We Are Both Right

Keeping the Kids’ Rooms Clean (Enough)

Everything has its place...just as I like it. © Vera Berard/stock.xchng

Memories of my childhood include soaking venetian blinds in the bathtub, spreading the just-washed sheep’s wool that made up our pillows over chaise lounges in the backyard, and listening to my eleven-year-old cousin brag about how she took it upon herself to polish her mother’s silver and individually clean each crystal teardrop on the dining room chandelier.

Somehow I don’t have a Cinderella complex. And in comparison, my children are getting off easy.

Because when I tell them it’s time to clean their rooms, I’m not expecting the furniture to be polished or even the bedsheets to be changed. I’m going for organized more than clean.

As in, no miscellaneous toy pieces left on the floor. Books back on the shelves. Clothes in the hamper. Dolls in the crib. Balls in a bin. Everything in its place.

The clean “look” if you catch my drift. It’s kind of the way that I keep the rest of the house. The floors may not be gleaming and the windows always have the distinct markings of wet dog nose and three-year-old sticky hands, but the counters are clear and the table is available for dining (on most days). We have one catch-all basket on the kitchen counter that gets sorted when it reaches maximium capacity, and each item must be sent to a permanent home or it goes into the trash.

Most of what accumulates during the day is a collection of assorted toys retrieved from the dog who finds it amusing to run around the house with a plastic shark or teddy bear, baiting you for a treat or some attention. It takes a few extra minutes every night to redistribute this pile of rescued toys but to be honest, without our resident toy snatcher, the kids’ rooms might be a whole lot more messy.

They know that if something is important to them and they don’t want it to be missing a foot (like the Daddy in the dollhouse), then it should be neatly tucked away and out of reach of their four-legged sibling. That pretty much inspires them to return games to their boxes after they’re done playing and file football cards away in binders.

If only the dog was interested in laundry. Our biggest struggle right now is getting our son to realize that dirty clothes never need to hit the floor when there’s a hamper three feet away.

The worst is when he dries off after a shower and leaves the wet towel on the carpet in his room. But I don’t let it sit there for long — and I don’t pick it up either. I’ll call him back into his room and ask if that is its final resting place, and he’ll promptly scoop it up along with the clothes beside it to add to the pile in the hamper. I figure if I keep up the pace (and the nagging) he’ll never have one of those stereotypical teen rooms where the floor and the bed are indistinguishable under rolling hills of clothing.

But I’m not all that worried. Because when I do get into a little cleaning frenzy in one of my kids’ rooms, sorting through old toys and papers that have accumulated on the shelves of their closet organizers, the owner of this stuff always happens to join in. And last time we did that, L. told me afterward how good it felt to know where all his things were and that he loved spending time in a neat room.

Ahhhh, a kid after my own heart.

Have scientists isolated the “clean” gene yet? They might want to check in with Amanda, who has some theories of her own.