How can I encourage my teenager to clean up after himself?

Real Mom Problem

“My nearly 14-year-old daughter is a walking disaster. I have lost count of how many times we have cleaned her bedroom and organized her things. She doesn't seem to care that she throws trash on the floor rather than putting it into the can that's right there, or that she is having to wash and rewash her clothes because she can't tell what's clean and what isn't.”

by amonkeymom amonkeymom

Quick Tips

  • 1. Set rules such as "laundry must go in your hamper or it will not be washed" and let them learn the hard way when they don't follow through
  • 2. Organize your home so that certain things become routine like hanging backpacks and coats in the same spot daily
  • 3. Consider using a chore chart, or calendar, or tying an allowance to household responsibilities
  • 4. Let your kids do things for themselves like putting their own dishes in the dishwasher, washing their own clothes, and keeping their rooms neat; it will only benefit them in the future
  • 5. Thank your kids and remind them of how great they are when they help out, or do something without being asked in order to encourage good behavior

Real Mom Solutions

Teenagers are not exactly known for helping out around the house, but it is possible to get them to do their part. See what these moms suggest.

Becky Becky

Our Expert Mom Says...

Helping your teenager get into a routine will help him or her later in life. Start with a couple of simple tasks that they need to do every day, like make their bed, fold and put away laundry, and pick up their room. Depending on your parenting philosophy, you can tie these tasks to an allowance, phone use, driving privileges, spending time with friends, etc.

Positive reinforcement tends to work well with teens and following through on making sure the tasks are accomplished will hopefully motivate your teen to pitch in around the house. Think of fun ways to get them involved: cleaning out the car, helping with sorting through family pictures for photo albums, or organizing and designing their room or a hangout area.

Teens like fun and functional organizational tools, too, like using baskets and buckets, and coordinating colors to organize their possessions. This makes putting their belongings away easier with a system for where everything goes. Over the door shoe holders are great to store not only shoes but also school and art supplies, hair gear, video games, etc. A laundry hamper with two sections is helpful to get teens in the habit of separating whites and darks. This method works well for everyone because now all your clothes are pre-sorted. (Now to get the clothes from the floor to the hamper -- that's the trick!) Toiletry caddies are great for keeping grooming supplies off the bathroom counters and tucked away.

Becky, aka Clean Mama, is a cleaning expert, list maker, wife, and busy mom to three little ones. She blogs at Clean Mama where she talks about all things clean and organized and she has a successful Etsy shop, Clean Mama Printables, where she helps others make lists, organize, and clean. She's been featured in HGTV magazine, as well as on, and Becky strives to make homekeeping fun AND easily implemented into everyday life.

The Moms of CafeMom Say...

  • inmybizz

    I pull out a big trash bag and people start moving in my house. They know I will throw stuff out in a hot minute!

  • the3Rs

    From the moment my kids could start helping around the house, they did. We have always explained that we all live here as a family, and we all need to do our part to keep it nice. They all fold and put away their clean clothes, keep their rooms clean, and do a "5-minute clean-up" before bed each night going through the entire house putting away anything that's out of place that is their stuff; my husband and I put away our stuff. They each take turns feeding the dog. The oldest vacuums, the middle and youngest dust, and they take turns mopping. The oldest is beginning to also wash and dry his own clothes. They help put away dishes, always clear the table, and help clean the table and counters as asked. They also take the trash and recyclables to the end of the driveway every week.

  • A.Perry

    I have two thoughts on helping your teen keep her room clean. One, you could just let her live with her mess. If she has to wear dirty clothes because she doesn't know what's clean, so be it. If she winds up with ants in her bed because of food being left in there, so be it. You say nothing, ever, about her room being gross, but make her keep the door shut. Two, make a rule that if she wants to go anywhere at all with friends, or have anyone over, or do any type of afterschool activity, or anything at all, she has to have her room clean. She is old enough to keep her own room clean, so she just needs a little motivation. That's what worked for me at that age, no going anywhere or doing anything at all ever, unless all my chores were done. I used to get up early on Saturday to clean the kitchen and make sure my room was clean before I went to my job, all because I wanted to be able to go out that night.

  • epilepsymom

    What I do for my 13-year-old daughter is write down every chore that needs to be done in every room. I let HER pick the chores she wants. I figure she is more willing to do them if she picks them. Her chores: Make her bed, keep her room picked up, set and clear the table, take her medications, take the trash out, clean out the trash can, wipe the shower down after a shower, take care of her dirty clothes, swipe the toilet, and run the sweeper.

  • lioness3e

    I'd suggest backing off and then working in baby steps. Make it a rule that any trash and dirty dishes have to come out of her room weekly. There is no slacking on this rule. When she's mastered that task without you asking, add another, such as laundry. If she doesn't have any clean clothes to wear, that is her issue, not yours. She wears dirty cloths until she has time to wash them herself. There are consequences to our actions and she needs to learn what those are. If she's not maintaining her space, and things, they will not be available for use. Do not rescue her. Let her figure it out for herself.

  • rocamom

    We just started giving our kids an allowance, so we hope that that will help motivate them to clean up after themselves.