Adulting Checklist for Kids Leaving Home

By Amy Dickinson | September 23rd, 2022

Mom says she taught her son well, but she’s not so sure about other parents

teenager in messy room. Photo by Elnur, Dreamstime. A mom is horrified at how messy her son’s dorm mates are. Parents need to teach an adulting checklist, she says! See what “Ask Amy” says. Image

A mom is horrified to see the state of her son’s dorm room and suite. Her son’s space is neat, but his suitemates seem to prefer clutter and filth. Parents need to have an adulting checklist for their kids, she says! See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My son has just started his junior year of college. I never thought he was the neatest person.

My view on this changed when he went away to college and shared a two-bedroom suite with others.

Compared to his suitemates, my son is neat, clean, and considerate of the shared space.

I am appalled by what I have seen: Beds are not made, clothes are strewn everywhere, dirty dishes are left in the sink, plates and cups are left everywhere, the table is not wiped clean, multiple pairs of shoes in the bathroom, and counter space all cluttered with everyone’s personal items, etc.

Is this the way people are living?

Are parents not teaching their children some basic level of cleanliness and how to share space?

I sent my son with cleaning supplies and showed him how to clean a bathroom.

He knows how to clean a kitchen because he has been helping me clean up after meals at home.

In one situation he was the only one that brought cleaning supplies. Cleaning supplies are a necessity!

It’s a shared space – you’re not the only one who uses the bathroom or stores food in the refrigerator or needs to wash dishes in the kitchen sink.

Yes, contracts are drawn up by the suitemates to determine rules and cleaning rotation, but my son is frustrated that he is the only one following through.

Parents, are you checking in with your kids to see if they are pulling their fair share?

Amy, as students are returning back to campus, can you put together an Adulting Checklist on basic guidelines to being a good roommate/suitemate – such as sharing the cleaning responsibilities and sharing space?

A Concerned Mother

Dear Concerned:

Adulting Lesson Number One: Never let your mom see your dorm room.

In my possibly unpopular view, it is the parents who are in need of a checklist. If you want to send an adult out into the world – then raise one!

Today’s college students often enter shared living quarters never having shared a bedroom or bathroom. They’ve never done their own laundry, washed a dish, paid a bill, written a thank you note, or had to clean up after themselves or others.

And no one has asked them to.

The whole idea of preparing an “adulting checklist” is somewhat infantilizing. These lessons – on taking care of oneself and contributing to the care of the group, should start with children at around age four. Picking up toys, helping to set the table, and helping with clean-up and laundry should all be demonstrated in early childhood. Later, earning, saving and spending money should be layered onto these other valuable lessons.

You’ve done a good job. Your son will be a desirable roommate, co-worker and partner.

Other parents – yes – stress the positive aspects of keeping your space clean (show them how), and emphasize the pro-social benefit of contributing to the welfare of the group.

“Adulting checklist” – reader weighs in

Dear Amy:

“A Concerned Mother” was appalled by the disgusting conditions in her son’s dorm room.

I agree that training kids early to clean house is a great idea. But many years ago my son, who worked summers cleaning houses (and was “the porcelain specialist”) was such a slob in his college dorm that he was threatened with eviction.

I totally agree with your initial comment – never to visit a child’s dorm room.


Dear Frank:

It worked for me.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from an adulting checklist relationships to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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