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Carmen, thanks for posting this. Just this morning my husband and I were going on about our 14 year old son eating in his room and hiding dirty dishes under the bed. Like your situation, nothing seems to work. Punishing, talking, nothing. The death of your friends child really puts that into perspective. I will take dirty dishes any day over that heart ache. Prayers from me to your friend.


Carmen, I could have written this today. I totally agree with everything you said. Also, I don't know if I ever told you, but I really like the picture above of you and your children.


I remember a poem an aunt once gave me about how when the house is empty and the kids are grown and gone we will miss the mess. I try to think of this when I get in one of my moods about messes. And yes, perspective! Our hearts always break with the loss of a child.


How very true. When tragedy strikes it often makes our lives look so banal. I'm sorry for your friend and the loss of her son. There are no words to say.


Well I am on the opposite end of the spectrum - I CAN easily walk by a mess and ignore it. However, it does not make me happy. At all. My house is cleanest when we have company (aren't most of us that way?) and I try really hard to keep it that way afterwards. But it's the kids!! My daughter thinks the kitchen table is her personal storage space. My son leaves socks and Legos everywhere, and those suckers hurt when you step on them!!
One thing I tried for a while that sort of worked is this: take a laundry basket into one room and put anything that doesn't belong in that room in the basket. Go to the next room, replace things that do belong there and pick up anything that doesn't. Continue doing this through the rooms and by the time you get back to the first room, the basket should be empty. But yeah - I got tired of being the only one who was doing it so it ultimately failed.
And you are allowed to still be annoyed even though there was a tragedy. So very sad.


I can tell you from first hand that giving up the fight to keep on top of the messes grows into an embarrassingly messy house. Today we really tried to start turning that around... again. I have yet to figure out how to take care of my family with 6 kids, work outside the home, and stay on top of my house as well. My kids want to have people come to our home as much as my husband and I do, but don't seem to understand the importance of helping with the house *daily*. I know the relationship I am building with my kids will be what is most important in the long run, but on the other hand I want to teach them to be more organized than we currently are to have more healthy homes of their own. Let this be the the biggest challenge we face... Wishing much strength and healing to your friend and her family.

Stephanie ODea

I feel clausterphobic and panicky when our house is cluttery and I, too, get snappish. hell, I've written a book on getting kids to do chores, and yet my own STILL don't really do them unless I'm constantly riding them.

It's exhausting.

I broke down over the weekend about the same thing you did. Life is too short, too precious, too fleeting, and while I don't want my kids to remember me as a nagging shrew, I also don't want to turn them loose into a world without knowing how to pick up after themselves.


I know when you hear of a tragedy like the one your friend experienced (& my condolences that you have lost a friend in that child also), it makes you want to hold your babies closer and tempts you to give them a free pass on some of the things that suddenly don't seem to matter. But that free pass is the thing that's building up on you - you've given them free passes because this strategy or that strategy didn't work. Like it was your fault that you hadn't found the right key or the clever-enough strategy yet. And then you give yourself a free pass because you didn't want to feel a certain way.

But there are no free passes on filth. Either something is picked up or it's not. Either it's clean or it's not. No one wants to clean. And just because they don't want to, doesn't mean you should have to do more of something you don't want to do. Part of becoming a responsible adult is sucking up the things that aren't fun & you don't want to do and just getting them done. Who else is supposed to teach them that? The college roommate that stuffs a pillow case with dirty socks or leaves all the dirty dishes in their bed?

Set a timer 30 minutes before dinner. Tell them the clock is ticking. Anyone that doesn't (a) either get all their stuff picked up or (b) spend at least 30 minutes sincerely trying to get it done doesn't get friends over/TV/games/non-educational books/iPad/computer after dinner, or has to load the dishwasher after dinner, or clean the cat box, or doesn't get their favorite part of dinner, etc. Something that matters to your kids. In the alternative, anyone who gets it done all week long gets to pick a favorite thing for dinner in the next week.

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  • Carmen Staicer is a whirlwind of energy and execution who rarely sleeps and loves coffee and happens to have six outstanding awesome kids. A concentration of asthma, food allergies, spectrum disorders and learning disabilities means that she has learned more than she ever thought possible and knows less than she ever could imagine. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, boxing (she has her Black Belt in Muay Thai), rowing, sleeping, exploring coffee shops, homeless ministry, photography, and cooking.