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Striking Mom Wins Clutter Battle, Will It Last?

In October Jessica Stilwell from Calgary Alberta went on strike over the constant unrelenting clutter and mess her children left wherever they went and whatever they did.

Left alone for the weekend with her three children and a foster baby, Ms Stilwell finally sat down at 11pm totally exhausted and realized the house was littered with discarded clothing and food.

Striking Mom Wins Clutter Battle, Will It Last?None of the mess had been made by her.

She went over that edge that many of us parents skirt dangerously close to.

She decided enough was enough and her parenting style had to change.

Then and there she decided to go on a cleaning and picking up strike.

The Change

Instead of nagging and constantly keeping the house in order she decided it was time that her three pre-teenage daughters saw, smelt and lived the consequences of their actions. Or more accurately non-actions.

How the week went

Day 1
Breakfast and dinner dishes left on table, crusty by now
Dishwasher overflowing
Shoes, backpacks plus more clutter on floor and left in hallway

Day 2
Cereal left sitting in milk in the bowl, begins to stink
Full dish washer may be eventually licked clean by dog and dishes piling up everywhere
School lunches packed in bags used to collect dog poo because school bags haven’t been empty and cleaned.

Day 3
One child announces the kitchen is disgusting, but doesn’t do anything about it, (by this time cold food and dishes are piled about a foot high) and the clutter is building daily.

Day 4
One child asks for help cleaning up but continues to contribute to the mess

Day 5
Clutter and mess grows even bigger

Day 6
Strike over, kids clean up while Jessica Stilwell relaxes on the couch and drinks coffee
Jessica wrote, by doing everything I realized I was doing my children a dis-service and setting them up for failure. She didn’t want to argue- it was faster and simpler to do it herself.

Going on strike was a shift from parenting by doing everything to allowing her children experience the consequence of their actions.

This is a longer, slower and more frustrating way of teaching your children but can teach those valuable life lessons that just can’t be told.

This can be a more painful road but with more lasting effective results.

It seems striking is popular with other parents too

Roxanne Toussaint was a mom on strike when she set up a tent in the yard with a big sign that said “On Strike” until an agreement over housework was reached by her family.

Michael Dunlap refused to cook or clean until his kids signed a contract to do their part.

Getting help with daily chores, especially when your children are older can be challenging. Teaching kids to clean up after themselves can seem to start all over again in those teenage years, even if you previously had things under control.

And parents can get very creative and serious when they want to get their point across.

When the Old Rules no Longer Work

Jessica received many positive comments and a few negative ones when she blogged about her strike.

The negative comments ranged from being an out of control parent, keeping a dirty house and, how can her husband let her do this.

And she had made a good point that her kids are pre-teen and the old rules no longer work.

Obviously other parents have had this problem.

One parent commented she bins anything that isn’t put back in its place, (I’m tempted but would cost too much money)

Another commented that that she throws her son’s things out the window so she can vacuum up a child’s bedroom, (that sounds good to me.) This of course is after she asked him to pick up so she could vacuum.

Now I’ve never wanted to go on strike, I’ve thought about it but I really would find it too difficult to let things slide.

Part of my solution was to reduce what we own so there is a lot less to be left around. It takes a lot longer for clutter to build up if my children would completely stop picking up after themselves.

My successful simple rule of everything off the floor stopped working when my daughter hit her teens and her wardrobe became her floordrobe.

Her response to my nagging to tidy her room resulted in paying her brother to do it or having friends over who like to tidy.

Let’s just say she cottoned on to outsourcing early in life.

She has said to me that when she moves out the first thing she is going to do is hire a cleaner and I will not be allowed to come to her house to pick up.

What can I say to that except Hurrah!

What does Marie Osmond have to do with the Striking Mom

Now I would find it difficult to go on strike but I have been tempted to pull a Marie Osmond.

Marie who had three children and adopted four more, suddenly had enough of the kids, the laundry, the cooking and the picking up.

And I mean suddenly.

One morning she walked to her car, got in and drove. I mean drove across the U.S. and left for several weeks.

It seems making a point by striking or running away can also seem a little crazy.

This was my sister’s and I favorite running joke when our children were small. We would call each other when we felt overwhelmed with children and chores and the fantasy of running away seemed really appealing.

Saying we wanted to pull a Marie Osmond made us laugh, released some tension and gave us the energy to keep going.

My Take on the Striking Mom

My take on this is getting pushed to the edge isn’t a bad thing especially when it makes you take the action you need to create the change you want.

At least it sends a clear message to your family about where you stand and where your boundaries are.

Creating safe real life situations where teenagers learn the consequences of their actions has more impact than constantly taking on the burden and stress of all the cleaning/picking up and being responsible for the micro management of teenagers’ daily lives.

Jessica Stilwell’s story is another example of how stuff can impact your life.

And how great it could be, if every person just picked up and cleaned up after themselves.

Copyright ©2012 Jane Alais

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