One of my most valued, and underrated skills is that of "Clutter Disposal Negotiator", or C.D.N. for short. I'm top- notch at this job.
Yesterday evening, the moon and stars aligned, the mood was right, and it was time for a semi-annual "clean sweep" of the girls' room. Thinning out my daughters' possessions is one of my least favorite jobs to do, and if done incorrectly, it results in tears, frustration, and intense negotiations. It's a touchy subject. After all... one girl's treasure is another girl's trash. And of course, we're dealing with girls...who attach emotions and feelings to inanimate objects. It can get really tricky. Drawers and closets were starting to bulge at the seams, and it just had to be done. I put on my C.D.N. cape, and took a deep breath.
It was go time.
I have a highly specialized method for getting my girls to part with their
First, I grab two large trash bags and head into the room. I call the girls in and ask them to take a seat on the toy box.
Then I begin Phase I: The Dr. Phil Approach
"Girls, how does it make you feel to be in this cluttered room right now?"
then I use the follow-up question:
"Is it sometimes overwhelming to try to clean this up every day?"
When they answer that it's "sooooo hard to keep it clean", I whip out the dreaded and highly feared trash bags.
"NO Mom, not the trash bags!!!"
Then I say something profound, inspirational, and very far above their heads, like the following:
"Girls, sometimes we get weighed down by the junk of this world, and we waste all of our time trying to take care of our stuff, when in reality, if we'd just choose to let it go, it will feel like a large weight has been lifted off our chests, and it will free us to serve God in a mighty way!! Do you want to be free from the junk, girls??"
Then they give me blank stares, and crickets start chirping in the background.
I dig deep, and rephrase my pep-talk.
"What I'm trying to say is... do you want to spend hours a day cleaning this junk, or do you want throw away some of it so that your room is more manageable?"
I hand them each a bag and start Phase II: Used Car Salesman Negotiations
"If you get rid of two My Little Ponies, I'll let you keep the Barbie Horse."
They make their counter offer.
"How about one My Little Pony, and one Polly Pocket doll, and we keep the Barbie horse, and John Deere Barbie."
I make my final offer.
"You can keep the John Deere Barbie if you can get a brush through her hair."
Next Comes Phase III: Lavish Praise
"Thank you for being willing to part with some of your old things. I know it's hard, but you will be so glad when your room is nice and clean."
(They will throw a few more things in the bag for a little extra praise.)
On to Phase IV: Guilt Trip
"Girls, there are children all over the world that don't have any toys whatsoever. Perhaps you could each donate a few to someone less fortunate."
Phase V: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
"You girls don't need to keep EVERY picture you've colored in Sunday School for the last 6 months. You will have a new picture next week. Let's recycle them. And while we're at it, lets donate any magazines that are more than 3 months old to the local library."
Phase VI: Terror Technique
"If you don't clean out from under your bed, bugs will want to live in your room. Do you want bugs in your room, crawling around at night?"
Phase VII: Throw Crap Away While They're Not Looking.
This one is self explanatory.
Phase VIII: Pit them Against Each Other
A little bit of healthy sibling competition never hurt anyone. Here's a suggested line:
"Wow, your sister has twice the amount of stuff in her bag than you have in yours. Do you think you can beat her??"
Phase IX: Bag Disposal
This one requires swift action on the part of the mom.
When the bag is full, IMMEDIATELY take it to the trash can outside so that the girls won't experience cleaner's remorse or get sentimental and dig the stuff back out.
Phase X: Celebrate
Throw a Tea Party in the room to celebrate the hard work, and compliment the girls on how pretty their room looks.
(This is my favorite part!)
After all is said and done, I remove my "Clutter Disposal Negotiator" cape, and go back to being just plain old mom again.
In reality, my girls don't have a ton of toys. They simply share a very small room with a tiny closet. Most of their "clutter" problems stem from wanting to keep every paper craft, coloring page, and worksheet that they've collected over the months. They never cease to surprise me with what is "sacred" to them, and what is off limits for removal. They didn't think twice about tossing a doll high chair, but cried over a Walmart receipt, and paper plate with yarn glued to it. Like I said before: One girl's treasure is another girl's trash.