Sounds overwhelming! When you look around a messy room, or a desk piled high with papers, it all seems insurmountable. Most of us tend to wish it away, avoid it, move around it, like the giant elephant in the middle of the room, till it blends into the background. We become numb to its existence, but it hasn’t gone away.
First: MAKE CLEANING UP THE CLUTTER FUN
Second: RESPECT YOUR CHILD’S THINGS
I recently worked with a teenager whose Mom declared his room a disaster area. Clothes, shoes, coins, empty cans and food containers, books, games, dust, dirt, jumbled together on every surface, and spilling out of the closet. Broken shelves and flake board end tables falling apart. His mom called me because he resisted cleaning it up or allowing her touch it after many years of disregard for his own space. Her ultimatum: clean room, a new TV (there wasn’t one in the house or in his room).
I met his resistance comment, “Mom is making me do this”, with “OK, let’s you and I do it, and see what happens. You can always go back to this. Mom is out of the picture.”
Together, he and I approached it by taking everything out of the room, he deciding what things to throw away and what to keep, while sorting clothes into a hamper. I joked with him as I found coins everywhere, ”Hey, you’re a rich kid. Can I borrow from you?”
As I removed books, guitars, and other games hidden in the mess, I asked him about them, taking an interest in him as a person and getting to know his priorities and needs.
Once the room was cleared, except for the bed and an oversized broken book shelf, we opened a previously barricaded door to the lanai for fresh air. He went out to the lanai and washed his window screens, unsolicited, and decided he liked having the lanai door opened for fresh air. All of a sudden he said, “Hey, this book shelf is really broken, let’s get rid of it.” My heart beat with joy as we put it curbside with a FREE sign on it. He took the first step to “owning” his own room.
We swept and washed the floors, rearranged the bed, and found an end table in good condition from another room. Once he saw the space, he saw opportunities to showcase his things based on his likes and how he uses them. For example, he loves science fiction books, so we grouped them on a reachable shelf in his closet. We hung posters, also found in the heap, and so went the process.
After 7 hours, he was taking pictures of his empty, clean room and closet. I left him with Mission Possible: sort through the rest of the things and put them in bags that I had started… I would come back the next day to help him put the rest away.
He called the next day to say that he had sorted into the bags I began, and was telling me how and where he was putting things, if I had any other suggestions.
He was now on his own, taking charge of his own space with a new sense of pride and ownership.