Neat & Tidy

The Isham family motto.

I spent a goodly portion of the morning convincing the kids that picking up their rooms and basically cleaning in general is not of the devil. 

Ruby, upon being requested to pick up tons of little pieces of paper, detritus from all her craft projects:  “Mom, it’s going to take 10 years to do that!”  Include a moan in that, and you’ve got the idea.

Zac, upon being requested to put sheets on his bed:  “Why? I don’t need them”.

Really?! How did we get here?

I managed to get the point across to Ruby that 1) picking up your stuff is *your* job, and 2) it’s not harder than what anyone else is doing, especially me, who managed to spiff up the downstairs in the time it took for her to pick up about 1/2 of her floor. This was after her brother pummeled her for playing the same 2 chords on the piano for about 45 minutes straight.  He asked her nicely first and she refused. Consequences hurt. Like a punch in the arm!

Zac needs logical reasons for doing things.  He is a lot like his grandfather in that regard. Generally, I try to supply them, as then he remembers to do it the next time. He has a friend coming to spend a couple of nights with us who will be sleeping in Zac’s room. I reminded him that eventually, God willing,  he will live with other people – a roommate, a wife, kids.  They will not want to have to traipse through his dirty socks or underwear strewn around the floor like so many unburied treasures.  Nor will his guest, staying over for 2 nights, want to spendquality time with those items.

“But I don’t care about that.  Why should he?”

Well…not everyone has our standard of cleanliness.  We clean up to make people feel welcome, like we want them there.  It shows a little pride of place and perhaps reassures our guest that we will take care of them even as we take care of our abode. 

Putting sheets on your bed is another matter.  I can’t put the mattress in the washing machine.  I can wash pillows but don’t like to every week; hence the coverings that we can remove and wash.  They’re not just decorative. They serve a purpose.

I know I wasn’t such a neat kid myself.  I had to clean my room up periodically, too.  And yet I didn’t shove clothes, toys, trash and art supplies under my bed.  Much.

I’ve tried to get across the whole concept of aesthetics.  Yes, it’s a big word.  If your room is clean and clutter-free, you can relax.  You enter the space and feel tranquil instead of claustrophobic.  Your mind can rest.  Your eyes can rest and really see the dimension of the room.As a mom, I’m not making a mental “to-do” list centered on picking up. I make my bed every morning because then there’s a flat place that’s smooth and orderly.  It’s all Debbie’s fault!  She was my  college roommate first half of my senior year and she used to roll out of bed every morning, right onto her knees, which wasn’t hard to do with Bethany’s lovely plastic green mattresses. The first time I saw her do it, I thought, Wow!  She’s really devoted.  She’s going right to prayer. I longed for that kind of immediate, unquestioning obedience.

Lo, it was not so.  She was making her bed neat and tidy. With hospital corners.

I’m not that uptight about it. 

I’m a recovering clutter-a-holic.I’ve had to learn by trial and error that less stuff piled up helps me think better.  Before I even write, I have to pick up and clean at least a little.  It seems to help me relax and focus.  It’s like my physical surroundings start mimicking my mental state.

My kids will have to absorb all my marvelouly deep insights at a later date.  They’ll probably have to learn it by trial and error, too. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it’s a learned behavior.