When is it okay to clean out your 10 year old stepson’s room?

I’m home alone for a few days as mi novio and D went back to Santa Marta for Semana Santa.

I love having the house to myself. These periods become very relaxing, peaceful (because I can function without the TV on) and ultimately very productive. So in the past couple of days I’ve managed to clean out our bedroom, my wardrobe, the spare room and now I am working on D’s room.

I can’t admit to being a tidy person. Thankfully, mi novio and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to tidying and cleaning, as in my experience that is an important element for a less stressful relationship. I am also a hoarder. I have stuff and when I go through my things to throw them out, sentimentality overwhelms any motivation to de-clutter. When I moved to the US a few years ago, I didn’t even pack up my little family cottage. Mum said if she needed the place she would clean it out and pack it up. It was a bit of a different story when I moved to Colombia. I finally realised that I was going overseas for an indefinite period of time, and it was highly likely that the bits and bobs I was saving for “some day when I have kids” or “for when I have a costume party to go to” just wouldn’t even be unpacked but stay in my mother’s container of hoarded items, so I had a market stall, dropped off three boxes to the op-shop and threw out a heap of junk.

Having entered D’s room to put some clean clothes away, I decided his room also had to be on my clean out list. D certainly didn’t inherit his grandmother’s penchant for cleaning, nor do I think he falls into the same untidy/disorganised category as mi novio. I actually think he is the messiest of us all. Maybe it’s because he’s a ten year old boy, but about two weeks ago he spent a whole afternoon supposedly cleaning up his room. In his ten year old mind that obviously didn’t mean sweeping under the bed or cleaning out and re-organising the shelves.

When I think back to my time as a 10 year old, I had just moved into my very own room. It had a built in desk and shelves where I could put all my little ornaments (and there were a lot of them). I loved having my privacy. I think it was not long after this that I started to have regular toybox clean ups. My ritual would involve opening up the toybox and pulling out all sorts of things – mostly junk – and then convincing my younger brothers and sister that it would be great for them. In effect, I tidied up my toybox, and would carefully put everything back in the box in neat piles, yet the junk only moved to another room of the house.

I also remember the fear whenever Nan came to stay. Almost every single time she came to stay she would get the rake out of the shed and rake out our rooms while we were at school. This was terrifying for all of us and I’m still not sure whether Mum sanctioned this behaviour or not. Perhaps Mum now feels somewhat vindicated of her own hoarding that would also come under threat whenever Nan came, because she then had to clean out Nan’s house after she moved into a nursing home and Mum discovered Nan’s very own hoarding habit hidden in a four bedroom house.

I tried to keep in mind what it was like having someone else forcibly enter my room and clean it out according to their own definitions of rubbish while I was in D’s room, but ultimately I just got on with it. My compromise was a bag of things that I would be happy to throw out, but that D should see first. I’m curious as to whether he will actually go through that bag and put away neatly any of those things.

It will be interesting to find out whether I suddenly become the wicked stepmother, or whether he’ll take it all in his stride and be happy with the new pairs of tracksuit pants I’ve bought and left on his bed as a surprise. There’s also the Easter chocolate he won’t be expecting to sweeten the deal even further. Let’s hope that at the very least, the Lego stays in one general area and not end up in every single drawer, nook and cranny of his room. I think that would be called a cleaning win.

What’s your approach to cleaning a 10 year old’s bedroom, is it their job or your job?



A room of our own

When we surprised everyone with our arrival, the question of where mi novio and I would sleep came up.

The solution was we would sleep in his mother’s bed with his 8 year old son (who usually shares his grandmother’s bed) and his mum would share a bed with his brother since his girlfriend (who normally lives here) was visiting her family in another city. Musical beds! This was just a solution until the following day when we would go to buy a fan so we could share mi novio‘s single bed, as without a fan sleeping is pretty rough. (Although mi novio always used to sleep without a fan!)

The next day mi novio and I bought a fan and some paint to start work on transforming the storage/junk room into our bedroom. I wish I’d taken photos of how the room looked before we moved out all the car and motorbike parts belonging to mi novio‘s brother, Christmas decorations belonging to his mother and all other odds and ends you find in the junk room. I wasn’t quite sure that mi novio‘s teeny tiny room with space only for a single bed and small shelf would fit all the stuff from the storage room, but it did.

Mi novio set to work with the promise that the room would be read for us to sleep in that night.

We’d probably left our start a bit late in the day but with the help of his mother we cleaned the room thoroughly and mi novio fixed up the holes and dents in the walls and set to painting the roof and walls. Painting is not my forte, even less so painting ceilings and the roof here is made of a kind of ceramic corrugated plasterboard which is even trickier to paint. Lucky for me mi novio is quite the painter. Apparently he can also paint fancy, swirly feature walls that only people with money have in their houses because not many people know how to do it and it is quite expensive to commission. I have never seen these types of painted walls in Australia, nor can I imagine them being popular there, so I think it must be a latino thing.

Though we ended up sleeping in his mother’s bed again because I’d been struck with a bout of gastro and had to go to bed, mi novio finished painting the room that night, two walls white and two walls orange.

Mi novio suggested laying tiles on the concrete floor, but as I was keen to give la suegra (my mother-in-law) back her bed, I just wanted to move in and start unpacking the 7 bags we brought with us. So we moved in our luggage and the single bed for starters whilst we looked to buy a bed. Our new room had a closet space that was nothing more than a cement wall and roof but it needed a rail. So my increasingly handy novio installed a rail to hang our clothes. He also fixed up a hole in the floor, replaced the wood covering the door between our room and his brother’s room, filled in and painted the holes between the roof and the wall and added a plastic concertina opening door (to save space and give us privacy since all the bedrooms just have a curtain for a door).

A couple of days later we finally bought a bedroom setting which came with two bedside tables, a chest of drawers, a mirror and little seat that fits perfectly in our room.

Finishing off the fitout of our room are an Aboriginal artwork and an Argentinian tango print that we had framed, a couple of boomerangs, a bag rail and fab jewellery board mi novio made for me.

So now we have our privacy. We have a space to call our own and somewhere to keep our things. And mi novio did all of this with the minimum of tools, a drill, spatula, hammer (that has had the head cut to a stub), electric drill, screwdriver, roller and paintbrush, saw and a plasterer’s scraper. I’m very impressed and so thankful that we have our own space to inhabit until we find our own apartment, it makes the adjustment to Colombian living so much easier.

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