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What is "normal" tidiness level for a smallish bedroom full of teens? And is there any way of getting them to clear up?

(28 Posts)
AcrylicPlexiglass Wed 19-Feb-14 10:05:34

My teenage twin boys, who are 15 at the end of next month, share a bedroom (through necessity). They have the biggest room in the house, though it is not massive by any means, and it is just indescribably disgusting. It's appallingly untidy and dirty. The floor is covered in clothes, books, rubbish, including rotting food, junk food debris, school work, broken stuff they've stepped on, all the kitchen crockery I really need, etc etc. You honestly cannot see the carpet and we are very, very lucky not to have mice/pests. Think it's only because we have cats tbh. They have storage- shelves and chests of drawers and desks and a hanging rail and if I thought it would help I would buy more but they use none of it. Empty drawers abound. If I try and help my work is undone within seconds. E.g. I put all their clothes away in the drawers and on the rail the other day and got them to take all the rubbish and crockery downstairs. The next day the clothes were all over the floor again. I immediately told them to put them away again but didn't follow through and check they had done as I asked (it was a very difficult day for other reasons) and they didn't and it was chaos again within a day.

They are amiable lads and genuinely don't seem to see/mind the mess. They are a bit like Bill and Ted of excellent adventure fame- sweet, disorganised, jokey, supremely lazy, fail at things mostly through incompetence/thoughtlessness rather than defiance/malice. They just sit in their bombsite of a room enjoying each other's company and gazing at screens or roughhousing, perfectly content, like pigs in shit. They are not embarrassed to bring friends over to sit in their shit either. One of them even brought his girlfriend recently. No shame. They do sort of care that I am upset by it but not enough to actually follow through with tidying up. The only thing I think would work would be to invest huge amounts of time and energy bullying and punishing them into submission by docking pocket money until it's tidy, never allowing them out unless it's tidy, confiscating screens etc. I think this would create very bad feeling and am not sure I want to/have the emotional energy to do so at the moment. But maybe I should? I don't know. I feel like we need to do something.

We are having a rough time as a family right now as my partner, their dad, has had a stroke and at some point I think we will be having people to survey the house and advise on possible adaptations. Their room is next to the only bathroom, currently, so we may even be looking at re-jigging things. There is absolutely no way I could show anyone from occupational therapy that room without utter mortification. Just no way.

Any advice?

OwlCapone Wed 19-Feb-14 10:10:00

I once took away the power lead for the XBox and said it would be returned when DSs room was adequately tidy. He stayed until 2am that very night tidying it.

AcrylicPlexiglass Wed 19-Feb-14 10:25:32

Ah! That sounds like a very good idea, Owl. They are not very into x box at the moment but the computer is another matter...

TeaMakesItAllPossible Wed 19-Feb-14 10:49:42

They sound very lovely. I know that doesn't help but I loved your description of them. We have 4DSs and the sitting enjoying each other's company and being mildly bothered by your distress made me smile.

AcrylicPlexiglass Wed 19-Feb-14 11:20:05

Thanks, teamakesitallpossible. You are right, they are basically They've mostly been unexpectedly amazing over the past few weeks where we've all been trying to come to terms with their dad being suddenly seriously ill/disabled by the stroke and they have been particularly good with their much younger sister. I don't really want to get tough with them on something which in the scheme of things is not top priority right now but at the same time the room is really bordering on uninhabitable and I am worried that their slacker approach needs intervention/supervision and feel I'm failing to help them.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 19-Feb-14 11:30:41


There are lots of ways to get them to not only get tidy but keep tidy.
A couple of weeks without lifts, money, washing, cooking, usually does it.
At their age they should be able to do this and be showing some independence.
Go on strike OP, they'll soon step up.

LastingLight Wed 19-Feb-14 11:32:26

The rotting food is a health hazard and I would make a "no food in the room" rule. That will also take care of the problem with cutlery and crockery. A friend of mine with 3 teenagers have recently taken the approach of just closing their doors and saying that if they want to live in chaos they must carry the consequences. She says she has never felt so at peace about the state of her house. I'm not sure I could pull that off. However in your situation where you're under a huge amount of strain with your DH being ill I wouldn't add to that by trying to change their behaviour right now.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 19-Feb-14 11:32:53

Sorry OP, I didn't see the bit about your recent problems.
Please scrap the harshness of my post.
Maybe just encourage and praise, perhaps explain why it makes the house run smoothly when they help.
Let them know it makes you feel better and ask them to do it for you, this may work.

