Peter Walsh Helps Messy Teens Get Organized

Professional organizer's tips for families on decluttering messy bedrooms.

Nov. 19, 2009— -- Tired of your kid's messy bedroom? From homework to after-school activities to getting into college, today's teens have a lot going on in their lives. How do they clear out the mental and physical clutter and become more organized?

Professional organizer, best-selling author and Oprah's favorite clean-up guru Peter Walsh has the answers.

Walsh has written a new book called "It's All Too Much, So Get It Together" that tackles the most common excuses that teens and parents give when it comes to cleaning, and offers tips on how to overcome those excuses to live clutter-free.

Walsh visited one typical family to show how common the problem really is. Patti Davis and her two daughters, Caroline Wilson, 13, and Sarah Wilson, 11, live in New York.

The sisters share a bedroom -- a very messy bedroom.

"You are here because we have a mess on our hands," Davis told Walsh. "We have an explosion of books and clothing."

Walsh's motto is that less junk equals a clearer mind and a better life. The first step, he said, is to get rid of as much stuff as possible. Next, Walsh asked the girls what they want from their bedroom.

"A clear open space to do anything, because if there are clothes on the floor we are not going to want to work in here," Caroline said.

For many teens their bedroom is where they do everything, from homework to entertaining friends, so it needs to be clutter-free. After some serious cleaning in the bedroom and the closets, Walsh added a few key storage and organizational items to help the room stay neat.

A desk piled high with junk was transformed into a clean surface for homework. A dresser buried in clothes became a place to display all her family photos. But will they be able to keep it up?

"Now that it's been done once … it will be so much easier to keep clean," Caroline said.

Peter Walsh's Organizing Tips for Teens

Space Has Value

Walsh writes in his book that one of the most common excuses people give for holding on to clutter is that the stuff is valuable.

"Things cost money, but space has value too," he said. "If the stuff in your space is driving you nuts, step up and do something about it."

The bottom line, he said, is that people get caught into buying stuff they think is a bargain. But the bigger issue is that if the stuff you bought isn't helping you build the life you want, then it's not worth it.

People don't want to throw their money in the garbage, but you have to ask what the stuff is getting you. You have more peace of mind without it.

Too Busy to Declutter?

From homework to after-school activities to getting into college, today's teens are very busy and have a lot to balance. But saying you don't have enough time to get organized just means you haven't made it a priority.

"I hear that from so many people," Walsh said. "You give time to what you believe is important."

A messy space, he said, causes you to lose more time, because clutter makes you less productive. You can't make your best choices in a cluttered messy disorganized space.

Peter Walsh's Organizing Tips for Teens

Parents Set the Tone

Patti Davis admitted that she contributed to her daughters' messiness.

"I kind of put a line at their door, and I don't much care what happens on this side of the door because I just deliver clean stacks of clothes three times a week," she said.

Walsh said parents have to show kids that organization is important.

"Step up and set the example," he said.

Kids learn from what they see, not from what they hear, Walsh said. If clutter is a source of friction and fighting in your home, you should look at your surroundings and ask yourself what lessons you're teaching your children. Instead of fighting about their clutter or your clutter, sit down and talk about how clutter is getting in the way.

Focus on the Present, Not the Past or Future

Another excuse for holding on to clutter is "I might need it one day," Walsh said. But instead, he said, families should focus on what's happening now.

Holiday Advice: Don't Mistake Things for Experiences

People think it's really important to buy gifts, which teaches children to associate love with things. But Walsh said that giving experiences can be the things that we remember most. It's a good lesson to teach our kids.