My boys are hoarders. The collect and keep everything. Pieces of string; cotton balls; the snippings from crafts that they have cut out that seem too precious to discard; broken popsicle sticks with jagged corners; bits of crayon from a few Boston Pizza dinners; that amazing 'crystal' (read: piece of gravel) that they found in the grass five months ago; crumpled paper placemats that they wrote on at some restaurant or another; broken elastic bands along with a zillion good ones; collections of feathers and twigs and rocks and leaves and shells and string; and on and on and on. And then there's the bigger stuff that consumes sooo much floor space: the large, cardboard box home made lovingly by Matthew and his cousin for his little squirrel teddy; the large, cardboard box home made lovingly by Matthew for one of his imaginary friends; the old briefcase full of spy gear; and the bakugan arena that is only sporadically used anymore.
It's only been about six months since the last overhaul. On that occasion, Matthew had to shovel out (and I do mean that literally) the stuff that had been shoved under his bed to such a degree that he almost needed to put his back to it in order to keep the stuff in. Seth's half of the room was considerably better six months ago than Matthew's, but that's only because he'd only been living here for about ten months at the time. It takes a bit of time to accumulate so much crap, I guess.
Over the past six or eight weeks, as I've mentioned before, the kids' morning routines have included bedroom tidy-up. And they have done this, at least on a bigger picture basis. As part of the morning routine, they have: Cleared the floors; hung/folded clothes; made beds; arranged pillow sand teddies. But despite these efforts, it was becoming increasingly difficult to avoid seeing the stuff that was jamming up the shelves and accumulating again under the beds.
It was time.
Today was d-day.
It took an entire school morning's worth of effort and it's still not done.
About fifteen minutes in, the boys were already starting to loll about on the floor and whine, utterly overwhelmed with the task ahead.
I was desperate. Desperate enough to bribe.
I told the boys that for whatever they threw into the garbage, I would give them one penny. It's probably horrible parenting strategy, but if that's what you're thinking you don't fully appreciate my level of desperation. I told them that it was a one-time deal.
Now, a penny per item is obviously not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but my boys (especially Seth) don't have opportunity to get much money. They're still pleased with small bits of the stuff. Seth in particular, because he doesn't understand the value or concept of money yet, is awed by possessing even a little bit of it - and incidentally, for Seth, having five pennies is infinitely preferable to one nickel simply because the numbers look more impressive.
My boys were pumped. They worked with great enthusiasm for over two hours. Every last piece of stuff was hauled out from under beds, they cleaned out baskets of stuff from their shelves, and even began to organize things a little better.
I was generous in my assessment of what constituted a penny's worth of garbage: A partial elastic band warranted one cent; and every cotton ball deserved a penny, too. I was frankly just happy with every single piece of garbage that made it into the bag.
You'll know how bad it was when I tell you the total that each boy earned:
Seth earned $3.26 (note: I was a little loose on my calculation of his totals because I didn't want him to be too different from Matthew's total)
Matthew earned $4.30.
That's a total of well over seven hundred pieces of garbage that left their room today. Seven grocery-store-size garbage bags were thrown out and a huge cardboard box of recycleables.
I have told the boys that their morning lists now require them to maintain this level of cleanliness and they have fervently promised their commitment to maintaining their 'new' room. We'll see.
By the way, Lizzie worked on her task at the same time as the boys did.
Guess what her total receipt was?
$0.07 - I bumped it up to a dime!