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Can anyone offer my 17yo son some inspiration?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hi all -- I lurk in awe of your efforts at decluttering and simplifying here! My son has asked for some help in totally cleaning out and reorganizing his disaster (and I mean DISASTER) of a room. He is ready to live in a nice space. Can anyone offer any tips or inspiration? How might he start? Right now he has dirty wash and trash, mixed together with books, electronic equipment, and various musical instruments on the floor. He saves everything from concert programs to sticks and rocks from hikes. His school papers are scattered all over. It has started spilling out into the hall!!! My husband has suggested two big boxes: one for trash and one to sort later, just to get to the floor and clean it! I'd post a picture, but I am not sure how to upload! Any help will be welcomed! Thanks in advance! And to stress again: he has asked for help -- we are not *making* him clean out his space.

post #2 of 17
When I'm facing a huge mess, the only way to get started is to tell myself that I'll work on one particular thing first. I have a trash bag and a donation bag (or box) ready and I just start with one type of thing. So maybe if he started with just clothes--pick up every piece of clothing and make adecision about each--trash, keep or donation. If it's being kept it gets folded and stacked in a corner. Next might be music stuff- keep, trash or donate each item. He may need a piece of furniture or some sort of storage solution to keep that stuff off the floor; if that's the case, put it in a box until the storage solution is acquired. Next, collections--if something has an actually important memory attached to it, keep it. If not, trash or donate.

For school stuff, he needs a file boxand folders. Keep only papers from the current year, and anything he might find useful for college applications. Nothing else. Get it all sorted and filed/trashed.

Once he can walk through his room, he can take on his closet/dresser-- go through every piece of clothing and keep, trash or donate. Then put all kept clothes neatly away. At this point, you'll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My grandmother used to tell me that when she's faced with a sinkful of dishes she only allows herself to think about washing one dish. That has really helped when I'm faced with a daunting task.
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post #3 of 17
In a room like that, I would go through with a garbage bag picking up garbage, then pull out all the dirty laundry and make a pile. Start pulling everything else into the hallway sorting it into piles: electronics, instruments, papers etc. (Using boxes or laundry baskets could be helpful with this.)

Once the room is cleared out I'd do a deep clean and fresh coat of paint if it needs it. Then I'd work on organizing anything inside of furniture and closets, find a place for everything in a way that makes sense and is convenient (otherwise it's too easy to mess up again). Rearrange furniture to feel fresh and new. Add extra storage (shelves? baskets? file boxes? closet organizers? etc)

I look at blogs and sites like apartment therapy, home decor magazine sites etc to stay motivated (I want a pretty space too!) and to get ideas.

Congrats to your DS!
post #4 of 17
Yup I'd do as the pp - start with clothes pick them up trash/donate/keep, then move on to something else and something else till you get to the floor Honestly, his room sounds a lot like my brothers was in highschool... an utter disaster area. :shiver Good luck!!!
post #5 of 17
ITA with the responses you've gotten. "Just start" sounds overly simplistic but it is the best advice.

I also like to work with a timer when I am on big projects. I find knowing I'm on a clock keeps me on track. I like to do 3 rounds of 9 minute bursts of work so, in this case, I would do 9 minutes of sorting, 9 minutes of taking the sorted stuff away, 9 minutes of cleaning, and then a break. I would also encourage him to think about and visualize what he wants his living space to look like and be like when he's done. Will he reward himself with new furniture or wall art? He might be able to repurpose some of that concert memorabilia into some cool art. Maybe he should have a box marked "cool stuff" and then during a break he can look through it and see about ways to display it.
post #6 of 17
If the disaster is really big and already taking up part of other people´s living space I would not recommend taking everything out of the room to be able to clean it.

Get boxes, ideally of the same size (so they are stockable).
Shoe boxes are a good source.

Then start with a garbage bag (see above poster)- put in as much as possible.

Then go on with the clothes- if possible (if there are things in a closet), sort clean clothes, while you´re at it.

