I’m a self-proclaimed neat freak. I really wish I wasn’t, believe me. Being a neat freak means spending a lot of energy cleaning, organizing, picking stuff up. I could definitely use that time in other ways but I know myself and I know that I feel calmer, more together and productive when my surroundings are clean.
Growing up, our tiny apartment was usually very neat and organized, more by necessity than anything else — for example, we only had two closets, so my mom, dad and I had to get our stuff really organized to keep track of everything. But it’s more than that — neatness runs in my family, for sure. My grandpa irons sheets before putting them on the bed. True story. (For the record, I don’t do this. Just thought I’d clarify.)
Ever since our daughter became a walking and talking and understanding little person I’ve been much more aware of how my behavior, habits and preferences effect her. And my neatness is one of the things I’m definitely seeing rub off on her, to some degree. She loves to make a mess in her room but she also likes to clean it up before she goes to bed. Well, I am not sure “likes” is the right word — it’s what I do so it’s what she does. We usually clean up together but she never resists it. (Although she does love to leave a mess in her basement playroom, which makes me wonder whether I’m squashing her messy tendencies.)
But as she gets older and develops her own preferences, should I let her keep her room messy, if that’s what she prefers? According to this article I just read on Slate, the answer might be yes. Apparently it’s common for adolescents to express themselves by making a mess in their room and as common for most to become more organized and neat as they get older. Unless the mess is creating other significant issues — say, issues around personal hygene or not being able to get things done — the article authors suggest that parents should just let the kids do as they like and keep the mess.
Boy, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that.
What about you? Where do you draw the line between your preferences and what you think works best and letting your kids do their own thing? Would you let your kids have a messy room or do you think it’s better to teach them to be organized at every age?