It’s time to clean up and clean out the house. Yes, let’s throw away that broken toy that has been stored in the maybe-I-can-try-and-fix-it-pile on top of the fridge. No, we probably don’t need to keep ALL the almost-gone travel sized tubes of toothpaste we get at the dentist every visit. What? This drawer still has bibs and baby spoons in it? We can pass those on to another family for sure.
I admit, I’m not always on top of cleaning up. Last year, my kids came home for summer break armed with paper bags brimming with art projects, notebooks, tests, math papers and leftover school supplies. Those bags stayed right there in that mudroom until Labor Day. Hey, they were taken care of before the new school year began.
I’m no sage when it comes to organizing and you won’t see any great articles from me including cleaning tips. But be sure, if we were to abide by my kids’ set of cleaning rules, we’d be much worse off. Neatness according to them would include Legos as décor in every room – even the bathroom. We’d only wash bedsheets after a body imprint is clearly visible – It’s almost like a growth chart. And hand towels would always be kept near but not necessarily on the towel bar. Ours is apparently kept on the floor…next to the toilet…and they still use it. (Gross.) I am sure it’s fine. After all, we’re building immune systems here, folks.
One goal I had this summer was to make helping out and cleaning up around the house more of an expectation and norm, rather than a special request. See, this is how it usually goes:
“Alright kiddos, it’s time to clean up the house!”
“Do we have to? Why? Who’s coming over tonight?”
While my desire for general cleanliness is still confusing to them, what both amuses and frustrates me is the extraordinary lengths they’ll go in order to avoid cleaning or at least having to work hard. The list below is not exhaustive, but it does represent certain stereotypes and excuses that have occurred in my home. See if you can spot any of your kiddos here:
The Procrastinator: They are always “just about to do it” but they might be doing something important right now like…stretching. These yoga poses are time-consuming, but imperative to one’s fitness when engaging in such a labor-some activity like tidying up. (No joke – this is by far the lamest real excuse I’ve ever gotten.)
The Distributor: They carry things from one room to another and consider it a job well done. While transporting things various places, they get all their steps in for the day, and create treasure hunts for themselves and others later. However, the Distributor does have rules when it comes to Nerf darts – they must find a separate and unique place for each of the 2,756 darts in their care. Too many in the same spot or even room could be disastrous.
The Sentimentalist: “Ahhhhh, remember this?” They examine everything and reminisce for hours about the memories associated with each item. All the good times are relived and the sad ones met with tears…again. The Sentimentalist is in it for the journey, not the result. If left up to them, they’d have their very own storage unit at eight years old while never needing to empty that garbage bin mom gave them for cleaning.
The Player: “But I’m still playing with that!” Even if it’s been there for a week (or two), they have been planning – somewhere deep in their minds – what’s going to happen next in their game. How dare we interrupt their ingenuity and creative process. We’re just going to have to step over that Magic Tracks course that links the three bedrooms to the family room.
The Youngster: “I’m just a little kid, Mom.” This worked – to an extent – until my son was five, but if you’re old enough to go to Kindergarten, you’re old enough to help. The baby of the family can usually milk this excuse the longest, but sooner or later, you will be in charge of the silverware in the dishwasher, setting the table and cleaning the bathroom.
The Hider: Why put things away when you can just hide them somewhere else? Shoes behind the chair? Sure! Toys behind the books on the shelf? Genius – they can’t even be seen! Socks in the dress-up bin? Well, they are all clothes. The hider engineers a new home for items by exploiting little trafficked areas and spaces with minimal sight-lines. Why wouldn’t you look in the play food and kitchen set for your hairbrush?
The Pooper: Every family has one. They disappear for a timely bowel movement whenever the work is about to begin. The Pooper is horrified at the accusation of them trying to miss out on work. They insist this is a normal bodily function, that can’t be planned or controlled. Or can it? The jury’s still out on this one, but I know what my vote is.
The Wearer: Everything wearable gets put on. Necklaces, rings, sunglasses, shirts, shorts, socks – even the dirty ones, hats, Hawaiian leis…yep – wear it all. They are barely recognizable by the end and the epitome of inefficiency. Be prepared for the indignant disbelief when they are told the items will still need to be put away – properly.
The Gatherer: Tupperware and Ziplock bags are favorite vestibules for collecting random toys and game pieces that are too hard to find a place for. Monopoly money, Candyland cards, dice, markers and action figures can all co-exist in this cozy plastic place now called home. The Gatherer reasons that keeping them all together will help the hunting process later…when they can’t play that game or find that Lego character they’re looking for.
Overall, I can admire their inventive little minds and artistic spirit. Like the time when they dumped out three baskets of neatly folded clothes to make nests to roost on and lay their eggs. I may have shed a few tears at my wasted hour of labor, but it was adorable to see them sitting on a pile of t-shirts and socks, hatching stuffed animals! There will definitely be days in the future where I’ll be surprised by battle scenes of Risk men covering the living room floor, or the empty bookshelves because the family room’s been transformed into a library. I am good with a bit of mess for a creative cause.
No, I don’t need my house to be spotless, but can we please – for the love of God – hang up the hand towel in the bathroom? Let’s just start with that….