Clear closet and only put it clean clothes which he still likes.
Everything else he should wash (if he doesn´t already know how to, this is a good opportunity to teach him!) and dry.

Then comes the boxes!
Only pieces of one category get put in one box.
Papers, electronics, School stuff,

Make sure to have some tape and pen marker ready to label the boxes on the side.

Stack them neatly in one corner of the room.

Have enough garbage bags ready to get rid of anything trashy while your putting things in the boxes.

When everything is boxed, you can show him how to deep clean his room.

Then set up a system for his papers (school stuff first).

Good luck!
post #7 of 17
for those shows like "clean house" they start by emptying the room entirely. they set up spaces outside for keep, donate, and trash/recycle. *everything* goes out of the room and into one of these spaces (they use tarps on the ground, and so it needs to be a sunny day).

once the room is empty, you do a deep clean. then, you repaint or whatever you might want to do.

next, they do a garage sale, and if you have that much stuff and it might be valuable, i recommend an auction house. if not, just donate it all at once (or call the group to have them do a pick up if it all doesn't fit in your car.

trash, of course, is obvious. just put it out at trash day.

and then what there is to keep, this you begin to organize. you (and your son) might realize that there is still too much to keep. that is, he has 4 drawers and a small closet, and has enough clothes for 4 dressers and 6 closets. best bed, purge down to what he really needs.

put things back into the room in a conscious way, so that everything has it's own place. you also want space for new things to come in, and also a rhythm for when things go out again (once a month, seasonally, etc)--when you have another purge and reorganize.

i also think that an incentive like a new coat of paint on the walls would be good.
post #8 of 17
I'm with Zoebird. I'm a huge fan of the "Clean House" method.

Painting the walls and fixing it up nicely is a nice incentive to get everything out so that he can keep/sell or donate/throw.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks everyone for these great ideas. We are set to begin in the morning. I think he likes the idea of cycles through the mess -- so trash first, then clothes, the the dozens of books. I would LOVE to have him pull it all out into the hall (as suggested by last posts) but I worry that he will get sidetracked and I will have to live with all of that mess in my tidy living space! He ends up reading old magazines from under the bed while I get more and more annoyed and work on by myself. We don't need any more conflict around here.

We went to IKEA and got him two cheap Expedit 2x2 shelves for his stereo and vinyl albums. These can also be fitted with doors or drawers, but that gets expensive. I also don't want to create new places for him to shove stuff. He has agreed to get rid of the IKEA chair that just takes up space and acts as a junk-catcher.

We are going to get him a few small file boxes for the papers.

I keep passing these ideas along to him and he is excited to get started. I am going to take some 'before' pictures so when we are done he can see how far it came and (I hope) be inspired to KEEP it at least not disgusting.

Wish us luck!
post #10 of 17
I recommend from personal experience that you avoid the urge to drag it out into your tidy living space. I was frustrated by the amount of stuff in my craft room, so one day I had the bright idea to take everything out and put it in the dining room to sort it out...and it literally took me months to get the dining room back to normal again so that we can feel comfortable eating there again!

Onto a tarp outside sounds like a good idea though if you can get it all done before it rains!

My younger DD used to have a disastrous room too, but one weekend she was inspired to declutter it all, and now it is easier for me to help her keep it clean and tidy. With all her schoolwork etc, she hasn't got time to do it all herself so I only ask her to tidy her bed in the morning, and put the dirty laundry in a basket in her room then it is all in one place and I can take it to the laundry myself. I do need to pick up after her a fair bit, but I figure at 16 she needs a bit of assistance still with keeping her room tidy and clean.
post #11 of 17


Hey, 18yr old dude here. Saw this over my mother's shoulder and figured I might be able to help. I've had to DE-clutter a lot of things in my short life here on earth. I have a friend who's room is a total disaster when I visit, so I end up cleaning it.

