The Cleaning Conundrum

I have a cleaning conundrum.

I have smart, well behaved children who generally follow directions well.

So why can’t they clean up a flipping room!


I have Pinterested my way through organizational stuff, I have cut down on clutter, we have hung everything up and put everything in drawers…so why is there ALWAYS clothes on the floor? Why don’t the toys ever make it back to the boxes…they don’t need to be organized, at this point I’ll be happy if they make it off the floor!

We have tried positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, natural consequences. We have taken everything away.


I am racking my brain & the internet to find solutions,but to no avail.

In frustration I do what every mother at their wits end does when faced with an annoying problem she can’t solve. I vent on Facebook. That never actually solves problems but my other mom friends commiserate with me and it helps me not to feel so alone in the problem.

This time though, something different happened. I got to see the problem with a new pair of eyes when my dad responded to my vent…

“Hmmmmm, I recall going through that about 12-16 years ago with a certain little girl  Love, Dad”

Well doesn’t Karma just bite you in the rear… it’s the Mom Curse isn’t it… when a mother tells their teenage daughter “I hope your children come out just like you.” It has to be.

So here it is in my face… they can’t clean their rooms for the same reason I couldn’t clean mine.

To tell the truth I’ve always had a system of organization thats all my own and to the outsider that probably didn’t look clean. Often it requires piles and spread out stuff. I need to see my stuff. At least I always did until I had kids. Becoming a mother must have given me a super power because now I see EVERYTHING…I blame it on the kids. If it wasn’t for them turning everything into a choking hazard or them ruining everything they touch with their blasted curiosity then I could have continued living my life oblivious to this conundrum that vexes me so!

The thing is this: my children do clean exceptionally well, however, they don’t focus long enough to get the job done. EVERY SINGLE ITEM they pick up is a gateway to a great game. Their imagination is so intense that their pretend takes over before they get more than four things put away.

Even with clothes.

They put on an outfit and pretend to be a hitchhiking princess on a far away planet. I snap at them about cleaning their room (for the eight time in two minutes) and they take off the outfit, put it away, pick up a brush and now they are politicians on tour telling people how they can help them fight off dragons. If I am in the room the dragon becomes an item of clothing I want them to put away but if I am making dinner…forget it. The dragon leads them on a quest and now they are gaining new crew members with varying degrees of expertise – really it’s their siblings who have also discovered a treasure that just cannot be put away without also become part of an alternate reality.

Even with trash.

Every scrap of paper turns into a treasure map. Every stick is the key to the long lost princess’ prison. Every broken toy still has a purpose or use.

We have already given away almost all of their toys. We have already given away almost all of their clothes.

ANYTHING can be a part of their make believe world.

It’s not that they are being willfully disobedient… that is different. I’ve worked with children who are willfully disobedient and they are aggressive and determined to not do as they are told. Sometimes its just a lack of interests, sometimes disobiedence but most of the time my children are not like that. They are honestly sorry when we ask them what they are doing…as if they suddenly remember that they were supposed to be doing something else.

Their imaginations take over when faced with all of the options.

Their drawers are empty but their floor is covered.

Books are stacked in their beds…under the sheets and covers.

Toys are arranged into intricate scenarios…or so I’m told.

Just like I used to do.

So how do I get 4 mini me’s to clean a mess they don’t see as a mess?

I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that…I’m still in that trench but understanding why they are doing this has helped me to control how I respond to them. Reacting is not working. Organization is not working. Understanding that the root of the Conundrum is in the noggin and not due to disrespect helps me not to take it so personally.

 Do you have an unsolvable conundrum that you need to look at with new eyes?


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