My teenage daughter's room is so tidy, she won't let me in...


"Oh my God, this is disgusting! How can you live in such squalor?"

I should point out those are my daughter's words, not mine. She says the same thing to us every time she sets foot out of her room.

So when UK broadcaster Nicky Campbell attempted to shame his daughter this week by posting online a photo of her untidy bedroom, I felt a bit conflicted.

Was social media shaming really the best approach? I suppose it would depend on how many dinner plates gently furring with mould he found under the bed. But, generally speaking, hanging out your daughter's dirty laundry on Twitter, though immensely satisfying, might not necessarily be the top recommendation of a family therapist.

Personally, I have the polar opposite problem to Campbell, so I'm a bit sensitive to public criticism of private domesticity.

My 17-year-old's room is a sublime shrine of Arctic fairy lights and snowy drifts of bedding on a frost-white frame, the window open in all weathers. On her chest of drawers stands a tasteful tank of tropical fish, beside it a biodome housing her crested gecko.

There are palms and succulents, original oil paintings and pops of Moroccan pattern. Her clothes are Marie Kondo'd. Her eclectic vintage jewellery is artfully displayed.

It is the nicest room in the house by a country mile, and Instagrammable from every angle. Except, being sensible, she wouldn't dream of sharing it with the world. Or us.


Sometimes, her sister receives an invitation, or the family pets. The rest of the time, it's anyone's guess if we'll gain ingress - and, certainly, if I'm barefoot, she's been known to fastidiously inspect my soles before admission. I don't always pass.

I don't blame her for harbouring a certain disdain for my comparative slovenliness. My husband, I suspect, agrees. It's just I wish she suffered in silence and repressed her anguish until after she leaves home, rather than opting for scoldy indignation.

"If I fail my GCSEs, it will be because of this disgraceful, fetid mess," she cried last year. "If I fail my A-levels, it will be because of this disgraceful, fetid mess," she cries this year.

There is something quite surreal about a child upbraiding her mother and father for leaving unwashed teacups or discarded shoes in the sitting room. "Darling, you know that we're..."

"Don't give me that old rubbish about being Bohemians who are too busy reading classical literature to even notice dust," she cuts me off. "You watch Love Island every night."

Mea culpa. And I do have to say the television could do with a wipe. But that's why people have cleaners.

Except we don't have a cleaner. We've tragically fallen between the cracks of the cleaning community since our last one left three years ago. I expect there's a Just Giving page out there for people like us, but I'm too, ahem, Bohemian, to reach out.

The truth is, I feel I have a lot to offer as a wife and mother (midweek baking, card games), but a freshly-scrubbed front step ain't one of them. In day-to-day life, persuading someone who is naturally messy to mend their ways is tricky. It requires sensitivity and, yes, empathy.

Humiliation of loved-ones is a high-risk strategy - unless Nicky would like to prove me wrong by posting a follow-up of his daughter's room transformed into a tranquil haven of minimalism?

You might assume that moral blackmail should work. But take it from a slattern, that it doesn't. My daughter once offered me money to declutter the hallway, but to no avail.

Mind you, had she offered something I really wanted, like a Saturday night's babysitting, I would have been out there with a can of Mr Sheen and a bin bag quicker than she could say: "Why don't you ever open your post?"

As adults, we need to call upon our reserves of emotional intelligence and adapt our approach to match the psychology of each individual child.

So my advice to all you exasperated parents out there, desperate for your teens to clean, isn't as facile as bribery; it's finding the right sort of bribery.

Good luck with that.

The Daily Telegraph, London