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There is at least one messy kid per household, right? It is always that one child who can’t quite understand that a clean room means you can actually see the color of the carpet or that clothes have a dedicated spot in the dresser rather than the door, bed frame, back of the chair, or again, the carpet.

My sweet middle child is that kid.

He is wildly creative, loving, charismatic, and messy. I walk into his room and a little part of me dies inside. I find closing my eyes and using various breathing techniques help keep my sanity while I am within the confines of his pigsty of a room. I mean, really, how hard is it to hang up a shirt? What must I do to keep you from putting a wet towel on your bed? And even though we don’t allow food upstairs, why do I find food wrappers and mice droppings behind the toy box?

I think that the reason why it bothers me so much is that I feel that I am not parenting this child correctly. Did I not teach him how to put clothes on hangers? Did he somehow miss the lesson on putting away clean clothes instead of  having them magically appearing, perfectly folded, in the dirty clothes hamper?

Have I really failed that much as a mother?

We have had endless discussions on what a clean room looks like and I still can’t get through to this kid. I even made a convenient, and reusable, check list on what is included in a clean room to no avail. This kid will try, marginally, to clean his room but him and I both know that it is just going to be messy the next day.

So why do I bother?

When he was younger, I would clean his room for him in an effort to show him what I expect from him to be able to do on his own. It didn’t work. I even wrote him a letter after the last time I cleaned his room to try to lay down the law on this messy room issue. It didn’t work. I pared down all of his toys and took a bunch of things out of his room in realization that he may be getting overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in his room. It didn’t work.

But do you know what the worst part is? The most horrible and gut wrenching thing about it all?

I was that same kid.

I am sure that my mother just giggles inside wherever she is when I walk into my son’s room and almost lose my mind over the mess. I loved having the messy room as a kid. I have this inner struggle over the satisfaction that my messy room brought me as a kid yet the inner angst that it causes me now. I know what my son is feeling and he really sees no problem with his room whatsoever. It is just not a big deal in his world just like it wasn’t a big deal in mine.

My messy room antics finally came to a head when I was a teenager. In an epic battle with my mother, which is still talked about today in our family circle, I argued, “I have to be perfect at everything else in life! Why can’t I just have this one place in my life to be messy?”

And, you know what, it worked.

So, no, I will not force my messy kid to be clean. I will not make him meet my standards in room cleanliness. The carpet of his room is still viewable to the naked eye so I will not fight it. The messy room is a part of him just as much as it was a part of me. I am convinced that it will one day make him a creative and passionate adult and, hopefully one day, he will call me ranting about his own messy room kid.

Oh what a day that will be.

Kristina Phelan

Kristina Phelan currently writes a self syndicated newspaper column entitled Mama Bear Moxie. She lives on a small farm in the Midwest with her husband, three kiddos, and too many animals. Find out more at

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