Apr 28

The Clothes Thief

Fullscreen capture 4282016 105753 AMThis is no new information – kids are kids, and kids are messy. That’s all. Well, that’s all there is to the reality that kids ARE messy, loud, and high maintenance. So why do we have kids, anyway? Because some of us believe there is great value in family life, and that frequently includes kids. If you have kids, you have messy messes to live with. Or not. What’s the issue and what should we do about it, if anything?

Since I’m a Vintage Mama, I’ve been trying to figure out how to handle kids’ messy messiness for a really long time . . . . and the truth is, most of them eventually grow up and discover that living with stuff all over the place is quite inconvenient. But that takes many years and most of us don’t want to wait for 20 years to be able to walk through the house and not risk dying in the process.

And the question remains . . . (at least for me) . . . . if we just ignore those monstrous piles of junk, trash, clothes and shoes for 20 years, will they actually EVER discover how annoying and inconvenient all of that chaos really is? I don’t know, because I have never been able to ignore it that long.

And what of the “psychological damage” we are doing to our little darlings either by allowing them to live in squalor OR attempting to teach them about things like self-respect, respect for others, and respect for personal property? If you do a quick online search for ideas of how to address this situation (assuming you are wondering what to do about it like I have), you will soon discover that there are any number of theories, and many of them contradict one another.

“How to Get Your Kids to Clean their Messy Rooms” offers some good advice, based on the premise that it is perfectly normal for kids / teenagers to live in chaos if left to their own devices. Something about their brain not being able to comprehend, rationally, the life-saving necessity of tidiness. But then you will also find the brilliant theory that “Your Child’s Messy Room is Your Fault,” and “Reasons to Let Your Child’s Bedroom Stay Messy.” Hmmmmm . . . . just close the door.

Sally's Room Book CoverThat didn’t work so well for Sally, because her Room simply escaped and followed her to school one day. Sally was so mortified and embarrassed that she ran right home and cleaned up her room, only to discover the freedom she experienced in having room to dance. I guess I’m not the only one who has wrestled with this dilemma over the years – after all, someone actually wrote a book about it!

I don’t know about you, but I guess I think I have a responsibility to teach my kids to be respectful of themselves, our home, and the other members of our family who might have to walk through that disastrous mess behind that closed door. Just a thought.

And then there are the experts who claim that children with ADHD will benefit from living in an organized, peaceful, structured environment; or “7 Must-Read Books for Kids with Messy Rooms” that attempt to convince kids that chaos is really not helpful. There is even the one that takes a completely different approach: “Embarrass Your Kids into Cleaning Up their Rooms.” Encouragement is also available from “15-Minute Kid’s Room Clean Up – Step-by-Step Guide and Tips,”  and “3 Tips to Get Your Kids to Clean their Bedrooms: Positive Parenting.”

But the one I found that really touched my heart was, “Dirty Secrets: 11 Ways Having a Messy House is Normal.” Perhaps it is normal, and it certainly is none of MY business how other people live – but since I have a pretty low tolerance for chaos, clutter, dirt, and little creatures that seem to find those dark, damp, disgusting corners where last week’s peanut butter sandwich is molding . . . I decided that, since the sweet, virtuous, gentle, loving, patient, and kind mama routine wasn’t working out so well, that I needed to try a different approach.

Berenstain Bears Messy Room(I guess mamas have been trying to figure this out for a LONG time!)

So I have become The Clothes Thief. And as of this writing, is seems to be working. It is a pretty simple strategy, requires minimal effort for this mama, no raised voices, eye rolls, or excuses. Simple. If I pick it up, it is mine. Until you earn it back. So it could be that moldy peanut butter sandwich, or your favorite jeans, or you volleyball shoes, or your tennis racket, or your amazing Hunter boots that you just HAD to have . . . . if I pick it up after you’ve been told to take care of it, I’ll put it all in a clean trash bag and you can earn it back. The whole bag full of stuff.

A few extra chores usually are usually pretty good “payment:” when kids aren’t old enough to have a job yet. BUT those extras have to be done with a smile and a good attitude – because you can either do it with a GOOD attitude or NOT, but you will do what needs to be done either way, and you will only earn your “stuff” back if you do it with a good attitude, a smile on your face, with enthusiasm, and absolutely, positively NO eye rolling. Simple.

White Trash BagSo as of this writing, there is one clean white trash bag in my closet, and I have no idea what is in it. I just picked it up off the floor a couple of days ago and stuffed it in there. And when I am asked, “Hey Mom, can we go buy new spring clothes this weekend?” guess what the answer is???

Even though I can’t be Wonder Woman and rescue the entire universe, I can be the Clothes Thief and do my best to help my children learn to have a heart of gratitude, appreciation for how hard their Daddy works to provide nice things for them, and respect for our home, our family, and for themselves. I could be wrong about all of this, but I’m doing the best I can to get it right. We’ll see how it all works out. In 20 years.


  1. Sally Ann

    Hi Nina,

    Great idea!!!!! I wish I had thought of that about 10 years ago. Wonder if it would have worked with boys????? 🙂

    And, wow, I never knew they wrote a book about my messy room as I was growing up. 🙂 It really was messy, but now I can’t stand clutter, so I guess we do change as we grow up. But, like you said, who really wants to wait around that long. So True!

    Anyway, have a lovely day!

    Sally Ann

  2. Suzie@Suziesview

    Love this post girl. Also my kids had that bears messy room book. Loved it lol. Hoping from the fav things hop today yay!

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