Every now and then I flip through those Pottery Barn Kids catalogues, or look through Pinterest at pictures of beautifully organized playrooms, and think – we could do this, we can make the children’s rooms look nice like this. Then I wake up and remember that I have kids that actually live in their rooms. They play there, they bring their friends there, and sometimes they even sleep in there. No matter how many cute storage things I try, mess happens. Over the years I’ve discovered there are six distinct stages of dealing with this mess.
Stage 1: Optimism
This is the stage when you’re first thinking of tackling the room cleaning. You think to yourself, I’m feeling fairly refreshed, let’s clean the kids’ rooms. If we all work together, it should only take about an hour. If you’re having this thought, grab a cool rag and lay down in a dark room for an hour, because you’re probably delirious. Seven hours later you’ll be looking back at your sweet, naïve self and wishing you had decided to do something easier. Like clean the bathrooms with a tooth brush, or reorganize the garage.
Stage 2: Shock and Horror
This is when you first get into their rooms. You gather up your cleaning supplies and haul the vacuum up the stairs or down the hall, then open the door. However, you can only open the door part way because there’s something blocking the door. You look in and realize you won’t need the vacuum because you can’t see the floor. You’re pretty sure there was a bed and dresser in the room at some point, but you can’t see those either through the mounds of stuff. WHERE did all of this stuff come from? Oh my goodness, is that a stuffed tiger hanging from the ceiling fan?
Stage 3: Determination
The determination stage comes after the shock wears off. It may take a while, and some parents may have a stage in between (we’ll call it Stage 2.5) that involves yelling and arm waving. If you find yourself bellowing things like, “How can you live like this?!”, “Where did all of this junk come from!?”, or “I’m getting the trashcan!”, you’re definitely in Stage 2.5. After you calm down from this – deep breaths in another room and sometimes a glass of wine helps – you hit Stage 3. This is where you roll up your sleeves and order your kids to work. You WILL get this room clean today, come hell or high water.
Stage 4: Organization
This is still in the earlier parts of cleaning the kids’ rooms – usually in hours one and two – where you’re trying to put things where they belong, while also trying to get the children to put things where they belong. Sometimes making up games or assigning tasks helps here. “Sydney, pretend you’re walking through woods picking up litter and you have to put it in the trash can.” Or, “Gwendolyn, you’re in charge of all of the ponies. Put all of the ponies in the pony bucket.” This stage is relatively calm, people have recovered from the hysterical crying after the initial trash can threat, and you have a small sense of accomplishment as you see the Barbie shoes placed in the Barbie shoe bucket. NOTE: DO NOT LOOK UNDER THE BED. I can’t emphasize this enough. DO NOT LOOK!! This will prematurely cut off Stage 4 and send you back to Stage 2.5. No one wants that.
Stage 5: Weary Resignation
This is also called the Just Get It Done stage. You’ve been working for hours. You’re constantly threatening the four year old to stop playing with her ponies, for the love, and pick up her shoes. You’ve heard the question, “are we almost done?” about 6,831 times, the nine year old disappeared 30 minutes ago, and you lost the argument with the seven year old about keeping the headless Barbies because they’re the zombies. Shove it all under the bed, my friend. That’s why you bought the dust ruffle.
Stage 6: Wine
It doesn’t matter if it’s only noon. I won’t judge.