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How to Deal With a Hopelessly Disorganized Daughter

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Welcome to 30 Days of Homemaking for Girls at Homegrown Mom, Sponsored by Plan to Eat – Simple Meal Planning

Today’s Post is from Nony @ A Slob Comes Clean.

I’m the daughter.

The formerly hopelessly disorganized daughter.

Still disorganized, but no longer hopeless.

I’m excited to participate in this series because being a mom and homemaker was my little-girl dream. This dream was modeled, encouraged and instilled by my own mother.

I spoke to my mother about how she dealt with my messiness. She named various strategies, some more successful in her eyes than others, and used words like “timer” and “incentives” and such, but honestly . . . I have zero recollection of the methods she mentioned.

If you are mothering a daughter who seems hopelessly disorganized, let me offer some words of encouragement and advice.

Determine if this is a heart issue or a head issue.

Messiness is an enigma to many naturally organized people (the ones who generally remember why they walked into a room carrying a notepad and a screwdriver). It is not always an act of disobedience or disrespect.  If you are a student of your child’s heart, you know the difference.

Is she trying to get under your skin, or does she genuinely not notice the unmade bed? People like me simply don’t see things the way organized people do. Just as you do with any other learning or personality difference, accept and appreciate that her brain may work differently than yours.

Help her find methods that work for her.

Acknowledging that her brain is (wonderfully) different should free you to accept that a failed solution doesn’t mean you have failed as a mother. Start small. Choose the thing that drives you most crazy, and begin with that. If it’s making the bed, don’t nag about anything else until the bed is no longer a battle. Then add another task. Like . . . clothes in the hamper.

Make it clear that you appreciate her wonderful qualities more than you agonize over her frustrating ones.

I’m not guessing when I say that your daughter has wonderful qualities. I am consistently amazed to learn that my fellow slobs are creative, competent women who excel in many different areas. Make a conscious decision to balance your efforts to cure her messiness with your efforts to encourage her gifts.

Teach housekeeping skills.

I knew I would one day be a homemaker, but I had other things to do first. I was one busy girl who didn’t have the motivation to perfect my bread-kneading skills because of all the other fun things I wanted to try. But I did learn to follow a recipe. I could do what needed to be done in the kitchen (when it felt exciting).

In my third year of college, I was excited to have a suite with a bathroom instead of communal showers. Soon, though, I realized private bathrooms meant we had to clean them. Ourselves. I knew how to clean a bathroom. I had skills that my neater, more-organized suite-mates did not. I could sweep, mop, clean a toilet, and get the gunk out of the shower.

Not that I did it much, but at least I knew how.

Control the amount of stuff.

Declutter until you figure out how much she can handle. As a recovering slob, I’ve accepted that the less stuff I have, the better I can keep it under control. Get down to just the essentials. Going with the assumption that she is ultra-creative anyway, I’m guessing her imagination will more than make up for a lack of stuff.

Do what you can, and leave the rest to her and God. (Mmmm-hmmm, the hardest one.)

Right now, you’re the mama. She goes by your rules and routines. Ultimately, though, it will be her life. She will run her own household. They’ll be her bathrooms to clean and her piles to prevent, and she’ll have to figure out how she wants to live and what she needs to do to live that way. Which brings me to the most important point of all.

Don’t sacrifice the relationship.

This is the thing I am most grateful to my own mother for. Yes, my loosi-goosiness frustrated her. My constantly messy room surely made her question her sanity and mothering ability. But she never rejected me. She never allowed the state of my room to determine her expressions of love for me.

When we talked about this post, she said she clearly remembers a time when I was 13. We were having typical mother-daughter issues. I stood in the door of my room, and behind me was one big mess.

She decided in that moment that the state of my bedroom wasn’t going to be our deal-breaker. She made a conscious decision to no longer fight the battle, because it wasn’t worth the relationship.

I can say, with full-confidence, that this was a wise decision on her part. It’s not that she quit trying, but she changed from the your-room-should-be-clean-because-I’m-your-mother-and-I-say-so tactic to more of a wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-you-could-find-your-purple-shoes-how-about-we-come-up-with-a-way-to-keep-things-neater-in-here one. She’s always willing to help me find and try a new organizing solution. Even today, I call her when I need help or advice, and I know that she will be on my side.

One day, time with your daughter will be rare and precious. Do you want to be a welcome guest in her home? Or do you want your impending visits to be the cause of dread and avoidance? Accept her for who she is, train her to live life well, and support her as she becomes the woman God wants her to be.

Question: Do you identify with Nony in this post as the daughter or her Mom?

