Clutter Patrol

clutter patrolI looked this up on the blog and see that I’ve mentioned it a handful of times, but have never explained exactly what it is we do for clutter patrols. Of course, it’s probably fairly obvious, but still, I thought I’d explain.

I am that pathetic sort of soul who finds clutter and chaos overwhelming and discombobulating, but who can’t seem to find a way to clean as I go (or teach the Progeny to do this) so that we minimize the clutter and chaos. Yes, that does mean I spend a lot of time being overwhelmed and discombobulated.

It’s as though God meant me to be a beaver and gave me beaver sensitivities and yearnings, but the internal mandate inherent in true beaver personalities just never developed in me. I suspect that passive attitude that assumes such a mandate is something that ‘just growed,’ like Topsy, might be part of the problem.

Which brings us to Clutter Patrols. In the old days when we had babies and toddlers living here 24 and 7, I generally called Clutter Patrols at least twice a day.

When I say I called them, I mean there came a moment in the mid-morning when the clutter and chaos of my physical environment suddenly and instantly became unacceptable burden to my soul, and I yelled, “Cah-lutttttttt-terrrrrrr PPaaaaaaaaaat-rrrooooollllllllllllllllllllll!” at the top of my lungs in tones that made all the fire engines in five counties weep with envy.

EVERYBODY in the house instantaneously dropped whatever it was they were doing and scrambled to pick things up and put them away as fast as possible.

I set the timer on the microwave for five or ten minutes and then joined in the scramble, usually helping a baby or toddler put their things away, or acting as traffic director, pointing one child to, say, the books the toddler had removed from the shelves, and another to, perhaps, the basket of folded laundry, and yet another to the cans of tomato sauce the baby had been stacking.

A handful of times instead of a timer, we put in a really bouncy song in the CD or tape player, the kind with a strong back-beat the likes of which would make Gothardites certain that tiny demons were zinging about the house infesting us like so many roaches, and clean to the beat.

We’d usually have another clutter patrol in the afternoon just before quiet time, or just before Daddy came home, or perhaps just at bedtime, or maybe all of the above.

There were a few rules to Clutter Patrols:

1. Yes, everybody really did have to drop what they were doing when Mama hollered:
“Cah-lutttttttt-terrrrrrr PPaaaaaaaaaat-rrrooooo-llllll!!!!!!!”

2. Clutter Patrols ought to be called with the right amount of flair and drama. Think something like “Sooooo-ey, Pig, pig, pig, pig,” the famous cry of the Arkansas Razorbacks, to get some idea as to pitch and cadence.

3. No griping, and especially NO complaining that you didn’t make this mess. EVERYBODY made this mess because we are a family and we all live here, and we are all helping to keep the house, well, to be honest, not exactly clean, but at least not something that would give Oscar of The Odd Couple nightmares.

4. Brisk, energetic cleaning is the expectation. Malingering, griping, complaining, and a sudden onset of irritable bowel syndrome will result in an even more sudden case of irritable mom syndrome and the cleaning will continue until Mama’s symptoms have abated.

5. Clutter Patrols were sometimes followed up with tea and a snack and a read aloud. You never know. Unless something has triggered Irritable Mom Syndrome, in which case you know that nobody but Mom is gonna see chocolate.

I preferred the spontaneous shouting of clutter patrols whenever I felt the need to clear the air, and the floor, and the furniture… but later the older girls explained that they really disliked having the flow of their days interrupted that way, so we took to scheduling clutter patrols a couple times a day.

Now we don’t have them regularly- except when the Little Boys are here. However, the older two girls at home will occasionally tell me they think we need one and so we’ll announce that after lunch, or just before lunch, or as soon as everybody is done with whatever subject they are currently reading, there will be a Clutter Patrol.

It’s all so planned and civilized now. One of these days we might even issue engraved invitations at breakfast:
“A Clutter Patrol is Announced.”

That’s how we handled the stuff that seems to just sprout all over the house during the day to day living a large family does.

What works for you? And if you tell me you just do not permit it to accumulate, well, you’re a better mom than I am, Gunga Din.

I’d take my hat off to you, but I’d probably drop it and forget where it was.

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