This weekend, as is usual at our house, I asked my children to straighten their rooms. Now be aware, I'm not obsessive about tidiness, but I do have a certain appreciation for order. There's something very gratifying about having a clean desk in my office or knowing that all the laundry is neatly tucked in appropriate drawers, so I'm always on the lookout for an occasion to put things in order.
One of my children, however, seems to struggle more with this concept than her sisters. In fact, throughout this school year we have been working with her teacher to instill in our child some basic organizational skills... According to her teacher, my daughter suffers from "the Organizational Flu."
Knowing this, and knowing also that the pace of my life frequently causes my office areas, both home and work, to land in varying states of chaos, I decided it could be a great occasion to help my child learn some basic organizational skills like sorting and arranging. After all, each time my office gets away from me, I've devised a system to get it back in order within a day. So, after breakfast, she and I were headed upstairs to tackle a project that has been growing for months, her desk drawers.
Now I knew the drawers were in disarray, but the extent of the clutter was far beyond anything I had imagined. There were CDs with no case, cases with no CDs, half drawn picture pages, capless markers, Happy Meal(R) toys, etcetera ad infinitum. The only common denominator was that few, if any, of the things in her desk actually belonged there.
I took a cleansing breath and prepared for what lay ahead. I explained to my daughter what we were going to do: We would pour all three drawers in the middle of the floor and she would sort the pile into groups containing items of like kind. We made a pile for trash, a pile for coloring books and artwork, a pile for pencils and pens... You get the idea. The act of sorting was rather enlightening. I learned about stories she had in her mind but hadn't captured on the page, about pictures she wanted to create, about friends in Texas that she misses... In retrospect, I can see so many things I learned about my child through this experience. In the moment, however, I was more captured with the fact that we located 4 movies from our family DVD collection, more than 20 books from the church library and that we created 3 grocery sacks of garbage from the epic mess in her desk.
I'll admit that it wasn't much fun for either of us. (At one point I had to simply walk away and breathe.) But, now that her room is completely straight, with everything in its proper place, I can totally say it was worth it. I hope she feels the same. We've talked about why things grew so out of hand and how we might have avoided it, and I believe she understands that it would only take the slightest effort to keep things in their place. I don't expect this will be the turning point in her bout with clutter; goodness knows I'm still frequently setting aside parts of days so I can get things back in order, but I do believe she is grasping that small investments of time and effort pay off in other ways. You see, for the 3-4 hours we worked in her room, hthey both read books and watched a movie. She never once told me it wasn't fair, because she knows that in the same way privilege brings responsibility, responsibility breeds privilege. Profound, huh?
When I awoke on Saturday I had no intention of investing a half day in teaching my daughter to clean her room, but the investment of helping her figure out how to do it will undoubtedly reap rewards later. In the meantime, I need to find a way to reclaim the time I lost while working with her... I'd planned to use that day to clean my office!