Room for Improvement

As the school year progresses, I watch the kids’ rooms get more and more overgrown with piles of homework papers, art projects, mementos, and empty Altoid tins”¦so that by June, I practically have to swing a machete to clear a path to the bed. I do pretty well tolerating the chaos until about Memorial Day ““ the bright spot is that since there isn’t any exposed floor space it really cuts down on the vacuuming time ““ but by the last week of school, every time I walk past each of their rooms I find myself uttering a little chant of “I can’t wait until school is out.” Then I walk past the next room, “I can’t wait until school is out.” And so on down the hall.

That’s because once school is out and I’ve given the kids a week-long grace period to decompress from the school year”¦ just to prove that I’m not totally a compulsive organizer”¦we launch into the annual room purge.

Usually it’s me dragging the kids into the process, but this year, Jennifer was as motivated as I was because she knew that once we had clear-cut the room of all the extraneous paper and plastic, she could experiment with rearranging the furniture and pick out a new comforter that didn’t have cartoon characters on it.

Her inspiration for changing the look of her room came from studying a Pottery Barn Teen catalog. I love that Target knocks off the Pottery Barn designs and sells comforters and lamps that look pretty close to the stuff in the PB catalogue for about a third of the price. Every time I walk into Target and see the same styles and colors that I just saw in the Pottery Barn catalogue, I can’t help but wonder if they’re conducting lie detector tests at PB headquarters to uncover who the Target spy is”¦

But back to Jennifer’s room”¦armed with a stack of Trader Joe bags so we can sort the “immediately into the trash” pile from the “give-away” pile from the “pack-up but keep” pile, we start at the doorway and work our way across every surface, drawer, and shelf. On the desk, I can’t help but ask, “Why are you keeping this empty soda bottle? Her reply, “I liked the label.” “I understand, but we can go to Petaluma Market and get you another one.” Into the trash it goes.

The roles are reversed when I come upon a little stuffed doll that we gave her for Christmas one year and Jennifer immediately tells me I can toss it. I remembered the anxiety I had over making sure we had gotten just the right outfit for it and would it arrive from Amazon in time. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep the Angelina doll?” “Mom, you’re the one who wants me to clean out stuff I don’t use anymore.” “You’re right, but I think she’s got a little more life in her, let’s add her to the “˜give-away’ pile.”

We must have thrown away a grocery sack full of the remains of goodie bags from birthday parties: glow-in-the dark sticks, jacks, leis, bouncy balls, markers, and on and on. Since Jennifer’s birthday is only a couple of weeks away, I mention to Jennifer that we should skip the goodie bags and just give everybody a five dollar bill. Think of all the moms I’ll be helping out by not adding to the junk in their daughter’s room.

It takes us almost the entire day, six trips to the trash can, a couple of Swiffers and a new vacuum bag, but when Jennifer surveys the results, her response it that, “I love it! It looks so clean!” At the grocery store that evening, I reward our hard work by buying a tin of Jelly Bellies. As we’re sharing our treat in the car on the way home, Jennifer comments, “I really like this container. I’m going to save it.”Â 

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