Once every few months (or, once every other day according to my lovely wife), I get a burr in my saddle about the state of clutter in the house. Usually I get stirred up after my wallet becomes submerged under a ream of kids' artwork that's collected on the kitchen counter, or when I need to reach something in the back corner of the playroom and realize the only way I'm going to get to it is with a pound of C-4, a Hazmat suit and a roll of paper towels. And when I get stirred up, that's when the soonest available Saturday becomes Room Empurgement Day.
Sometimes I get smart, and provide some incentive to my daughters to join in Room Empurgement Day. "Come on girls! Let's find the floor of the basement so we have a place we can put a new Foozball table!" Other times I just use threats. "I'm walking into that room with a plastic garbage bag, and I ain't leaving until it's too full to tie closed. If your collection of broken Harry Potter wands ends up in my path, so be it."
I recall recently where I happened to strike just the right cord (don't ask me how) to get the girls excited about the prospects of a clean playroom. The elder child, showing off a few drops from her dad's anal retentive gene pool, was extremely enthusiastic about organizing, sorting, and purging. Her younger sibling just nodded her head in agreement and confirmed that, whatever she was going to be doing, mommy would need to be no more than three feet away at all times.
It was a great start to Room Empurgement Day. In theory. We were going to be like one of those families you see on the DIY channel who hire the professional organizer and sort their entire collection of belongings into eight color-coded storage boxes, an alphabetized file cabinet, and a wall-hanging photo montage containing the pictorial story of their family's life events through the ages. I could just picture myself in our spotless home, relaxing in the cushy leather chair by the fire, reading the latest issue of The New Yorker with my faithful labrador at my feet while my wife cooks up a fresh batch of scones with homemade marmalade and my children built me an ottoman made entirely of popsicle sticks. Wait...where was I? Oh, right...reality.
Here's what actually happened. Saturday morning breakfast, 5 episodes of Hannah Montana, and a Spongebob later, I finally managed to peel the kids away from the TV and announce it was time for Room Empurgement Day to begin.
"WAIT!" yelled Jessica. Now, 99.98% of the time you ask Jessica to do something, that's the answer you get. "WAIT! I'm not done putting my squishies to bed!" Okay, so I'm not quite sure what squishies are, and I don't know why they need to hit the sack in the middle of the day, but we certainly weren't going to get any effort out of Jessica until the little varmints were tucked away for their nighttime slumber. So while Mom bought some time putting the dishes away so Jessica could put her squishies to bed within tugging distance from her mother, I took Thing #1 upstairs to tackle the mess in the playroom.
Once upstairs, it wasn't long before distraction set in. I asked her to sort through a pile of stuff in the middle of the floor. As soon as a long lost plastic bathtub from her Barbie dollhouse was discovered, Natalie left the pile intact and migrated to the Dream Home. I pulled her back in by asking her to return her collection of fancy scarves draped across the playroom TV back to her bedroom closet, and found her ten minutes later sitting on her bed revisiting a book on how to draw cartoon puppy faces. That's when the moaning and complaining started. Then the crying. Then the tantrums. And Natalie really, REALLY hates when I tantrum.
Soon Thing #2 came upstairs with her mother, and I put them to work sorting books. This of course led to the realization that, no matter how destroyed a book was, no matter that the pages of the book were stuck together with 5-year-old dried up baby formula, it was not going to be leaving the house without a fight.
It's about this point where my lovely wife and I realize, yet again, what every parent already knows. Clean the room when the kids are gone, throw everything out, and hope to god that the kids never think to ask what ever happened to that old Dora The Explorer backpack that's now sitting in the bottom of the garbage bag. Another successful Room Epurgement Day complete.