Some wonderful suggestions on how to get a teenager to pick up his dirty socks

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Some wonderful suggestions on how to get a teenager to pick up his dirty socks

The biggest problem with being a human being I find, is that you have to live with other human beings. As well as their smelly socks.

floor covered in clothes

typical teen boy ‘floordrobe’

I suppose you don’t really have to. There are those people who prefer to to be venerated, loved unconditionally and looked up to, and so choose to live with dogs.

There is also a tiny but real and usually eccentric group of people who choose to live as hermits. These people leave all family and friends and often most possessions too (yes, even socks), to either wander the globe or live in remote places. After reading up a bit about some of our modern day hermits, I’ve come to the conclusion that this way of life has been chosen by those who are disillusioned, hurt or abandoned and as a consequence struggle to engage in lasting relationships with other humans.

Not only do they hate other people’s underwear, they shun any form of contact whatsoever.

According to one definition, hermits are people who choose to live alone as a religious discipline. Now, I don’t know about you, but quite frankly, like our modern day hermits above, I find that living with other people requires enormous amounts of discipline and provides endless opportunities for practicing holiness on a daily basis!

So take dirty socks on the living floor as an example.

Nate (14), my son, whom I am now consciously naming and shaming, has this peculiar habit of removing his dirty socks sometime during the afternoon and leaving them somewhere downstairs. (Main image above is a real life exhibit). I usually spot them the following morning after he has left for school. I have asked him, nay, PLEADED with him to refrain, but he persists.


I hear from various sources that this can be a common problem amongst men. However, I can’t blame the husband for this one as he tends to only leave his dirty socks on our bedroom floor.

Now I hear some of you saying, “This is normal for a teenaged boy, titter-titter”. It might very well be, but where’s the harm in teaching them to live in a way that considers the girls in their present or possibly the future?

There are also those who bemoan the lot of the modern day woman who still does the bulk of the housework because they live with men who don’t care about a ‘bit of mess’ here and there.

(To all the tidy men out there who clean up after untidy women, after extensive research I discover you are a minority group and I feel should therefore be offered some sort of status as such).

I say that it’s high time we women took matters, and NOT socks, into our own hands.


I love my sweet and gentle mother-in-law dearly BUT I do not thank her for being a tirelessly selfless home maker. I’d be grateful if she had been a bit grumpier with her boys and pushed them (albeit gently) into a routine of orderliness.

darkened bedroom

black holes don’t only exist in space

Note how the image above displays a window blind that has been left closed so that no light is allowed to penetrate the increasing vortex of chaos and disappearing possessions that constitutes this black hole on earth.

Now I am NOT not advocating for a life of iron-fist parenting (neither my son, nor my husband), nor for hermitage. I LOVE living with my family, dirty socks, human beings and all. The day to day niggles and compromises are far outweighed by the benefits of living in secure loving relationships. Apparently research has even shown this to have profoundly long lasting physical and mental health benefits.

And that’s apart from the spiritual benefits inherent in loving and serving others. Personally I feel the kingdom of God can be best served by living in community with other people as imperfect as myself.

I just don’t want to be a nag.

And relationships are hard work so we need to do this together.

I have been wondering how to embrace this stage of my parenting journey with joy, and how to administer consequences to my son that are appropriate to his crime, without ruining the lovely relationships we already have.

Also in the interests of harmony in my son’s (possible) future marital life, I asked for advice from other parents on how to deal with a teenaged son who is totally flippant about the house wide extent of his ‘floordrobe’.

The advice fits neatly into five categories:

1. Ignore it

If they can’t find what they’re looking for and ask you to look for it then that’s their look out. If they can’t look after their property themselves then why should you waste hours. They find plenty of time for other useless things. They can learn the hard way. Don’t do their washing, don’t retrieve any mugs from their room. When they run out they’ll have a rethink. Oh and shut the door so you don’t have to see it. – Nellie from nelliepompoms

After 3 years of trying I fight the battles worth fighting. They get nagged to pick up after themselves in the shared spaces, but in their rooms that’s their business. As long as there’s no dead food, they bring down their laundry when asked, and put away clean clothes, plus I don’t let them use the floor like a rubbish bin. If it’s just their possessions tossed on the floor that’s fine, I don’t want to see and smell rubbish everywhere – both are girls and the older one is now seeming to be more organised and likes to tidy her room periodically so hopefully the more laid back approach will pay off! – Jen from stylebrief

I gave up with mine, if he wanted to be teased for being the smelly kid that was his problem. Only took about a fortnight for him to huff and puff his way to the washing machine – Julie from pickinguptoys

2. Revenge

Leave your socks on his pillow. – Stuart from page2screen

Worse. Leave your (under)pants on his pillow – Suzanne

Hide them away until he has no socks left. Then when he complains, ask him where he left them. – Tom

