Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Messy rooms and clean kids

Junior spends hours in front of the mirror before allowing himself out of the door. Clothes are minutely inspected for hairs, creases, any sign of a spot or stain. Hair is checked for a single one out of place. A great deal of attention is devoted to colour co-ordination, brand name matching, appropriate deodorants and any aspect of appearance that you can think of. He's such a smart (and, of course, good-looking) lad that any parent would be proud to see him stepping out of their front door.

So how come he leaves behind a bombsite? His room looks and smells like, like, like.... no, I'm lost for words. And this is one aspect of his youth that cannot be compared to my own. When I was young not only was my room expected to be kept tidy but my bed had to be made as soon as I got up. A military inspection could have been made without me suffering too many ill consequences.

So what does one do about a room that makes the council's landfill site look like a Harrod's window dresser has been at it. Partner-who-loves-tea and I have different views on the matter. She wants to insist it is kept neat and tidy. My view it is his space and only if it affects us does it matter. Once a week when he is out she rushes in there and extracts everything that doesn't belong. Then she gets out the vacuum, air freshener and other cleaning aids and spends a couple of hours tidying up after him. If, by any chance, he needs some clothes in a hurry she will wash them for him.

My approach is rather different. I simply nag him until he brings out any dead food, dying socks and clothes that are capable of standing upright of their own accord. If he fails to do this the consequences are simple. I go in there and bring out the dirty dishes and leave the rest to fester. Then when he comes to need a particular item of clothing and it isn't clean he has to do without it. It has missed the wash until I next feel like doing one.

Which approach works best? I know you are dying to know the secret of how to manage this unruly youth. The answer is simple - neither approach works. The first one simply encourages him to rely on his Mum more and more. The second creates bad temper on both his and my part. He gets upset because he cannot have his favourite T-shirt to go out in and I get upset because the scissors have disappeared from the kitchen and it would take an hour to find them. I wouldn't mind what state he kept his room in if it didn't impact upon me but disappearing cutlery, plates and the like do affect me.

The only consolation in all this is that we don't seem to be alone in suffering this problem. Many, indeed most, parents I know seem to utter the same tale of woe. So what is the point of all this waffle - the simple message "YOU ARE NOT ALONE". (And if anyone does know the answer - Why haven't you shared it with the world????)


  1. I think that I get to be the first commenter every day because of where I live! golly, there is a room in my house like this: my 17 year old's room. The experiences are so common...Could messiness be hormonal?

  2. My teen son's room isn't really messy - because he has removed everything that he doesn't "play with" and consequently there's not a lot in it. However, he takes his clothes off and leaves them on the floor where he stood. It looks like he has simply vaporized. The jeans and undies are there on the floor and he just walks out of them - and back over them to get into bed.
    I now don't touch them and insist he takes them to the laundry basket (which admittedly, isn't in his room, but you could spit to it, it's so close).
    I am very aware of the fact that at this rate, he won't be able to operate on his own, at college for instance. Somehow, teenage girls seem to have more of an instinct but the boy would sleep on a bare mattress rather than re-make his bed!

  3. You are not alone! My daughter spends alot of time on her appearance, and is always beautifully turned out...but her room...well, if a visiting Environmental Health officer saw it they might close it done for health reasons.

    Every so often she cleans it out (not to my standards though) so she can actually get to her bed without stepping on things, and she usually finds items she had 'lost'.

    Still, she a lovely girl other than a bit messy.

  4. Nothing changes, ever! We're talking, thirty, forty years ago when I went through this...No.1 and only son's room was like a monk's cell. He painted the floorboards black and the walls white and kept his 'things in a cupboard and a box. Daughter's rooms were pits of untidiness. Not a lot had changed, must be a character thing...Youngest daughter live alone and is of the 'leave things alone,I where they are and No.1 son has to have everything in it's place.

    Tell them that anything out of place on cleaning day will be thrown out [and do it, even if you have to hide things] all items on furniture must be moved off for polishing and put on the bed [change linen the day before] so the bed must be made for cleaning day or contents of said furniture will be thrown. Items on the floor will be thrown out, and any clothes not in the laundry basket will also be thrown out [obviously you adapt this rather rigid formula to your own spec.]but if you don't show that you really mean it, nothing will change. You don't want to make their lives a misery so why should they have the right to infect yours.

    I do wish you the best of luck: This worked with me when I was living in the Nurses home...every wednesday was clean linen and cleaning day and the first time I disobeyed the rules I came back to find everything in the waste bin.

  5. I agree with your way. Kids need to learn responsibility. My children have been doing their own laundry for about 3 years now, because I was tired of washing bathing suits in winter and sweatshirts in the summer. Also... if they don't follow the rules, no matter how much whining, crying or anger I have to deal with, they don't leave the house.

  6. thank yee not alone HERE!!!!

    great post...I see mum (moannie) is here alot, even thought her ..are so long gone...over 30+ yrs..poor sole..

  7. I was proferred a cup (mine - A Starbucks' mug he gave me at Christmas - I think he might have pilfered it!) from his room the other day for washing...

    I had not seen my cup in at least a month... I had to put on a mask, scrape the new form of life into a bag (before it ran screaming out the door under its own volition!), which I then sealed and destroyed, and the cup has now been steeping in bleach for over a week...

    I daren't imagine what was once in the cup, but it had long lost its once liquid form...

    How do they do it??!

    And Moannie - Telling them stuff won't get washed unless... Just gets you a mouthful of filth... We/I have long lost the capacity to influence and threaten... I don't even know how to get it back again...

    Great, fun, fabulous, true and very real post, John - Fabulous! x

  8. This sounds oh so familiar. Sadly I do not have a cure for this either.