Watch Where You Step

This morning I went into Gal Smiley’s room to change her sheets.

An hour later I managed to hack my way out, having done the bare minimum of tidying required to beat my way through the jungle of her room to get to her bed, then down to the sheets underneath all the junk, then back out again. Ugh.

When I was an idealistic, pre-kids adult, I had a teenaged cousin whose room was like this. There was a foot-deep pile of dirty clothes all over her floor at all times and you could barely open the door to get in there – and it was a large room. It fascinated me, because my mother never would have let me get away with that, and also I shared a very small room with my older sister. After two beds and two dressers and a laundry hamper, there was barely three square feet of floor space – if I dropped one sweatshirt that would have covered the whole area.

So of course, like all idealistic, pre-kids adults, I was all, “Oh, I’d never let my kid do that.”

And now I am eating my words, OF COURSE, and they are salty and bitter. Ugh.

The Captain isn’t so bad. He has the biggest room and he’s a tidy guy in general with a healthy respect for all household processes. Plus, he doesn’t really spend any time in his room except to sleep.

The girls are both terrible, though. At least our youngest is a relatively clean person – she does tidy up things like used tissues and dirty clothes – but she always has at least three major craft projects on the go at any time, splayed all over her floor, plus a hundred stuffed animals who are, no doubt, joining in like the shoemaker’s elves.

My middle daughter is the slob, and I really hate to use that word, because it seems like such a label and the kind of thing that will we will have shrieking matches over in about six months’ time. But really, her room is just gross. I was just in there for an hour and there were dirty socks and tissues all over, discarded dirty clothes freely mixing with the not-put-away clean clothes from last week all over the floor, dust balls in the corner where piles of half-broken toys and odd little scraps of paper have piled up. UGH.

It’s going to have to come to a head, I’m afraid.

One thing I wish I’d done differently as a parent is make my kids make their beds in the morning. This was something my mother was militant about. I absolutely hated making my bed as a kid, because it was wedged up against a wall and very difficult to pull out, and so tucking in the blankets and bedspread was a nightmare, especially for a young weakling like myself. So when I grew up and got a place of my own, I just went with a comforter that I’d sometimes, occasionally, lazily pull up in the direction of the pillows. That degraded until I wasn’t making the bed at all, ever, and as a result it’s been almost impossible to get the kids to make theirs.

I just read an article about how the most successful people in the world have one thing in common that they do every day – they make the bed. Not only does it set the tone for their whole room – their spaces are tidier and more open – but it seems to give them an organized, ready-for-the-day kind of mindset. Looking at my daughter’s rooms – and heck, my own unmade bed – it’s kind of no wonder that the house feels pretty chaotic most of the time.

The teen years are probably not the best time to try to retrain them into awesome bed-makers. But I think maybe I should try.

8 thoughts on “Watch Where You Step

  1. Shannon

    I became a bed maker in my 40’s, so there is hope! I 100% agree with the idea that it is a tipping point that leads to me having my life together. I wouldn’t have believed it until I started doing it religiously myself. We do get up ridiculously early in my house. All of us are out the door, most days, by 7:45 am, so I don’t actually make our bed until I get home in the afternoon. I head upstairs, change my clothes and make our bed. Just that little thing is like a ripple effect that spreads through the rest of the house. Even Mike has become a convert. Try it for a month, see what it does.

  2. I’m a late-in-life can’t-leave-my-room-without-making-my-bed too, so I wouldn’t stress. And I have one slob and one natural organizer, and i hate the dirty-mixed-with-clean-clothes too (Angus), but I would tread very carefully (I know you will anyway) because some of my most scarring memories are about my mother attacking me over my room. She would usually ambush me when I was half-naked right out of the shower or something, and it was dreadful. Okay, clearly this is about my stuff and not your stuff. Carry on.

  3. Mark

    Interesting – we are bed-makers, though of course I have never thought of us that way until this column. I’m a very “neat” sleeper, and Shirley is too to a large extent, so for us making the bed is very simple. (Sometimes I actually make the bed while I am still in it – from the inside I just kick the folds out until everything is straight, then lift up one corner and slip out – done!)

    We’ve always insisted that our kids do this too. There was much frustration at first as they learned how to do it, but we made it clear that perfection was not the goal, just a decent effort. Now they (usually!) do it in a few seconds. Nothing fancy, but it does make their bedroom look a lot less chaotic IMO.

  4. smothermother

    I had to make my bed every day as a kid, and as soon as I moved out, nope! Now I make my bed every night before I get into it. Strange I know. I’ve read articles about it being better to keep the bed unmade to help air out the dampness that happens when you sleep. And being a woman of a certain age going through a certain period in life (ahem), it’s actually a smart thing to do at the moment.

    The jellybean does NOT make his bed. He’s messy AND a hoarder, so you can imagine his room. He like to roll himself up like a burrito to sleep so there really isn’t any point in making his bed. But I guess he could un roll the comforter and sort of spread it out on his bed. I’m not ready for that battle though. But then again maybe I should climb that hill before the teen years are in full force.

  5. My kids have the smallest rooms you can imagine, but my 10yo also has multiplying stuffies, clothes mixed in dirty with clean, and crafty things on every inch. There are not a lot of inches. I don’t know what to do…even forcing her to make her bed is impossible mainly because she has too many blankets, pillows, and stuffies she NEEDS on the bed at all time, including while she sleeps.

    I give up. But then, when I realize she’s wearing long johns as tights (because she can’t find clean tights that fit), I go in there with a box and a bag and I purge. This past weekend we did the clothes together. It was….less efficient than if I had done it on my own, but I want to demonstrate HOW to do this efficiently so I can source this out to her with a consequence of not doing the job to my liking in the very near future.

    She’s 10 and a half.

    Girl teen years will be oh so much fun. 🙂

  6. Jonathan

    Miss 14 in our house ran out of socks this morning, after we quite deliberately left her to cause her own nightmare. I will admit I grinned when she lost the plot spectacularly.

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