Tidiness can start young

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Level 2 did mean that in our household we had to clean up our act, so to speak, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
With no-one entering the premises for a couple of months, the lounge became a de facto linen cupboard and wardrobe. Towels, sheets and the like piled loosely on the sofa, an armchair for my clothes and another for Mrs M’s. No laborious folding and putting away required. A quick rummage around and you had what you needed.

It occurred to me at some point that we would likely be in for quite a roasting if our offspring could have seen this set-up.

"But, Dad, that’s exactly how we wanted to operate. It’s a convenient and labour-saving way of storing our stuff. How come it’s taken you so many decades to work this out?"

Untidy bedrooms — a perennial problem for all parents. You don’t like giving house space to a slum. Teen doesn’t even notice, let alone worry about, the mouldering food, dirty clothes, day-old wet towel and the sheer physical hazard of moving around the room.

It’s a phase and often best left to be outgrown, so long as you can close the door on it. That can be hard and I know some parents who use the technique of regularly entering the room with a rubbish bag on, say, the last Saturday of each month and giving it the once over. That helps them but it doesn’t do a great deal for getting Teen to accept responsibility, unless there’s also some down side.

One down side might be that you determine what’s rubbish or you put things away where you think they should go. The invasion of privacy involved in opening cupboards and drawers mightn’t be greatly welcomed.

The resulting aggro may not be worth it, especially if you’ve thrown out important research notes jotted down on a discarded pizza box.

Your best hope is to start them young. Even preschool age kids can take responsibility for tidiness. All it takes is the ability to pick things up and to know where they go. It helps if you have easy-access places for things — a big plastic toy bin, easy to open clothing drawers and some reachable shelves.

Have youngsters help you tidy away so they can see what you want and gain an idea of what tidy means. Train them into taking their clean, folded clothes to their room and putting them away. Have a basket where dirty clothes are put. Older children sometimes get the message when clothes they want to wear haven’t been washed because they weren’t in the basket.

But maybe cut a bit of slack if there’s a pandemic.


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