The Respected House

Two weeks ago or so, I posted about how we (I) cleaned an organized our hall/entry/mudroom to get ready for school starting. This past Sunday, with all of us trapped at home staying out of hurricane range, I called Rob into the playroom/family room. How, I asked, do you think the sofa would look turned sideways?

Well, he said, let’s try it. Yes! Sam shouted. I demurred. If we moved the sofa we had to move the train table. Move the train table and we have to move the dolls. Move the dolls and we have to clean up the legos. Clean up the legos and we have to sort the playmobil and…

We moved the sofa.

The domino effect took me six hours to resolve, but at the end of that six hours that room looked fantastic. (The upstairs guest room, where the playmobil and Lily’s dolls went, because the kids share a room and Lily needs her own space to play and that’s going to be it, did not, but I will get there.)

Every toy had its place. There was free space to play. Sam had the space to create the Lego Harry Potter world he’s planning (there’s a holiday hint, family members!) behind a barrier and a shelf, where no one else can go without his say-so.

The hall is still clean. And, three whole days later, so is that playroom. There has been some nagging (in particular of kids who would rather just shove things anywhere at random instead of back in the basket), but it’s successful nagging. Upstairs, I gave each child a set of shelves months ago, in the great bedroom clean-up (one of those shelves has been with me since college). This weekend we finally used them.

And tonight, at bedtime, I reminded Sam and Wyatt that it’s their job to do the nightly clean-up, and Sam headed for the sofa and picked up my book. Are you done, he asked? Well, no, you can leave that. He and Wyatt picked up their toys, and as they did, I saw the living room with fresh eyes. It’s not awful–but there is a shipping box with packing stuff in it that’s been there since, well, May. There are pans out on the kitchen island that have been there for almost a week, waiting to be returned to a friend. Three pair of my shoes on the floor by the kitchen door. Half of a baby monitor on the floor of the kitchen, kicked off to the side, where I left it when I cleaned up the hall, along with a pair of Sam’s shoes he had given me as too small.

If I leave that kind of clutter around, can I really expect them not to?

I’ve been asking them to respect a space that I don’t respect. I clean it periodically, but I don’t really take care of it. I let things–a lot of things–slide. I like to organize, and I like clear counters and spaces, but I’m not naturally neat by any means. I’m lazy, and if a thing sits there long enough, I just slide my eyes right over it.

Will I change? Well, I could. I really could. I had this kind of epiphanic moment when writing an article, three years ago now, about being perpetually late everywhere, and I did change. I’m not perfect, but the days when Sam was marked tardy fifty times in a single school year are long gone. Could this be the moment when I decide to make all of my house, not just periodic and random slices if it, the kind of place where I would like to live? I’m incredibly soothed by coming into that hallway daily. I feel fantastic looking into that family room. I’d love to feel that way all the time and everywhere.

But then, I’d also love to be the kind of person who knits and teaches her kids to sing in four-part harmony. I’ll keep you posted.

One Response to “The Respected House”

  1. JK says:

    I spent the weekend organizing and I hope I can keep it up. I’m not done, but it feels pretty good. I’ll do more organizing this week as we’re getting visitors next week. Then were starting a downstairs remodel, so I’m going to have to de-clutter, but I’m worried I’m not going to have enough time. Just keep swimming, right?


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