Great expectations

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Penny Wise

Aug 25, 2010

I am now the proud mother of a 14-year-old! Who has spent every day since his birthday bouncing around the house singing at the top of his voice in between telling me how mature he now is! Unfortunately for Liam his birthday was quieter than planned. Ali came down with swine flu so all visitors and outings had to be postponed! Whilst poor Liam was less than impressed, he still had an enjoyable day. As he headed off to bed that night he said 'Thanks heaps for my presents Mum, they're really cool. This is the second year I haven't had any toys though!' To which I replied, 'Well, you're 14 now! What toys was I supposed to get you? I didn't realise you wanted any!' 'I know, I don't!' he chuckled. 'It's just when you're small you can get heaps of stuff for less money. When I was little I could get five action figures for $100. Now I'm lucky if I can get one pair of running shoes for that much!' I had to agree - but I can't say I miss the clutter that every birthday used to bring. All those new toys with a thousand detachable pieces which would inevitably get lost - or worse, tripped over or impaled in someone's feet!

Particularly at the moment, while it's so important to keep the house tidy. I shouldn't say it but it's lovely to have a few days' respite from people passing through. The last few weeks have been manic; almost every day we have had agents coming through or house hunters. Everybody says how much they like the place but we're still waiting for the right person. Lovely as the people are who we have met, they have all been retired couples or single women. What our house needs is a family! It needs kids running up and down the stairs and playing in the tree hut. It needs a pony or two or a couple of pet lambs. Our place is just too big for one or two people to rattle around in, but there's nothing we can do except sit tight and wait for our dream family to come along. I think we could be waiting a while though. From what I've seen so far, families just aren't buying at the moment. They're all too scared to move until the market changes. Everyone's waiting for everybody else.

Still, we'll do our best to be patient and in the meantime just keep up with the constant tidying! As anyone who has ever sold a place will know, it's a neverending battle - especially if you have kids! Liam, to his credit makes very little mess. The items he brings out of his room are minimal and he always likes his room to be tidy, with everything in its place. Ali, on the other hand is a nightmare. A hilarious nightmare, but nonetheless a nightmare! Always busy and moving on from one activity to the next, he leaves a constant trail of destruction in his wake. DVDs are watched and never put back. He's always making up some game or another and there are always BITS everywhere. Bits of paper, cardboard soccer players, imaginary rugby tournaments - and the latest is attaching his dad's new fishing reel to whatever takes his fancy (usually a bar stool or something equally large) and 'reeling' it in, pretending there's a huge fish at the end of it! I've lost count of how many times one of us has almost tripped and broken a leg on the blasted thing!

The other day I told them I had had enough and that all pocket money was going to be stopped until they lifted their game. With people coming through every day, the house needed to be spotless, yet I was finding I was doing the same chores and picking up the same things as the previous day and the day before that - just silly little things such as picking wet towels off the boys' bedroom floors or ridding the kitchen bench of cornflakes or coffee granules. 'A good chef always cleans up after himself!' I grumbled to the kids for what seemed like the hundredth time. Several years ago I thought I had the answer. I bought both the boys a 'mess basket' and every time I was tidying downstairs and came across something belonging to them that wasn't supposed to be there, I would put it in the appropriate mess basket and present it to them for emptying. There was just one problem. The mess basket never got emptied and the boys could never find anything because they would always forget about the mess basket!

Liam, having the misfortune of being both 14 AND six feet tall was read the riot act. 'Liam, you're a big - make that VERY big - boy. Now I KNOW you make your bed religiously every morning and I KNOW you fill up the wheelbarrow with firewood every day for me but for goodness sake could you try hanging your towel up for once when you've had a shower?! And why do you never EVER put your phone/book/school books/calculator/dirty dishes/contact lens solution/video games away?! Can you please help me out here? We're trying to sell the place for goodness sake!' I pleaded. ' 'FINE!' he retorted. 'I'll put them all away! Jeez! If it bothers you that much! Just tell me where you want me to put them!

And it was then I realised. All these years I have expected my children to be psychic. Every time we have acquired anything, whether it be for them personally or for the family, or for the house, have I ever once said to them 'Right, this is a good place to keep the thingummy-wotsit! From now on, it goes here?' Well have I? Er, no. Being a 'there's a place for everything and everything in its place' sort of person, I have simply taken it upon myself to find the new thingummy-wotsis a nice wee nook in our home, then expected everyone else in the family to know EXACTLY where it's supposed to go from this day forth into eternity, without ever actually telling them. And why on earth should they be remotely bothered about asking where things are supposed to go, when I'm so hellbent on putting things away first in my constant quest for perfection? I can't believe it's taken me 14 years as a mother to work this out but it has!

So now we've got to the root of the problem, the question is how to fix it? One of the main problems is washing. Dirty or clean, it gets everywhere. If Liam so much as dries his face with a bath towel it goes straight in the washing basket. Ali, being the active wee chap he is always goes through twice as many clothes as everyone else but I realised even he was going to extremes when we were going out for Liam's birthday dinner the other night. When I commented that his rugby jersey had got a bit shabby to wear out to dinner, he obediently went and changed. And put the aforementioned rugby jersey straight in the dirty washing basket, after he'd worn it for precisely 30 seconds! This led me to two conclusions - the first being that I was sick and tired of being overloaded with washing and realised the only way to cure them of this was to make them do their own. The next day I presented them with their own laundry basket each. When it's full, they have to take it to be washed and be responsible for drying it and putting it away. The second conclusion I came to was actually the same one I had come to previously - that my children are not psychic. Kids need instructions. Mine have been doing what they were told all along - the problem was that I was only giving them half the instructions. 'Put your dirty ice cream bowls on the bench when you've finished' does not mean 'Put your dirty ice cream bowls on the bench, then rinse them out and put them in the dishwasher!' That may be what I want them to do and is what I am thinking - but it's not what I'm saying!

So it seems that I am no longer able to lay the blame for having a less than spotless home wholly with my children. On the whole they are pretty darn good. It's me who needs to clean up my act, if you'll pardon the pun! From now on I need to make my instructions clear and show or tell them where things need to go. I have a feeling the Vault can help me with this too. Have you checked out the Cleaning section lately? There are TONS of brilliant ideas and so simple too! One tip that jumped out at me and made me think 'that's what we need!' is this one, titled 'Hang the washing! Let's save it instead'. I think there's going to be an awful lot of new hooks being put up in our house!

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