Seven little kids and two adults living in a three-bedroom brick rancher...you can just imagine how untidy things became at times, with so much life happening in such a small space.
Kids need the freedom to make messes, to play without always having to worry about keeping the Legos stored neatly in the Rubbermaid tub and the GI Joes tucked away in the green footlocker. I tried to respect that, as a mom, and I constantly fought back my tendency toward compulsive orderliness.
But when the floor got so cluttered that I was afraid of falling if I tried to walk across a room, that was my break point. "Kids, the mess is getting out of hand. You absolutely have to clean up your toys," I would insist. "Right now!"
After half an hour or so, I would check back to see how much progress they were making. Sometimes, I would discover they had gotten sidetracked, that they had actually spent the last 30 minutes playing with their toys instead of putting them away. I would remind them of the task at hand. "Now, get busy!"
If I came back again to discover the kids still were not making progress, I would warn them: "Guys, you can clean up this mess, or you can let me do it for you. But if I'm the one who cleans up all these toys, I am only going to do it ONCE."
The all understood the message. The room had to be picked up. I wasn't going to nag. They could put the toys and games away themselves, or I could do it for them. However, if I put everything away, it was going away for good: into a black trash bag, to be stored in the attic or carried to Goodwill.
It always astounded me how much work the kids could get done in only a matter of minutes if one of them saw me rummaging in the pantry for the box of trash bags.
* * * * *
I took advantage of the beautiful weather yesterday to get outside and clean off the porch. It was getting so junky that you just about couldn't walk from one end to the other without having to step over something.
I suppose I'd been thinking that, surely, whoever had gotten out the fill-in-the-blank would put it away soon. But I guess the clutter didn't bother them like it did me.
Among other things, I found: two extension cords, two coolers, a 5-gallon bucket of aluminum cans and other trash from a bonfire last fall, 6 camp chairs, an air compressor, a battery charger, three car tires, several pieces of lumber (for what?), paint buckets, wrenches, the corn hole set, weenie roasting sticks, flower bulbs (Oops! I left those out there!), bug spray, a frisbee...
We actually have a shed out back for storing most of those things. (Maybe the hike from the front of the house to the back of the house is just too far for some folks.) And we have a big green plastic garbage-can-on-wheels for the trash, right outside the back door.
So why was all this stuff cluttering up the front porch?!!!
I enjoyed spending the afternoon working outside yesterday. And, yes, I even appreciated the exercise. And I was super happy that, at the end of the day, the only things left on the porch were the porch chairs, a rocker, a table, and a unicycle. I was even able to sweep - amazing.
But I have to admit: as I was toting stuff back to the shed, I thought about The Black Bag more than once.