Nony is a full-time mom who loves her job but struggles to keep her home out of chaos.  She has made huge strides in her own deslobification process, which she documents at A Slob Comes Clean.  It’s where she figures out why she is this way, and what she can do to change. 

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  1. Homegrown Mom says

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Nony! I definitely identify with you, I was the worst! My poor mom :) There are really thoughtful tips here, thanks again for sharing!

  2. Jen Snider says

    Fabulous post!

    As an adult, I identify more with Nony’s mother. However, as a child, I would have clearly identified more with Nony. It’s funny, but SO true…we all have to decide how we want to live. I loved how you said it…

    ‘Ultimately, though, it will be her life. She will run her own household. They’ll be her bathrooms to clean and her piles to prevent, and she’ll have to figure out how she wants to live and what she needs to do to live that way.”

    I thank God for the gift of our sweet Mia! Again, thanks for such a fabulous post!

  3. says

    I’m generally a neat freak when it comes to my bedroom (and have been since a kid), while my 12 1/2 yr old lives in a constant state of chaos…. thanks for this post today!

  4. says

    i have two of those daughters–and i know i AM one myself, still! my poor husband puts up with SO MUCH messiness–from our ultra-creativity and packrattiness. (i think i just made up a word!)
    this is a great post. i have learned that at the age of 14 her room is NOT the battle i need to fight hardest. she CAN clean it when she WILL.
    the relationships are WAY more fragile than floors and walls . . .
    SUCH a GOOD post!!!!thanks!!!!
    april´s last blog post ..Chicken Update

  5. says

    I so needed to read this. I am one of those freakishly organized moms. I have a really hard time understanding how my daughter doesn’t SEE ALL THAT MESS like I do. It’s sooooo hard not to nag. But you’re right: although it is my responsibility to teach her homemaking skills for her own family someday, I cannot let it interfere with our relationship. I like how you said your mom made that decision and continued to help you.

    Thanks for this!!!
    Jamie @ See Jamie blog´s last blog post ..Practicing Gratitude 1081 – 1092

  6. Holly says

    Wow. I have 3 boys 11,7,and 4. Last night as I realized that I was the only one who was looking for a missing ipod and that the boys were content to watch tv and have fun, I cried. A lot. I felt like a total mom failure. Growing up, my room was a DISASTER! My mom never even mentioned it. She let me work it out for myself. I had a discussion with my husband about how terrible I felt about how messy things are and how the boys don’t care and they seem to avoid me because they don’t see the mess, but they can see my face is upset about something…sigh. This post makes me realize that it is all ok and I love them… the bedrooms will no define that relationship. Thanks. Now, has anybody seen that ipod?

  7. says

    Oh Nony. What a beautifully worded post. You describing your relationship with your mother truly gives me chill bumps! I, gratefully, have the same type of relationship with my mama and I pray that is the way it will be with my girls.

    I DO want to be welcome in my children’s homes when they are older. All of our mothering decisions have such far-reaching consequences-good and bad.

    You offer a fabulous perspective. ;)

    MamaLaundry´s last blog post ..How to Remove Chewing Gum from Fabric

  8. says

    You are so right–we have to discern if this is a heart issue or head issue before we react! My daughter isn’t always being defiant, she really doesn’t think at all when she changes clothes and just leaves the laundry on the floor. It’s not intentional, it’s just careless. It needs to be corrected, but not the same way as if she was intentionally disobeying or intentionally defying.

  9. says

    Nony, I absolutely love this post! As the mother of a natural disorganized, scattered daughter (whom I adore immensely), I am so happy that you share the advice to accept that people see things differently and that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a character flaw, and to leave some things to God & your daughter.

    Because my daughter is the way that she is, I have had a quote hanging on my fridge for years, that I had found in a parenting book: “Can you love me for who I am, or will an unmade bed keep us apart?”

    Though I wish her room looked like the one in the photo above, I have to remember that my daughter’s heart is more important than the way her bedroom looks. ;)

  10. says

    I so appreciate this post, and if my daughter could crawl out from under her barrage of stuffed animals and not yet folded clothes, she would agree. :-)
    I’m the organized one. I can’t even THINK if my surroundings are messy. But my sweet, creative daughter likes mess and clutter. It’s good to remember that it’s not wrong to be messy. It’s a personal preference like chocolate or vanilla, coffee or tea. To each his own. (Just keep the mess in your own room, child!)
    Jimmie´s last blog post ..Taking a Trip

  11. says

    I came over from Nony’s blog. I can relate as the slob and having kids that are slobs. I work very, very, very hard every day but I’m starting to realize my problem is that I have too much stuff. I am going to be working on this and decluttering. I also don’t like getting upset with my kids as I know they’ve learned from me. We need to declutter!
    Virginia´s last blog post ..Keeping Promises

  12. Dana says

    Oh thank you for this post! This is an exact description of my 14 year old daughter and myself. I so do not want to sacrifice the relationship over her messiness. It is not a heart issue. She just truly doesn’t see the mess. She has a wonderful imagination. I am going to print this out and put it in my journal so I can re-read it when I become frustrated.

