I never thought I’d say this, but Tidying Up saved my relationship with my daughter. My college kid, who moved back home after a semester away, left her bedroom a disaster at the end of the summer. I couldn’t stand it, and, against my better judgement, I spent hours and hours cleaning it up and organizing everything after she began school 3 hours away. Since she came back home to go to school locally, and basically dumped her dorm on her floor, we have been in a constant battle where I ask her to clean her room, and she says she’ll get to it when she gets to it. Makes me want to scream, and it takes all my energy to take everyone’s advice and close her door and walk away. I do it, but I’m not happy about it. And she’s not too happy with me, either.
While I’m not a neat freak, there is a certain level of picked-up-ness that I like our house to maintain – and that definitely doesn’t include Ramen and Dorito remnants mixed in with towels and shoes. Even if her door is closed. (And, if your house looks nothing like this, I am totally jealous.)
One night when my daughter came home from a Sociology class that she’s enjoying, I was scrolling through Netflix and finding nothing overly interesting on TV that didn’t require a lot of concentration or that wouldn’t get me hooked on a new series that I’d then have to binge watch. I’d heard of Marie Kondo, read about her in mom magazines, but didn’t know that she was on TV until I saw her on the screen.
But there she was – just as my daughter wanted to spend some time snuggling on the couch – so I left Tidying Up on, put the remote down, and took a deep breath. Would my daughter watch it and get the meta-message, like, please, please, please clean up your room like the cute little kid helping his mom fold things and stand them up in the drawers on the show? In 30 minutes, I’d find out.
When the family on TV was instructed, part in Japanese, part in English, to take everything out of their closets and only put back what sparked joy, I looked over to see my daughter’s reaction. Was she texting friends or napping yet? To my surprise, she was reading the subtitles and commenting on how much clothing the mom had. I wondered if my kid realized she also had a ton of clothes…or maybe she couldn’t find them under the blankets, books and makeup that took over her room.
The mom and dad on TV thanked their unwanted items, and batched things up to give away or throw out. I tried so hard to not to eyeball the box of garbage bags sitting nearby, or to ask what my daughter thought of the show. In general, whenever I suggest something, it’s a sure way to get a negative response. If we’re at the mall and she is looking for a coat, you can be sure that any jacket I show her is a no-go. There was no way I was going to mess this up by speaking, breathing, moving, blinking, living…
I needed this episode of Tidying Up to be a miracle – or I was seriously going to walk into her room and put things in contractor bags to be donated the next time we got a call from an organization asking if we had any clothes to give away, saying, “They would have a truck in our neighborhood soon.” Oh, boy did we have clothes – it looked like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe exploded on her floor, with a little bit of CVS thrown in for fun. Could she really ever clean this disaster up? I almost wanted the phone to ring so I could start bagging, and “soon” couldn’t come soon enough.
The show had about 5 minutes left and I realized I was still kind of holding my breath.
Everyone on TV was smiling and shaking hands, saying how happy they were to be organized and that they planned to empty out other drawers and closets in the near future. Could my daughter’s future be organized? Could she and I be happy walking into her room and not feel tension every time I opened her door – and also not trip over her collection of empty Ipsy bags? I was about to find out.
The show ended, and the next episode queued up. She said, “Mom, can we pause it? I neeeeeed to dump my drawers and do this!” I think my jaw dropped, and I hope I said, “Yes,” and not, “How come you listen to Marie Kondo and not to me?”
Two hours later she came out of her room, grabbed a water bottle, and asked me to take a look. After tripping over the bags and boxes she put in the hallway of things she doesn’t want (which I now have to sort through and either put in storage, donate or throw out) we made it to her room. Let’s just say she got the KonMari message down pat. She even organized her boots by heel height and color. I. Can’t Even.
Who knew that a Japanese organizing consultant had more power over my daughter than I did? We can finally see her floor, and don’t need any contractor bags after all. Now we need a show about how not to spend all your $$ on take out when you’re on a college budget. Netflix, can you help us out?