I know, I know. It’s ridiculous. We try hard to instill work ethic and values and independence into our children. As in, it is their responsibility to keep their rooms clean, because it is their own space and they are the ones who messed it up.
But we all slack off a bit. Their rooms are upstairs and they don’t like to spend much time in them, so I don’t actually see the mess all that often — bedtime, every other night is it. Usually by that time I’m too tired to care about anything, much less a pile of papers under the bed and toys out of place.
Enough of that, though, and you’ve got a gigantic problem in the form of endless hours of cleaning. Plus, it had been years since I’d done a true toy overhaul.
Their rooms and closets were a packed plot of broken bits and pieces of discarded, never-used toy cars and fast-food toys, broken Legos, crumpled paper, many, many tote bags to hold the crumpled paper, too-small clothing and shoes, Lego boxes, (because we had at some point decided we had to keep all of them) and other childhood detritus that didn’t have a home with us anymore.
It was time.
It was past time.
We shipped the kids off for the day. If they knew I was throwing out toys that hadn’t been touched in two years, those toys suddenly would become their most loved and prized possessions.
I spent hours gleefully tossing half-finished drawings, old books and old toys into bag after bag to toss or donate. I did not waste much time on sentimentality. At one point in my life I would have considered everything my children touched as keepsake worthy. Now I am ready to purge.
However, before you think I am a cold-hearted mama, I did save all the stories my son has written — and really I should be commended for that because he has written a lot of stories. For now, they can stay.
My daughter’s room has two huge closets and they’ve become a sort of storage area for junk we hadn’t found a home for yet. Not anymore. Old candles, old decorative items, old junk — all gone.
The beauty, the release I felt once everything was disposed of was tantamount to climbing a mountain – I assume. I’ve never actually climbed a mountain, but I’m sure it totally feels as much of an accomplishment as cleaning your kids’ rooms.
The book organization alone was enough to make me feel I’d been a catalyst for world peace. The bare floors inspired poetry.
My children, when they returned to clean, lightened rooms, were understandably pleased. Probably because they didn’t see the amount of bags of their stuff I’d given away.
My son, always the one to offer a helpful comment, came to me after surveying his room and said admonishingly, “You didn’t really clean much in my closet, Mom.”
This was, of course, not true as that was where most of the garbage bags I filled came from. It also wasn’t all that nice of a thing to say.
But I let it pass. Sooner or later he’s going to notice what I’ve taken away. I’ll be sure to reply, innocently, “I have no idea where that went. I didn’t clean very much in your closet.”
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on April 27, 2016.