Help your tween keep his room clean with these tips for tween organization

Barbara Reich, professional organizer and author of the soon-to-be-released (February 26!) book, Secrets of an Organized Mom, came to my rescue a few weeks ago when we were reorganizing my son’s room to get ready for his big paint-over. I sent her a few pictures of trouble spots and asked for advice for tween organization.

keep tween room clean

Barbara’s bedroom organization tips for tweens

Cleaning can be fun!

Make clean up fun by using chic containers and bins.  When the storage containers are part of the room’s decor, your tween will be more likely to put things away.

What we did: We took a trip to target where he picked out a few containers that he liked (they were plain and boring, really. He’s a boy.) He’s actually using them!

Electronic Organization

To capture all of the electronics your tween owns, use small containers in fun colors.  Or use drawer organizers inside of the desk with places for all of the chargers and electronics.


What we did: Big was gifted an iHome iPod charger/music player/clock, so that sits there. Everything else sits in a bucket and is charged elsewhere. I do like the idea of putting them in a drawer to charge them, but I like him having his cartridges and games together and his games won’t fit in a drawer. 


K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, silly)

Keep the room as simple as possible.  For example, if all s/he has to do is pull a coverlet or comforter over the sheets, s/he just may make the bed every day.

What we did: This is SO true. He kicks off the top sheet anyway, so we’ve realized he doesn’t need it and he does pull up his cover a few days a week. Also, while his room was being painted we cleared all the junk out and into boxes. I figured we’d move it back out the following week, but he hasn’t even asked for any of it. Realizing how much neater his room is without, we’re keeping the extra stuff boxed up until he does realize it’s missing. So there’s a lot less stuff to clutter or to need to be put away.


Put the hamper in the tween’s room

Put a clothes hamper where your child gets undressed.  You have a better chance of clothes staying off the floor if the hamper is accessible.


What we did: Or didn’t. I feel strongly that the kids can be expected to put their laundry in a communal basket as long as I’m doing the laundry for them. When he’s ready to do his laundry, he can have his own basket in his room. Until then, he’s making my job a little easier by putting his dirties where they should go.


Go ahead, make a tween’s day… bribe them

If necessary, bribes are nothing to be ashamed of!


What we did: Big has a long list of things he needs for baseball this year. Each week or so we set a goal and, when he reaches it, can buy something from his list as a reward. Example: I challenged him to put his clean, folded laundry away in his drawers every day for a week before he left for school. When he did, he purchased a bat donut (which is a weight for practice swings.)



Girls start having make-up at this age.  It should be stored in a bathroom drawer or in a container under the sink in the bathroom.


What we didn’t do: WHAT?!? I just don’t even want to think about how the boys and Little will share a bathroom when she’s nine and they’re 13 and 15.

Bedroom Organization Tips specifically for Big’s Room

clean room tween

Barbara also took time to look at pictures of Big’s room and give us a few pointers. We haven’t had a chance to make all these changes yet, but we’re working on them. Big loves reading and, although he reads primarily on his Kindle, still has a hard time parting with books. When he’s not reading, quiet time in his room includes LEGO building, Snap Circuit experiments, and Beyblade tournements.


His room doesn’t need to be a library

There is more than adequate space in the bookcase for books if the bottom bookshelf is used for books.  Clean up of books needs to be done every day.  Assign a place for the current book(s) he is reading.  Those books should then be the only ones out.  You should also get in the habit of purging his books regularly.  Ask him if he liked the book enough to re-read it or save it.  If not, out it goes!


What we did: This was really hard because he truly does believe he’ll read every book again. I don’t think there’s ever been a book that he hasn’t enjoyed. My husband spent some time helping him purge books to give to his younger brother which did help to clear out some space. He does only keep one book, the one he’s reading, on his nightstand now. And his Kindle is stored there as well.


The closet

The closet needs to be properly utilized.  If he has minimal hanging clothes, consider installing additional shelves in the bottom area of the closet.  These can be used for some of the clothes that are hanging out of his drawers. When there are fewer things in the drawers, they tend to stay neater.


