Minimalism and messy teens


This recent article from the BBC, entitled Get out of my room! The truth about a teenager’s bedroom really caught my eye.

When you embrace minimalism and lose the clutter, it’s certainly not the case that you’ll bring everyone else in the family with you. This is especially true if you have one or more teenagers in the house. If they have their own room, this period in their lives is when they are beginning to assert their independence. If they choose to have a messy room, that’s their business, right?

But, how, on earth, does one marry the so-called ‘apocalyptic mess‘ of the teenage lair with a minimalist home?

Is a messy teenage bedroom really about self-determination or is there something else going on?

In the MidsMin household

I don’t stress too much about the rooms in our house that ‘belong’ to other family members.

What I do concern myself with are the shared rooms, particularly downstairs, where the rear of our home is open plan. By paying attention to these communal spaces, we can welcome visitors at any time. That’s a nice feeling.

In spite of being able to ‘live and let live’, I still nag remind our teenager about tidying and cleaning her room. After all, a clean and tidy environment will support her wellbeing and help with self-organisation.

What is really going on when messy becomes the norm?

In the BBC article, Laurie Taylor argues that the messy teenager is merely rejecting the family norm and exerting her own independence. I think it might be more than that.

Clearly, tidying up is not the teenage priority. What is the teenage priority, though?

I’ll tell you.

It’s homework, make-up, FaceTime and Snapchat. Not necessarily in that order.

Remember when you were a teenager? Did life seem quite as busy then as it is now?

Here’s the thing: the sheer volume of activity that today’s teens cram into their lives makes weekly scheduling a master-task in diary management. Yet, even though I wasn’t quite as ‘busy’ as a modern teen, I have to tell you something:

I was a messy teenager, too.

So, how can we help our high-achieving, over-scheduled teens avoid overwhelm? How can we support them?

Teenagers need you more than ever

In the battle of teen vs. clutter, you’ll all recognise the ‘clothes on the floor’ scenario. I think it’s our job to encourage, to remind and to help when they let us. I like Brooke McAlary’s idea that the first day of the holidays be devoted to a good old-fashioned sort out. That’s on my list for the first day of the upcoming Easter holidays.

In addition, rules such as ‘washing downstairs on a Friday’ do help and introducing teens to the vacuum cleaner is no bad thing.

More important than sorting out the messy bedroom is the attention we pay our young people. Being heard is what they want and need. A hug doesn’t go amiss from time to time, even when they are bigger than you.

And remember:

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice – Peggy O’Mara


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3 thoughts on “Minimalism and messy teens

  1. Interesting post! Thank you! I have 3 teenagers myself. I remember reading somewhere that the chaos in teens’ rooms is a reflection of the chaos of their minds and lives as they transition from children to adults and deal with taking on extra responsibility. Makes sense to me and helps me be more patient with the clutter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Summer! I agree it’s all too easy to forget how the teenage brain is developing at this time in our children’s lives. The clutter (literal and figurative) will sort itself over time – we hope 😉


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