February 21, 2007

Binge cleaning

The melting began yesterday. Temperatures inched past freezing, and when I opened the back door to let some of the moist air into the house, I could hear icicles dripping everywhere, all along the edges of the house, clear little streams of water running down onto the banks of snow below. Finally, we seem to be moving towards the end of February: only a week left. When I walked out to the mailbox, I did not wear mittens or a hat, and the air felt soft against my face.

My husband always goes out of town during the last week of February, taking at least one child with him. This year, he took With-a-Why. I used to be careful not to mention it on my blog when my husband was out of town because I didn't want to advertise to stalkers that I was home alone. It has lately occurred to me, though, that the gang of teenage boys at my house, who stay up late into the night playing music because it's vacation week, are far more threatening to any burglar than my gentle husband. And then, too, I've got those seven ferocious cats, who would ruin anything a criminal might try to steal by peeing on it.

With my husband and youngest child out of town, I've got all kinds of extra time in the evenings. So I decided to clean our messy house, tackling closets, corners, and those weird piles of stuff that seem to accumulate in our house. I often brag on my blog about how wonderful my sons are, but readers might notice I never say a word about how great they are at keeping the house clean. That's because while I am willing to exaggerate for the sake of a good story, I draw the line at downright lies.

The last time I did a thorough cleaning of the boys' room was last December. Usually after I do a big cleaning, I give the boys a lecture about how they need to keep the room clean, how they are plenty old enough to be responsible for cleaning, and how their parents should not have to clean up after them. The guilt lecture, accompanied by sighs and stern looks, works for a few weeks. Then we have about a month during which Shaggy Hair Boy will get assigned the room as his chore, and he will make some kind of half-hearted attempt to clean by tossing stuff in the closet and shoving junk under the futon.

Skater Boy and Blonde Niece will chip in and do some cleaning on weekends, but because the boys' room is upstairs, I will sort of forget about it. Then we deteriorate to the stage in which With-a-Why gets assigned the room as his chore, which means the only part that gets cleaned is the very middle of the room. Because pushing a vacuum cleaner over the carpet a few times, shoving all the games and books and papers and crumpled socks to the side is what With-a-Why considers the proper way to clean a bedroom. (Yes, he is the baby of the family – does it show?)

Then one day, I will walk into the room to get something out of the closet, look around, and realize that the corner near the bookshelf looks like some kind of trash heap. At that point, I either go into psycho mother mode, yell at the kids, and make them clean it up, or I just take matters into my own hands and clean the room myself, knowing that I will at least have the satisfaction of throwing away stuff the boys would have hung onto.

It's actually fun to clean a room that is a complete and total mess. Because it looks different when I am done. After stuffing a garbage bag with crumpled papers and broken toys, filling a whole laundry basket with dirty socks and wadded up t-shirts, taking numerous spoons and plates and cups down to the kitchen, shoving books into the overflowing bookshelves, vacuuming up crumbs that have probably been there since Christmas, and piling DVDs onto the trunk that they use as a table, I looked around the room and admired how nice it looked. One wall is painted a deep red, with a tall wooden bookshelf, and a cream-coloured wall is covered with posters. Big windows look out over the front yard.

Then I went downstairs, rehearsing my "This room is going to STAY clean" speech in my head as I went.

23 comments:

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e) I swear you just channeled my sister with her daughters and their rooms.

Laughed out loud at this one.

Thanks.

FA

PPB said...

let me know how that speech works out.

maybe you could podcast it?

chichimama said...

I am not looking forward to that part of my kids growing up. Sigh. Do share the speech so I can save it for a later use...

Linda (FM) said...

Is that speech published somewhere? My mom used gave it on a monthly basis.

listmaker said...

I was just thinking today how I should take advantage of RT's extended absences this week and clean his room. Then I took a look at it and admitted I wasn't up to the task. He'll get a reprieve until I can't find any more spoons.

DevilMacDawg said...

You said "It's actually fun to clean a room that is a complete and total mess." Do you want to come visit my house, and have some fun? ;)

Lisa C. said...

I recently plowed the playroom, but not before I bought a new set of shelves for the closet... kind of a half-hearted "everything in its place" attempt. Except... it worked! Now everything does have a place, and one is actually able to walk through the room without getting a foot full of legos. As a bonus, the Moosh will actually PLAY in the playroom now! Such a difference... I really get where you're coming from.

kelli said...

