*Side note: We talked about girls’ rooms last week, and here we go talking about girls again. For ease of pronoun use, and because the mother-son relationship is quite different than the mother-daughter relationship, we are sticking with girls this week. That said, if you have a son who is into it, you can apply most of these same ideas to working with him on his room. Or you can just take him to IKEA and call it a day.
One of the most terrifying parts of the mother-daughter relationship is that day when you are no longer friends. Those of you with younger daughters are clicking the close tab button right now but you might consider staying with me here for a minute if you can stomach it.
No one is ready for that day, I promise. Yesterday, she told you all the news about Sarah and how horrible the math test was and wanted you to take her shopping. Today, you are lucky to get a simple yes or no. The good news is that mother-daughter frenemy status is usually temporary. Sometimes it goes as quickly as it came. One thing is for sure: all girl moms can count on the inevitable day when we wonder just who came up with the idea for boarding school and whether robbing a bank to pay for it is a risk we are willing to take for the sake of sanity.
So what’s a mom to do? Let’s leave the psychology to those more qualified. What I do know something about is decorating. I also know that most teen girls want both their privacy *and* their parents even if they act like they don’t want anything to do with you.
You already know that your teen daughter is trying to establish her independence and her own style. She’s trying to balance that independence and individuality while fitting into the crazy little box that defines “popular”. The stress of that is overwhelming, right? You remember. Our adult selves are so sure that there are other things far more stressful than popularity and the cute boy in science class and nagging parents who make you dinner every day and get you to school. It can be tough to put yourself in her shoes. But if you think about it, doesn’t she want the same thing that you do? To come home to a place that feels like her own? A place that feels safe? A place that feels calming and rejuvenating?
It is possible that her idea of those things and your idea of those things is very different. My mom certainly didn’t want her walls covered with cut outs from Elle and Rolling Stone, but to me, that was home. I’m not suggesting that you let your daughter go hog wild with the magazines. There is, however, something to be said for jumping into redecorating your daughter’s room *with* her as she battles through her teen years. Planning her room allows her to take ownership of her own space and demonstrate her independence. You can add a budgeting element to the project so that she learns to work within one. The coolest part about decorating with your kids instead of for them? You never know what you are going to learn about your kids or yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if she learned some things about herself too?
Let's assume that you've decided to throw caution to the wind and design a room with a teenager who’s mind changes more often than you can track. How do you start? Some days, she doesn’t even want to talk to you. That happens. The easiest place to start is where the two of you are. If you like to go shopping together, start with picking out some throw pillows or wall art or bedding. Does she love color? Go to the paint store and explore palettes. You can start on the sofa with a bowl of cookie dough and Pinterest on your respective phones. It doesn’t really matter where you start. It’s just decorating. Yes, there are rules, and yes, there is an order to things, and yes, there is a system, but none of that matters as you get started with your daughter on a project together. There will be time for all of the steps once your daughter is on board.
step 1: the vision
Once you’ve gotten your daughter engaged in the idea of decorating her room, there are three things that need to happen before you even make your first purchase (yes, I know I told you that you could shop for pillows already and that’s fine, we will come back to that). First, you need to come up with a plan.
Talk with your daughter about what things she wants to keep in her room and what things she’s ready to let go. Ask her what she likes about her room and what she doesn’t. Mom trick: try not to get suckered into a discussion about each item. If she says she doesn’t like the quilt that you and Grandma made when she was 10, that is ok. You can box that baby up for later. Ditto the stuffed animals and children’s books that you aren’t quite ready to donate and the perfectly good side tables.
How does your daughter use her room? What are her favorite things to do while there? Listen to music? Put on make-up? Read? Does she use the desk or does she study in bed? It may drive you crazy that she studies on her floor, but it is her room, no? If she could have anything in her room, what would it be? And no, I don’t believe in TVs in bedrooms, but we are dreaming here. These kinds of fantasy world conversations are often where things get most interesting.
After this discussion, it is time to head to Pinterest or pick up some teen magazines and catalogs. Have your daughter create her own vision board. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to have rules. It can any images that she likes – clothing, art, colors, whatever. You may have done this step already to get her engaged in the project. Excellent. You are already ahead of the game.
Once she’s made her collage or pin board, go back through it and look for common elements. Does she gravitate towards a certain color or colors? Is there a furniture style that she seems to like? How does the board feel? Is it bright and sunny or dark and moody or calm and clean (just kidding – I don’t know any teenage girls who are clean)… Can you - or better yet, can she? - find a few adjectives to describe her board? If those sheets or pillows or paint colors you picked out to get the ball rolling don’t fit in the vision, you can absolutely take them back. See how easy that was?
Now that you’ve collected ideas and created a vision, you can move onto the next step…
step 2: the budget
Sit down with your daughter and talk about how much you are willing to spend on this project. Are you willing to start from scratch or are you only willing to invest in décor? Are you keeping some of the furniture but not all of it? Is there furniture that you feel your daughter needs but doesn’t have? Is there furniture that you can swap from other places in your home?
Make a list of all the things that she thinks she needs or wants for her room and assign a value to them. Here’s where things get fun. Let’s say your daughter hates her bed, but you only want to spend $1500 on the whole room. That becomes a pickle unless you can convince her that IKEA is her friend.
But wait. Is your daughter willing to spend some of her own money on her room? If she has a job, her own money may push your Target budget into an Urban Outfitters budget. There’s always the old garage sale route. Is she willing to sell some of the things she no longer wants on eBay or Craig’s List or at a local consignment shop to fund some of her room re-do?
step 3: the clean out
Before you can shop for new things, you have to make room. I know, I know. Cleaning is like pulling teeth. Before diving in, ask her if she wants help. Ask her *how* she wants help. Take a weekend, listen to her music, and let her direct the clean out.
Doesn’t it feel good to have a clean space? Don’t rub it in, Mom.
step 4: executing your plan
She has a vision, a budget, and a clean room. Now it is time to go shopping. Almost.
The best way to stick to your budget and your vision is to come up with a shopping list. As you come up with that list, consider not only the things your daughter wants to make her room feel like home but the things she will need to live the way she wants to in her room. She loves make-up? She’ll need a mirror, good lighting, and storage. Loves to read? She’ll need a comfy place to sit and good lighting. Loves to have friends over? Probably going to want some floor cushions for the girls. See where I’m going here?
You’ll also need to consider space constraints as you make your list. Does she really need a desk or would it be better to have more shelving? Just because the bed looks better centered on the wall with a bedside table at either side does not mean that is how it works best for your daughter. Move the existing furniture around together until she is comfortable with it before you buy any additional furniture. And don’t forget the storage. Even though you’ve cleaned up her room, teen girls have TONS of stuff. Think under-bed storage or baskets on shelves for the inevitable collecting that will happen as she begins loving her room.
Now it is time to shop. This is the part where she will most need your help. If she’s an independent shopper, she may decide to look for these things on her own. Maybe she only wants to look for one or two things and wants you to find the others. That’s fine. You can come up with 2-3 options for each category and she can have the final pick. Remember to check your options against her vision board to see if they really fit and to check them against each other to make sure they play well together. How you decide to shop – online, together in the store, at flea markets – is totally up to you. Have fun with it. Give yourself a timeline to get your shopping done and you’ll feel so much better.
What do you think? Sound fun? Overwhelming? There’s nothing like a space that suits you, remember that. And also remember that if you need help with any of these steps? I’m here for you.