This is not meant to be humorous. Now, if my self-deprecation amuses you a little bit, that’s an acceptable by-product, but I am actually dead serious.

I have had people remark (especially after seeing my home or classroom) that I seem to have it all together. And while I know that is of course untrue, I’ve been okay with that misperception being out there.

But you know how some stars will show themselves without makeup to prove that they’re just like us? Well, here I am without makeup. So to speak. (I don’t think there is a great need out there for me to prove that I’m not always red-carpet ready from head to toe. My physical have-it-togetherness doesn’t seem to spark as much discussion.)

Deep breath…here it is:

If you don’t get the point, then you may not know me very well, or perhaps you’re all set to answer the title question in the (h – – -,  no!)  negative.

You see, these are photos of my daughters’ rooms. And this isn’t a “ha ha, kids cause clutter” kind of moment. Instead, I am going out on a limb and sharing with you that when I walk in each of their doors, my blood pressure spikes and my heart races. I’m really not kidding.

At this point in life, despite my (or perhaps because of my) neat-freak role modelling, Frannie is clearly a hoarder. I used to think that Maggie was more like me, however this is what her room now looks like, thanks to her birthday haul:

I’m sure there are moms out there who could not care less about such things. However, even at work, when somehow my mind drifts to the state of my daughters’ rooms, it stresses me out.

Why don’t I just clean them? Well, here’s the thing: I can remember reaching a point as a child (and I wish I had an age reference to help me out) when my parents no longer touched my room, and in fact did not enter without permission. That said, I was obsessive-compulsive about clutter from an early age, so it was probably easy for them to relinquish that control.

I want my girls to have the same privacy and ownership of their space and “stuff” that I valued as a child, but at this point I can’t get it to surpass my (excessive?) need for order in my home.

I cannot wait for summer holidays to start next week, when we will have the time to devote to the sorting, storing and donation of toys. (I’m thinking a movie afternoon may be the carrot I need to dangle to get the girls feeling energized and generous enough to be of assistance here.)

There was once a blogger who wrote about letting go of her need to keep the toys sorted, and that perhaps it infringed on her child’s creativity. My (convenient) theory is: if the Littlest Pet Shop animals want to have tea with the little rubber Princesses, or the Barbies and Strawberry Shortcake are remote-control-car cruising together, that’s fine by me. As long as they all go back to their own homes at night like civilized people do. (This isn’t the place to discuss exceptions to that rule.)

By the way, why do kids have so much freakin’ STUFF anyway? I would swear on a bible that we do not spoil our girls with material goods…but between Santa, two sets of grandparents, and more aunts and uncles than they can count, even Christmas and birthday gifts accumulate pretty quickly. I’ve heard of philanthropic little children who give away their presents, or ask for donations to charity…but if your child isn’t suggesting that, wouldn’t it be mean to put it on her? What sorts of gifts can be requested that actually make kids happy (as the giver always wants the gift to be well-received) but don’t just end up in the pile with all the rest? (Note to Frannie’s future gift-givers: Cineplex gift cards will be a huge hit. She does take after her mother in that regard.)

Oh, and if you have any tips or suggestions for what to do with the accumulation of Frannie’s first year of school products, I would LOVE to hear them. I want to save the really few important pieces, and sneak the rest into the recycling, but I know there are cool ideas out there for amalgamating such things.

(On a related note, as a teacher, I would like to humbly say to every parent of every student I ever sent home with a whole bunch of crap: I’m sorry. But it had to be done.)

I know when people have two storey homes, it’s easier to just let the kids’ rooms be as they are, but guests at our bungalow frequently walk down the bedroom hallway where they can be affronted by the mess…and just closing the doors makes the hall too dark and suspicious looking.

So, am I the only one with these issues? Are others just mildly annoyed by (or oblivious to) clutter, or do some of you share my physical and mental reactions to all of the “stuff”? When do you start allowing your kids to have responsibility? I know I am teaching them all sorts of organizational skills which will benefit them in the future…but am I stifling them by choosing the “hows” and “wheres” of their systems, and passing along my own slightly unhealthy practices?


7 comments on “Am I Normal? Wait, Don’t Answer That…”

  1. I used to get completely stressed out by messes (now I only get mildly stressed out). The difference in my house is that I cause at least a third of them. A lot of my stress came from worries about what people would think of me if they saw the mess. I too have been accused of 'having it all together'. Once I let go of that a little and let people see the mess every now and then, I could breathe more easily.

    Life is messy, in reality, so fighting that all of the time is just tiring, in my view.

    Maybe sharing these photos is your first step in letting it go a little?

    I admire you for wanting to allow your daughters privacy, and it's good advice. I'm not there yet (my son is three), but I will keep it in mind. Thanks!