Do you have trouble fitting all the 'new' dishes in the cupboards?

landis said...

It is really hard for me to imagine you in 'psycho mother' mode.

jo(e) said...

Kelli: Luckily, they are mostly bowls that fit inside each other and plates that stack flat. The funny part is how many socks the boys have now. I think many of our extra kids leave socks here so they truly are multiplying ...

Landis: Oh, I can definitely go into psycho mode, although I think I am getting mellower as I get older because now my kids start joking with with me when I start in on them ...

Bitty said...

Whoa...you throw their things away! And they don't complain?

jo(e) said...

Bitty: Well, that's the price they pay for me cleaning their room ....

Kyla said...

This sounds oddly familiar to what I do with BubTar's room. Of course, I don't get a few weeks of cleaning out of him. *lol* And I have to clean it every week or two, because 4 year olds can dump all their toys in no time flat. Josh and I were just talking about what his room will be like as a teen, because I can't see it getting much better!

Psycho Kitty said...

Every time I come over here, you save me from myself. I get in these "i'm a horrible housekeeper and don't provide enough rules and discipline and feed the kids pancakes for dinner and shouldn't i be upset that the kids are running wild around the house we have no stability' moods, and convince myself that I'm warping my children, and then I read this, and I feel like maybe they will grow up to be okay and happy *without* me insisting on them following some subjective standard of What One Must And Must Not Do.
I don't know if that made sense, but thank you anyway.

jo(e) said...

Psycho Kitty: I can remember struggling with that when my kids were little. I think in the culture we live in, there is this idea that being a "good parent" means somehow controlling our children, with all kinds of rules like making sure they eat three meals a day, or go to bed at a certain time, or do their homework, or whatever .... I used to feel guilty about the kind of parent I am until I noticed that my kids were turning into decent human beings even though I was ignoring most commonly held assumptions about parenting.

Rana said...

I was going to say something reassuring, something along the lines of it will change when they're responsible for a place of their own (like my brother, who became a fanatical dishwasher after living in GrottyVille as an undergraduate)... but then I looked around at my desk here at work, and thought about the chaos at home, and decided against it.

I love the sound of melting snow and ice. It's soothing.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I love the speech. Gigi gets it on a regular basis. YD cleans her room all the time, but see today's post about her attention to the dishes.

Amy said...

Thank you for this post. I have the same worries as psychokitty, with the addition of the "are my kids going to remember only the mad speeches about how we're not just going to leave backpacks and jackets and shoes right inside the front door blah blah blah" worry.

You've made me long once again for a two-story house. Our one-story 1951 California house, with no mudroom/entry hall, kids' bedrooms in full view from the living room, kitchen counter visible from the front door, and so on makes it hard for me to ignore mess, even though we'd all be happier if I could. Hmm... maybe I need to invest in some kind of folding screens. Or blinders.

jo(e) said...

Amy: Our bedrooms are upstairs, but our downstairs is just one big room, with living area open to the kitchen area. We have no family room or dining room or anything separate. I like the idea of having just one room, because it means we all spend time together, but yeah, it does mean that anyone walking in gets to see the kitchen counter full of dirty dishes, all the amps and guitars and stacks of sheet music, all the wet sneakers strewn about the floor ....

Maybe keeping a stack of blindfolds near the front door could work.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I get enormously filled up with satisfaction when I shoo the kids out of their bedrooms and toss garbage they'd keep into black garbage bags. It clears my head.

"What's in the bags, momma?"

"Nuthin', honey."

Rev Dr Mom said...

We go through those cycles of the room being at least semi-clean for a week or so and then deteriorating into complete and utter chaos. The Kid did an EXCELLENT job cleaning it a couple of days ago, motivated by the desire to go to the movies with a girl this week, and knowing I'd had it with the state of the room.

And he leaves a trail behind him, wherever he goes....somehow he doesn't get the concept of throwing something away or putting it away when you are finished with it...sigh...

kathy a said...

i'm late to the party, but daughter is about to get the big lecture again. she kind of cleared a path after i tripped over a pile a few weeks back, but even the path is obscured now. i hauled out what i think was making the room smelly a week ago, but am determined to put the real cleanup on her.

Ookami Snow said...

I wish my mom cleaned my room for me when I was growing up, but i think she had the philosophy that I could live in a mess if I want, as long as I limit it to just my room.

Although it helped that my room was in the corner in the basement as far away from the front door as possible.