Playroom? Dressing Room? Tales from the Neanderthal Smugglers' Den

"But the room is too big." both my children declared - their excuse for persistently succeeding in destroying my efforts to tame their untidy bedroom. What was to be done about it? I plotted and planned, measured and sketched, then headed off to Firwood Timber, our local timber merchant.

Nowadays I think I'm probably just 'that quirky woman who thinks she can do DIY', but initially the men in the yard treated me with a kind of revered contempt. I did a small stint in a timber yard myself, as a cashier, not in the yard itself. My manager-to-be explained at interview that he would not discriminate, of course, but there was a horror story of a girl who had once worked there that had to be told. Not that I wanted to work in a cold, windy timber yard: a warm office shared with a lovely accountant will do quite nicely thank you.

So, the Firwood timber men got past the fact that I know my wood, mostly manage not to look too put out by their self-derived need to curb their language when I'm in there and will pretty much let me roam as free as their male customers. I even had a meaningful discussion with one of the chaps about different types of bricks once, but that was long after my first attempt at a big DIY job - a 'do or die' attack on the kitchen.

We had cheap, flatpack kitchen units and a leaky sink, the consequence of which was a gradual slide to the left as the screws lost their grip in the disintegrating chipboard, followed by a controlled crash as said units landed on the floor. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that, the resulting pile was as flat as it had been originally.

If you have ever questioned the purposes of all those geometry lessons at school, let me tell you that rebuilding a kitchen from timber justfies the suffering. I reasoned thus: if I manage to pull this off I've got a new kitchen; if I don't I've got 130 quidsworth of fire wood. We had a coal fire at the time, so either way we wouldn't have lost out completely.

Back then I didn't own a single power tool, so the whole job, four cupboards, two drawers and a three metre work surface, was to be completed by hand. Norm Abram's a skilled craftsman, a master of carpentry, but with a workshop that is as well kitted as his I should bloody well think so too. What I'm saying is that my kitchen units are no work of art, but they're functional, hardwearing and still standing after ten years.

And so to my plan. The children were right. The bedroom was too big and they were too small. Perhaps reducing it in size was a good thing. My delivery of plasterboard and timber arrived and I fashioned a dividing wall that separated the room into a larger part, to be used as a bedroom, and a smaller area, henceforth to be known as 'The Playroom'.

The Playroom? THE PLAYROOM? Anywhere less playful I have yet to find, as it rapidly filled with stuff. Now, I would love to be more specific about the heaps and piles of tangled, messy, sticky stuff, but I wrote over a hundred thousand words last month. It's quite astounding just how much mess small people can make, and it would have been all well and good if their 'no longer too big' bedroom had stayed tidy. Admittedly this would only have been a relocation of untidiness, yet there we were, with two rooms filled with clothes, toys, snaffled bedding, a tent, books, pens, broken Christmas presents and so forth.

Annual clearout time. All unwanted toys and gifts in this bag. All the rubbish in that bag, and that bag, oh, and that bag too. Four trips to the recycling centre in a large MPV and those famous last words:

"Keep it tidy this time!"

"Thank you Mummy. We will."


My children have grown a lot since then and so has the mess they make. It's changed a bit along the way, I must admit, for now the stuff is not stuck together with glittery glue and paint. It's stuck together with lip gloss and nail varnish and all other manner of cosmetics that are not so easily removed as 'safe for children' products.

As they have changed, so have their rooming requirements. Now that original, smallified bedroom is occupied by one daughter, and we were ousted from our office to house the other daughter, hence the discussion of bricks and the presence of my computer on the kitchen table. Oh yes, we built a new office, or at least removed our own stuff and everyone else's from our garage in order to use it as an office, but it's another room to heat. So, why do I have to keep my computer on the kitchen table children? Because you created so much mess that you needed to relocate some of it to a third room.

About three years ago we 'Ikea-ed' their bedrooms. Good, solid Scandinavian tat at very reasonable prices, although you have to take the journey of Proserpina to get it. The Playroom became their dressing room, but it's never lost its original title. We built two giant chests of drawers and constructed a chrome dress rail, carpeted and decorated and there it was. All new and shiny. And tidy.

Then the stuff came. Unfortunately a leaky water tank destroyed the carpet, not that it matters when the floor isn't visible.

"But there's not enough light." they said.

We fitted lights.

"My drawers are broken."

I fixed drawers.

"The rail has collapsed."

I gave up.

Until today.

You see, they've been living in the same three school shirts (I have no idea how this works between two of them over the course of a week - maybe they take turns at having one or two shirts each) and yet they own at least ten shirts between them. I decided to go on a reconaissance mission for the missing shirts. That was two hours ago and so far we're up to five shirts in total, including the ones they're wearing.

I'm about to start the second bag of rubbish. There are two shelves full of shoes, even though their footwear diet is only marginally more varied than their school shirt usage. I've yet to embark on the chests of doom, sorry, drawers, and there's some very interesting clothes piling going on in the wall cupboard.

On the plus side I've found my long lost nail file, a couple of dozen coat hangers, three pillows, a cereal bowl and spoon, two flasks, lots and lots of pens and the floor.

I should really commend them though, for over the past year or so they are finally learning to control their mess. The Playroom is the last bastion of stuff and their bedrooms are, well, OK-ish I suppose. And they do appreciate it, especially as it's nearly Christmas, which means...

...they'll be needing the space for all their new stuff.


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