For your entertainment and edification, I bring you a guest post by one SidneyKidney (you can find him by that name on Twitter and all good Social Media services). Like me, he’s an island dweller, although his island is significantly less remote. New to the fine art of parenting, he has but one minion at the moment. Ladies and Gentlemen, drumroll please…
I am not a tidy person.
I have never been a particularly clean person at any point in my life. I used to think there were clean people and dirty people and I accepted my role in life as a dirty person. I leave mugs lying when I’ve finished with them, I dump my clothes on the floor at bedtime and I never wipe my feet.
But my son is now just gone two years old and something very strange is happening. I am tidying up. And not just because it is my responsibility to take care of him. I think there is something more sinister at work here.
It never used to bother me that my house was messy. I used to believe that everybody has a tolerance level for mess above which they could not take it any more and had to tidy up. I had a very high mess tolerance level until my son was born. But now mess bothers me. I get very stressed by it.
I know what you are going to say. I knew children are messy. I expected that but it didnt matter because I had a high mess tolerence level.
But I sit here surrounded by stickle bricks, duplo and annoying musical toys and have come to an epiphany. It doesnt happen often so pay attention because ‘here comes the science bit’:
- There is no such thing as messy people and dirty people.
- There is no such thing as mess tolerence.
- It is simply a matter of wanting to control the mess.
I submit the following evidence to the jury; if I leave a mug of finished coffee on the side overnight and come to it in the morning to clean it up that feels fine to me. Even if there is a bunch of washing up I havent done til the following morning thats fine too. Its fine because I know its there, its my mess and I can clean it up when I need to. That time can be any time I feel it has to be done.
However, if I come into the sitting room in the morning and the floor is strewn with counting blocks, cards, plastic toys and general guff it gets me stressed. It gets me down. This is because it is a constant reminder that I do not have control over this mess. I could tidy it up right here and now but I know that if I did that I would go to the next room where my son was and find THAT room in a complete state. I have no control over that. If I encourage him to be with me then he *might* start helping me put things in their boxes but once its done he will immediately start unpacking the boxes. Thats how you play the sorting game. Didnt you know?
And the closing argument: at the end of the long day when you have spent all your time looking after your child(ren) and he/she/they are safely tucked up in bed what would you like to do? Personally I am usually so physically exhausted that the last thing I want to do is start tidying up. Sure, that would be the best time to get a control on it. But you cant hoover. And even if the tidying was absolutely silent the very thought of more physical activity makes me collapse in a heap.
So with this in mind I submit to you the only technique for tidying that I have discovered and PLEASE- no, really PLEASE- if you have any to suggest yourself I would LOVE to hear them.
Here’s what I have:
After breakfast I get my son changed and into his clothes for the day and if it is not a playgroup/nursery day I sit him back at the breakfast table and give him a table activity. Something to occupy him which he can do while I tidy around him in the kitchen/dining room. This can be Playdoh, drawing or anything that requires a surface to work on. Then ignore the mess he makes and clean everything else. Once you are done, tidy up said activity and Presto! you will have one clean room.
For about a nanosecond.