  13. Mamala says

    I used to always tell my kiddos, “I want to raise you to be people I am glad to see comin’ down the walk.”
    Well, of course I want them to be glad to see me, too. Nice angle on that thought, Nony. This was not just well written–but it also lent us a smidge of your heart. And of course, we see that it is simply in love with your child.
    Isn’t that what matters most? If this was indeed our last day–would anyone remember that the lid to the butter ended up in the freezer?

  14. Shannon L says

    I am that daughter. My mother had the philsophy that I can always shut my door. If I needed clean clothes, I would bring them to the laundry room. No big deal.

    Now I have one of those daughters. And it is a struggle to get her to do the simplest tasks. Today it took 3 hours to clean the living room!

    Good Job Nony. Thanks for the tips.

  15. hsmominmo says

    I learned about homegrownmom from Nony’s site (the Spring Clean Up series maybe?) and, Nony, your words are right on the money – again!
    I am that daughter, I have one daughter the is very much like me. My other 3 daughters are somewhere between me and that dream of a perfectly organized-have-it-all-together idea of a woman.
    Your words about the relationship really hit home here – hard. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Sue from Livin In Duckville says

    It’s funny, I identify with both the mom part AND the daughter part!!! I WAS/AM the daughter whose room/home was/is a mess, until I learned how I wanted to keep it clean & organize it. I can remember the ‘big deal’ my mom made when she & I made shelves out of cement blocks & boards, to help keep me organized. I have finally gotten to the spot in my life where I am figuring out what I need to do.

    As a Mom, I had to let go of my daughter’s room – I try & help when I know she’s overwhelmed with it, and I offer suggestions, but I try to follow her lead. Since I’ve ‘let go & let God’, she’s learned how SHE can handle her room & organize it best for HER needs.

    Nony is awesome!!

  17. Lindsay says

    I am the daughter. I am the hopelessly disorganized slob underneath. My mother didn’t choose to overlook our differences when I was younger, so I can honestly say that I envy your mother. Thankfully, my husband has that mentality (that of the mom). He’s incredibly organized, but knows that there is a priority above neatness and that is relationships. He accepts my faults and helps me organize and prioritize when I get to my breaking point. I hope I can put my priorities in the right place as my kids get older :)

  18. Amanda says

    I am the daughter also. I have to say that I love that I love that your mother was able to look past the differences and still have a great relationship with you. I wish that my mam had that in her. I think if she had, I would not have nearly the problems with her that I do now. I just found your blog a few weeks ago and have been reading through some of your older posts. I am just at the beginning of what is going to be a very long journey and have been looking to your posts for inspiration. Thank you so much for having the courage to put all of this out there for the world to see. I have 3 kids 4 and under and I really want to instill in them the skills and knowledge that they need to keep a clean and organized home so that they don’t have to figure it out the hard way like I am finally doing at almost 33 years old. Now if I can just get the hubby on board!!

  19. Christy C says

    What? I am not the only one in the world living with messies? Okay, 10 of 14 children still live at home and our bedrooms are small–the biggest being 9 1/2 ft. x 11 ft {our’s–the MASTER bedroom!} I owe a child an apology…I was getting on to her at PRAYER TIME {sigh} for the room where 3 girls sleep! {head hanging low}, I need to make that apology quick! Thanks!

  20. says

    I relate to BOTH!!! I was the messy child and I have one too. I understand her, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating. Still, I am very motivated to keep trying with her b/c I don’t want her to struggle with this all her life.
    brenda´s last blog post ..You Get Cereal Today

  21. Crystal says

    I often told my daughter that I am not going to clean her bedroom because it is her bedroom. One day, she almost lost her glasses, and I had to help her to find her glasses, and then she clean her bedroom up. I suggested to develop the habit such as put dirty clothes in hamper, and put clean clothes away immediately. Then it happened again after her bedroom, guess what.. Something broke while she walked over.. She again, cleaned her bedroom.. *sigh*… I am not worried about but I encourage her to keep floor clean because of old house where I rent right now, is not best idea to leave clothes on floor. I remember old days, if there are clothes on floor, it tells how lazy person is. I am speaking about OLD DAYS>. nowdays, too many kids too busy playing with computer, etc. If they have time to play computer.. Why not do chores, and do something better than texting, facebook, etc.