What we did: The closet is small, tall and difficult. Big can only reach the bottom 2 shelves, but he also wants to be able to reach the little hanging clothing that he does have. He has a lot of games, swimwear and collectibles that he stores in there as well. We’re not completely sure what to do with the closet still, but we did buy a 2-tier shoe shelf that we placed a long the bottom, giving us 3 shelves for shoes. He should keep his shoes on the bottom, though with the wet and snowy weather shoes have been staying in the garage lately. The top two shelves have added some space for his board games. We have his swim trunks and rash guards in a decorative basket on a reachable shelf, and his summer clothes and hand-me-downs that are still too big are on higher shelves. The closet still needs a lot of work. 


Regarding his drawers, I think our biggest problem is self-discipline, and I get it. What kid wants to take the time to neatly put all their folded shirts and pants inside? His drawer set has very shallow drawers that are rather thin–they don’t fit much and so they’re constantly overflowing as things are just pushed and shoved inside. Purging may help. I’m hopeful that the turn of spring will bring give us an opportunity to purge old things and not buy as many new. But I dread next winter when all the bulk goes back in the drawers.


Target buckets (or shelves)

 The shelves from Target are terrible.  Those bins almost never work because his stuff has to conform to the size of the bins instead of his storage conforming to what he needs to store.  I would replace that unit with another bookshelf or just get rid of it entirely.  It’s really not helping him at all.  Also, around ages 9-10, a lot of the toys go away and are replaced by electronics (sad but true).  Electronics can be stored in the desk.


What we did: I’ll be honest, I love those buckets. All three kids have them in their rooms and they make cleaning up so simple, especially because the kids are such LEGO-maniacs. I love that they can carry a bucket to another room to play with a sibling. I do understand what Barbara is saying about outgrowing the toys and we’ve been slowly clearing the buckets out and refilling with music and video games. I think that, for the time being, as long as we insist he makes a conscious effort to clean them and not let them overfill they’ll still work for us.


The desk

There seems to be a lot of “stuff” tucked into corners and on top of the bookshelf and desk.  These surfaces should be clear.  Much of that can probably be given away or put in clear plastic boxes and stacked in the closet.
What we did: Exactly this! When we cleaned everything for the painter, we placed it all in a closet. I was sure he’d want to take it all back out, but he hasn’t asked, so I’m not pushing it at all. I’d like to get him a trophy shelf because a child should be able to show off his awards but because he hasn’t mentioned it, I’m not racing to find a shelf.


Establish routine

If you want him to keep his room neat,  clean up with him on a daily basis for a few weeks to get into a routine.  It only takes a few minutes a day to maintain organization, but once organization is lost, it takes hours to reestablish.


What we did: We’ve been doing this for about 4 weeks now. The initial clean took an entire Saturday but as we were finishing up, he said, “I think keeping my room clean is going to be my New Year’s Resolution.” At this point, he takes less than 5 minutes each night to tighten up and has been consciously trying to do it each night. There’s much less struggle to get him to put things away, and I think a large part of that is he wants to keep it clean. Of course, it’s also that there’s a lot less in his room.


I’ll have after pictures as soon as he allows me to take them!


Buy the book!

Secrets of an Organized Mom: From the Overflowing Closets to the Chaotic Play Areas: A Room-by-Room Guide to Decluttering and Streamlining Your Home for a Happier Family is available for pre-order and will be released on February 26. Amazon is currently offering a pre-order of the book with family tips from room-to-room at a 38% discount for $15.51. I’m awaiting my copy and hope to use Barbara’s tips in all of our rooms, not just Big’s.
mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2013, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    Oh we need this! I went through both the wee ones’ rooms last Thursday with my FnB friends and FOUR of us spent THREE hours cleaning them out and organizing them. And we weren’t done. We took out so much clutter though, which was awesome. It’s already on a downward spiral though, so we need to get into the routine she’s talking about!

  2. Emma says

    Tell him that he cannot have friends over if his room is not cleaned up! I know this helps from experience ! I’m a teen right now, I realize that I’m a girl, and it might be a little bit different, but that might work, too!

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