Domesztic perturbance - Clutter or cleanliness?

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Whether parents have to kick the piles of clothing, backpacks and books out of the way or can easily glide across the floor of the room depends on their teen-ager's housekeeping habits.

While some area parents and teens continue to battle over how clean a bedroom should be, others have reached a truce that usually involves a closed door.

Teens see their bedrooms as their personal haven -- the only space in the house they get to truly call their own. So, that means they can keep it in whatever state they deem necessary -- a chaotic mess is more common than a neat, tidy room.

For Drew Lincoln, 15, the clutter is an insight into his personality. It's not so much a busy lifestyle that keeps the Cape Girardeau teen from cleaning his room. "I'm just lazy," he said.

Clothes are littered across the floor around his full-size bed. Though he appears to have plenty of drawer space, piles of clothing -- both clean and dirty -- end up on the floor.

"The floor is the biggest drawer in my room," he said.

A backpack and CD player sit off to one side by the dresser where a toolbox rests against the wall. The closet doors across the room are open partly because they couldn't be closed without shoving some clothes or musical instruments out of the way first.

About every two days his mother reminds him to clean up the room, Lincoln said.

Once every two weeks he actually does it, so that the housekeeper can come in. "That keeps things a little more sane," said Denise Lincoln, his mother.

But if anything gets moved or misplaced, the housekeeper usually gets blamed, which is the down side to the system. Yet, knowing that someone other than his mother is demanding the room get picked up helps keep any arguments to a minimum, Denise Lincoln said.

On the days when the housekeeper comes, Drew arrives home from school before Denise gets home from work, so his bedroom seldom stays clean for long.

"By the time I get home from work then it's already disheveled," she said.

"Then it becomes destroyed," Drew said.

Part of the problem is not having enough storage space, Drew said. There just isn't enough room for everything. The one drawer reserved for scouting gear has been taken over by clothing.

But there's also little room for the accumulation of stuff either.

A buddy whose family is moving keeps dropping off extra Star Wars memorabilia at the Lincoln household, which is really going to compound the storage problem for Drew, Denise says.

Star Wars posters add a dramatic flair to the blue decor in the room, but the posters have to be "mother-approved" prior to their hanging, Drew Lincoln said.

Takes hand in decor

And his decorating style is eclectic. There's a Southeast Missouri State University pennant hanging on the door, a Mark McGwire picture on the back wall, two Star Wars posters and a some photographs of bears.

Like Drew, many teen-agers take great pride in giving their bedrooms a personal touch.

Anne Peel, 14, got to choose exactly what shade of paint she wanted in her room and what kind of lighting she needed. Her basement bedroom was just built in January -- and she helped with the work.

"I painted and hammered in nails," she said. The room used to be part of her dad's workshop before it was converted.

The family knew they needed to add another bedroom to their home, especially since they have two daughters. Anne volunteered to move her bedroom to the basement.

Her old room went to her sister, Katie, 11. Katie's old room then became their father's office.

During the construction process, Stephen Peel sought his daughter's input on the lighting she wanted. She also chose her paint colors. "He asked what shade I wanted and it wasn't really tough," to choose, she said. "I didn't want red or green and that left blue or yellow. I'd had a blue room for a long time so I thought yellow would be different."

Then she chose a comforter in matching colors for her daybed.

While Anne is the neatnik, her sister seems to thrive on clutter. "I think she's comforted by it," said their mother, Laurie.

The two girls once shared a room but Katie's stuff kept migrating to Anne's side of the room and that created some problems.

"We had to designate sides and she'd never keep hers neat," Anne said.

Peel said she tries to pick up her room every day so that the only things that get scattered about are clothes and sometimes her backpack and track bag.

She can most often be found in her room curled into a chair reading. Her cat, Molly, also likes that spot.

Cleans on her own

Laurie Peel said she's never had to tell her oldest daughter to clean up her room. "She's kept it neat as far back as I can remember, and she's always made her bed without being told to. Sometimes she gets piles on the floor in her closet that we'll have to go through."

Keeping a neat room means staying better organized and not having to worry about searching for things when you need them, Anne Peel said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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