Kids

Is There Hope For Teens' Messy Rooms After All?

You guys, I’ve discovered a secret super power. I love working with teenagers to organize their rooms, and it seems that they like working with me too!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

There could be a few things going on here. For one thing, I think it makes a difference that I’m not a parent. I have a lot of friends who are parents, and I hear from them about their struggles, so I can definitely empathize with parents’ frustrations with their teens’ messy rooms. At the same time, I’m not a parent myself, and so in some way I still self-identify as someone’s daughter rather than someone in charge. This allows me to relate directly to my teen clients.

In addition, from the very beginning of my business, I have maintained that my client is the person who lives in the space I am organizing. This may be the person who is paying me, but not always. This means that when I’m working with a teenager, I’m talking directly to them, and listening to their needs and desires for the space. 

Here are a few things I’ve noticed when working with teens and their parents - perhaps these observations might inspire you to approach your teen and their room situation from a new angle!

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

  1. No matter how messy a teen’s room or how long it’s been that way - they may hate it as much as you do! Just because someone lives in a disorganized environment doesn’t mean that’s their preference, they may just not have the resources or energy to change it. So often a teen needs help getting started and tools to keep going, rather than discipline.

  2. Teens learn how to live in a home from their parents over the course of their lives. So, if your home has perpetually disorganized areas, it should not be surprising that your teen’s room follows suit. And as a result, they’re going to be pretty resentful if you ask something of them (a clean room) that you don’t ask of yourself. Think back to your teen years - didn’t you hate hypocrites like none other?

  3. The teen years are all about the struggle for control. Teens feel like they’re ready to be adults, and parents are totally freaked because they know decision making skills have not yet been… refined. The good news is that a teen’s room is a pretty safe space to give them practice with taking ownership. If you let them organize their room the way they want to - even if it doesn’t map exactly to your vision - you very well may get a tidier space and a happier kid.

Above all, if you are the frustrated parent of a teen with a messy room, I beg of you: please, please, please DO NOT declutter and organize the teen’s room without their participation. It will totally backfire on you. Why? By doing so, you’ll break their trust. And trust, as we all know, is a really hard thing to get back.

 If you have questions about how to help your teenager get started on organizing their space, let’s talk!

LMW

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Louise Linton Said She "Sacrifices" More Than Other Taxpayers.  It's Not That Simple.

We could all use a refresher on the economics and political principles that underlay the latest scandal-of-the-week.  And if you, like me, post about fashion on Instagram, I hope you can join me in taking a renewed look at our content and remembering that the ability to wear a wide variety of things just for fun is an incredible privilege.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent

Even though It's been over seven years since I planned my own wedding, I still love reading and talking about weddings - especially when there's as much juicy insider detail as there is in this article!  But as with so many things, I finished it remembering the sociological research which tells us that, past a certain point, money doesn't actually buy any additional happiness.

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

I completely cut out sugar and processed grains for a solid three months about five years ago, and continue to minimize both of those things as much as my inherent tendency to being a sugar monster allows.  I've never really thought of this strategy as a health panacea though - it's really a weight maintenance tool for me.  I generally avoid extremes, and this article reassures me that that's a wise strategy.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Shopping For Boys Cloths Is So Boring

This article also brings up an excellent point to me: why does "gender-neutral" skew so masculine?  My sister and her wife dress my niece in all kinds of things, from frilly dresses to onesies that are clearly from the boys' department, and that just seems like a progressive strategy.  But I wonder if they or anyone else would put boys in pink and glitter sometimes in the name of gender neutrality.  I wish they would!

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of elle.com

Photo courtesy of elle.com

Kate Middleton's Engagement Dress May Have Triggered the Downfall of the Brand Issa

I own one Issa piece, a gorgeous peacock green gown with cap sleeves and a plunging back, and was a fan of the brand's simply elegant aesthetic.  It's too bad the brand disappeared, but this article is a sobering reminder that fashion is above all a business.

Photo courtesy of marieclaire.com (@ashleybouder)

Photo courtesy of marieclaire.com (@ashleybouder)

Ballet Has A Sexism Problem - But I'm Fighting Back From the Inside

I've had season tickets to the San Francisco Ballet for at least five years now.  In that time, I don't recall seeing a single piece by a female choreographer.  And I'm pretty sure there there have been few if any pieces created by people of color.  These are both serious problems.

Photo courtesy of theguardian.com (Popperfoto)

Photo courtesy of theguardian.com (Popperfoto)

"London Bridge is down:" the secret plans for the days after the Queen's death

This is fascinating.  Royals lover, hater, or not-carer, there is a lot going on here for everyone!

Restaurants Banning Children: Is It Good For Business?

