Dear Annie: This 15-year-old needs to learn to clean up their own mess

Dear Annie: I’m 74 years of age, and I rent a room from a lady who has a 15-year-old son. I pay $600 a month for rent. I pay her $350 in cash, and I work off the other $250 by cleaning and cooking. I vacuum and make her bed and clean the restrooms. I wash dishes and clean the kitchen. When I cook food, I always wash the dishes and put them away as I go. So, when the food is prepared, I put it in the oven and leave the kitchen spotless and the floors mopped and cleaned.

Her 15-year-old son comes in and makes food and leaves dishes and grease all over the floor and then expects me to wash his dishes and clean and mop the floor all over again. I don’t feel that I have to clean up after him after I’ve already cleaned the kitchen. This week, he made a mess again, and right now, the kitchen is filthy. There is grease and litter all over the floor. I haven’t touched the kitchen all week to teach him a lesson because his mother told me that she was going to have him clean up after himself. Which he hasn’t.

What do you and your readers think? Should I clean up after him after I have already cleaned up? Or leave it for him to clean up like his mother says. I feel that he needs to learn a lesson.

-- Teach a Lesson

Dear Teach a Lesson: Your instincts are correct. It is a disservice to the boy to not make him clean up after himself. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newsletter, he answers your question by highlighting an 85-year study about adult development called the Harvard Grant Study. “The scientists reviewed 724 ‘high achievers’ and found childhood traits that lead to breakthrough career success. They found a strong connection between doing more to help out around the home and building a mindset that you must work for things in life and share responsibility. More importantly, those who do chores as kids are more likely to be happier as adults.”

The reasons for this can be found on the website Raising Teenagers.

“Chores lead to success through:


-- Learning how to acknowledge the importance of contributing to family.

-- An ability to work well with others.

-- Developing a ‘pitch-in’ mindset.

-- Developing better relationships with friends and family (through said collaboration).

-- A sense of empathy as adults.

-- Delayed gratification (putting off something while a job is done).

-- (Thus) self-discipline.

-- Resilience (because one aspect of resilience includes skill development).

-- Greater career success.”

Show your landlord this column and perhaps she will ask her son to start helping out around the house.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: