My daughter’s messy room


Every time I walk into my daughter’s A. room I have feelings of disgust. Besides a narrow strip that is leading to her bed the whole floor is filled with a wide variety of objects like pencils, dolls, doll dresses, Playmobile, Lego, and tons of dust since the room has not been cleaned for months.

We helped A. to clean the mess on a couple of occasions but she never managed to keep it tidy. Here I have frustration popping in. Frustration because I see there is an issue pending with no apparent solution. Frustration because every time A. makes a progress in the way she is dealing with her life there is no change to the situation in her room.

We’ve been avoiding to put pressure on the issue in the previous months because of A’s middel school exams. Now summer holidays have started several weeks ago and the situation is still the same. We have had the whole story with D. and connected to it we’ve established A. had lived in fear and depression for a while. Now she’s working on the outflow of this experience but nothing leads to changes in her room. I was left speechless when asked about cleaning up her room A. answered with no hesitation that it was not something she planned to do during summer holidays.

When tonight again I entered her room to collect a cup to put in the dishwasher I was confronted with this messy room. I made a comment on something that was still dropped (to my opinion) on the floor and A. said she will take care of it later. “later” is for me the same as never, since she uses this word just to make me happy and make me leave.

I am possessed, obsessed by this room. I need to work on this and let it go. The physical situation in the room is not my problem, the reactions I have are indeed. I really need to work this out because I feel that a part is reflecting my own shit. On the other hand I know that A. is dealing with big time resistances and only when she has dealt with those she will be able to clean up the mess. Imposing or forcing A. into action might lead to a clean room, but it will return to a mess in no time if the source of the problem is not adressed.

Quite complex to separate the emotions from the facts. Besides feelings I also see my ego that tells me it is not fair A. can go on with this behavior without consequences. If in a specific situation the outcome is she was wrong in saying or doing something a simple “sorry” is all she gives before going on with her life as if nothing happened. Big time ego here that is suggesting revenge, punishment to make sure A. understands that she is not allowed to do that. A. needs to be more aware of the consequences of her actions but it is not up to me to judge what the consequences should be. They will be there anyway.

I am very allergic to the mess in A’s room and any kind of mess she leaves for days, weeks, months just laying somewhere in or around the house. You can ask A. repeatedly to collect the stuff and bring it to her room with no result for many times. A curious thing is again the frustration connected to the fact I can justify why I am not doing certain things, too busy with other more important stuff while A. is either watching a movie, sleeping in until late, making a drawing, playing with a girlfriend, doing nothing.

The toughest part of this is that it is a mirror to myself. I too have a lot of mess to clean up, not physically so visible as in A’s case but my resistances are equally tough. Meanwhile I am struggling with the question to what extent we can accept A’s behavior in the context of our small family community like leaving her stuff for days, weeks and sometimes months somewhere in the house with no apparent goal or motivation. Stripping as properly as I can this question from any feeling or ego related matter I still see a couple of points we need to agree on within our family context.

So, wrapping this up, I need to work on finding the starting point of all this shit so I can clean up my own mess. From the practical side I am going to propose an agreement between all of us about how we should deal with our stuff in the house and in our own rooms/studio’s, within the context of our small community. Meanwhile, the most effective thing I can do is being an example. This morning I started to clean up one of the tables in our garage! Immediately started to develop a feeling of hope this will influence A. immediately and motivate her into action… I have a lot of self forgiving to do here!

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5 thoughts on “My daughter’s messy room”

  1. Haha, I used to have the exact same type of room. At one point it was actually so bad that you couldn’t see the floor AT ALL anymore and I couldn’t even get to my bed and had to sleep in my sisters room. My parents were so tired of always asking me to clean my room and threatening to come in with garbage bags and throw everything away, that they decided ‘fuck it’ and let me live in my little garbage dump.
    I never wanted to clean my room because it was always asked from a point of ‘me doing it for them’ and I didn’t like the way they were asking (the energy behind it). So from that perspective I pulled the complete opposite way by ‘rebelling’ and deliberately having my room messy. After my room got really out of control I cleaned it up myself because I was seeing and experiencing for myself how this was actually really just impractical and the whole messy room just kind of supported me to be in a ‘messy mode’ inside myself, was in essence just sabotaging myself and compromising myself while I was trying to “make a point”. That’s one of the first times that I cleaned the room *for me*, and now I’m not able to stand mess anymore and never let my room get that messy ever again.
    But definitely, once you change who you are within yourself in relation to her room — it will be one less ‘reaction’ to deal with in the whole equation both for you and for her

  2. Our teens have messy rooms too. I even put one of those yellow “Caution!” tapes across the door and keep the door closed.The 16 YR old recently said he wanted a pet pig and that he would keep it in his room. I told him his room is TOO messy not even fit for a pig and that it would be an insult to the pig to have to live there.I have also found dishes ,etc. in there.I think teens having messy rooms is a normal thing but it is frustrating for parents for sure!

  3. Leila- that is practically the exact same experience I had also.
    it was like my mom just wanted me to do it so she wouldn’t be ‘frustrated by it’- but that is no common sense reason to clean a room! Lol, that has nothing to do with cleaning a room or why one would want to clean a room- this usually doesn’t make sense to the child and so they react by not cleaning the room. The parent is actually just getting ‘high’ off the situation by using it to generate these emotional/feeling experiences toward it.

    Definitely is cool to clear out that stuff, lol, like cleaning a room, and stop those patterns which are just self abusive, and give the child the ability to do it *for themself* so they actually see/understand/realize why they’re doing it- I mean that’s how we’d all like to be treated isn’t it- given the ‘space’ to come to realizations ourself and not have it ‘forced’ upon us. And this supports us to be more self-directed and self-willed, not just blindly following some apparent ‘authority’

  4. Cool post and comments! I find myself in a similar situation with my kid Dj. His room is always a mess and he isn’t bothered about it at all: it is me that is having a problem with it 🙂 I let go of my ‘problem’ here at the spot – it is me wanting to have a tidy home (lol I’m not good at that myself at all). So ok – I allow myself to leave Dj room as it is, as he wants it to be.
    I wont tell him to gather his dirty clothes any longer: if he wants clean clothes he has to put them in the basket – otherwise they won’t be washed.

    One exception: I will not allow him to leave dirty dishes and other food remains for days in there – this will attract mice and this will affect me (and the mice). I tried to talk common sense but he is not open to this. I’m still not sure how to handle this,

    The same goes for the mess he makes in the living room and the rest of the house. It’s typical teens behaviour, I know, but it’s not ok I am the one to clean up his mess all the time.
    I have to figure out how to show him his (non) actions affects other beings (me) He takes me for granted: mum will do this, ‘that’s what mothers are for’.
    Here I am stuck at this moment.

    1. Hi Ingrid, for the dirty dishes / cups point it is the same here. A couple of days ago I found A. had a collection of cups and bowls on her room. I asked her what I was supposed to do if suddenly we would have people we wanted to offer coffee… Run to her room to quickly collect the cups, wash them and then use them for the guests? Soon after I found everything in the kitchen.

      Regarding the rest of the house the matter is more complex. A. is not the only one that leaves stuff somewhere and she sees this as an excuse not to clean up her own stuff. If I ask when she plans to bring something to her room she always replies: “not now!” and if I ask when she will reply with later, tonight or tomorrow. This, of course, is a pattern that is repeating itself time after time while the stuff remains where it is, untouched.

      For the moment only when it is directly obstructing household matters things will be cleaned up. For other stuff like school books that are not used anymore there is time to it sorted out and they will remain on a stack under the wardrobe catching dust…

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