February 2, 2012

Cleaning A Pack Rat's Room

I'm linking up on Thursdays with Jules at Pancakes and French Fries as part of her 2012 William Morris Project series.   (Also, apologies for the awful quality of the pictures in this post. I'm not even sure what happened, because if nothing else, this room gets a lot of natural light.)

Here's a story about a rat and an ostrich.  The rat is specifically of the pack rat variety, and the ostrich is a fairly typical one, given to sticking its head in the sand as a means of both avoidance and denial. 

Actually it's just a story of my son, Tucker the Pack Rat, and me, his mama, who is an Olympic champion  at procrastination and avoidance of non-fun activities.  Such as, say, cleaning the bedroom of a seven-year-old boy who loves to collect small items and twigs and pebbles and plastic twist-ties and detritus that others, not as sensitive to the delights of gutter diving, might just call trash.

He's an old soul, our Tucker.  He's had extremely specific tastes and preferences since day one, and also a wide streak of sentimentality and nostalgia – things must be held onto, and preserved.  Days and moments are precious, he understands, and so are desserts – he's been known to refuse to eat a favorite dessert until he's whipped out his camera and digitally preserved that treat for all time.   He also has yet to fully embrace the fun of Legos, because for Tucker, each random construction is kin to a work of art and must not be torn down. EVER.

All of this is a very fancy way of me saying that his room, since well before the holidays hit, has been a HIGH HOLY MESS.  And I have not wanted to deal with it, or clean it, or dust and vacuum it, until this week.  I'm not sure what the problem is with my son's room – I'm very adverse to allowing this kind of clutter  in other parts of the house.   (The small playroom can get pretty cluttered, but I tackle it fairly quickly, as it's one of the first rooms you see on entering our home.)  Something about Tucker's personality and intense attachment to his random bits just makes me want to shut the door and say uhhhh...maybe tomorrow?  Or maybe I'm too tolerant of his collections, and another, more pragmatic mom would just sweep it all into the trash on a weekly basis, while he's away at school. 

Anyway.  I did it.  This week I thoroughly cleaned his room.  Let's see some before shots.  Honestly, I don't think they quite do justice to the mess.  Because every flat surface had literally layers of stuff: take one layer off, and another lurked below.  Until you got to the final layer, which was DUST. His headboard, which has little openings and shelves,was a warren of tissues and stuffed animals and tiny toys and books. 
I was going to make the bed first before I took the shot, then thought: REALLY?

This was the top of his toy storage bin. 
Random business card he'd found & deemed worthy of saving. 
My stategy is to put everything that's on the floor onto the bed. 
If you look back at my master list of 2012 home goals, you'll see that I plan to buy a dresser for this room, hopefully a vintage piece. I've seen some nice ones on Craiglist for under $150.    (I never replaced his old changing table/dresser after I sold it last year, and moved the Ikea unit up from the playroom.)  Anyway, here is the cleaned room, after about a day and a half of work:

I moved the small bookshelf from the other wall to under the window.

Of course, once I get a dresser for the room, I'm then going to be forced into dealing with the sheer amount of STUFF and collections lurking inside the bins. Like this fiesta of Hotwheels:
It occurs to me that I could clean it out first, and then sell the Ikea unit on Craiglist to make money for the dresser. Awww, man. That sounds like work.   For now, I think I'll be an ostrich about that issue, and just be happy that this room feels so fresh and open.   The pack rat and the ostrich are both promising to maintain it to at least a semblance of this improved state.   


  1. I feel your pain. I have an 8 year old who wants to hoard used tissues and torn hair bows and random rocks found on walks. I have repeatedly hauled out a full trash bag of JUNK cleaned out while she was away at school. It is a BATTLE.

  2. I have a 17 yr old son. I want to tell you it gets better....really I do! Oh, how I do!

    The best? The business card! There are still items in my son's room that make me just shake my head (as I close the door)!

  3. Ms. Amy -- so glad to hear I'm not alone. I do love that they're so engaged & connected with the natural world at this age...I just want it to stay OUTSIDE. :-)

    May -- I will hold onto hope that it gets better! And yes, that card cracked me up..no idea where he got that!

  4. Your post is hilarious! Thanks for sharing. Last time I cleaned my hoarder daughter's room it took me two days. Needless to day I haven't done it again (that was two years ago). I guess I can't be an ostrich anymore . . .

  5. Maybe I should read what I type before I hit the publish button. I meant: Needless to say, I haven't cleaned her room in two years. Ugh.

  6. If the colors weren't different, I'd have said that must be MY son's room! Though at nine, he's shown some progress toward sorting and letting go of things. But I have to set aside several hours to work with him, which is a chore in itself. Last time I cleaned out his room I hauled several bins of stuff down to the basement and he never missed it. After a few months, I felt fine about tossing/giving things away.

    We have some shelves in his room that are going to be dedicated to Lego display, I think. :)

  7. Great work on Tucker's room! I am also an ostrich when it comes to my children's rooms. Fortunately, they are maturing and it doesn't get as overwhelming as it used to be. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Lisa, Melissa, Lais: Thank you all for the kind words. I'm holding out hope that as he gets older, there'll be less and less of the tiny clutter.
    I'm sure it'll be replaced by something, though. (Stinky clothes and food wrappers?)

  9. Haha, Kelly! Is it terrible to admit I'm looking forward to piles of stinky clothes in my son's room if it means he's actually CHANGED his socks and underwear without me reminding him!

  10. Melissa, ha! Good point. Sad to say, Tucker is actually better about that kind of thing than his older sister. If I don't remind, it doesn't happen.


Thanks for commenting! :)

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