As a child, I would have been outraged by this.  My parents were sticklers for table manners and took us with them to all kinds of fine dining restaurants starting when we were quite young, and I was really proud of being a well-behaved child in an adult environment.  However, my adult self realizes that not every kid is restaurant ready and that paying customers deserve the kind of experience they've sought out and paid for!

What I'm Reading

Image courtesy of nytimes.com (Emily Beri/Andy Chen)

Where Have You Gone, Angelina Jolie? Celebrities Vanish From Fashion's Front Row

I find the changing landscape of the fashion industry fascinating to follow.  And I wonder what this means for the world of Instagram stars and influencers if the fact that a celebrity is seen wearing a brand doesn't really move the needle in terms of sales.

Photo courtesy of vulture.com (Bill Matlock/ABC)

Why A Black Bachelorette Is A Big Deal

I haven't been in the loop for a few years, but The Bachelor/The Bachelorette were my Monday-night go-tos during business school with my girlfriends. And it doesn't take a genius to watch a season or two of this monster franchise and realize that people of color a) are severely underrepresented and b) if they are present, exit stage left in very early episodes.

Photo courtesy of nationalgeographic.com (Antonio Faccilongo)

A Million People Live in These Underground Nuclear Bunkers

I find pretty much everything left over from the Cold War a combination of fascinating and terrifying, and this is no exception.  This article also reminds me how little I know about the world - I had literally never heard of this phenomenon before!

Photo courtesy of glamour.com (Miguel Reveriego)

Chrissy Teigen Opens Up For the First Time About Her Postpartum Depression

I've said before and I'll say it again: anything related to being less than perfectly maternal remains a huge taboo for women.  I'm all for bringing everything into the light, so that each individual can find her way and get the support she needs, whatever her motherhood status. (In related news, Glamour has been killing it journalistically in recent months.)

Seasonal Rotation: Not Just For Clothes!

An old friend and high school classmate has turned his passion for education into a business consulting on parenting to busy moms.  And he knows of what he speaks: a few years ago, he had twins!  One of his articles from last year uses an approach I know from the land of closets but have not seen discussed for kid stuff: seasonal rotation!  Check out his full step-by-step guide: How To Reduce Toy Clutter in Six Easy Steps.

Photo courtesy of smartkidparenting.com

Seasonal rotation is a popular concept for clothes.  The idea is that you store half your wardrobe and rotate it out when temperatures change.  It doesn’t work for me personally because the San Francisco climate is so consistent: it’s pretty much always between 50 and 70 Fahrenheit.  Instead of having a wardrobe divided by season, I have a wardrobe divided by things I can wear at home in SF and things I pretty much only wear while traveling!

For example, I hardly ever wear a heavy coat, but I ALWAYS need a light jacket.  So, the jackets live in my closet within easy reach, and the coats hang in the linen closet that’s a little harder to access.  And shorts are pretty much vacation-only items for me, so I hang them on skirt hangers on the highest, farthest bar in my closet so they don’t take up valuable real estate.

When it comes to toys, I recommend that you think about whether or not the rotation system will work for you in much the same way as you consider seasonally rotating your clothes.  If you and your family have annual habits (heating the pool, putting up Christmas lights, back to school shopping are all good examples) and these are easy for you to maintain and follow, toy rotation might be a great solution for you.  However, if you’re more of an “out of sight, out of mind” household, rotation might lead to a situation in which the stored toys never re-emerge from storage!

As with any organizing strategy, rotation will work for some families and not others, and that’s perfectly ok. Have you tried toy rotation and found it worked for you?

LMW

Kids Can Organize, Too

I’m not going to restate any of the content in this great article from Palo Alto Weekly, because it’s clear, concise, and totally on point: Toy Storage: Five Easy Steps to Decluttering Kids’ SpacesLauren Mang, a wonderful organizer I know through NAPO-SFBA, in particular calls out a many of the major concepts I talk about here: the importance of forming habits, using containers that work in addition to looking nice, the fact that organizing is a process rather than a completed task, and the importance of considering consumption as it relates to organization.

In my experience, kids are just like adults when it comes to getting organized.  When they’re ready to make change, and I give them a rubric, they’re off and running.  One client was worried that her daughter wouldn’t want to throw anything away.  But the daughter and I had about a five minute chat about how I work and what she wanted to accomplish and then dove in, and she made decisions quickly and confidently.

Trust between organizer and client is also just as important with kids. I always respect the privacy of my minor clients, just like with my adult clients.  I ask permission before touching their possessions, check in frequently about how they’re feeling, and articulate praise when they get the hang of making decisions.  I also work one on one with kids: the door is open with a parent nearby of course, but the lack of parental participation in the organizing conversation actually helps kids get in touch with what they really want and move more efficiently through the process.

Plus, that moment when the parents walk in and gasp with happiness at the progress made is pure magic, for both the child and me!

LMW