1 Corinthians 14:33 God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
2 Peter 2:19 A man is slave to
whatever has mastered him.
A while back, my family was considering a move to a small town near us so we could attend the church there. It got serious enough that I actually had a realtor out to look over our place and see what she thought we could sell it for.
When I had finished showing her around, we went back into my kitchen and sat down, and I asked her what she thought I should do to make the place more sell-able. I was thinking along the lines of painting and new floors. So I was surprised when she told me that other than touch ups, I could probably get away with not repainting the whole house, since many times people want to put their own touches on everything.
No, she said, I really just needed to declutter.
Declutter? I was surprised. I mean, I have always prided myself on keeping things and reusing them. And I wasn't a hoarder...
I began to look around. Okay, maybe I WAS hanging on to things I could get rid of. I looked at things through new eyes. And it wasn't pretty...
We didn't move after all, but I began to declutter anyway. Little bits at a time, I went through things and even sold some "clutter". I gave things away and carted clothes I have saved forever to Goodwill and the big collection box at the gas station here. I have a long way to go, and I'm working on it.
Which brings me to today...
My younger kids have an older mother. As in, a mother who will be 60 years old this month. Age is beginning to rear it's ugly head, and one way it's done that is that my knee is bothering me a bit. Which translates too: Mommy doesn't like to climb stairs anymore. When I overheard my little girls, ages 10 and 7, talking about how great that was because when Mommy says clean your room, she rarely checks up, I knew things were not good. Still, again, it hurts to climb the stairs, so I would mostly send big sister up to check things out.
This week, my son Spencer has been here, and he has done amazing things around our yard, and I was in the mood to do some more decluttering. I started with our addition, which is the worse, and as I was working today, I told the younger kids to go clean their rooms. I told them they had 30 minutes, and after that, everything not picked up was going in the trash.
Now it's not like I don't tell them this often. In fact, every day, from 10 to 2, we do school, and then we clean. They are supposed to be cleaning their rooms on almost a daily basis.
But today, I told the 10 year old girl she only had 30 minutes, too. At which point, she got absolutely hysterical. There is NO WAY she could clean her whole room in 30 minutes, she tearfully declared. And as she was having a panic attack, the 7 year old also began to wail that the 10 year old had helped her mess up her room, and she should have to help, too.
I remained firm. 30 minutes, I redeclared and went to hang clothes on my new clothes line son Spencer had hung.
30 minutes, later, I went to check.
Have they been motherless? Or are they deaf when the mother tells them to clean? Or is this a matter of too much stuff for 4 young children to handle?
Because it was BAD!
And it's an ongoing thing. It's just that once in a great while, I lose it and I yell and holler and I make a big show of throwing stuff away.
But today, I kept my composure. I told them, you simply have too much stuff. If your room can get in this condition, then obviously it's more than you can handle.
And the declutter began.
At first, the 7 year old was smug. She thought she had done a pretty good job of cleaning her room. No matter that you could not see the floor, that was just trash she didn't want anyway. She was confident that her things were safe.
Everything she wanted, you see, was piled on her bed. And on her desk. And on the little kitchen that I have told her repeatedly not to pile stuff on.
So I called for trash bags, which she brought me, still smirking. She's a master smirker. Ask her siblings.
She ran on off to play outside while, she thought, I cleaned her floor.
I opened the bag, totally ignoring the stuff on the floor. I started with the bed. I literally filled a trash bag with the stuff on the bed. In went the princesses dresses. In went some dolls. In went a leapster. Under the bed, which she hadn't bothered with much, had her little camera. Some more little toys. Into the bag they went.
At some point, a sibling walked by and saw what I was doing, and headed off to tell her. She frantically ran up the stairs, and saw what was in the trash. Great weeping and wailing began. "But I didn't know you meant I had to clean off the bed!!" She cried desperately.
"Selah, I said clean your room. Picking up everything on the floor and piling it on the bed isn't cleaning."
This is one of my mantras in EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY. They hear it often. Moving things, whether it be in the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room or your bedroom, from one surface to another surface, is not cleaning. Cleaning is picking things up and putting them where they belong.
"Give me another chance!!" She screamed in horror, huge tears streaming down her face. I was not moved. I finally sent her outside so I could finish.
As I worked, I decided that enough truly was enough, and that one container of toys was all she needed. I pulled out all her bins and began to go through them.
All the socks I thought were lost? In the bins. Remember this morning when everyone was so frustrated doing school because there were no pencils? In the bins. Wow, here's her shoes. Here's the wrapper to every candy bar she has eaten in the past six months. Hair pins, headbands. CUPS?? PLATES??
I think I spent a couple of hours in there, but when I was done, I had carried out a large trash bag of toys to give away and at least two large trash bags of plain old trash and broken things. I collected a large number of pencils, pens and dishes. All her crayons and markers went into the communal art box. Once I was done, she had one bin of toys left. I told her, "It's your choice. If you want to fill this bin with socks, shoes, dishes and trash to the point where there is no room left for toys, I will take the rest of the toys to Goodwill too."
Then I moved to the boys room.
Since they share a room, I got them down to three bins of toys. But the sheer amount of trash, sticks and all kinds of outdoor junk they had collected in there was amazing. I didn't have to fill a trash bag with toys, but I filled another couple of bags just with trash and sticks and shells and old jars of dead bugs. I even found a bunch of dried up snakes. Lovely...
The ten year old? I gave her a bit more time while I rested, but I am on my way out there very soon. Hopefully, she was big enough to purge the room herself. I told her one bin of toys, and all trash and clothes had better be out of there. She says they are, but I've obviously heard that before.
Do I feel mean? Yeah, a little bit. I want them to have "things". But I also want them to learn to take care of those things. If they have so much they literally cannot contain it all, then they have too much. And I'm tired of telling them to clean their rooms, and having them do such a poor job.
And sometimes, a mom has to resort to drastic measures to make her family realize she means business. I sort of doubt I will have to do this again for a while. I mean, if nothing else, they only have one bin each of toys now. And they, especially Selah, lost a few favorite things by not taking mommy seriously. But it shouldn't be so hard to keep the room clean - at least of toys, anyway. Candy bar wrappers, and dead snakes might still accumulate up there...
And some little girl is going to be awfully happy with those princess gowns...