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Happier, healthier home

Seven steps to inspire your kids to organize their rooms

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Last week I heard you speak at a parenting conference about the importance of kids keeping their rooms tidy. I thought it was interesting that you pointed out how our rooms affect people’s moods and motivations. I’ve tried everything to get my kids to tidy their rooms (and I sometimes end up cleaning them myself), but we seem to go in circles, and it causes a lot of tension in our home. What do you suggest?

Organization is one of my favorite topics, because I see the dramatic impact it has on the moods of kids, teens, and their families! I’ve helped hundreds of my young clients learn important organizational skills and also recently helped my 12-year-old niece transform her bedroom on a tight budget. Here are seven steps to help you inspire your kids and teens to organize their rooms.

Inspire, don’t nag

I know — this is easier said than done! Try asking them a simple question: “What is your mood when you are in your room?” If they say, “I don’t know,” give them options. “Do you feel angry, upset, overwhelmed, stressed, or tired?”

Research tells us that our environment highly impacts our mood, which impacts our motivation. It’s important that their rooms inspire and energize them! If it doesn’t — offer to help them (but do not take over).


Assuming that they are willing and interested to allow you to help them create an inspiring room, the next step is to remove everything from the room. This step is important because if we try to organize around our stuff while it’s still in the room, we’re not as thorough. Take it all out! It gives a better perspective!


Next, divide everything into three piles: Keep, Garbage, and Give Away.

When sorting, be ruthless. Ask your child or teen if he has used the item in the last six months. If a season has gone by without him wearing an item, there is a good chance he will never wear it again. Less stuff is better! It took my 12-year-old niece four days to do this step. Depending on how much “stuff” you have, this task could take an evening or a few days.

Write a shopping list

As you help your kids to go through their stuff, start keeping a list of things you need to buy. You may find that they “need” a few key items of clothing or that their clock radio no longer works. Be sure that your kids or teens have key items for their rooms, including: a comfortable bed, night table, desk (it’s really important for them to have a desk to do their homework on, and to not be working on it on their bed), alarm clock (by grade four, children should be starting to wake themselves up), bulletin board, garbage can, a good light to read with in bed, and possibly their own laundry hamper.

Home for everything

The key with organization is that everything has a home. I constantly ask my young clients, “Where is the ‘home’ for your cellphone, loose change, blank paper, pens, and tickets to your next concert?”

If items don’t have a designated spot, they could end up anywhere and possibly lost. One 17-year-old client I worked with decided to make a shoebox in his desk drawer the home for his cellphone, wallet, keys, and loose change. Creating this home helped save him a huge amount of time.

Make a list of all the items you have in your room, and assign a home for each item. Buy a few key organizational boxes and items to create the home for all craft and art supplies. Once things are in place, it radically helps maintain organization.

Think inspiration

It’s important that when a child walks into his room, he is inspired. So, work with him on colors he finds inspiring.

If your child wants his room repainted, encourage him to look through various magazines to see what rooms and colors appeal to him, and then take those pictures into a paint specialist at your local hardware store. Paint is very inexpensive, and it really can make a big difference to someone’s mood.

Reflect personality

Finally, it’s important that your child or teen’s room reflects his personality, goals, dreams, and what is important to him. My niece is highly relational (she loves her family and friends) and creative. So, knowing that, I bought several frames and had several pictures blown up to 8-by-10 to feature her and her family and friends. I also bought some magnetic boards to feature some of her beautiful art work. Some of my male teen clients wanted to hang some of their favorite snowboarding and skateboarding posters.

The key is to not only help our kids become more organized, but also more be inspired and energized in their new space. This will not only help their mood, but also the mood of their parents!

Updated 7:03 pm, October 28, 2016
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Reader feedback

Robert Morton from Ohio says:
Enjoyed this article! I give parenting seminars and talk lots about how to get children to clean their rooms. One father was painting the room of his twin teen girls and painted a purple swath above the baseboard around the entire room. He was about to paint another swath, then observed the messy room, and announced at dinner that night, "I'm not going to finish painting your bedroom until you two clean it up!". Now, his daughters are in their late 20's, married with families. When they come to visit mom and dad, they all visit their old bedroom and laugh at the purple swath of paint encircling the room! Had to relate that story.
Feb. 28, 2014, 7:01 pm

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