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My Daughter Refuses to Clean Her Room: Is She Depressed (or Defiant)?

Middle school girls are notorious for messy rooms. When they are younger, parents are more likely to clean up after their children, but as they reach adolescence, parents expect their daughters to take more initiative in staying organized and cleaning their rooms. This often involves a lot of pushback or lack of interest. If your daughter is refusing to clean her room, it may not be that she’s defiant or that she lacks awareness about her cleaning habits. In some cases, when a teenager has a messy room, depression may be an underlying issue.

Why Is My Daughter So Messy?

  • Exhaustion and constant fatigue are red flags of depression. These symptoms leave teens with no energy or motivation to clean their rooms.
  • Depressed teens often avoid social situations. That means they’re spending more time in their rooms, leading to more mess.
  • Depression is often associated with a sense of despair, sadness, and hopelessness often comes with depression. As a result, teens may feel that there’s no reason to expend effort to keep their personal space neat and organized.
  • Having a hard time concentrating is another symptom of depression. This lack of focus can make it difficult for an adolescent to stay on task and get their room cleaned.
  • Feelings of failure and self-criticism typically accompany depression. Sometimes, teens might feel that they don’t deserve to have a clean, organized room. 
  • Many perfectionists exhibit all or nothing thinking, where if they don’t have the time or energy to do something right, they find it difficult to start things they know they can’t finish. Therefore, they may be less likely to try cleaning their room at all.
  • Taking care of one’s physical space is a form of self-care, which can be difficult for depressed teens to prioritize.

How Can I Motivate My Daughter to Take More Responsibility for Her Space?

Girls struggling with depression may not recognize how a messy room can reinforce feelings of stress. They may not care how their room looks or they may feel overwhelmed by clutter, but feel guilty asking for help. Some teens like to spread out across their room and claim that everything has its space, even if that space is in the middle of the floor or under their pillow. Others become frustrated when they struggle to find things they need and get distracted more easily.

Encouraging your daughter to take more responsibility can be a delicate conversation. You want to motivate her to make changes without shaming her for being disorganized. Teens are more resistant when they are told what to do, but encouraging them to look at how not taking responsibility affects their life can help them feel like it is their decision to make changes. 

 

  • Make cleaning a group project. Teens are more resistant when they feel like they’ve been singled out for their lack of responsibility. Offer guidance and a helping hand, but don’t take over for them. Delegating tasks by giving girls community roles can help them build accountability and a sense of purpose.
  • Decide on priorities. Even if a messy room is really out of hand, an adolescent might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. Encourage them to make a to-do list based on their own desires, not what you want them to do.
  • Take it one step at a time. Encourage teens to set aside 10 minutes daily to clear out one area of their room. It might take longer before the mess is gone, but the process helps to build a regular habit of tidying up. Getting into the routine of doing smaller tasks means that there is less to clean each time.
  • Ask them about their values. Cleanliness may not seem like something that is important to them. This can make it easier for them to make excuses about why they shouldn’t have to take on more tasks. It is difficult for them to feel motivated about things that they don’t feel like they care about. However, they may value their personal space, making their own choices, and being seen as consistent, which all come with taking responsibility.
  • Consider reasons they may be struggling with responsibility. Encouraging your daughter to take more responsibility for her space may not seem negotiable, as it’s essential for her to gain more independence. Depression, anxiety, stress, executive functioning issues and even defiance may contribute to problems taking more responsibility for their space and their actions. Ultimately, what’s important for children is structure, wellbeing, and living according to their values, not necessarily how clean their room is. 

 

 

It is important to look at underlying issues that may contribute to behavioral problems your daughter may be exhibiting to determine how to address these behaviors. 

Asheville Academy Can Help 

Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited Therapeutic Boarding School for middle school girls 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning differences, attachment and other emotional and behavioral issues. Our program is structured to offer academic support, community service opportunities, and recreation which helps girls develop responsibility and healthier habits. This program is focused on emotion regulation and building confidence, communication skills, and social skills that will help students transition back into their home and school life.

Call 800-264-8709 for more information. We can help your family today!

 

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