Organized at Last
How I got clutter-free and organized in only fifty short years
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?
Okay, I admit that one reason my house is neat is that my children have flown the nest. I miss them but it’s nice to know where the scissors are.
Cleaning my room was the great battle field of my relationship with my mother–She who Must be Obeyed. I was required to wear a smiling face and a pleasant disposition at all times and being “fresh” was a cardinal sin, maybe even a mortal sin, for which I’d be sent to my room. My room was one place where I had autonomy and that may be why I kept it messy. It drove her crazy.
So it comes as no surprise that when I became a mother my kids kept messy rooms, and I mean messy–my husband says the cleaning lady crossed herself at their doorstep.
I had to decide if I was willing to engage in the battle my mother did. I was not. Her constant nagging only taught me to ignore her. So I closed the door, gave the cleaning lady a pass, and let the kids have their mess,reminding myself that I didn’t have to live like that–my own room was as neat as I wanted it to be.
For the sake of peace, domestic harmony and sanity stay out of your children’s rooms and do not comment on the condition of said room.
But as everything in life, there must be limits, so here are a few rules.
1. Respect Privacy
Do not ever EVER, read a diary or a letter that belongs to someone else, and if you do, don’t then comment on it. Your kids should know that papers that are put away will not be invaded. I never read a diary, but if a paper was crumpled up under the bed I felt that it was fair game and I told them that.
There’s an exception to this rule and that is; unless health and safety are jeopardized.
2. No Food left for more than a week
I have a friend who asked her son if the girls in his co-ed dorm visited his room.
“Well, no, they’re afraid of the bees.” The BEES?
It seems there were so many half empty beer bottles and soda cans that the room was full of bees. Food attracts ants, mice, cockroaches, RATS, Raccoons, Coyotes—BEARS!! INSECTS THAT STING!!!!!!!
Parents must be allowed to enter to remove dirty dishes and uneaten snacks. When you do this, do not look around, it will only depress you. You could, of course, have a no food in the bedroom rule. Good luck enforcing that.
3. Never help in the search for lost objects
When they are desperately seeking the homework, the backpack, the keys, simply say, “If you start to clean up your room I’m sure it will reveal itself.”
My kids hated me for saying this but it reduced stress for me.
When I couldn’t find my own glasses I offered a monetary reward.
4. Give fair warning before the major cleaning
With this hands off approach there needs to be a periodic cleansing, or purge. It’s best to do this when they are out of the house for an extended period, and I always warned them that that which was not put away would go to the garbage or the Salvation Army. When they returned they actually enjoyed the neatness for a minute or so before they reverted to their natural state.
5. Have a little respect
This is a true story told by my uncle Dave to his big brother, my Dad, in about 1935. Dave was at the home of his friend, Charlie Medd with some other boys. One of them noticed Charlie’s Teddy bear on his bed and teased him about it. “Oh man are you still sleeping with a Teddy bear?”
Charlie, to save face, said to his mother; “Haven’t you thrown that old thing out yet?”
Mrs. Medd grabbed the bear, threw it in the trash, and took that out to the curb for the garbage man. The Teddy was irretrievably gone. As Dave reported, the other boys couldn’t bear to look at the pain on Charlie’s face. Thirty years later my father was still shocked by the cruelty of that act and he wasn’t even there.
So have some respect. What may be a rag to you is precious to someone else–someone you love!
Somehow we all survived and I recently had the joy of visiting my daughter in her new home, where she proudly showed me her pantry with its neatly organized shelves.
After de-briefing myself on the battles my mother and I waged I have come to the conclusion that a tidy house is nice but nothing besides actual safety is worth a battle. And tidiness isn’t everything. I once had a friend whose house was neat as a pin but she occasionally forgot to pick up her kid as school. Moderation is a good thing, even in being tidy.
Here’s a gift for you; I printed these words and hung them over my desk. They come from Haydn’s Creation, where God parts the waters and creates the land. Feel free to take it and use it for your own inspiration.