you have never demonstrated how to quickly organize and clean a room or your teen is not organized by nature, I suggest you do everything together. If your teens are more experienced, you can let them choose what they will focus on from the list below (i.e. fold clothes or vacuum).

1. Grab all the dirty clothes from the bed and the floor and put them in the hamper (or laundry basket). Do the laundry when the hamper fills up and keep a hamper in the closet at all times.

2. Take a garbage bag and pick up all obvious trash and place the bag in the trash can. (If your kid’s room is in bad shape, then this is not the time to go through storage items and the closet; do it another time.)

3. Collect misplaced items from the floor, bed, and other surfaces and place into boxes or plastic containers. (Put items that belong to another part of the house aside for now.)

4. Make the bed. Don’t turn it into a storage area.

5. Gather all the clean clothes, fold or hang them now.

6. Clean all surfaces and neatly arrange decorative items.

7. Stack plastic containers, take the trash out, and return items to appropriate rooms in the house.

8. Vacuum the room; move furniture, if necessary. Dust furniture.

9. Put away your supplies and any other miscellaneous boxes.

After you have successfully completed this project together, take a moment to reflect on how much nicer the room looks and feels. Congratulate yourselves and celebrate. (Go out for ice cream or decide on a more meaningful reward).

If your teen did not keep your clean up date, showed up late, or refused to participate, you need to coach her about cause-and-effect. For example, if your teen had plans to meet with friends afterwards, she can go out after the room is organized and clean. Depending upon the specific circumstances, he may end up having to do it without your assistance. (Remember, it’s your responsibility to teach your teen to become accountable!)

Know that by coaching your kids how to competently handle basic household responsibilities you are teaching them life skills. Each family member ought to have regular household responsibilities. This not only helps the household function smoothly, but builds community within your family. Start early and don’t make the mistake of linking fundamental chores with an allowance.

© 2005 Barbara McRae, bestselling author of “Coach Your Teen to Success—7 Simple Steps to Transform Relationships & Enrich Lives.” For more information and to claim a special report on “50 Ways to Show Your Appreciation,” visit


Author's Bio: 

Barbara McRae, MCC, is the owner of EnhancedLife Coaching, LLC® and founder of Teen Frontier International. Barbara is a nationally known Master Certified Coach and a recognized expert in professional coaching as profiled in BusinessWeek magazine, USA Today, and The New York Times, and elsewhere. Barbara draws on her 20 years of experience in coaching and training adults in advanced communication techniques, personally parenting and mentoring three teenagers into adulthood, and pioneering comprehensive parent coaching methods. She has coached thousands of individuals (adults and kids); thereby, positively impacting generation after generation.

Barbara is the author of the bestselling Coach Your Teen to Success and Less Drama, More Fun with a foreword by Scott Blanchard. She is a popular radio guest, former newspaper columnist, and a motivational speaker. Her audiences include parents, businesses, associations, and non-profit organizations. As a concerned parent, an experienced Big Sister, and an active board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters, she is dedicated to mentoring present day preteens and teens.

Barbara and her husband live in Colorado where they enjoy the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains.