16 Tips to Clean a Messy Room (for Overwhelmed Teens)

My 14-year-old son means well. But it is not uncommon to open the door to a messy room with clutter, trash, dirty clothes, dirty dishes, and even baskets of clean clothes lying around. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to stay like that. I’ve got 16 cleaning tips for overwhelmed teens to help you help your teen learn to manage their things efficiently.

My artsy son's art closet setup with a desk, vintage chair, and shelving.

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Bedrooms Need to Remain Personal Spaces Even For Messy Teens

I know how tiring it can be when you’re in a caretaker role and you want to set a good example and create a peaceful place. But we still have to have standards.

Ultimately it is my responsibility as one of his parents to help train him. To give him the skills without adding negative emotions to it. Soon he will be a young adult. The skills of caring for yourself and your things are important things.

Young people deserve a clean space. And we can help them achieve this in their own way. And without micromanaging.

Teenage Boys and Girls Need to Feel a Sense of Control

Disrespecting their private space is a great way to end up with an angry teen on your hands. There may be negative feelings of betrayal, being violated, and as though the trust has been broken.

I would never want to sacrifice the trust in my relationship with him for a clean bedroom. And so because of my desire to maintain respect for my son I have two rules for myself when it comes to his privacy policy.

  1. I won’t go into his bedroom to clean without him.
  2. I don’t make the decisions for him about his possessions.
My 14 year old's antique full size bed in his room newly cleaned, organized, and minimized.

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The Honor System: The Home Environment

However, this relationship between me and my children requires mutual respect. We run on an honor system in my household. There is grace, but there is also an expectation. I expect him to keep a clean room. Not a perfect bedroom, but a clean bedroom.

Children aren’t born understanding honor, it’s something that has to be taught patiently. And yes, it can be taught through regular cleaning tasks. With consistency and solid accountability, it won’t take much time.

5 Reasons Why Your Teen May Be Having Trouble Keeping Their Room Clean

  1. Mental Health Issues Depression, anxiety, and exhaustion are 3 very real and not uncommon reasons.
  2. They Own Too Much Stuff They like stuff, but haven’t the skills to maintain it.
  3. ADHD Brain. They aren’t able to focus long enough to complete tasks.
  4. They Have No Cleaning Motivation Even though they like a clean space, you have to almost build those muscles.
  5. The Rest of Your House is a Mess They are already overwhelmed just by living in a messy house.
My teen's clean bedroom, bed, and dresser after a clean sweep. No need to be overwhelmed anymore with a few helpful cleaning tips.
Tip #5 Remember the Objective of Cleaning – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens; He likes his room clean because it provides a stress-free environment. A haven.

Helpful Supplies Before You Start

  • Trash Bag
  • Give Away Bag or Box
  • Other Containers to Help You Organize
  • A Snack avoid exhaustion by refueling
  • Water or Other Drink stay hydrated
  • Music (a favorite album) or Audiobook

16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens

Tip #3 Make your Bed! - 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens; A freshly made bed with clean linens leads to a great night's sleep.
Tip #3 Make your Bed! – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens; A freshly made bed with clean linens leads to a great night’s sleep.

01 Start with a Strategy

Starting with a helpful strategy for tackling the mess can seriously make the task of cleaning take less time. Going in with a plan for success will help you keep on track amidst the chaos.

There are books all about different types of cleaning, downsizing, and organizing strategies you can use like the famous Kon Mari method.

There may be times when your messy bedroom only requires simple tidying. Other times you may need a deep clean and reorganization.

02 Use a Timer

Give yourself specific time increments. Many times you’ll find that starting is the hardest part and once you’re into it, you keep going. So set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and when the timer goes off decide if you’ll keep going or take a little bit of free time.

03 Make a Cleaning Checklist

One sure way to help your brain process information while doing cleaning chores is to first know exactly what needs to be done. It’s also helpful if the tasks are in an efficient order.

  1. Clear all flat surfaces first. Move everything off of them into a pile to be sorted. Then clean the surfaces off.
  2. Start with Easy Decisions. Work on eliminating the parts of the mess that don’t require tough decisions. As in obvious trash, dirty clothes and dishes, and things that don’t belong in your room.
  3. Move on to Clean Floors. Make the floors able to be safely vacuumed. I repeat safely vacuumed. But don’t try to vacuum up large pieces of trash, I beg of you.
  4. Take Dirty Clothes to the Washing Machine. Grab your laundry hamper and head to the laundry room. Start a load. Your mom will thank you.
  5. End with Making the Bed. An unmade bed probably seems like it doesn’t matter, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do. When you make your bed it almost feels like a deep breath of fresh air.

04 Ask for Help

It can be a family member or your best friend. But household chores are always way more fun when you have even just someone to talk to you while you do it.

It’s a bonus if they will help you as well. Then if you can, delegate tasks you feel safe allowing someone else to make decisions about, like picking up the trash

Tip #4 Ask for Help - 16 Cleaning Tips for the Overwhelmed Teens; I know when my teen needs help and I actually offer my help at this point. The closet was the first place we worked.
Tip #4 Ask for Help – 16 Cleaning Tips for the Overwhelmed Teens; I know when my teen needs help and I actually offer my help at this point.

05 Remember the Objective of Cleaning

Why are you cleaning your room?

It helps if you have a good reason to keep it in mind when you’re in the thick of the dirty bedroom. You could even write it on a piece of paper and put it up to remind you.

The benefits of living in a clean house and bedroom are too numerous to list out. But as a general rule of thumb, it’s at the top of things you can do for good mental health. And that’s pretty important.

06 Establish a Daily and Weekly Routine

Making daily small steps a part of your life to keep your space kept up is a key to your overall success.

blank & filled versions

Bedroom Cleaning Checklist

This printable is for personal use only. However, feel free to share this post with friends and family so they can have these fun and simplistic bedroom cleaning checklists, too! The download will come with the blank version, but also an example list to give you some simple ideas. The PDF is sized at 8 1/2″ x 11 “.

What you include in your routine daily and weekly can vary greatly depending on the person and situation. But some items you may include are laundry, trash, making your bed, keeping up on paperwork (homework, school books, etc), dirty dishes, shoes, etc.

Simple minimalist design bedroom cleaning checklist the blank version.

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One of the best things about creating a routine and doing those tasks on a regular basis is it will become a habit. You’ll slowly notice you will do them without any mental effort. And you’ll get out of your own way.

07 Downsize, Declutter, and Minimize

This is a part of the strategy I talked about earlier. It’s so much easier to clean a space that already has some kind of order maintained. But to create that order you must first make sure the things you own fit these three requirements.

  1. Everything you own has a use and is relevant.
  2. Is important to you and brings you joy.
  3. Has a home.
My son's clean closet with small shelving on either side built specifically for his figurine collections and books.  I use several cleaning tips to help my overwhelmed teen with cleaning his room.
Tip #8 Set Reasonable Expectations for Yourself – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens; Seeking tidy spaces, not perfect and Pinterest-worthy spaces.

Those three things are great ways to measure if an item should continue to take up space in your room, especially if you live in a small house (or bedroom).

If an item doesn’t fit into these categories, it may be possible it’s a sentimental item. It’s OK to save those decisions for another day. Make sure you have a place specifically for sentimental items.

08 Set Reasonable Expectations for Yourself

The point is not perfection, it’s comfort and ensuring it feels like your own space. Not one of those storage areas.

It’s also important to note that these kinds of decisions aren’t easy to make at first. It may take several months of consistent and intentional rounds to have it become second nature.

Start small. But don’t quit if you don’t achieve that social media worthy photo at the end. Also, remember this is not a competition.

Tip #9 Take Before and After Photos - 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens. In our case, we had a video of the entire process. He could definitely see the progress. My son's room looking out the door into the hallway, door open.
Tip #9 Take Before and After Photos – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens. In our case, we had a video of the entire process. He could definitely see the progress.

09 Take Before and After Photos

I cannot stress how important this small and simple step can be for realizing the impact your effort has had. Our brains often lie to us and mislead us into believing we haven’t really done anything.

Take a photo before you start any part of the process. Then when you’re done with that session, take another photo and compare.

Make sure to take photos of each area you will work on. Not just an overall photo of the room itself.

10 Join in on a Cleaning, Downsizing, or Organizing Challenge

Every year the Minimalists do a 30-day challenge for the fun of it. Everything is more fun when you’re a part of a community and when it’s a game.

Try to enjoy this journey you’re on. I’m not saying you have to become a minimalist, but it is so helpful to help you do something consistently for 30 days towards creating that cleaner, organized, and truer space for yourself.

Plus, they say it takes 30 days to create a new habit.

Tip #12 Section Off Your Room - 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens. It's helpful to break up the elephant into small bites. Then it's less overwhelming all the way around. The view from the bed into the closet with the vintage drawing desk and vintage cane back desk chair.
Tip #12 Section Off Your Room – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens. It’s helpful to break up the elephant into small bites. Then it’s less overwhelming all the way around.

11 Use Favorite Cleaning Products

Maybe you don’t have a favorite cleaning product. Maybe it’s a good time to get a favorite cleaning product.

As a mother of 5, I can tell you with confidence that it does help motivate you to clean after already cleaning the same space 50 times this week if my spray smells good.

12 Section Off Your Room

I have used this strategy when downsizing, organizing, and cleaning my own house. It helps you stay on track, especially when the job is really big and daunting.

I took a piece of paper and wrote down every single ‘area’ of a room. No area is too small to be its own section. But I went in order of largest to smallest.

So, write down the largest things like pieces of furniture, then section that off even smaller to drawers, cabinets, baskets, etc.

  • Piece of Furniture
  • Drawer
  • Cabinet
  • Basket or Other Container

13 Work On the Biggest Problem First

If you need a quick win decide which is your biggest problem area and tackle that first.

Maybe it’s the laundry all over the floor. Quickly gather all the laundry and start a load of laundry first.

If it’s trash, get out your trash bag and focus only on trash while you make a clean sweep of the entire room.

Focusing your energy on one single type of object it’ll make it easier to avoid burnout. Or, you can focus on one particular area. My son chose to start in his closet, so that’s where our focus went first.

14 Get an Accountability Partner

This might sound strange, but depending on your situation it may be helpful if you ask your friends or family to call you out when your room is heading towards a big mess.

Ultimately these are behaviors we want to eliminate. I’m speaking to myself here as well. Sometimes we let things slide until it gets really bad. So, it’s helpful if someone is willing to kindly remind us things are noticeably declining.

And at this point, it’s a good idea to also ask for help.

Tip #15 Keep Yourself Entertained While You Work - 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens. Turning on some music, or having friendly conversation helps make the time pass and the task fun. The left side of my son's work closet with his small shelves filled with books and figurines.
Tip #15 Keep Yourself Entertained While You Work – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens. Turning on some music, or having friendly conversation helps make the time pass and the task fun.

15 Keep Yourself Entertained While You Work

I am 100% the type of person that sometimes needs additional outside stimulus to drive me onwards. Some of my favorite music, a podcast, audiobook, or even turning on a beloved movie in the background can definitely help me feel less overwhelmed by the task.

16  Use Bins to Compartmentalize the Mess for Smaller Chunks

This might sound obvious, but I LOVE to use bins while I am cleaning the room itself. It gives me that additional compartmentalization that really helps speed the process up.

For this very reason, I will always bring containers with me as I start cleaning up a room. A few containers I like to use in the process are

  • Trash Bag
  • Give Away Bag or Box
  • Box for Items That Don’t Belong
  • Basket for Laundry
Tip #16 Use Bins to Compartmentalize the Mess for Smaller Chunks – 16 Cleaning Tips for Overwhelmed Teens

I hope you have found some inspiration and help with those 16 cleaning tips for overwhelmed teens. These are the same main ideas I utilize when training my kids to clean rooms. And let me tell you, we’ve had quite a lot of practice!

If you need some more cleaning advice or additional support check out How to Downsize When You’re Overwhelmed.

Thanks for stopping by!


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→


  1. Oh my goodness great timing for this post, it’s been a struggle keeping their bedrooms clean this summer. Glad to hear I’m not the only mom going through this Lol

    1. You are definitely not alone!! I like to do a big clean and purge like twice a year. As the school season ends and as another starts. It just makes everything feel less overwhelming!

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