There has to be a reason for your teen to get with it. / Jamie Grill/Getty Images
Despite whatever state her room is in right now, your teen boasts some innate organization skills, and by helping her tap into them, you can ease her into a more organized life — no battle required.
“Teens want to feel in control of their lives,” says Julie Morgenstern, who co-wrote Organizing From the Inside Out for Teens with her high-school-age daughter.
Talk the talk. Avoid phrases like “Your room is a pigsty.” “If you’re insulting them, they’re never going to let you help — would you?” Morgenstern points out.
Personalize your pitch. Start by gently asking your teen how his bedroom works for him. Maybe he’s frustrated that he’s always late for hockey practice because his gear is all over the room, or a grade has suffered after he couldn’t find a textbook he needed. “There has to be a reason for him to get organized,” Morgenstern says.
Flip the focus. Point out ways that your teen is naturally neat — her glasses always find the same home on her end table, say, or her bottles of nail polish stand in perfect rows. Tell her that if she would like any help, you’re more than willing to help her organize the rest of her room in a way that works for her, and reiterate those personal payoffs (“No more showing up late to dance class!”).
Break it down. Agree on a definition of “organized.” “What’s important is that you can find what you need and you’re comfortable in your space,” she says. Your son’s mystifying piles of tchotchkes on the shelves might look like chaos to you, but they probably make perfect sense to him.
Together, make a list of the areas that could use organizing (in his opinion) and tackle them together, grouping like with like and purging unneeded items. Working project-by-project (closet, then desk area, then social area) keeps you both from feeling overwhelmed.