Thoughts on Messy Rooms

I am a person who is obsessed with keen on order. Most of life is manageable because I follow my own little rules and systems. For example: when I take off the puppy’s collar, I set it on the dresser near the garage door. Then whenever I need to take her out, I know exactly where it is and don’t have to spend any time finding it.

If I make a mess, I clean it up.

You would think that after living with me for over eleven years, some of my little systems and rules would have influenced the boys. Heh. Not so much. And this really is a puzzlement. By refusing to manage their time and space, they make their own lives more difficult.

It’s a little silly, but their bookcase is a great case study on the whole issue. I went through and straightened it out. Books were set neatly on shelves (we’re talking 3 shelves about 2 feet wide apiece here) and organized by size. No, I didn’t arrange things down to the last detail. But a large collection of hard cover books go on one shelf, all the paperbacks are on another. Magazines are on the third, along with all of their Scouting books.

Time after time, they completely destroy the order of those shelves. Why?? If you look at the bookcase right now, you’ll see books and magazines and paperbacks shoved in all willy nilly. Everything looks like it will fall out, many items are shelved so you can’t see their titles, and finding anything in that mess is nearly impossible.

I asked a simple question: “How many books do you take off the shelf at a time usually?” The answer was “one”. So here’s my follow-up question: “Then why don’t you put the books back neatly one at a time?”

There was of course no answer.

The result? The only way to get the books back in order is to do a big job, pulling them out and restacking neatly. Multiply this times the dozens of other toys and shtuff that is out (Legos! Don’t get me started on Legos!!!) and they’ve got a big clean-up job on their hands. Bigger than if they’d just put a little away each day.

Did I mention that we have them clean their rooms EVERY night? We do! Some days they’re not even in the bedroom, yet it’s still messy. What is that all about?

If we didn’t have them clean their room, I am certain it’d be a pig sty very quickly. I’ve flirted with the idea of just closing the door and letting them have the mess but I just can’t stand the mess and I only last a day or so. Bottom line? I don’t trust them to eventually clean it themselves. And it’s embarrassing to have people come over and see things in such disarray.

Generally speaking, it’s kids their age who are coming over. I still care that the house is in order though. We’ve tried different rules, like “you can play with your friends when your room is clean” but I someone has forgotten to police it enough that the whole thing failed.

Sigh. Yes, I’m writing this because their room is messy again. It’s both encouraging and disconcerting that the younger boys have an easier time of keeping things clean.

What to do from here? I don’t know yet. I really really really just want them to manage things themselves. Is that too much to ask?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who despise messy rooms.

Image courtesy of cafenut via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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11 Responses to “Thoughts on Messy Rooms”

  1. Doug says:

    Curiousity caused me to take a closer look at that photo to see if it was your boy’s actual room or just the result of a quick Flicker search. I wonder if you noticed the Obama posters on the wall? That answered my question.

  2. Well sometimes you have to order things out so that it is much easier to find things as you said. Boys go through that certain stage where messy moment happens. Organizing your thoughts can equal to organize room.

  3. Sourav says:

    I also kept my room messy when I was small. But as I grew up I started liking clean rooms and got disciplined..I started keeping everything clean and systematic. This has happened due to my mom teachings also.
    So keep it up…..
    All will be fine when kids grow up


  4. Amy says:

    Doug, lol. Yes it was a Flickr pic. I was writing while the boys were sleeping and I didn’t think that flash photography would go over well.

    James, the older boys have never had a neat stage. Is that something I can hope for? ‘Cause right now, I’m not optimistic. They were rather offended with me all day yesterday. Apparently demanding that people actually rise to a standard is annoying. Who knew? They have had less organization to their thoughts recently. I think it works both ways: keep the room orderly and your thinking is less stressed at the very least.

  5. Amy says:

    Sourav, thanks for offering that bit of hope! What kinds of things did your mom do to encourage you?

  6. When I was young I used to put stuff everywhere, on bed, chair, etc. I guess boys are like that.

  7. Mary says:

    I can’t be real encouraging…but one kid is definitely cleaner than the other! My daughter lost three sets of car keys as a teen in her room (I quit at about 12 making her clean her room but since the boys were babies I threw away any “little” stuff she left out in the main rooms. I tried packing it all away and having them buy it back…blah blah blah. Finally I closed the door and walked away. Her house is spotless now…but then again she married someone who is obsessive about clean….LOL Seriously though, she keeps that house clean! I’m hoping that the same thing will happen with the boys but with me as their mom…I doubt it! I have decided not to have company over until my kids all move out.

  8. Shannon @ Lullaby Baby Carriers says:

    I feel your pain! I have a 14 year old step-son who i love dearly, despite the fact that he is completely oblivious of his mess. Actually he’s oblivious of everything. Honestly, if his head wasn’t attached, he wouldn’t be able to find it. I’m not sure what’s worse, the mess he makes or his inability to find things on his own (even if it’s where it belongs!). I also hate policing everything and nagging him to clean his room. I go through stages where I just don’t say anything about it for a few weeks in hopes that he’ll eventually feel inspired to clean up after himself, but he never does and eventually, I can’t take it anymore. It’s a vicious cycle. I can’t see any way out. *sigh*

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  10. Sourav says:

    Hi Amy,
    Sorry I’m Sourav…that extra c is a mistake.
    MY mom told me to keep all things clean bed, clean study table, clean eating habits and to study hard


  11. Amy says:

    Tim, tell me it isn’t so for all boys! Please??? I need them to take better care of their belongings. My other choice is to run screaming from the house…and buy myself a coffee.

    Perhaps I’ll do that last part anyhow, lol.

    Mary, I keep hammering away at the whole “I’m embarrassed when people come over to a messy house” message. They’re at least looking my way when I talk. That’s hopeful.

    Shannon, that’s exactly where I am! Rumor has it that puberty and the resulting increase in testosterone totally ruins their brains so we’re apparently sunk. I have had some luck with insisting on one small chore and I hope to expand to another one soon. At this rate, a quarter of the house will be clean when they’re 18 and move out.

    Angelina, gosh thanks! I’ll go over and look for a badge soon.

    Sourav, oh dear!! I will try and fix the other comments. Good for your mom! Please give her a hug for me. I hope that my boys remember what I am trying to teach them when they get older.

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