Friday, January 13, 2017

A Clean Room and Bed Pouches

The major project over Christmas vacation was a deep-clean of the children's bedroom.  It was not fun. I could not bear to take any "before" photos.  It started with my husband banning everyone from the room while he boxed up all the junk and washed and vacuumed and dusted.

Then, Ben and Genevieve and I sorted through the contents of the boxes, keeping the good stuff, throwing junk away, and sending other things to the thrift store.  It was not fun.  There were sharp words, tears, and worse (tantrums!).

It was not fun.

 It required all my adult skill to focus on the end goal:  a reasonably clean room that we were not embarrassed to have children or visiting aunties see, and a reasonably tidy room that allowed Genevieve and Ben to work on projects, find their supplies, see their books, and sleep happily.

I will say it again:  it was not fun.

But now!  Now it's a pleasure to walk into their room and it's not hard for me to say, hey, the clutter is building up, take a few minutes to put things back where they belong.

When my husband roared into that room in December, I protested feebly that I try to teach the kids how to clean instead of doing it for them; he retorted that you don't teach drowning kids how to swim, you save the kids and then later teach them how to swim.  Yes.  So wise!  So he saved them, and now we're working again on teaching them how to clean.

One of the little problems I solved was a place for the in-bed reading books.  Usually, we cuddle on the living room sofas to read a book aloud at bedtime (currently, The King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, one of my childhood favorites).

But then Genevieve and Ben like to read in a bed a little, too.  They had nowhere to put their books or their book lights.  I whipped up two little pouches.  Ben's is made from an old sturdy workshirt of my husband's; it tucks under his mattress.   Genevieve's is made from some fabric left from her baby nursery curtains, a Waverly print whose colors I adore.  I added ribbon ties to the back so it could be tied on the top rail of her bunk; I sewed some extra lines along the top to lend it sturdiness.

Any comments or wisdom on children and messy bedrooms?  I'm always eager to hear how other people manage this.


Anonymous said...

How did they accumulate so much stuff?

Margo said...

I think it's the norm for American children currently. It's little trinkets from school and kids' meals (with grandparents - not us!); it's craft projects from school, church, and kids' parties; it's their own projects made from scraps around the house; it's desk/office supplies/paper that are partially used or broken that the kids don't take the time to deal with. This is on top of the gifts from birthdays and Christmas and the toys that are keepers; in this last great effort, some of the keepers went into storage because Ben and Genevieve had outgrown them and Phoebe might like them later.

Tammy said...

We have a cubby shelf from IKEA and bins from there as well. I labeled all the bins and in theory all the toys are supposed to go into their respective bins. In practice, it doesn't always work that way. My daughter (almost 8) is responsible for cleaning her room every night before she goes to bed. It doesn't get perfect, mind you. But the floor is cleared and toys are put into bins. I have a shelf in her closet that is supposed to be for craft projects and paper and crayons and such. That really needs to be organized.

My husband just helped my daughter clear out a lot of junk from her room, but I still need to go in there and help with organization.

JUNK is the biggest culprit. It's easy to sort legos and blocks and dolls and their clothes - but the trinkets and projects and junk bestowed from my husband and MIL and others...that is what makes the room go downhill fast.

Alica said...

I don't have much wisdom in this subject! Sometimes I just have to close the door and say, "it's your mess and you're responsible for it!" However...our kids are older! When they were younger, it would sometimes be their Saturday chore to take a garbage bag to their room and get to cleaning...or redding...up.

Rachel said...

it is amazing how kids accumulate stuff. even kids who don't really LIKE stuff!! i periodically go in and do a deep clean and toss things (or put them in a grocery bag in their closet--if they haven't taken things out of the bag in a few months, off to Goodwill or the trash it goes!). I think that teaching children deep cleaning is a great skill...but one that is really hard at a young age. I feel like my kids are much better at keeping an already-clean room tidy, not at deep cleaning and purging. And, frankly, that was something I learned when I was a young adult, too. Love the calendar ;)

Jennifer Jo said...

Your husband's quote about drowning!!!!! IT'S PRICELESS. I read it out loud to my husband (who has also been known to roar into the children's rooms) and we both shouted with laughter. It's a quote I'm never forgetting.

Beth in the City said...

My kids often responded well to a ten things challenge where we would all find ten things to put away. I also thought it went better of I helped them take apart the overwhelmingly bog project. We would work together, and I would be the director, suggesting the next task. They liked setting a time limit, like ten minutes, and working hard for that time period. It's amazing what three people can do in ten minutes!

