BY ROBIN WHITE ELLIS
One of the first things I learned with my daughter was that the children’s rooms on television—so organized, adorable, and clean—were lies. All lies. It is astonishing to realize the amount of small items that children somehow procure, and who knows from whence it all comes! From kid’s-meal toys and small gifts to both created and collected items (sometimes from nature), children amass treasures. Not only that, but they guard these treasures like sullen, angry dragons! You can attempt to throw away a train with no wheels or toss a doll missing her head and arm, but do so with care, because suddenly these broken bits will become worth more than anything Fort Knox has to offer your child.
I know this from personal experience, both as a mother and as a former small dragon myself. Around the age of four, I was fascinated by real estate magazines. I collected and hoarded those things like they were gems! A billionaire shopping for multiple residences could not have owned more of those real estate guides than I! My father and I were joking around in the car one day, and he threw my little magazine out of his window, as a joke. (I humbly apologize for the littering.) I probably had fifty more at home, but I broke down in sobs that shook the vehicle! My dad was aghast, in shock by the severity of my reaction. He could have run down a baby carriage, and I wouldn’t have reacted any stronger. My little four-year-old heart was broken, certain that my father had disposed of the very best magazine ever printed. There could never be another magazine so beautiful, so important. My daughter practiced being a grown woman as a toddler, wanting to keep all of her shoes, whether she could wear them or not. Two sizes too small? No problem. Those shoes were made for walking, and she would find a way to strut!
Children are like that, holding onto their chattel with tiny fists of steel. It is important to treat their feelings with respect while also attempting some logic. That is easier said than done, I know! Before you begin to beg for a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand…either over the child or room, or both…here are some tips to assist you when your child’s room becomes the stuff of nightmares.
- Get the little ones involved! You need to teach them early that you are not their maid. You will need to assist the younger children, but keep them involved in the process.
- Pick up the trash first! This may be delicate, deciding what items are trash. Your child will assume everything is important, so it is a good idea to involve a game in the process. Put on funny “cleaning costumes,” play some music and set a time limit to see who can pick up the most trash. Children get excited and are more apt to throw away items that they normally would grasp onto for no apparent reason.
- Fill a basket with the things that do not belong in the room and return them to their proper homes.
- Remove all of the outgrown clothes from the room. You could pack them away for a younger child or donate them.
- Any unwanted toys (if you are lucky) can be removed next, for either another child or donation purposes.
- Now that you have decluttered and downsized, get organized! Kid-friendly bins work wonders in a child’s bedroom. Be certain that they are clearly labeled with easy access for your child. By making sure there is a place for everything, your child will be less confused when maintaining their organization system.
- Display collectibles as part of the room’s decor. This also helps to keep them safe.
- Now that everything is where it should be, it is time to break out the dust and mop to finish off!
- Make an easily-read chore chart for your child to keep the room clean…hopefully.
There are many simple tricks to get your child on track. For example, if they have a difficult time letting go of some items, offer to take pictures of the things for their special keepsake album. It gets dicier when you have siblings sharing a room. Try some give-and-take games and challenges to encourage them to work together. No matter what you try, there will be times that your child will simply despise the process of gaining an organized space. And yes, that means you will despise it, too! However, the result often brings forth a sense of pride in children. Hold tight to that promise and face your little dragon!