The Expedition

Each year when the children are gone, we steel ourselves for the ultimate evil–cleaning out the children’s rooms. Of course, they are expected each week to pick their rooms up and keep them neat! But as we have found particularly this year, they have found new sneaky and intricate ways to keep from meeting that goal.

Little Miss wasn’t so bad; her main problem was that she still had too many clothes that were too small now that she went from size 10 to 14 in a couple of months. We also did a judicious weeding of the stuffed animal collection and added some books to her dressertop.

The boys’ room, however, was a different story. I’ve had to take a break after four hours. The volume of garbage they’ve shoved in their drawers, toyboxes and closets is staggering. It has become an archaeological journey of sorts in that we have found a number of things that give clues about the denizens of that room. The closet was rife with empty food containers and abandoned, filthy silverware; Captain Oblivious stealing food again. There were half a dozen family games that the boxes were torn into bits to disguise them, and all the pieces scattered into a jumble impossible to recover. Several books that we had put away because of their adult subject matter were buried in the closet floor, as well as several computer textbooks, my pinking shears, the Cabana Boy’s good pair of slippers, some screwdrivers and four inches’ thick of everything else.

We also learned why the boys could find no clean socks in the laundry (because they were all dirty and buried in the toybox), and why they had such a hard time finding clothing to pack for their trip (ditto).

What amazes me is that these boys can spend six to eight hours every weekend “cleaning” this room. Granted, it would be a 15 minute job if they’d just do it, but it’s something like opening the hood of a car when there’s a bunch of guys standing around. You know the look I mean. They’ve finally got the hang of making the surface appear clean. But clearly the issue runs much deeper.

So we resolved to make the job easier for them, two-fold. First, we moved Ditto Boy into his own room again. We tried that a year or so ago and he missed his brother so fiercely, we put them back together. But he’s much better at tending his things–alone–and so we’ll give that a shot. Second, we removed many, many items. Four tall wastebaskets of burnable trash alone came out, as well as three garbage bags of what could not burn, and two laundry baskets of items to recycle through Goodwill. If Captain Oblivious cannot keep things organized when he has things, we’ll make a room where there are very few things. He can come and ask to use items if he needs them. But I don’t intend to see the room like this again. Ever.

Philosophically, I suppose this runs counter to my theory that they should be responsible for themselves, i.e., if they want to live like pigs, as long as it’s not medically dangerous, maybe I should leave them happy in their muck. But somehow, it seems like this clean sweep is all for the better, as it’s also been my goal this week to de-clutter the whole house, open the air to better feng shui. Can’t hurt, right?

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8 thoughts on “The Expedition

  1. No, it can’t hurt. Living in a clean environment grows on you. When you’ve had it, it’s hard to live like a pig. You’re helping them be used to an appreciate clean. When they don’t have you to clean it up, it may be a pigsty, but it won’t be comfortable. At least that’s the way I was. I didn’t learn to be OCD clean until I had a roommate like that. I couldn’t take messes after that.

  2. I am just facing a serious child room cleaning myself, so thanks for the laugh!

    I think if you give CO fewer things in his room to worry about, perhaps he will rise to the challenge and keep it cleaner.

    I’m hoping for a good cleaning result on our end….! 🙂

  3. I used to be a packrat myself (well, maybe “used to be” is such an absolute) till I became overwhelmed by the amount of junk I’ve accumulated over the years. My boys take after me, with Alphonse being the worse- hiding away used toothpaste caps, broken doll arms, plastic ware of all sorts. One day, I simply got tired of hoarding and keeping count; I threw most of them away, recycled some, and managed to keep some that we could re-circulate. These days, I go around the house once a month to pick up things we can live without, and I’ve never come up empty-handed. I think the rule of thumb for discarding things hews close to fashion’s (before going out, look at a mirror and take one accessory out). 🙂
    Enjoy your cleaning spree!

  4. I agree with the other commenters. Once you start living ‘clean,’ you don’t want to go back. Even if it doesn’t seem to help you instantly, just knowing where your things are is enough to reduce the stress in your life. And these little stressors add up more quickly than we might think.

  5. Part of being a parent is teaching them how to take responsibility and clean up after themselves. You’re on the right track in not letting them stew in their filth.

    When I was a kid I’d come home from school and find my entire room in a huge mound in the middle of the room. I couldn’t do anything until the entire pile was put away, thrown away, hung up, or bagged for storage or Goodwill. Ugh. It took HOURS.

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