Operation Cleanup: Some Simple Steps for Organizing that Mess
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6
When it comes to motivating your children and instilling good housekeeping habits, you can forget feng shui. You need a lot of Godly wisdom and a little bit of finesse— the subtle, skillful handling of a situation. And let’s face it, we all have “situations.”
Situation #1: Sunday morning, 9 a.m. Where could his church shoes be? I ask myself while attempting to walk through my son’s room. (I know you have never waited until Sunday morning to try to find your children’s church shoes. And you never scrambled to find his glasses or homework or backpacks two seconds before the late bell rings at school three miles away either). But I have. And the result is often disastrous, as well as painful. One step too far to the right and ouch! What is that? His prized transformer is, indeed, instantly transformed into several unidentifiable chunks of brightly colored copolymer material--despite its superior claims of excellent rigidity, impact toughness, and abrasion resistance. After dismay gives way to anger, I find myself shamelessly stuffing the bits of the broken toy beneath the smelliest garbage in the kitchen trash and praying I never have to hear those words, “Mom, have you seen my transformer?” Tip: Out of sight, out of mind.
Situation #2: Sunday night, 9 p.m. Weekend chores have gone neglected in favor of running to birthday parties and grocery shopping. Exhausted I walk to his room to tuck him—barefoot once again. Ewww! What is that stuck to my heel? I cannot count the times I have scrubbed unknown viscous blobs from my child’s rug after sniffing to identify the source, testing for colorfastness, and pre-treating for exactly the three minutes prescribed. Well, make that two minutes and thirty seconds. I have been known to rearrange the furniture in order to hide the discolored aftermath—you know, that obviously three shades lighter, pinkish-purplish tinted area in the carpet much larger than the original spot. Dear Parent, if you have not yet had that joy, don’t worry. Your day will surely come. Do not--I repeat--do not stress over a carpet stain. It’s not the first. It won’t be the last. Hint: Cheap area rugs are lifesavers, as are thick, fuzzy slippers.
Situation #3: Monday afternoon, 4 p.m. In despair I roll up my sleeves, and we get to work. “But where do we put all this stuff, mom?” A good friend of mine offered these suggestions:
*Hanging pocket organizers for the closet doors work well to hold shoes, toys, belts, and accessories.
A small filing cabinet is perfect for filing school papers you want to keep. Think cheap. Corrugated cardboard holds up well to light contents, while brightly colored heavy-duty plastic bins are more suitable for heavier objects like videotapes, building blocks, and Lincoln Logs. Save popcorn tins for army men, Barbie accessories, and puzzle pieces.
*If your preschool child cannot reach the bar in his closet, a makeshift bar can be rigged from PVC pipe. Just drill a small hole in each end, tie heavy duty twine, rope, or even sturdy weed eater line through the holes and suspend from the original bar. Be sure your child is taught not to swing on this bar, as this could bring down the whole shebang. The weight from the clothes, however, will keep the bar in place. This allows your child to learn to hang up his own clothes and frees the upper bar for unseasonable wear or those expensive Sunday outfits which you loathe to find on the closet floor after pressing.
Situation #4: Keeping up the routine. Let’s face it. Getting our children to clean their rooms is sometimes bribery. My wonderful friend also suggested I use poker chips for different job levels:
*picking up toys and vacuuming—blue;
At the end of the week, the child gets to spend his/her chips for McDonald’s certificates, cash exchange, an item from the treasure chest, or movie rental. If you cringe at the idea of poker chips, laminated play money works just as well. This gives them something tangible they can collect as the week goes by, and is sometimes more interesting to them than just counting stars on a chart. Make sure to give appropriate verbal praise when handing out the rewards.
And finally, DO take time to enjoy your children. If your child learns to keep his room spic and span, then great. You have accomplished a monumental feat and will be nominated for Mother of the Year. If not, guess what? Your child is going to grow up and go out into the world anyway. Are your golden years going to be spent ruminating about a cluttered room from 50 years back, or are you going to reach for those precious memories of playing, talking, and teaching your child about life, love, and God? A wise woman once told me, “Hon, you got to choose your battles.” Arm your child with the knowledge. Show him by example and teach him the proper way to put things away. And if he doesn’t do it, then let him learn naturally from the consequences. Sorry about that transformer, son.