It’s an age-old battle. Your teen’s room is a pit. There are fruit flies hovering around their sock drawer, science experiments that used to be glasses of juice under the bed, papers and clothes scattered across the floor. You say that it’s your house, and you want your teen to take some responsibility and keep their room in a reasonable state. They say it’s their room, they know where everything is, and there’s no point in cleaning it when it will get dirty again.

Let’s figure out how to deal with this.

First off, sometimes it’s a good choice to simply ask your teen to keep their door closed, and leave the mess to them to deal with- or not deal with. If you don’t like seeing a messy room, this is one way to avoid it. If you do the laundry and so have to enter the room to put things away, or have to go in there to retrieve dishes, perhaps there’s room for a deal here. Maybe your teen can do or put away their own clothes, or agree to bring dishes out of their room every night (and possibly even wash them!)

This doesn’t work for some parents. And in the end, you are the parent, and you are providing housing for your teen. Here are some common arguments from teens about why they shouldn’t have to clean their room, and some talking points to discuss in response.

There’s no point. To a certain limit, this is true. If your teen has no trouble finding things, and their room does not contain any biohazards like rotting food or dirty dishes, why should they clean their room? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Why is a clean room important to you? Do you feel tense when you’re around disarray? Do you feel like it shows respect for the living space that you and/ or your spouse/ partner maintain and pay for? Do you feel like it’s a skill they need to develop for later life? Know your reasons, and share them.

Your room/ house isn’t clean, why should I clean? If your teen points out that parts of the house, or the whole house, is unkempt, you might point out all that you do (that is applicable): parent, work, cook, pay bills, maintain a living space, drive kids everywhere, help out your spouse/ partner, etc. If they don’t want to clean their room, how about they help you make meals, drive around younger siblings, do some chores around the house, or help you sort through bills to pay? Then you will have more time to clean and “set a better example.”

It will just get messy again. That’s true of pretty much every inhabited room in the universe. Entropy takes its toll. This is why regular cleaning and tidying of any place helps keep it neat and under control. Ideally, your teen isn’t cleaning their room just once.

I have better things to do. I have to say, I have felt like this in my adult life as well. Cleaning is usually not fun, unless you’re one of those people who enjoy cleaning (I am in awe of them.) But keeping a space clean will take less time than the arguments and final huge cleanup end up taking.

I feel better with it this way. This might well be true.You can probably tell how valid it is by your teen’s response if you have ever tried to clean things up. Do they calmly let you tidy up their space, or do they stop you and tell you that you don’t need to? If they feel better with their room this way, and you feel worse, perhaps some compromise is in order. What drives you nuts the most? Clothes on the floor? Empty soda cans? Scattered school papers? Perhaps you can pick one or two things that bother you, insist on those being cleaned, and forget the rest.

It’s my space. Again, this is a valid point. It’s great for a teen to have their own space, if possible (sometimes it isn’t and everyone survives just fine). They may feel like their room is the only place they have that’s theirs, and you are trying to nose in and tell them how to keep it. Again, this is time for a compromise- not only on cleaning what you think are the worst offenses, but discussing how your teen can make it their own space. Posters? Photos? Decorations? Perhaps if you agree to help them decorate their room the way they want to, they can agree to keep it cleaner.

Any other ideas on how to end this sometimes ongoing battle?