Start off with the three big things, trash, dirty clothing, and papers. First I would get all of your dirty clothing out and into a bin of some sort, seeing as that's the largest and most obvious thing in a mess. If you try to find all the trash or papers first, you might miss some that are hiding under a dirty shirt or last weeks undies. Next, Get all of the trash, including recycling if you do that, and throw it out. While you do this, grab a box and pile all of your papers into the box, and all of your books in another. You can sort through these boxes later, but I find that simply trying to pick up a book and putting it on a bookshelf simply distracts me from the task at hand. Once you have most of that done, it's time to look at all of your stuff. What's important to you? Shred Papers you don't need, store papers you want to keep in the box. Then, take all the remaining stuff and organize it into piles, or, if you must, in boxes. Sometimes I find that ripping everything off your shelves helps. Even if it makes a bigger mess on the floor at that moment, you now have a whole bunch of empty space you can work with. Then, decide what you NEED, What you WANT, and what you can part with. Look at stuff like all those rocks and sticks. Can they be put in a safe location outside where you can still keep them? If so, put them there. Now, organizing depends on what you want. Obviously, books go on the book shelf, but things like musical instruments require you to find a place for them. Again, if you don't have a place for what you need and want, then look at things until you find something you can get rid of so you have that space.

That's my suggestion anyway.

Hope I helped.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone! Darius -- Andrew says thanks for the ideas! We did end up pulling it all out into the big hallway, sorted into piles. Then we rolled up the rug (he has decided to get rid of it so it is going to my office!). We moved the furniture to a better configuration and now he is setting up the stereo in the new Expedit/Ikea thing. All floors, walls, baseboards are vacuumed and washed! Now on to sort the papers. Not sure where all of the violins and guitars are going to go, but we will figure it out. It has been strangely fun...
post #13 of 17
Originally Posted by LauraN View Post
My grandmother used to tell me that when she's faced with a sinkful of dishes she only allows herself to think about washing one dish. That has really helped when I'm faced with a daunting task.
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I love that grandmother quote!

Darius the Great, you sound like an experienced (de)clutter warrior. So, I agree: obvious and spacetaking parts of the mess need to leave first (trash, laundry, ...).
It might also help to concentrate on one wall / one furniture piece / one flat surface (you get the idea) per decluttering session.
post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by Profmom View Post
..... Not sure where all of the violins and guitars are going to go, but we will figure it out. It has been strangely fun...
Can you hang the guitars and violins on the wall? It looks cool, plus it is great storage. (Also, might want to donate one or two to a child in need.)

The concert tickets can fit into a designated photo album. Maybe let the programs go to the recycle bin. Also remember it is a mind shift. Really analyze each new concert ticket, is it a really cool reminder that you need to keep in your special space? Or was it just another concert, and doesn't need to be saved.

I aspire to being able to have X amount of things (like guitars). If I buy one more guitar, then an old one has to go.

Or just enough something else to fit in a designated box/drawer. (Like special hiking rocks in your case, in a display box on the shelf.) If the new rocks don't fit in the box, pick out your least favorite ones to get rid of. Or start a rock garden in the backyard!
post #15 of 17
Originally Posted by proudmomof4 View Post
I love that grandmother quote!
My grandmother was the absolute most frugal woman I have ever known. She lived on the tiniest amount of pension and never needed anything. But ironically, she was also the biggest pack rat in the world. My mother used to declutter grandma's apartment every couple of years, but never felt she could make a dent b/c they ended up arguing over whether she really needed all the stuff she accumulated. But that quote about the dishes really stuck with me and it's the only way I can start on big tasks, just do one small part first.
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post #16 of 17
My 10 year old daughter's room was the same way, and she wanted to clean it. She dumped all her stuff in my room, and a lot of it is still there! She doesn't have school tomorrow, so guess what we are doing?
post #17 of 17
I am a huge fan of taking everything out to start over when it's that overwhelming- and when you want to really step into a different lifestyle in that room. Then, you go through it all and bring in ONLY what you want. After that- you decide what to do with everything else.

I think that is easier than taking it out and sorting first. I try to see it as 'shopping' through my stuff to create the room I want. It works better in my mind than trying to fit things in because I have them.
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