Spelunking into a Ten Year Old’s Room

A few weeks ago, the edict came down from on high: no TV or video games for TRC until his room was clean. He agreed, acknowledging that his room had gotten out of hand, and Denisa and I settled in, confident that his Minecraft and Doctor Who addictions would bring him to his cleaning senses in a day or two.

What we didn’t anticipate was the fact that he possibly might not have the capacity and understanding of how to clean a room that had gotten that messy. It wasn’t Hoarders status just yet, but it was on its way. Days turned into weeks, and he spent a lot of time in that room cleaning it, but I had no idea if any progress was actually being made. The whole point was to have him do it on his lonesome.

But there comes a time when you just have to go up to the room and see for yourself what was happening. TRC swore he was more than halfway done, so I went up to give it a once over and offer a few pointers on how to finish it off in short order.

When I arrived, I was amazed to find the room actually looked much worse than when he had started. In hindsight, this makes sense. Whenever I have to really clean something that’s gotten too cluttered, it gets a lot messier before it gets to the point where it’s getting straightened. TRC had been giving it the old college try, but it just wasn’t coming together for him.

So I broke down and offered to help him do it.

I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not. It took six hours of me sitting with him in his room, looking at all sorts of knick knacks to decide what could be thrown away and what should be kept. I was as heartless as I could be, reminding him that Happy Meal toy collections that never get played with don’t really have much sentimental value. And we went through everything: drawers, shelves, under the bed. You name it, we decluttered it. In the end, we had two garbage bags full–one of trash, and one of yard sale candidates. The room actually has a floor you can see, and the horizontal surfaces are more or less in order.

I’ve now given him The Talk: I showed him his room, and told him that when Denisa and I told him to clean it, this was the condition we expected it to be brought to. And if we ever saw it in a condition other than what it was in right then, then his video game and TV privileges would be revoked again, this time without me stepping in to help him. Finally, I warned him that at any time, Denisa and I could go to his room with a trash bag and throw away anything we found that wasn’t put away. Items of value could be bought back from us with cash.

I’m hoping I was clear, and I’m hoping I don’t have to do this again.

Still, time will tell. One of the hardest parts about being a parent is that there are times when you just don’t know what the right thing to do is. Leave the boy to flail around on his own, or step in to help him out and show him how it’s done? In the end, you follow your instincts and do the best you can.

For better or worse, the room is cleaned now. Let’s hope it stays that way.

How do you handle room cleanliness for your kids? Got any pointers? Please share.

1 thought on “Spelunking into a Ten Year Old’s Room”

  1. I have zero experience teaching kids to clean, so this is not advice. But man. Cleaning and organizing things is a skill. I remember being so clueless about it when I was a kid, and I’ve known adults who don’t have a handle on it. It seems so easy…for those of us who already know how to do it. Much, I suppose, like everything else.

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