Today I tried to tackle one of the most grueling, daunting tasks one can face in this lifetime: I attempted to clean a child’s room. (And by “clean” I do not mean spending ten minutes with a duster and a vacuum. This room is as packed as a storage unit. I’d been avoiding this dreaded task for several weeks but we could not get across the room anymore, as the stuff on the floor was…hiding the floor. Time to face the mess, er music.)
This particular room has suffered for several years from a condition that often goes undiagnosed. It’s called IFS (Invisible Floor Syndrome). The floor is there but you can’t see it under the debris covering nearly every inch.
Part of the problem is that this room is the smallest in the house. If we’d been able to anticipate this issue earlier perhaps we would have reassigned rooms, switching their contents as it became clear whose collections would be best matched with which rooms. The real-life equivalent to the computer game Tetris (which, for those who don’t know, involves turning geometric pieces to fit into shapes left by other geometric pieces, all within a limited time). With Tetris, you need quick thinking to anticipate which shapes will fit where. I’ll admit freely that I was never a great Tetris player, and I seem to suffer from the same lack of skills when it comes to fitting people’s stuff into their rooms. In my defense, when this room stopped being my art studio and became a child’s room, all the other rooms were already taken, so it wasn’t that I thought, Oh, we’ll never fill this gigantic room. It will remain prison-cell austere. It was our only choice! At about this time a neighbor who works with young kids laughingly labeled my youngster’s tendency to hold many things at once “squirreling.” She explained that some kids like to gather as much as they can, all at once, perhaps readying themselves for winter, just like squirrels with their acorns.
No good deed ever goes unpunished, right?! I soon realized that my plan to unearth this room was a much bigger task than I’d anticipated. My first idea was to sweep (perhaps literally) the stuff back into plastic boxes, just to get it off the floor, so we could reach the closet again. But I realized that a dresser that gobbles up space could be moved out and that if I moved a few pieces of furniture, the room could have more usable space. First I needed to move the dresser. But in order to do this I had to move the heavy wood bed (because the dresser was anchored with an L bracket to a stud, which was just an inch or two behind the bed). Had to clear the floor at the foot of the bed in order to move the bed. Did that. (Boy, this is a good workout! I’m sweating and my heart is beating). Finally I unfasten the dresser from the wall. Found a library book under the bed. It’s been there so long I think it predates libraries.) Now I need to move the shelves that were in the closet to the new vacancy next to the bed. Must unload the stuff from the shelves (really only a half a job as the child in question had removed most of the contents for me, sweeping them onto, yes, the floor.) Now I have an idea of how to make the closet more efficient. Some sawing. Drilling. Might need to paint. Won’t bore you with the details but I can’t find the longer screws so this part will have to wait. Sigh. Stare at mess again. I’m overwhelmed. There are moments where I nearly hyper-ventilate as I look at the endless piles of stuff I need to sort. So I repeat like a mantra, This room is going to be GREAT! But reality and fear set in and I find myself alternating between nearly hyper-ventilating and the occasional moment of confidence about how amazing the room will look if I ever sort through the ocean of stuff on the floor.
Eventaully I realize I should have brought a trash can into the room. I call for help and someone brings me one, realizing that I am trapped behind quite a mess. The trash can helps. I make a giant “Keep” pile as well as a recycling box. I also start a crayon pile. I use a new purple crayon to scribble a list of things I’ve found. This seems like a creative way to get through the annoyingness (yes, it’s a word) of my current task. I realize this is prime blog material. My friends (especially those with kids) will howl with laughter and nod with commiseration as they read about today’s discovery of a Mt. Everest-sized mishmash of broken toys parts. So here, my readers, is a partial list of what was found in my child’s bedroom today:
· Crayons, broken and whole
· Pencils and pens (some no longer working, having been separated from their caps)
· Confetti-like pieces of broken Styrofoam peanuts. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them.
· Single socks in various sizes
· Toys (both broken and intact)
· Puzzle pieces I’d wondered about for years
· Kitchen gadgets
· Plastic bags
· A partial deck of cards
· Uncooked pasta (Rigatoni, in case you’re wondering)
· Band aids
· Empty gift bags
· Hair bands (I’d wondered where that new package of 20 bands had gone)
· Cotton from a formerly stuffed toy animal
· Flash cards
· 1 Elmo slipper
· Coloring books
· Halves of plastic Easter Eggs
· Christmas tree ornaments
· Wrapped candy
· Mr. Potato Head’s Ear (no sign of Mr. Potato Head himself but we remain hopeful)
Not Found: the book How to Declutter for Dummies
If you were to point out that I should have managed this dangerously big accumulation of stuff before it reached avalanche status, I would not argue with you. But I do the mom thing, I sometimes work, I do service hours at school and during the school year I was just too tired and overwhelmed to tackle this project. Every once in a while I’d clear the middle of the room, putting stuff into plastic boxes, but I rarely had the time or stamina to sort the stuff into groups of like things. Despite my hopes, the mess did not sort itself into boxes. Well-intentioned people gave us gifts or toys their kids had outgrown. And like rising bread dough, the mess increased in size while I was busy with other things.
Where is the fine line between being a curious soul who likes to look at stuff, and plain old hoarding? If anyone has thoughts on this, please let me know! We may need an intervention.
Well, it’s time for me to get back to the room. I’ve made some progress (after all, I’ve been at it for quite a few hours) but there are more papers to sort, toy parts that need reuniting with their friends, debris to vacuum up and the closet that needs its rod back. I’m somewhat hopeful about the potential. But if I haven’t surfaced by the time school starts this fall, would you send someone to the room to see if I’m still picking up Styrofoam confetti?