AcrylicPlexiglass Wed 19-Feb-14 11:56:41

You weren't harsh at all, morethanpotatoprints. I have frequent daydreams of striking/getting much stricter to great effect and no fallout! But think you are right that more subtle emotional blackmail might be a better approach right now. I think a no food in the room rule could be a good idea, lastinglight. Thanks everyone. Feeling slightly more positive.

TeaMakesItAllPossible Wed 19-Feb-14 12:31:25

I'm sorry to hear about your DH. No food rule seems like a great compromise. Would you be able to afford a cleaner? The weekly tidy up for ours is the only thing that keeps carpets at ours vaguely visible. Under the beds is a different matter.

Look after yourself, your DC and I wish your DH well <squeeze>

Ragwort Wed 19-Feb-14 12:36:14

Good luck op - I agree the 'no food' rule would be a good start and thanks to mumsnet I have always said 'no food' to my pre-teen.

Ragwort Wed 19-Feb-14 12:36:49

Sorry, to clarify I mean no food in the bedroom - I am not starving my child grin.

FiveExclamations Wed 19-Feb-14 12:49:59

I think I would sit them down and tell them how much you value their support and their help with their sister, that this situation would have been twice as hard with out them and you wish you didn't have to ask more of them, but you have to for both practical reasons and your peace of mind.

Then tell them that there will be people coming to the house to help figure out how best to help your DH, that they will have to look in all the rooms and that at present their room is potentially hazardous to health and horribly embarrassing to you and at the moment you simply don't need the extra worry.

Then ask them to make their room civilized, don't ask for perfection, bit clutter fine, bit of dust fine, un-made beds fine, filthy clothes with clean ones mixed up all over the floor not fine, dirty plates and cups and rotting food not fine.

Then tell them that you really don't want to make this a loosing pocket money and screens issue because you are so proud of how adult and helpful they've been lately, but you will go that route if necessary because something has got to change.

Basically build them up (truthfully) before hitting them with what you want them to do.

My daughters room does get pretty messy, my rule is I must be able to look through the door without wanting to scream and pull my hair out.

wannabestressfree Wed 19-Feb-14 13:14:15

I would second what finexclamations has said. It sounds like they have been brilliant and coped well with what has been going on.

I have three sons and I turn a blind eye to general untidiness but draw the line at food related mess (I found some sandwiches in ds2's drawer) and ds1 has a habit of collecting bottles.

I don't allow food upstairs and every morning I ask for any glasses to come down. Each has a hamper in their room for clothes and I have a 'if it's not in the hamper I don't wash it rule'. This works if they have favourite clothes.

I go in and do the beds once a week and Hoover once a week too for my sanitys sake. Ds1 never makes his bed 'doesn't see the point sad ' but ds2 does it every day out of habit. Ds3 is nine so I do it when I open his curtains. His room is always immaculate as he is a neat freak and his room is the size of a postage stamp....

It's not without it's issues lol. The only other rule I have is that they all have to open a window at some stage to let some air in...... And the foul smell of wind, lynx and general boy odor out

Weegiemum Wed 19-Feb-14 13:16:43

I ask for hygiene - bin emptied regularly, no festering towels, no food scraps. I bear no responsibility for "aaaaargh my school uniform isn't washed" if it's not been presented for washing.

Otherwise, dd1 (14) gets her room left alone!

JohnnyUtah Wed 19-Feb-14 13:23:18

They sound lovely. Tell them what you told us - you know it doesn't bother them, but you will be mortified and can they please tidy up for thatassessment? And make a no food rule. It will soon be messy again but at least you won't have a health hazard on your hands!

Schoolchauffeur Wed 19-Feb-14 17:50:58

I like <FiveExclamations> idea too. I have DS 16 and am very luck as he is very tidy- infact a bit obsessive about his room, but DD ( now 18) was a messy so and so from 13 to 16 and somehow she just couldn't organise herself in her room no matter what! She used to pay her brother 50p to sort it out for her when it got too bad! The only thing that worked for her was having a daily checklist which she had to follow before she went to bed each night and after a while it became second nature and now her room is very clean and tidy.

