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Getting Adult Child to Clean Up

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I have an adult child, grandchild, and another adult family member who have come to live with my husband and me. My adult child keeps her room (and grandchild's) like a disaster area. When everyone moved in I asked them to sign a social contract regarding cleaning, cooking etc.

It lasted for a while. I love having everyone here, we have a large home, but I also like having a neat, clean house without feeling like the Mess Sargent. My latest attempt was to buy wall storage units. Our house lacks closet space. But, I'm thinking there's more to it than that. How can I get an adult to be cleaner and neater?

By EasyLikeSunday from Philadelphia, PA

Best Answers

These answers have been rated the best for this question.

By Joan [2]05/06/2009

I had this challenge once with two older teenage children, and this is how I successfully handled it. I asked for an initial deposit (a significant sum they would not want to lose) if they wanted to stay, explaining I expected them to hold up to their responsibilities which they were not.

One child said he'd sleep in his van rather than submit to my blackmail. I said that that was OK with me. He could come in to eat, shower and answer the phone. Otherwise he was out in his van. After three days, he relented, and he never had to replace his deposit.

My daughter did have to replace her deposit once and once only. When they left, I gave them back their unused deposits. I did not want their money, just they keep their areas clean, period.

IF you are going to do this you need to be firm. If they want to live there, they have to respect the contract they signed.

By Judi [17]05/02/2009

I agree with Amuck (as usual) and would just close the door if I saw it open. I wouldn't try to "remake" an adult into something they're not. It's demeaning to tell adults how to behave even if they need to be told. I would, however, insist that the mess stay in their space, not in the common living area. If that happens to be the case I'd speak directly to them and let them know how it affects you. You don't mention having a problem with the rest of the agreement as regards to cooking, etc. With any concerns I'd vote for a direct conservation rather than leaving notes, etc. I certainly wouldn't go in their rooms and clean up. If it gets too upsetting you may have to let them know you've had guests as long as you can.

By Julie [49]05/01/2009

Maybe you can make a copy of that agreement they signed and enlarge it and tape it to the door of the room they enter that is so messy. Maybe that will remind them in a friendly way as to what they agreed to in order to stay there.

Also you mentioned cooking. Maybe you could make a chart Mon-Friday of what days it is a certain persons day to cook making sure you have the things on the chart available for them to easily reach it and prepare the meal. For instance Tues & Thurs that person's name is on the cook chart for the meal and have it say what the meal will be (for example spaghetti & salad) and post that weekly chart to both the fridge and the door of their living quarters and on those days do not cook a meal and if they do not cook it, they don't eat.

Pretty soon they will get the message of the reminder you are giving them that they have been slacking on in their promise given prior too. If they do get involved you could even let them suggest what meals they want to cook on their days. If your doing their laundry> same thing keep their dirty laundry in it's own bin and do not do it. Pretty soon all these hints will reach home to them. If the young child is old enough to participate, make them a chart with awards given as stickers etc. You could also take pictures of the messy room and post it to their door giving them yet another hint to start helping again.

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By Tammy [3]08/16/2014

I am facing the same problem with a 17 year old and a 27 year old. I just went into their room and bagged everything up in garbage bags, clothes and all. I will give them their things back one at a time, but in return they must do something to clean up for someone else in the house. I am so tired of their mess, not to mention the smell... ugggh! Maybe if they have to clean up other people's messes, they will appreciate cleaning their own... I hope.

By Lelia Jo Cordell [49]05/07/2009

We failed getting our two adult sons to help us. We ended up sending them to live with their biological father. When they had to sleep on the floor in his tiny apartment, it didn't take them long to find a way to get out on their own again!

By Nancy05/06/2009

I do know from experience that this can be very frustrating. We have 3 daughters. All three have gone or are going to college. When the oldest 2 were living in dorms they were a mess! But now that they have their own homes they are spotless. Once they have to live in their own mess and try to find things or have kids of their own they do change! I figure they are only going to take care of their own stuff when they live on their own. Good luck.

By Kim Churchman [3]05/05/2009

Wrong choices have consequences. If she leaves an item out in the family areas, what consequence was there? First, restart the contract with a deposit required, like fifty bucks. The very first item she leaves lying around has to bring immediate and unpleasant consequences for her, very in your face. A good idea would be x number of demerits, and she loses (food, food space, phone, computer access, parking spot, hot water...). You can't change her, only she can, but you can enforce how YOU and your house are treated, ultimately YOU will have to be ready to ask her to leave by a certain deadline or her stuff goes into a storage unit, paid for by that deposit. Check your local laws on due process for tenants, you might be legally required to give three notices a month apart each in order to evict.

05/02/2009

I assume you raised your daughter, and with all those years of 'neat' training, if she isn't neat by now, it probably isn't in her nature to be neat. I see your point of view, it is your house and your bedrooms, but she probably considers the 2 bedrooms to be her own private domain and thinks if they are a mess, it shouldn't affect anyone but her and her daughter. You can fret about the mess and tell her every few days to clean the rooms (If you think she will actually do it.) or you can keep the 2 bedroom doors closed and try to forget those rooms exist and forget about the mess in there until she moves out, which would be a lot less worisome for you.

By Joan [13]05/02/2009

I would announce that any time you see a mess in the room, you will go in and pick it up and keep any items that you pick up. I had a daughter and son in law living in with me in my apartment for several months and they made no attempt to find their own place. Didn't fix meals, while I worked(they didn't work), didn't clean, they did do their own laundry. After while it got old, so I just started getting "b----ier" until they couldn't handle it any more and did get jobs and move.

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