Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kid's Rooms

Monday was my daughter’s eleventh birthday. She is at camp and she sent me an email asking me to clean her room so she will be happy when she gets home.  I was expecting more of a long letter filled with gratitude for the mere fact of giving her life. 
I have to think about what to post here about our changes.  For one, I don’t want to scare anyone. And I am sensitive about some things, and feel too vulnerable to post or think about even. And I don’t want to bore anyone by describing every tear or every nod to the gods about a particular moment. And many things are so darn complicated that I don’t even know where to start. 
So when my daughter sends an email asking us to clean her room, there is more to the story.  Although I like telling just certain parts like that because then I can just laugh.  And laughing is fun. 
So, yes, her email.  We told the kids that part of taking back our family included cleaning out our house and putting more TLC into it than we have in the last couple of years.  What she heard was that we were redecorating the entire house and buying all new furniture...and can we change everything into ultra modern because thats what she really likes. We were thinking more along the lines of putting pictures in frames and throwing out two year old Halloween candy we hid from them.  
Now, thankfully, we are not candidates for that hoarders show.  I don’t watch it because it is a scary possibility.  Me watching that show would be akin to a person who drinks a whole lot watching a show about alcoholism and recovery.  Too close for comfort. But people have described those houses and I know we aren’t there. Yet.
My kids rooms are driving me nuts.  They have accumulated more stuff and their rooms are popping at the seams. Their rooms used to be so lovely, and we played in them all the time. One of my pressure points about changes needing to be made was the fact that I break out in hives when I enter their rooms now. So, we spent time in my son’s room this weekend and, although we are not finished, it is so much better. I conveniently forgot to take a before picture, but  the after picture starts this post. (That black thing is not a vacuum cleaner.  It is my oldest daughter's ultra modern fan that the little kids stole from her room the minute we returned home from dropping her off.)  Here is a picture of my youngest daughter's room if you want an idea of the before picture. 

And while I am at it, this is my oldest daughter's room, the one who wants me to clean her room. This is the messiest it gets - she was just in a rush to catch the bus to camp

I am happy to report that all of these changes that we want to tackle in the fall MAY not be as hard as we expected. The kids were across the street and my husband and I WORKED ON THIS TOGETHER. I capitalized that because our approach to this is so different that we should have a mediator in the room with us while we do it. I want to start by organizing all the toys and pieces, basically inside out.  He wants to just throw stuff away or push it in a closet or under the bed so it feels good to walk in.  Starting this project together was akin to having a Jew and a Christian start by needing to come to an agreement on Jesus’ relevance to the world. 
We didn’t finish, but we were both so happy with the results.  I would probably do a better job than Steve if I had about 10 years to do each room.  I start things, and pile things, and sort things.  And then I get hungry and distracted and the piles stay there and nothing gets finished. He shoves everything and it lasts until you want to get one toy out and the entire closet falls out, just like in the movies.  Or maybe the hoarder show.  But I don’t watch that so I wouldn’t know. 
So we pulled things out and started working together.  Until I freaked out when he went to throw away a piece of the LiteBrite and I had a stack for those little pieces. Or maybe it was when he tried to mix Legos and Play Mobile. We eventually found a rhythm and he gave me a timeline and made me something to eat when I got hungry.  I wasn’t near finished but he said we had an hour left and we needed to start finding containers for the different stacks so we could go out on our date night.  That last part gets a little hard for me and boy, do I get distracted.  He stayed right there and we finished together.  
Everyone was elated.  The kids wanted to play in there right away.  My son wanted to build lego forts and didn’t want his sister on the Nilo Table.  She was easily appeased with a set of blocks that had been buried and spread apart for a year.  They played happily for an hour while we got ready to go out. 
The afternoon not only included us working together, therefore strengthening our marriage. We enjoyed it.  The results made the kids play together happily, and created incredibly good energy. 
We had a sitter and no plans.  It is part of this project - spending time together, building our marriage, having fun together again. This, obviously, will take some time to re-enter the groove and remember what it is like to relax together. 
Because the only thing we wanted to do was have cocktails in our son’s new clean room. 


  1. Once again, I laughed outloud while also seeing myself. Thank you for being so generous with your honesty. I read those books about remaking your life, blah, blah and get all jazzed up and then flame out in about 7 minutes. Your approach is so sane and steady. A Buddhist master was once asked, "What is Zen?" and he replied by saying, "Doing one thing at a time." This is you. Marching your way toward enlightenment one step at a time.

  2. uh oh, on the lite brite throw away

  3. And did you? Have cocktails in his clean room? I think I'd vote for that...