23 Jul
I’m not asking for the moon, just a freshly made bed,

Dear TMH,

My 9 year old, while delightful in a myriad of ways, has a scary inability to a) throw anything away and/or b) clean up her freakin’ room (aka repository of the ages). I have tried many things: threatening punishment for non-cleaning, offering reward for cleaning, throwing out a ton of stuff under cover of darkness (I wouldn’t recommend this one, they’re very smart), advising that I’m moving out. I’m no therapist but I know this is control-based. I suppose I should disclose that I am a scary neat freak who throws everything away and abhors clutter. Please provide your sage advice.


Save Me From The Clutter


Dear Save Me From the Clutter,

Perhaps you ought to take a look at your own end of the deal and ask your self “when the hell did I get this anal retentive?”  Now, we all know the answer to the that:  it’s your parent’s fault, duh, everything always is, but the next question is how are you going to deal with it?

I must confess that I abhor clutter as well and am not fond of antiques for the simple reason that I’m a big believer in out with the old and in with the smaller, neater, cleaner and newer and as far as men go, younger.  Living with a six year demands that I function in an environment of tiny plastic pieces all over the floor in places where it is inevitable that a   Barbie Manolo Blahnik   will implant itself nice and deep inside my big toe.

I  have threatened to move out only to have my daughter beg me to stay because, and I quote, “You can’t. You have the car.” End quote.  You would think then that my threatening to go would cure her from any bad habits but sadly no, because as you said, kids are smart and she realizes, even at her age, how much I hate packing.

Although I admire your attempts at getting what you want, you need to step back and remember you are dealing with a nine year old GIRL.   Tell her that she will either clean up her room or you will be in charge of telling her what she is going to wear for the next three months of her life and trust me when I say, before you can utter MaryJanes and turtleneck, she’ll be dashing around her rooming cleaning up like Wily Coyote on crack.

If all else fails, perhaps you could both meet somewhere in the middle whereby you take down the neat freakishness and make it so that if she does the chores you ask her to do, then she gets a reward which in my day we called an allowance. I was paid sheckles, however, in your case, perhaps you could give her a coin or a dollar amount that you both agree is fair.  Then when it comes time to spend it, if she wants something that costs more than she has on her, she will get a good lesson on fiscal responsibility and you will once again see the floor of her bedroom.

Good luck.


Jessica,   TMH

9 Responses to “I’m not asking for the moon, just a freshly made bed,”


Comment by Ungirdled Passion.

Great advice, as usual! I would add for K to get used to some mess and resistance now and to pick her battles wisely as she has NOT SEEN SCARY until she lives a teenager! I have twin teenage BOYS and I am shuddering and weeping as I type!


Comment by Katie.

Well, if the kids as stubborn as I was I advise you give up now. Try my mom’s tactic. Always close the bedroom door and pretend it’s not really part of the house.

It worked though. Once I hit teenager-dom the idea of my room being shunned when friends or family came over kinda sucked and I started cleaning enough for it to be presentable.

It’s a last ditch, I know.


Comment by The Laughing Idiot.

Man, I have a hard time keeping my own room clean, let alone worry about the state of my five-year-old’s room.

We don’t allow food out of the kitchen so I’m sure there isn’t any draw for bugs in there and as long as there is a clear path to the door (for emergency exit), I’m good with it. I don’t even have to close her door – it’s at the opposite end of the hall away from the stairs so I never have a reason to pass it and turn my nose up in disgust.

The beauty of having a two story house is that the upstairs can be a mess, but all the guests only see the immaculate main level 🙂


Comment by Akilah Sakai.

I also have a 9-year-old daughter who can’t pick up a damn thing even if her life depended on it. It’s safer to walk in a mine field!

The 6-year-old boy is doing the exact same thing. They drag their clutter downstairs as well. Have you ever stepped on a Lego? You’ll miraculously learn the f-word in nine different languages.

I think a small allowance is a good idea and I will try that out.


Comment by melodyj.

My daughter was the same. I’m not a neatfreak but her father was and it drove him nuts – and we all tried not to do that! I like thingsn relatively clean and tidy but I’m not over the top. Whenever she had an overnight I’d go in with a trashbag. I don’t remember her ever questioning where something went but I was ready – if it was on the floor, under the bed, or whatever, it must be trash. She has her own apartment now and it’s usually cleaner than my house. It’s been an amazing transformation!


Comment by Silver Wolf Mama.

I remember what it’s like being 9, what a lazy, pain in the arse I was…I feel for my parents. Anywhoot, I usually (after the threats don’t work and I’m tired of cleaning it myself)casually tell my 10 year old daughter, that the spiders love her room because nothing gets moved, and they love the dark messy corners she leaves for them. That usually gets her motivated. It may be mean, but it’s the truth and gets the job done. The reward system and promise of an allowance doesn’t work, neither does taking her DS away. Now if I could get that to work on the hubby. Maybe telling him the dust-bunnies will steal his beer if he doesn’t take the trash out once in a blue moon will work?


Comment by K-Line.

I’m the lw mom of the messy 9 year old and I so appreciate Jessica’s response and these comments. I think (since allowance doesn’t work for us, btw – much like everything else) I’m going to focus on shutting the door and pretending it’s not happening! I didn’t know how socially acceptable that is 🙂 And melodyj is giving me hope – maybe one day my kid will remember her neat genes!


Comment by Inna.

I love your suggestion. I would definitely have a lot more money today if I got paid to clean my room. But seeing as I’ve always been a neat freak, my mom never really complained about much. 🙂


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