Teens and toddlers both get a bad rap because they are seasons of development when control-based parenting fails (The nerve of those dastardly developing brains for having thoughts and feelings of their own!). But on the gentle parenting path, I have loved both! Teens are awesome! Your relationship will thrive through this season if you honor both the space and support that they show you they need. In this post, I mean literally.
This is part 3 in the cozy minimalist bedroom series, so if you haven’t read part 1, in which I walk you through West’s cozy minimalist kids bedroom or part 2, in which I walk you through Bay’s tween digs, go read them and then come back here.
As always, we’re going to design their space in collaboration, meaning it’s a joint creative project between you and your teen. Grab a journal or pull up an iPhone note and brainstorm how they are going to use the space, what their needs are, and what vibe resonates with them. Then surf the web together and make some choices for the 4 main components of the room: rug, bed, bookshelf, and closet.
Then it’s time to get your hands dirty . . . quite possibly literally, as you begin by clearing out every nook and cranny of the space. At this point in their lives, they have likely accumulated a lot of clutter that is not really going to serve them moving into the teen years (and they’re probably excited to shed the immature tokens of earlier childhood). Empty the space completely, clean it, and make any structural repairs or updates like painting a wall or fixing a doorknob. Then you will invite one item at a time into the space, beginning with the first pillar of a cozy, minimalist bedroom: the rug.
I highly recommend Ruggable’s washable rugs in the biggest size the room reasonably accommodates. Pull up the correct size, filter for your kid’s favorite color, and let them choose. I have found that achieving a cozy, minimalist space requires light neutrals, solid colors, and natural textures. The rug is the one high-impact source of pattern for us, as you can clearly see in the photo of my teen’s space.
Base layer complete, on to the biggest piece in the room: the bed. I’m a big fan of the simple, light, earthy, inexpensive Tarva from Ikea (Sky’s is a full). And can we just take a minute to admire the OCD wet dream that is the legs on the bed lining up perfectly with the diamonds in the rug? Add a comfy non-toxic mattress, cozy bedding in your teen’s preferred texture (we do a white flannel fitted sheet and a solid colored duvet in their color), and you’re in restful sleep business.
Next up is the bookshelf. I’m a big fan of the Ikea Kallax and in Sky’s case, the furniture arrangement worked best with a split version. I provide each kid with 4 hyacinth bins and let them create a home for their most essential and treasured belongings. This is where they choose what to invite back into the space from the pile they ejected when you emptied the room. If an item doesn’t have a spot, it doesn’t get to live in the bedroom. The fact that there are “only” 8 cubbies provides a space boundary that supports your child in prioritizing what is meaningful for them now. And that “now” part is worth highlighting – bring a sense of time into the conversation. As in, you can have everything, but not all at once. Once a season, when we come together for our collaboration session for our Bucket System, we rotate things in and out of their space to support the things they presently want to work on and hold space for.
The final key element is the closet. Curating a closet is a powerful act of creating an identity. At a time when bodies are changing and identities are shifting, focusing a significant amount of energy here is worthwhile. The Minimalist Wardrobe class can walk you through the whole process. And what a fantastic bonding and role modeling experience for both parent and teen to do this work together!
While not a central component to a cozy, minimalist bedroom, plants can elevate the level of groundedness and calm in a way that few other single items can (in addition to being hippie chic, this is evidence-based and research supported, benefiting us in a myriad of ways from improving air quality to reducing anxiety). I’m quickly becoming a crazy plant lady. I brought my kids to the nursery and they each got to choose plants and pots for their rooms. It was better than adopting kittens (no peeing on rugs).
As far as other decorative elements, really challenge yourselves to hold the open space – to let it be open. Allow form to follow function. If you have spent years in a cluttered room, it’s going to feel stark and empty at first. Don’t panic and allow the chaos to flood back in! Sit in that discomfort for a while. Commit to living in it for one season and at the start of the next season, you can revisit and add more if you still feel it’s necessary. But I’m betting they won’t want to when that time comes. You will have recalibrated for peace.
One final note that Sky would like me to include for the sake of authenticity is that we do stage rooms for photos in the sense that we strip away some of the overly personal items that would require context and don’t add to the visual. For example, we removed the daily medications she takes for some medical conditions from her bookshelf. So if you have a few things like that in the sanctuary you’ve lovingly created, we’re right there with you – it’s all good.
The bedroom of a teenager is often portrayed as a smelly black hole. But that caricature of adolescence does not have to be true for your family. Your inner world is a reflection of your environment and vice versa. Utilize this power by curating a sanctuary for and with your teen that is going to elevate their sense of belonging, peace, and confidence.