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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: The magic of a clean bedroom

Hyrum and Emmett Ditto proudly display their newly clean bedroom.  (Julia Ditto)
Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

My two youngest sons, Emmett and Hyrum – ages 11 and 8, respectively – have shared a room for the past several years, and while I don’t want to call them out in this very public arena, I’m just gonna say it. Their room is a disaster. Most days, it looks like a Lego store and a piñata exploded and landed all over their floor.

The boys have to “clean” their room every Saturday, but it usually doesn’t go beyond a general picking-up of stuff and shoving it somewhere else (think dresser drawer, far-back closet shelf, under the bed, etc.). I usually let it slide because monitoring Saturday chores is the bane of my existence and I like it to be over with as soon as possible. And so the cycle repeats itself week after week.

It was while I was tiptoeing through their potential Superfund site last weekend that I finally put my foot down.

“Emmett, go get me a few garbage bags from the kitchen,” I said as I cleared a spot for myself on the floor and knelt down next to a pile of Lego pieces, dirty socks, and broken toys. Emmett quickly complied, afraid to leave me alone with his things for very long.

“Now, take this Sharpie and label each bag: give away, throw away, and keep.” Again, he obeyed.

“OK boys,” I said. “This is becoming a bit of a hoarder situation. I know you love all your stuff, but if we never get rid of anything, it will just keep piling up, and pretty soon you’ll have stacks of newspapers up to your ceiling with dead cats crushed underneath.” They stared at me with wide eyes. Clearly, they had never watched an episode of “Hoarders” on A&E, but I had – a lot. And so the grand clean-up commenced.

It didn’t take long for them to become fully invested in the process. As they excavated under the bed and behind the dresser, they found things that had either been lost or forgotten, and they were able to quickly decide if it was treasure or trash. The give away and throw away bags grew bigger and bigger, and soon enough, their room felt about twice as big as it had before.

I love it when their room is clean like this, because their creativity seems to skyrocket. On the Clean Days, one of their favorite things to do is create a “book nook,” which is usually just a small fort covered with a blanket and filled with books, some comfy pillows, a few toys and even a bowl of snacks if you hit it on the right day.

The last time they made a book nook a couple months ago, they gave patrons (i.e. their siblings and parents) the option of purchasing a one-year membership for $12 . This membership gave you unlimited access to the book nook, even during normally closed hours while they were away at school. It also allowed you to play with the toys at no extra cost AND use the colored LED lights that line their ceiling and bunk bed.

This was a deal that could not be passed up, so I of course immediately paid my $12 and became the first proud member of the book nook. But just days later, Emmett wasn’t pleased.

“No one has used our book nook,” he said, deflated. “We made it for people to enjoy, but no one is enjoying it, so we might as well take it down.”

“No way!” I exclaimed. “I bought a year-long membership and I intend to get my money’s worth.”

A few days later, I had some time on my hands after the kids left for school, so I figured, why not?

I wandered upstairs and crawled into the book nook, where I laid on my back and looked around. Hyrum’s miniature Squishmallows lined one wall. Emmett’s collection of fidget toys leaned against another. A few toys that were there for enjoyment only were labeled with sticky notes that had “Not for Sale” scrawled across them. I had already spent my last $12 , so I wasn’t in the market anyway.

Being in the book nook was actually kind of nice; I felt like I was wrapped inside a quiet little cocoon. I played with a few fidget toys, flipped through a book, and then reluctantly dragged myself out of my little boys’ dreamland so I could move on to more mundane, grown-up tasks.

Later, I told the boys that I had spent some time in the book nook; they were delighted. And that few minutes wrapped up in the bliss of childhood? Best $12 I ever spent.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at