Margo said...

Rachel, recognize those Lego bins in the first photo?!! :)

Polly said...

I have recently solved this problem in my own household by doing two things.

First, before Christmas (or was it just after? I can't remember) I did a purge of each child's room, plus our toy area in the basement. Now, truth be told, my kids just don't seem to have many toys. But I bought a big bin (blue for Finn, pink for Annie, green for the basement) for each of those spaces. And I told the children that we'd be putting a lot of their stuff into those bins and storing them. It caused a tiny amount of anxiety in Annie for about 20 seconds and then everyone was cool with it. The only toys left in Annie's room are books, her American Girl doll and related accessories, a bin of small figurine-type toys, her box of paper dolls. The toys in Finn's room are mostly what was there already: books, a bin of Star Wars stuff, a box of Legos, a box of K'nex. Downstairs in the toy area we have the dress-up stuff, the dollhouse, the Ankor blocks, and the train set. I generously allow the bin of wooden roads (plan city) to live under the buffet in the dining area.

The children have asked once to get something out of the bins. It was a specific thing. I said sure, we got the thing out, and when they were done, we put it back in the bin and put the bin back (under the high guest bed).

The second thing is that we clear their room clutter every day. (Exception: finn's huge architect's has 20 square feet of space. I pretty much let that go, as it's covered with his artwork and books and ponderings and writings. I just don't care about it, and once a month or so we can clear it.) Books get shelved, toys put back into bins, clothing into drawers or hampers. This is what I do for our room and the main room, after all, so why not implement it in my children's rooms. This has gone a long way! Honestly if my children's bedrooms were on another floor, I might let it slide more, but our house is quite small and is a ranch house. Our guest bathroom is in full view of both kids' bedrooms. there's no escaping......I see their rooms constantly and I can't just ignore!

(Kind of like my kitchen and bedroom. Kitchen is visible from front and back doors. I would never have chosen this design! And our bedroom is right off the living room, so that's totally visible too. On the flip side, this floor plan basically requires me to stay neat, so that's kind of nice.)

The children are now used to this daily habit of tidying each space and I've even caught them *PICKING UP AFTER THEMSELVES* as a result. Wonders will never cease. I'm much happier now. :)

Becky said...

I did a deep purge a few years ago while my daughter was at camp and it was glorious. Although another one is sorely needed currently. There was a plan to do it over the holiday break, but then we learned Christmas day that my BIL and his daughter were coming to visit the following week, which scrambled all our plans.

At least part of our problem is our small house and it's lack of closets, particularly in her room. These days, it's not the toys as much as it's the clothes. SO. MANY. CLOTHES. and not enough closet space to put them away.

Lana said...

No wisdom here even though our 5 are grown. We never figured it out. It is something that I do not miss! Now our adult children are struggling with the same issues with our grandchildren.

jenny_o said...

I definitely agree, Margo, with your thoughts on North American ways. Both kids and adults tend to acquire too many things because that is what we do: we give and receive for birthdays and Christmas and graduations and ALL occasions, it seems. Even if we are trying not to acquire so much, we still have so many more things than previous generations had. Also, creative people tend to acquire a lot of things. Every crafter or sewer I know has a stash, including me. My husband has a stash of wood and tools and nails, etc. And we both come from not particularly well-off families, so there is a lot of the mentality "we might need that someday" that affects our efforts to declutter.

When our kids were growing up, they were showered with gifts by my mother. I am trying very hard not to do the same thing to my grandchildren. It's hard, because it springs from loving them and wanting to provide them with interesting things to do and read. But I don't want to add to my daughter's work by buying them stuff indiscriminately. This is not being much help, but I think my point is that you are swimming against a raging current, not just a little lazy river. And it takes a lot of strength to make headway.

Our kids have grown up to have their own way of dealing with things. Our elder is single and for years has asked us not to give him things on gift-giving occasions. At first he asked us to make a donation to a worthy cause instead. When it became apparent that we still wanted to give to him as well, we decided on cash gifts only, except for one occasion when we knew he needed winter tires and couldn't afford them. That was a larger gift than we would usually give, but it was definitely a good choice. He has grown up to be very neat and organized, by the way.