  22. chrisitna bachew says

    THANKS I needed this info and my daughter will be much happier now that I realize this is a head issue NOT a heart issue at all. She is wonderful at doing her chores and cleaning but loves the mess in her room,.. she just works better like that and then cleans it after a LONG while,… Glad to know it is a mess because of her individuality not as a MILD form of rebellion.


  23. aly says

    Thanks for this post. I am the daughter of a very neat lady…who didn’t take the time to help me learn but made me feel insecure even to this day about my challenge to be perfect like her. Having her in my home makes me feel like i am under a microscope even still. I have battled with my idea that if i can’t be perfect…just give up. Slowly taking baby steps to help myself. I have three daughters whom I am training slowly on how to do what I ask…i don’t get how people think these are just learned skills. Happy to say if you come to our home you can throw up in any toilet…they will be clean and most likely by my 7 yr old. Feels good to turn around my life slowly (PS. Don’t look in my closet yet though please :)

  24. says

    I was soooooo that daughter but, my mom wasn’t perfect either so I’m not sure she ever got around to teaching me how to organize. For some reason as an adult though, it has been so important to me to overcome this and have a pleasant home.
    I wanted to mention that some of the things mentioned in the post and in some replies reminds me a lot of what I read about ADD/ADHD personalities. Please don’t take it that I am trying to diagnose your daughters because I am far from an expert and certainly don’t know much other than the snapshots you each presented. I just wanted to mention this here because I think it’s very likely that at least one of you has a girl with undiagnosed ADD and sadly most women are not diagnosed until later in life. I was 27 (already a mom) and I read recently that the average age women are being diagnosed is 38 mainly because it presents differently in girls than boys. Consider if your girl might be more than just “messy” and “creative” and perhaps you could be able to save her many years of struggle and feeling misunderstood. Ok, now I feel like I’m being so preachy…I hope I didn’t freak anybody out with this or offend but, it just really struck me some of the similarities to ADD. Hopefully not the case for you moms and daughters. Keep trying to understand your girls and doing an awesome job :-)

  25. Felina says

    Even as a mom of 3 precious kids, I still find myself more like Nony than her Mom. I have been married for 13 years and a stay at home Mom for 4 years, many days I feel like a failure but I am learning (slowly) but I thank God that He isn’t finished with me yet and I am thankful for my patient husband. As I learn, I am trying to teach my children, ages 11,4, and 3 things that I have learned from Flylady as well as others, cleaning done incorrectly still blesses my family. Thank you for reminding us not to sacrifice the relationships with our children in our quest to be “right.” Blessings to you!

  26. Katie says

    Hehe, I’m the college-aged disorganized daughter. I wasn’t that bad when I was little, but I do wish my mom had been a little less lenient as I grew up. My old (messy) habits are catching up to me and I am struggling to figure out how to change them. I’ll have to start from the bottom and move up. ‘ll definitely be trying some of the things you mentioned. =)

  27. says

    What do you do when it’s BOTH (a head issue and a heart issue)? I’m not naturally neat, so I understand where my daughter is coming from. But she won’t TRY, either. We can literally battle for three solid days over her tidying up a room that takes about 15 minutes when she finally just DOES it. Because she does finally just DO it (and it doesn’t typically take all that long), I know she CAN. So letting it GET messy I can deal with; refusing to tidy it up when she’s told – not so cool. (I also have children who will just simply throw trash onto the floor. What the heck?!)

    How do you address the heart issue without beating them over the head over the difference in thought process?

  28. Elizabeth Shearer says

    If the messiness and disorganization is chronic, perhaps you are dealing with undiagnosed ADD. Girls/Women are often overlooked and undiagnosed. Many may not show the physical hyperactivity but still have a very differently thinking . I know this firsthand because I was not diagnosed until I was in my

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  32. Shannon says

    Wow, I definitely identify with the Mom. I was always (freakishly) neat as a child and while I’m not as obsessed as an adult, I still like things to always have a place simply because I hate to spend more time cleaning than I already do. My son is a mini-me when it comes to his room but my daughter, she has not a care in the world if her floor is covered in stuff. I admit it can put a strain on our relationship at times but this article is helpful with how to handle it. She is very clever and creative – she loves to write stories, keep a journal and draw. I love this about her because I was never that way so I try to keep this in mind when I get frustrated that she isn’t neater. Ha – I almost hate to admit, I clicked the link because I thought it would offer a step by step how to make my child be neater…definitely was an eye opener for me. Thanks!


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