3. Consequences

If it’s clothes I don’t pick them up, which leads to them not being washed either. They soon realise when they have nothing clean to wear – Sarah from boorooandtiggertoo

Take away stuff that’s important,(in our house, its phones or ipads) or stop them going out if they do not complete the tasks you have given them, if its any consolation my eldest boy was exactly like that at 14, and now at 18 he has the tidiest room of the 7 children, but my husband still leaves his socks on the floor! Mandi from bigfamilyorganisedchaos

I pick my battles too. I find it best if they have set chores that have to be done at set times. Routine is key for me and if they don’t do as required I don’t give them their allowance, but it never comes to that. It is all about clear expectations. Emma from emmaand3

4. Incentive

Our kids aren’t allowed to play on their tablets or consoles until their rooms are tidy. They soon learned not to make a mess! – Pete from householdmoneysaving

Tempted to say ask for the opposite … but hard to say, apart from asking them opinions on wall colour, decor etc and as an extension of that they might be encouraged to have an investment in keeping their room ‘cool’, ie for you, tidy!! – Enda from Endastories

I make it a daily routine and say before we have tea just go and ….. make sure we have all the washing, the lounge is tidy of your stuff etc. This way they do it quickly knowing something good comes next. – Becky from abeautifulspace

5. Failure

Sadly I’ve failed to find a way to get my teens to put their sports gear in for the wash the day it’s used. So any tips you get will be gratefully received. Nothing works with them. Teen boys seem to lose all empathy and responsibility for their actions. They are harder to reason with than a toddler.- Alan from omgfamilylifefood

And if all else fails, wait for him to grow up, leave the house and have a family of his own:

My husband takes his socks off and leaves them on the living room floor every single night too – and we’ve been together for almost 14 years 😂 … what HAS started to happen, is our 3 year old is getting fed up with having to take them to the laundry basket before we start playing in the morning and so now HE is telling his daddy off for leaving socks lying around. – Sarah


I have tried some of these. Shutting the bedroom door is my favourite in the short term. but it doesn’t solve the problem of the socks in the living room.

Apart from that my son does not share my fear that he’d lose friends through wearing dirty clothes. Maybe all his friends are wearing dirty clothes too, who knows?

I have also tried putting all the clothes in the floor in a giant black bag. But he’s happy to wear the same pair of track suit pants and t-shirt until they walk themselves off of his body.

I like the solutions based on consequences as teenagers in particular need plenty of practice in grasping how their actions will have long lasting reactions. I also like the incentive ideas as this reframes the chores in a positive light.

I aim to start today.

What are your solutions? Have you tried any of those mentioned above? Share your success stories in the comments below.

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23 thoughts on “Some wonderful suggestions on how to get a teenager to pick up his dirty socks”

  1. Ah Liberty this has really made me giggle . Some of these suggestions are hilarious !!Maybe one day crusty teen boy socks will evolve to be able to walk to the washing machine and throw themselves in !! #blogcrush

  2. Haha I couldn’t of written this better myself, sweaty socks, are like a health hazard, yes my husband leaves them ont he bedroom floor too, and I’m like what did you last slave die of lol.
    Kids rooms, well I’m too scared to walk and look now lol, especially the boys and as for the daughter, whos 10 going on 21, cheesy feet yack!

    1. Haha, closing the bedroom door is definitely the best solution in those cases unless it’s your own! I am happy to report this week the 14 yo is doing so much better – he has been motivated by having to do chores and only having priviledges (like screen time) once his clothes are off the floor! Seems to be working for the moment, let’s hope it stays that way!

  3. From a young age my kids are taught dirty clothes go in the washing basket or you don’t have anything clean to wear. My eldest son is the cleanest in the house, his bedroom is spotless, his washing comes down in a bag with the socks and pants in wash bags so they don’t get lost. My husband is the worst in the house, although to be honest, I’m pretty sure his socks could walk themselves to the washing basket.

  4. Arghh!!! This makes me RAGE!!! Husband does this ALL THE TIME! He’s even worse than the kids! I have taken to throwing them at his face whilst he reclines on the sofa and then asking him sweetly to pop them in the laundry basket. Not terribly effective but it is rather satisfying! #ItsOK

    1. Haha, glad to hear you have found some satisfaction! How do men not get cold feet?? There are so many things that cause us to boil over aren’t there! Another of my pet hates (literally just happened) is finding half a centimetre of yoghurt left in the bottom of the tub in the fridge, just finish the bloody lot and THROW IT AWAY!! 😀

  5. This really made me laugh! I particularly liked the revenge suggestions and incentives (specifically not picking them up to wash!) Thank you for sharing.

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