Our younger is married and has two children, and they are dealing with the issues caused by combining two complete households and having two kids in a short time. Knowing they were swamped, I offered to take everything they didn't want off their hands and deal with it - donate, trash, recycle - and they've been sending bags and boxes galore home with me every time I visit. We live too distant for me to do any child-minding or cooking for them, so this is one way I can help. This child is the one who would let things pile up in her room for ages and then just purge everything in one day. A different approach from our son, who would patiently sort through things over a period of a week or more.

I hope you can sift a bit of comfort, if not help, from our story! Our kids turned out differently although they were raised the same. And they both found strategies that worked. I wish I could have been a better teacher, but they were very strong-willed when they were young, and despite my best efforts, they seemed to need to come to their own solutions as they got older.

jenny_o said...

Sorry for such a long comment! And here's more :)

It occurs to me that introverted people often enjoy the kinds of creative activities I mentioned above, as well as enjoying having all the necessary supplies and tools at hand (i.e. in the home), so the tendency to be introverted may affect the amount of stuff we accumulate.

I also wanted to be slightly more encouraging than in my other comment, and say that I believe there's definitely a certain amount of being tidy and being able to let things go that can be learned (and therefore taught as well) and it's good to keep trying, in spite of the frustration!

MDiskin said...

Thank goodness you posted this -- it makes me feel better about purging my kids' room this month, and how horrified I am by the "before." I'm doing it bit by bit, sort of using Marie Kondo's technique -- mostly in that you group like things together first, then purge, then find proper storage for what's left.

The difficult part of limiting TV and screen time is that your kids actually get creative and want to build or make or create or draw or paint, or all of it together!!! It's a very different kind of consumption of materials that is really hard to corral in a "hide this neatly" way.

Love the bags -- my kids always seem to end up with books tangled up with blankets at the end of the bed!

Nancy In Boise said...

I think you did the right thing! Sometimes parents have to jump in and fix things, then work on kids maintaining it. I think a purge a couple time a year is good, and a "filing system" for toys, etc. Bins, baskets, sometimes labeling them. And out things "in time out" if they don't cooperate :)

Nancy In Boise said...

And I love the book pouches!

Amy said...

This happened to me as a child. Almost the same exact story, my mom was frazzled, my dad was fed up and I was clueless (about picking up) and drowning. Keep in mind that with dad in the military we cut by a third every few years and my room was full of school papers, cardboard boxes, art supplies, toys, magazines, books, and empty disposable cups. Now my family is a little different, my mom has some hoarding tendencies, but I remember a feeling of relief afterward.

The next day mom made making my bed and picking up a part of my day. I still make my bed first thing in the morning and pick up something in my room every night.

It will come. I believe, like me, they will appreciate it.

Lauralli said...

Under the bed storage boxes. Clean out while the kids aren't home...they won't miss it! Look up 40 bags in 40 days for inspiration. It sure helped me!

Sarah Barry said...

I love your husband's bit of wisdom about saving the drowning child! Makes so much sense.

We don't do too much playing or projects in bedrooms, but all the little things definitely accumulate in there and it makes me crazy. I am a ruthless purger as you know. I often go in and throw away stuff while they are at school - they would die if they knew this!

In general, I don't let my kids "move on" to the next thing - playing, snack, reading, etc until they have picked up their mess. I called them in from outside yesterday because they had built a "house" in the living room and it was a wreck. Some days I'm lazy and I let it all go.

Unknown said...


I don't have children, but I remember well my dad doing just what your husband did! :) A deep clean was never easy for anyone. One trick my mom implemented was setting a timer - 10 minutes. That's it. She made a game out of it. See how much you can get done in 10 minutes. I find this works well now as an adult when I get distracted super easy. You might do this on Tuesday Thursday and Saturdays, so it's not every day (geeze mom! ;) ) but 30 min a week - or even 20, well that works too! You could do a Timer Tuesday with 10 minutes of straightening up, Trash it Thursday where they spend 10 minutes throwing away junk (and working on a jump shot) and Sweep it up Saturday when the floors get a good sweep up (but have to be clear to do it). This way too, it's not the same straightening each time, but focused tasks. I also found music to be a good motivator, the Oldies were a favorite.

I've also worked to try and identify hot spots, the way you did with the pouches - amazing!

Good luck to you mama!

Unknown said...

deep cleaning was not easy for some to do it every day. basically i don't let my kids move on every thing so that,s why my house is a little bit clean but thanks for shearing your blog

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