Nicholas Falconer

Just tidy your room ... and don't slam the door!

"CLEAN up your bedroom and make your bed NOW".

That is a sentence I've yelled, screamed and begged at least a couple of thousand times and it's usually been answered by the sound of a door being slammed, hard.

The experts say we need to pick our battles and that messy bedrooms are not really worth fighting over but I disagree and have fought this battle long and hard over the years.

But my teens have fought back just as hard, refusing to see why it matters if their bed is made, their clothes put away or last week's coffee cup or cereal plate removed before the mould takes over.

Back in the early days when I first realised that teenagers have no problem living in a knee-high piles of clothing, bedding and who knows what I used to lose my temper and threaten all sorts of things.

One day after my daughter had failed to clean up I decided it was time to back up my threats - so I threw the lot into the pool. The look on my daughter's face as she saw her uniforms, knickers, favourite tops and shoes floating in the pool was priceless.

I certainly felt a sense of triumph at the time as she fished them out and had to wash the lot, but sadly it did not inspire a lasting change. Even now, while no longer living at home,  tidy bedrooms are still not her "thing".  She can clean a kitchen or bathroom better than anyone I know but a bedroom is just one big wardrobe to her.

Years later I still don't get the messy bedroom thing. I can handle an untidy room or an unmade bed for a day or so but a sustained build-up of mess and clothing will still send me into a meltdown.

I've tried following the experts' advice to just "shut the door" on the mess but I just can't do it. I think a tidy room is a mark of respect to parents - it is our house and we have provided the bed, the bedding and a fair amount of the clothes that are thrown on the floor.

Most certainly I have washed, folded and possibly ironed those clothes. By keeping their room clean they are respecting me.

One day when I was moaning to a friend who used to be a psychiatrist in the army about the state of my kids' rooms she told me that years ago one of the questions on their mental health checklist used to be "do you make your bed each day?".

I can't understand why they stopped asking the question. I think that a tidy room (and a made bed) means you care about yourself and your surroundings.

But after years of fighting the Divine Miss M and Number 1 Son, I think I can claim a victory on the messy bedroom battleground. It seems Miss 16 has learned a thing or two from the arguments I've had with her older siblings and tidies her room long before even I think it is untidy.

Either that or she's playing the game better than they ever did.

So, how do you deal with teenagers and their messy rooms? Shut the door and put a Toxic Zone sign on the door or do you demand loudly and often that they clean it up?

* Life with teenagers can be like an out-of-control rollercoaster ride and when there's no one else to turn to for support or a second opinion, I go undercover to blog about the everyday dramas of raising my otherwise perfect teens.

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