Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Toy soup: How I stopped hating my daughter's messy room


There is soup all over her bedroom carpet, but it’s not made with noodles or vegetables. It’s the very worst kind: Toy soup, hot and fresh.

Baby dolls mixed with Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket dolls, dollhouse dolls and American Girl dolls — jumbled together in a tangle of nylon hair and ill-fitting outfits. A hearty layer of stuffed animals and books hide clothes that should have made their way into the hamper and didn’t.

I scoop up entire handfuls of miscellany: Lego, hair clips, doll shoes, Duplo, coins, Lincoln Logs, Lite Brite pegs and stickers she peeled off her body and dropped onto the floor.

Sometimes I get so fed up that I take all of the toys out of her bedroom. Well, not all of them, because then she might get destructive and start tearing apart her drawers again. So I leave her dollhouse and dolls and think “OK, that’s not too bad. That should stay fairly clean.”

Nope. Little by little, she’d sneak toys back upstairs and start a new batch of soup.

I don’t know how it happened. I used to be that annoying child-free adult who tsk-tsked at the messy bedrooms of my nieces. How were they allowed to have piles of toys on the floor, books yanked off the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

It embarrasses me when her room is a disaster because I feel like it reflects badly on me, as her parent. I have the basement toyroom organized within an inch of its life, so what is happening two floors up? Shouldn’t I be using a sticker chart or clever little routine to teach her how to tame this chaos? Should I be forcing her to help me tidy it every night before we read our story? Most importantly, are other kids’ rooms this messy?! the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

I’m out of my element here. Ever since our eldest got past his horrific room-destroying toddler stage, there hasn’t been a single serving of Toy Soup. The stack of books on his nightstand will get a bit high and I’ll ask them to re-shelve them, and his dirty clothes get forgotten on his extra twin bed sometimes, but that’s it. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

He plays with toys on the main level or in the basement and has no interest in bringing them into his room. His LEGO is colour-coded and when someone asks me how long it’s going to stay that way, I just laugh. My son is orderly, like his mom, and my daughter is like a handful of glitter whirling around in a windstorm. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

And so I wait until I can’t stand it anymore. Every few weeks we have a “cleaning party” and listen to playlists on my phone while we sort, straighten and shelve. She loves how clean her room looks when we’re done, and she really does seem to try to maintain it ... for a while. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

After yesterday’s cleaning session, though, I’ve decided I’m done worrying about the Toy Soup. I’ll continue to intervene every few weeks -- rescuing dirty socks and forgotten books from under the bed -- but I’m going to try to stop stressing about the mess on a daily basis. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

As much as I’d prefer the Barbies in the Barbie bin and the Polly Pockets in the Polly Pocket bin, maybe she’s imagining a storyline involving friendly giants -- like my sister and I used to do with Little People and LEGO people. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

I don’t understand why I’ll lift up her pillow and find an old cell phone, a stolen Power Rangers Dinocharger from her brother and one of my husband’s old wallets, but maybe they are her most important treasures and that’s the safest place to store them? the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

I might question why her jewellery is spread across her dresser, but then I notice that she uses her jewellery box to store the money she quietly collects, with her prized $10-bill smoothed out carefully below the glass lid. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

The tidying-up rules will still apply to the rest of the house because we share it, but this room? It’s all hers. As much as it drives me crazy to see her doll crib piled high with four different doll varieties, armfuls of plastic play food, books and sticker pages, it’s her space and she seems to want it this way. the shelves and piles of random junk here and there? Sometimes I’d even help them clean up, and it felt so satisfying … until my next visit and their rooms were just as chaotic as before ...

You do you, baby girl.

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