We Are Both Right

I Didn’t Realize There Was a Messy Room Gene (Sorry Kids)

toy room

This is about as clean as our toy room gets. ©We Are Both Right

…Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or–
Huh? You say it’s mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!

–”Messy Room” by Shel Silverstein

As a child, I had a messy bedroom. (I hear my mother snorting from all the way over here.) OK, maybe messy isn’t the word. Probably more like disaster area. Pigsty. Garbage dump. You get the idea.

My grandfather, Bepaw, used to joke that he was going to shovel me out. (I think he was joking anyway.) I had stuff everywhere. Under the bed, under the dresser, on the floor, piled on the desk, shoved in the closet, crammed in the drawers. From when I was a little kid, my room had one default setting — shambles. It’s not that I didn’t like having a clean room — I totally did. I just didn’t have the time or inclination to straighten it up. And it reached a point where the thought of trying to put everything back in its place just got too overwhelming. So I didn’t.

As I got older, I got much better, although even today, I am not the neatest of people. I like to pile things; you have to be careful when you open any cabinets, lest something falls out and bops you in the head; my “junk drawer” is actually four of them. And once again, I find myself wanting to be more orderly, but it’s just not in my nature. For me, messier is faster. (Until I lose something.)

My point is, I get why my two older kids’ rooms are shambolic (and wonder if it’s something in their DNA). I totally understand and can relate. To some, it might be a cop-out, but they are busy. They are in school all day and then there are after school activities to think of, and friends to play with and homework to do. The room always comes last. And honestly, I’m OK with that.

But lest you think my kids are going to be the next people profiled on Hoarders, I do have some rules about their rooms.

  • No food or wrappers in bedrooms — nothing that will attract bugs.
  • There has to be a clear path in and out of the doorway and to the bed.
  • If something breaks as a result of the messy room — it’s stepped on, crushed, whatever — we will not replace it and it gets thrown out.
  • Clothing drawers must stay closed.
  • If they want to have a friend over, the room has to be cleaned — not perfect, but to a point where everyone can sit down and the floor is mostly visible.

Do I wish their rooms were neater? You bet. Not because the mess upsets me — both kids have doors on their rooms and we can close them if necessary. I wish they had clean rooms for themselves. It’s nice when you can find things and have friends over and just relax in a room that’s neat. As much as I didn’t like cleaning my room as a child, its messy state was always something that hung over my head.

To that end, we’ve recently instituted a new policy. Every day, I set a timer and they must spend 15 minutes cleaning their rooms, whether its making the bed, putting away clothes or just straightening up. My son C. has a bit of a head start on my daughter A. though. Last week my husband T. got so fed up with C.’s room that he spent a good two hours cleaning it and clearing out the junk. So right now it’s really clean, but I can see, even three days into having his room be pin straight, he’s having issues. For my kids and me, cleanliness is not inherent.

Still, I’m trying to set a good example, doing the 15 minutes thing myself and doing my best to eliminate the piles and the clutter. Every night I wipe down the counters and the bathroom and I don’t go to bed unless the kitchen and living room are neat. We plan on having a yard sale this spring, and I’m hoping the thought of making some money for the things they no longer want will jump start them (and me) into getting rid of stuff, thereby making the house less crowded.

And, apparently, there is some hope. I think the cycle might actually be breaking with our toddler, S. He will happily “put toys in,” when it’s time to clean up whatever it is he’s been playing with and if he happens to stumble upon someone’s clutter (even his own), he will exclaim, “What a mess! Who made mess?”

So maybe I should be following his example.

Do you allow your children to keep a messy room? Why or why not?

Suzanne is not a fan of messy rooms, but bless her, she barely raises an eyebrow when she sets foot into my house.

4 Responses to “I Didn’t Realize There Was a Messy Room Gene (Sorry Kids)”

  1. Enyo says:

    When I was a kid, my room was trashed. And, yes, we’re talking “Hoarders” trashed. There was a path from my door to my bed and a point where the path forked to get you to my closet. The main problem was that there really *wasn’t* a place for everything to be. Now I’m a little bit neurotic. I have the fifteen minute “clean up” policy in place. And my kid’s room is *always* kept immaculate because I don’t ever want him to look around his room and wonder where on earth he was supposed to put things when it’s time to clean up.


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