Calder is only four so the concept of responsibility is somewhat foreign to him. Maybe I don't like picking up all the things anymore or maybe I just really like failure, but we've decided to plunge ahead and give Calder some light "chores" to do around the house anyways. I'm not talking about anything back breaking like scrubbing floors or washing windows. Mostly we are just asking to boy to pick up his toys when he is done with them and sometimes help empty out the wastebaskets when they need it.
For his part, Calder feels like this is the Worst. Thing. Ever. There is no faster way to get him to throw a great wobbly tantrum than to ask him to pick up his dirty laundry. Left to his own devices it would never ever happen. The mess in his room would gradually deepen until he was living ten inches away from the ceiling on a pile of filth and dried up Play-do. Lately Bruce and I have taken to making cleaning part and parcel of the time out process. You want out after those five minutes? Put your books back on the shelf. Now, I'm no cleaning fanatic. Anyone who's ever lived with me can attest to that. I loathe cleaning and can happily live the heaps of crap lifestyle but Calder's method of the same is not sustainable in the long term. Especially when it comes to toys and books. It'd be one thing if Calder could just go one living like a hobo with no repercussions for the things around him but the fact is that his disaster is destructive. His room is where possessions go to die. Toys are crushed, wet clothes get mildewy and books are crumpled or ripped. I am honestly tired of it. It kind of pisses me off to have put thought and money into the things I get for him and have him treat them like that. I've already gotten to the point that we are not replacing things that get ruined.
No shit, my mother says. Touche.
Calder isn't totally cleaning adverse. He's actually super helpful with the greater housekeeping activities such as garbage removal and he likes to swiffer things and sweep on occasion. He will put away his folded laundry without much too much push back. Calder even likes to help do the dishes by putting away his plates and cups. Calder's help can make cleaning the house fun. We're spending time together. He makes up stories about what we're doing and we play pretend. We bond. But then comes those times when he "cleans" his room and the battles start and I go totally bonkers as most of the junk gets pushed under his bed or shoved haphazardly onto random shelves. What bugs me the most about that is he will put more effort into not putting things away correctly than it would to do it the right way the first time. Oh, this marker? I will stick it here in with my Lego box, which is right next to the marker box. WHERE IT BELONGS. The mind. It boggles. I honestly do realize that Calder is still too young to be responsible for all maintenance on his own so on the weekends, I try to do a cooperative deep clean with him. I start off trying to motivate and organize and usually end up laying on the floor overcome with despair and boy funk while I watch him jam stuffed animals into his desk drawer and he pretends like I would never think of looking under his bed. Again. It frustrates me to no end and sometimes I get kind of shouty, which I like even less than messy rooms.
And so, like many parents, we have instituted the pick it up or lose it method of mess control. Calder gets lots of opportunities to put his things away and if he refuses, stuff gets packed up and away. Sometimes it just gets moved to the basement play area so I don't have to deal with it anymore (until I go down there) and sometimes it goes on a temporary hiatus until Calder can earn it back. So far he's lost about two small garbage bags of toys and earned nothing back. I'd say the amount he's missed his absent belongings is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. I am not even sure he's noticed one of them. If he asks about the stuff, I'd certainly give him the chance to earn the stuff back but so far, not a peep. And that's fine with me. We've got a small house and too much stuff anyways.
P.S. I realize this all makes me sound kind of horrible. I'm not a slave driver, I swear, but rounding up his junk is decidedly preferable to what would happen without it. Like ant infestations. And mold farms. And Wren having free access to markers and paints. God, not the paints.