We live in a small house with small rooms and lots of STUFF. Until last week it had been 7+ years since we really, deeply cleaned out the “little boys’ room.” As our older kids have left home the younger ones have kind of just slipped quietly into the emptied spaces and I don’t say much about it. Oh sure, I will see that they’ve moved around and suggest they do some cleaning. Occasionally I will set aside a Saturday afternoon to straighten and organize a drawer or shelf that has gotten noticeably out of control. But this one room has been neglected. It was time for a complete overhaul.
When our oldest son moved out a few weeks ago I was going to turn his small room into a reading spot. But within hours my 14 year old had claimed it for his own. Seriously, he may as well have had a flag with his name on it to dramatically stab into the ground. That left his previously occupied space with a bunk bed with only one user and I knew it meant time to do this job and do it right. Mom-style.
Since my husband and 18 year old son had a trip planned for last week I knew that would be the perfect time to tackle this gigantic project. It’s easier to disrupt life when Dad is gone. He needs calmness in the house after a long day of work and I don’t like to have chaos going on when he is busy at work. So this was our window and we grabbed it.
“Clean out the boys’ room” sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? Oh sure. Just organize some things and throw away what we don’t need while birds sing and forest animals carry out the trash. Sadly this was not one of those kinds of jobs. It took four people five whole days of working sunup to sundown, exhausting, back breaking, grimy, blood-sweat-and-tears to get it done.
I don’t do anything the easy way. I don’t just say, “Hey let’s clean out your dresser this weekend.” No. I say, “Hey let’s empty out your entire room, replace the broken boards, repaint the whole room, add some trim to the cabinet, go through every nook and cranny and look at each item individually to evaluate if we still need it or not, then haul what we don’t need to the dump and drive the good stuff around to friends’ houses to deliver it to their children.”
And that’s basically what we did. We cleaned, cried, painted, moaned, and while we were at it we listened to a lot of Disney music and had mini-musical performances using old costume pieces and Broadway hits. I mean anything can be a party if you make it one.
A major part of the job was painting over the red “barn.” Since we live in an old farmhouse there are no closets, but built in cabinets. These are not the lovely cabinets you find in houses today. Ours are made of random wood pieces and were built by hand by people who weren’t cabinet makers. When we first moved here I decided to mask the ugly cabinet-closet in the boys’ room by painting it to look like a barn. At the time our kids loves horses and anything to do with horses.
Well those horse loving kids have grown and gone and the current residents of the room are more interested in super heroes and drawing mazes and discussing theology. The barn thing didn’t really work anymore. The walls were also in dire need of a fresh paint color and the bunk bed needed dealing with and there was an enormous bookshelf that was so filled with books that each shelf was double deep in rows of books. It was impossible to keep tidy.
So we emptied the room. And I mean EMPTY. Every drawer, all of the furniture, all of the too big clothes in the tops of the closet-cabinet, everything. The bunk bed was the real challenge because there is no good way to get a large piece of furniture in or out of that room. The door opens into a narrow hallway (old house, remember) and you can’t manipulate anything large around the corner. We decided to see if we could get the top half of the bed out of the room without taking it all apart. Long story short, we couldn’t. It got stuck half in and half out of the room at an awkward angle. We couldn’t budge it from it’s position (even to get it back in the room) nor reach the bolts that we needed to remove to take it apart. I literally had to lie on the ground removing the bolts while someone held the bed up so it wouldn’t fall on my head after the bolt came out. It would have been easier to do if I hadn’t been laughing the entire time. I kept slowing the process down with giggling at the fact that I was stuck under a BED in the hallway and how dumb we were to think we could get it out without just taking it apart in the first place.
Once that was done we moved on to prepping and painting. Lots of good lessons for the boys about how valuable prep work is and doing it right the first time and taking your time even though you’re tired. “We don’t want to have to do this again any time soon, so let’s do it right!” We all agreed that we never wanted to let the room get this messy again. Since it’s a small room, we couldn’t all be painting at the same time. So whoever wasn’t painting went in the living room to sort through the mountain of stuff we had evacuated from all of the cubbys and cabinets. It really was a group effort and everyone worked the entire time. These boys kept going without complaining or stopping. Of course, I did promise them Chick-Fil-A, ice cream and Redbox movies each evening. They earned it!
After 3 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint, the horse is gone and so are the outdated scallops along the top of the cabinet-closet. I added some extra trim to help it not look so homemade. It’s plain, which is a nice change of pace.
And I went through all of the books one night after everyone went to sleep. I didn’t want them to see what I was getting rid of so they wouldn’t try to keep it. Book are such old friends that we sometimes need to be brutal about letting them go. Before everyone woke up the next day half of the books were gone. I had already driven them to their new homes in the middle of the night. I’m like a reverse Santa Clause.
And you know I diffused a LOT of essential oils the whole time we worked. From lemon and peppermint to keep us cheerful and focused to Purification and Melrose when it got stinky to lavender and cedarwood to relax us all at the end of a hard day…..we kept 2 diffusers going in there at all times.
Now it’s all done and we have a blank slate to work with. We have decided on a map-themed room. I have some fun plans to make it masculine and more mature, but still playful since there’s a 10 year old still living in that room. The boys are thrilled to have a clean space to live in. “Mom! It’s so easy to keep clean and find my shoes!” Yep, that’s a win.
There is such a feeling of relief now each time I pass their bedroom door and see the clean, fresh space. And I wonder if I will ever not giggle inside when I step over the spot where I was trapped under half of a bunk bed laughing so hard I almost wet myself (which would have been a problem because the bed was blocking the bathroom door).
Life is good.