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The Battle of the Clean Bedroom

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Please someone, for the love of toys and stuffed animals and just your average pile of junk, tell me how to get my children to clean their rooms and keep them clean. You know what I like to do on a particularly self-loathing day? Look up real estate postings and stare in awe at the pristine children’s rooms in the homes listed for sale. There’s not am errant sock to be found. Who ARE these people and how on earth did they manage to get those rooms so spotless? I know homes for sale must be kept tidy, but unless you can guarantee my home will sell in one showing, there’s no way I can hold up that end of the bargain on the little people’s side of the house.

It is a never ending battle. I’ve read the books and the blogs and the magazine articles and yes, I saw that episode on Dr. Phil, and the segment on GMA.

Several years ago, I listened intently as Dr. Phil told me to bag up the toys my children would not pick up and hold them hostage until they learned their lesson and vowed to never again let such a mess manifest. I ran right to my husband and imparted this wonderful, eye-opening tidbit of knowledge upon him and soon we were happily bagging up toys strung from one end of our daughter’s room to the other. We cleaned house that night.

And guess what happened? That bag of toys sat in the garage for two years. Two. Years. Our daughter was completely unphased by our little experiment.

Now, one might say that what is to be learned from that experiment is my child has entirely too many toys and therefore does not appreciate them. But that’s a blog for another day. Can we, instead, focus on the problem at hand? I’ve been a parent for 11 years now and my children’s rooms still constantly look like a drug lord’s home after a DEA raid.

I’ve tried everything: holding toys hostage, grounding, spanking, yelling, crying, taking things away, giving things back, the clean up rhyme that seemed to work like a charm in daycare… “clean up, clean up… everybody clean up,” and even refusing to set foot in their room to put away laundry or give hugs and kisses goodnight for fear the mine field of toys will leave me hobbled. Ever stepped on a Lego at night? They really should ban water boarding in favor of walking barefoot across a floor littered with Legos.

We even tried giving practical birthday gifts like a coveted brand of shoes that would ordinarily be a splurge in lieu of toys. What that taught me one day, as I tripped over shoes strung across the floor, is that toys are, in fact, not the problem.

My children are. For the older kids, the toys that were once strewn about have been replaced with clothes, socks, hair bows, and various other accessories that now carpet the floor.

I was kind of the same way as a child. I distinctly remember my mom having the exact same conversation with an 8-year-old me about the array of items stashed under my bed at any given time. Why could I not walk 13 steps to the bathroom to put dirty clothes in the hamper? More importantly, why are my children also incapable of doing just that? So maybe it’s all my fault and I’ve passed some gene down to them that prevents the part of their brain that gives them the ability to clean their room from developing.

As an adult, I’m very particular about my home being very clean and everything being in it’s place. I loathe clutter and routinely clean out cabinets, shelves and closets…. which is probably why the path of destruction in my children’s bedrooms makes my heart race faster than an M. Night Shyamalan movie or the extra 40% off sale at Dillards. Maybe there’s hope for them as adults.

In the meantime, what’s a frazzled mom to do?

 

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