Monday, May 31, 2010

Cleaning With Kids

Mollie writes

Cleaning with older kids is an exercise in futility.  I'm not intending to kill any hopes you have of organizing your tweens and teens, but there you have it.  This blog will be, if nothing else, honest.  And sometimes honesty is brutal.

Not that you shouldn't try.  I suspect that there's some sort of cosmic force that compels parents to annually shovel out the crud from the kids' bedrooms.  And the beginning of summer break is just the time.  Once the school is out and your home has established whatever level of "normalcy" you hoped to achieve, it's a good time to clean the kids' rooms.

This won't be pretty.  First, you have to get the door open.  Once I've established a beach head, I like to assemble my arsenal.   Rags, lysol, a shop vac (none of those silly girly vacuums for this job, you need a guy vac), carpet shampooer, Windex, empty storage containers and at least 5 extra large plastic garbage bags, and you are ready.

In a perfect world, you will already have had your kid do the initial sweep of the room.  What kids usually do is clear a path to the bed and closet and then pronounce themselves done.  The veteran parent knows that this is only a smokescreen, and the veteran teen knows this as well.  But half of childhood is ritual, and this is one of the most important.

I usually start with sorting.  This is really easy.  It's either 'keep' or 'toss' and there's no middle ground.  Here is where delicate negotiations take place.  Starting with the four different pairs of athletic shoes that are in different states of decay, opt to keep one pair and toss the other three.  I usually keep the pair that has the lest amount of foot odor, unless it is so incredibly worn that you can't completely shoe the foot.

By this point of the year, one athletic shoe manufacturer or another will have come out with a new model, and, after convincing your kid that you can't afford it, the cleaning crew can opt to toss three pairs of dead shoes for one pair of lovely living shoes that fit his feet and your budget.

(Note to Nike, New Balance and all others:  June would be a great time for a shoe sale.  Trust me on this!)

Once the shoe issue is resolved, move on to clothing.  If they haven't worn it in a year, toss it.  If they seem to have worn it every day, wash it and return it to the dresser that is now empty because all the contents are on the floor.  Go through this until all clothing is removed from the floor, bed, light fixtures, etc. and either in a 'toss' container or the laundry hamper.  It will ease pain if you point out that for every t-shirt tossed, a replacement will soon follow:  one that fits.

Next comes school stuff.  Start with the backpack and clean it completely.  Any pen that shows promise for the next school year can be returned to the backpack, as well as any necessary electronic equipment. Now would be a good time to toss any food products left rotting in the backpack, as well as gym clothes,   empty grooming supplies, random homework assignments (you  got a "B" on that???) and unidentifiable debris.  But if the backpack itself is salvageable,  keep it.

See, you have made progress.  Now it's time to consider that play-station workstation area.  Get an empty storage container and keep it at hand.  As you clean this area, put all electronic games, etc in the box and clean, toss and clean s'more.  Here is where, if you are an Oregon resident, you will find your child's first year at college collecting dust in the form of empty beverage containers.  Be it cans, bottles, you name it, I'm betting that there will be a significant sum littering that small space.  Get another plastic garbage bag for recyclables that you can exchange for money.  Start filling it.

At some point, you will get past this area and hit the bed.  Completely strip it and WASH ALL LINENS.  If possible, include bleach.  Flip the mattress.  While flipping the mattress, check out what's under the bed.

Mostly what's under the bed are those socks you thought the laundry monster had eaten.  Every real laundress knows that there really isn't a laundry monster, just a really filthy stash of dirty socks under somebody's bed.  Once you've liberated all the MIA socks, add them to the laundry pile.  At some point, you'll have at least one load of laundry, and you can start washing everything.

Well, there's half a chance that there's something in the dresser.  It's just not clothing.  Reorganize the dresser so that underwear, socks, shirts, sweats and other clothing can return to its natural habitat.  And remember, take a trip to the laundry room.  You have NO idea where those sweats have been.

Well, isn't this nice.  You are actually seeing some floor space and tabletops.  Before you lose steam, however, you have to take on the closet.  The closet is like a mini-bedroom, where overflow from the rest of the room gets stuffed if company is coming over.  Closet cleaning will result in at least one full garbage bag, two loads of laundry, and a trip to the chiropractor.

By now, you've pretty much dealt with the debris of a school year.  You can see the floor, desk top, dresser top and the inside of the closet.  Now for the cleaning!

I clean top to bottom so start with those spiders webs on the ceiling and move down.  An excellent way to demolish spiders webs is to put all the extensions on the shop vac and literally, suck it up.  Next, clean the windows and sills.  Clean the furniture.  Then clean the floors, paying extra attention to the corners of the room.  Occasionally, you can find the Holy Grail buried in dust there.

While all this is going on, laundry is chugging in the machines and your t(w)een is fetching it and returning things to their proper places.  The garbage bags are in the dumpster and the recyclables are in your car.  You can now shampoo the carpet.  When that is done, you can remake the bed.

Voila, your annual room cleaning is done.  The kid will keep it clean during the summer (or else!).  Dust will slowly settle, but it will be new dust, not the same old dust.

This is a great time for parents and kids to bond.  You can bond over that homework project that only got a "B", you can bond over that Metallica t-shirt, you can bond over those empty pizza cartons.  You'll get a really good idea how the kid spent most of his "quiet" time and you can talk, talk,, talk.

And isn't that why we cleaned in the first place?

1 comment:

  1. Makes me tired, just reading it!


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