  2. That looks like our house (but I'm curious to know what that sign in the first picture says! lol)…

    I think kids should be involved in the process so they learn how to declutter, prioritize and let go. Start with the papers from school. I had my daughter go through a stack of school papers with me at the end of grade one. She got it down by half. We went through it again and she got the pile down by half again. It took three or four times going through the pile before she had it down to her absolute favourie 5 or 6 pieces of work and those we kept. (Of course I had veto power!).

    You can offer to help them with their rooms in a consultant type position without wrecking their privacy (while they're still young anyways).

    "One thing in, one thing out" has worked at our house (when I've remembered to enforce it). A toy of a comparable size needs to be let go in order to welcome the new toy into the house. My kids do the deciding (and again I have veto power because I'm sentimental about even toys…)

    When all else fails I say 'shut the doors' — that's what they're for! If it helps you have peace in your house go for it. Just tell curious people you want your girls to have a sense of privacy, right?

  3. Wow – I totally feel you here. I detest clutter as well. I actually get sort of stressed out at Christmas knowing how much additional stuff we're going to have to bring back and find a home for. (I compensate by trying to sell/donate/throw out unused things throughout the year.) Right now, our daughter is 7 months old so I have full control of her nursery organization, but soon enough I'll be in same boat as you! I've also become a bit obsessive keeping our main floor clutter-free. Now the basement – whole different story/ey (heh) but I can turn a blind eye for now since we don't spend time down there yet. (It's unfinished, and my husband has agreed to take ownership of starting to get things in order there.)

    So anyway – I totally hear you and wish you good luck finding balance here! In terms of suggestions, I found this post insightful in dealing with the plethora of children's art/projects in particular. Hope you find it helpful!

    If you don't mind, I'd like to feature your post in my weekly Memorable Monday listing on my blog. It really spoke to me (obviously!)

  4. at first I thought those were pictures of our daughters room! haha! Seriously though… I tend to think that when it gets bad enough she will tidy up, but usually I am the one almost forcing her to tidy up. It can be almost impossible to vacumn in her room. That is usually what happens…I will force to vacumn and suck anything on the floor that is not put away. Horrible! Anyway…I jsut keep hoping as her friends come over (who somehow manage to have super tidy rooms???) I am guesing eventually the shame (in her friends eyes) of having a messy room will force her to change.

  5. Welcome to the dark side Kate!
    Toys are also a headache in our house and I have no idea how to keep all of the toys organized (and we too try not to spoil our kids) but are in the same boat when it comes to birthdays and Christmas. I have the fancy organizer bins, the toy cupboard, the toy box, etc but somehow it all just ends up in the same place – on the toy room floor.
    I must admit, that my one hang up is toys in the bedroom and I only let the boys keep books in their rooms – this does cut down on the mess upstairs in their rooms, but adds to the one on the main floor, so maybe it's not working?
    Honestly, I don't like cleaning and my house is usually a mess – (except every other Monday when a lovely lady comes and makes it sparkle), but when I look at the mess I always think what will my kids remember when they're older? The messy house or the train tracks that I let them build all around the house, the fort they made out of the couch cushions or the pirate ship they made out of the laundry baskets?

  6. So there are not many people as candid about their messy homes as I am. We keep the mess in the kitchen, and bedrooms actually stay clean. No toys in the bedrooms (this has come from trial and error). The school stuff- I keep a few precious things and have created a binder for things. Evelyn is an artist at heart so she has accumulated a lot of special work, the binder was getting too full. Voila! Digital photos: I take photos of her work when it seems too much is accumulating. I also kept her work books from then en of last school year for months unilateral I realized no one had looked at them, no one had though about them And you know what, now that they have been recycled no one has missed them. I do my dirty work (ie chucking kids crap) when the kids are asleep!

  7. I absolutely loved this blog entry because it made me feel that I am not alone! I totally understand your need to organize and keep my 2 girls rooms clean. I just told my husband this week that I couldn't wait for the summer holidays so I could "tackle" the girls rooms and sort, organize, donate etc. I have often walked into their rooms and started stressing out too. When life is busy I resort to shoving things into the closet and closing the door so at least it looks "surface clean" as my sister and I call it! For the school items, I have 2 boxes labelled "School Years" and inside I have an expandable folder labelled JK through to Grade 8. My philosophy is, whatever I can fit into that folder is what I can keep; hence forcing me to only keep my favourites and recycling the rest. It is working and I love my system…maybe this idea will help you too!
    I also agree with the "where do my kids get so much stuff" comment because we also do not spoil our girls but you are right, with family members and holidays they get so much! Love the movie gift certificate idea and to add to that you can suggest "experience" gift certificates depending on their ages (i.e. gift certificates for manicures, horse back riding lessons, Toronto Zoo etc). Anyway, thanks for another awesome blog entry Kate!
    Krista S.

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