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De-cluttering for ten-year-olds

How my ten year old's bedroom DOESN'T look (above)

Kids aren’t particularly tidy creatures in my experience.

My three boys have an exceptional talent for walking into a spotless living room and making it look as though it’s been stampeded by a herd of wildebeest within minutes.

But it’s their bedrooms that are in a league of their own, at least when they’re left to their own devices.

Which leaves a conundrum for parents as our kids grow up. When they’re really little, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to chase round after them picking up shoes, socks, toys and miscellaneous bits of food so that your house is vaguely habitable after they’ve gone to bed.

But that can’t go on forever. Not unless you want to turn your offspring into the kind of adult who’d ignore three days’ of washing up because there isn’t quite enough mould in it yet to develop a rare antibiotic.

Yet persuading them to take a little responsibility for their own personal muck can be quite a leap, as I discovered when I persuaded my ten year old to tidy his room this week. Persuaded by withholding his pocket money, I should clarify.

Admittedly, you only had to take one look at his lair to realise that the task I’d set him was not going to be a doddle. I couldn’t begin to list all the weird and wonderful items he’s accumulated in there, because I’d feel like I was reciting the contents of a Generation Game conveyor belt after a bad trip.

But just imagine a Lego outlet cum bookshop cum laundry cum Tate gallery exhibition (he’s still got pictures he drew when he was six). That’s on top of the dozens of half-sucked Haribos, half-done homework and half-torn Match Attax cards that could be found under his bed every time I got the Hoover out.

I handed him a bin bag waited downstairs while a series of thumps echoed through the ceiling. It took half an hour – quicker than I’d expected - before he came downstairs and announced it was done.

‘It looks amazing, mum,’ he said proudly as he opened the door to reveal the results of his toil.

And it did. Kind of. Unfortunately, his de-cluttering method involved shoving every stray item under his bed, his chest of drawers and his bean bag. In the latter case, there was so much stuff ‘concealed’ underneath it, that you’d have to be six foot six to sit on it without your legs dangling off the floor.

Still, I suppose it was a first step. For the full 25 minutes that it lasted.

* Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello is published by Simon and Schuster on March 24, priced £7.99.

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