So the checklist was 1. any food items put away downstairs with plates, mugs etc 2. rubbish in bin ( empty if full) 3. dirty clothes in laundry basket 4. uniform out for next day 5. any clean washing put away 6. nothing on floor . Once she started doing just those things everyday after a while it took no time at all.

They sounds like lovely boys and I hope that all goes well with your husbands recovery.

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 19-Feb-14 21:01:20

I got fed up with huge amounts of washing turning up when someone decided to have a bit of a clear out, when I try to do one load a day and spread it throughout the week. So started a system a but like schoolchauffeur's - when they get home from school they have to bring down any washing up, put whatever clean clothes I've put in their room away, and put the dirty clothes in the laundry. Before any computers/devices get turned on.

It's a five minute (if that) job if they do it every day. And they seem to prefer that than it being a half hour job once a week plus Tracey minutes of me moaning about the suddenly overflowing laundry basket!

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 19-Feb-14 21:02:36

Er, twenty minutes!

And I'm so sorry about your partner - hope he makes as full a recovery as possible.

AcrylicPlexiglass Wed 19-Feb-14 21:14:33

Thanks for all these very wise and thoughtful replies. I have had a chat with them as suggested by FiveExclamations. I also showed one of them this thread, actually. It was quite funny as he said "I see where you're coming from and agree with JohnnyUtah, just let us know when the assessment is and we'll tidy up. Won't be for ages will it? Anyway, see ya, byee!" So very typical of general laid back attitude and determination to do as little as possible combined with a slight concern to keep me sweet! Still, I think it's a start and the food ban has begun. I will try and help them get it a bit straighter tomorrow and then see if the food ban and general light but consistent pressure to keep it that way helps. Thanks so much. And thanks for all the good wishes for my partner too. It's funny how something like this happening seems to make me worry about day to day parenting stuff more than usual, somehow. Maybe I need the distraction or something or it's subliminal worry that they're all missing out on their dad's parenting...

FiveExclamations Thu 20-Feb-14 08:46:59

Hi Acrylic, glad it was fairly positive result grin

Is your husband home now? I'm just wondering as I assume that if/when he is it would be better if he avoid infections while he is recovering.

This might seem a bit harsh but if your boys loose momentum perhaps you could gently (or firmly) point out that the bacterial soup that their young healthy immune systems are living in and taking in their stride is currently being spread all over the house every where they go on their clothes and hands, would that wake them up a bit?

AcrylicPlexiglass Thu 20-Feb-14 09:23:54

Hi five. That's another good idea once he's home. Think it will be a while till that happens though. He's been badly affected by the stroke and is likely to be an inpatient for some weeks or months. He currently can't really do anything independently so lots of rehabilitation needed. To be honest it will be amazing if he is able to get upstairs within 6 months or so. We're at the stage where he's being hoisted into a wheelchair for short periods and working on sitting in it without falling. He's making progress but it's going to take a long time, I think. We'll probably need to get our ground floor adapted and put in a shower room or something. I am thinking of having a deep cleaning/decluttering party nearer the time he is ready for discharge to get the place shipshape. Lots of lovely mates/family have been v keen to help in any way they can so thought I would take them up on that. Then can forbid boys from bacterially souping up dad's clean house as you suggest!

FiveExclamations Thu 20-Feb-14 09:38:42

Sorry to hear that you all have such a tough road ahead but really glad that you have plenty of support.

I had that kind of party when my mum moved into a nursing home and we needed to get the house clear and well scrubbed before we handed the keys back, lots of pizza, loud music, boxes and bin liners did the trick, plus you have people on hand to share the burden of chivying your sons along.

Good luck

hollyisalovelyname Thu 20-Feb-14 09:57:09

Atia I understand the overflowing laundry basket after a clean up session by dc. It drives me insane because I am quite sure some of the washed , non iron items are being put back in for washing despite not having been worn. They just were never hung up after being washed and got mixed with dirty clothes.
Recently I was given bin bags of clothes for charity but dd1 wasn't sure what was washed and what wasn't. All mixed together I had to wash all to give away to charity. It did my head in.
I could get dd1 to do her own stuff but she would mix up my 'system' completely.There would be chaos. so I just do it myself.
She's very good otherwise. Is it a battle worth fighting?

hollyisalovelyname Thu 20-Feb-14 09:58:35

Acrylic thinking of you and wishing the best outcome for your dp. Talk to the boys about your concerns.

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