"It's not fair," my daughter announced the other day.
(Um, what else is new?)
"It's not fair," she continued. "I have the smallest closet in the family."
Here's what I wanted to say: "You are the smallest person in the family. You have the smallest clothes in the family. You contribute the smallest amount financially to the family. And, you have the smallest desire of anyone in the family to actually hang something up."
Here's what I said instead: "How 'bout I help you clean out your closet Wednesday after school?"
Here's a confession. I am a neatnik and I actually enjoy cleaning out closets and dresser drawers. My daughter is not me (as she will often assert in a rather whiny voice: "I'm not you-ou-ou, Mo-o-om!"). My daughter doesn't mind clutter. Until, that is, she is missing something or can no longer close her closet door. Enter moi to save the day. I am Felix to her Oscar. Martha to her mayhem.
We go through this exercise once every few weeks. With Christmas just over (and with it, an influx of new hoodies, boots, Converse All-Stars, and yes, even socks), this is as good a time as any to tackle her wardrobe. Funny how much more room one has when tee shirts are actually folded and hangers are used to ... hang things. (Imagine that!) It will be considerably easier to find a shoe's mate when it is no longer buried under 22 inches of discarded garments on the closet floor.
There will most certainly be items earmarked for the middle school's thrift shop. After all, my daughter has grown a couple of inches in the past year. And, as per usual, there will be clothes that she can technically still fit in — but wouldn't be caught dead in. In eighth grade, there is no grey area. Either it's completely, totally, utterly cool or it is completely, totally, utterly uncool. (Most of the things I choose for her these days would, I have to report, fall into that latter category. That's why I rarely buy her anything unless she is right next to me approving the purchase.) I anticipate a small pile of uncontested donations.
Then, we will move on. There will be a number of pieces that she'll insist are fine but that I'll urge her to retire. Too tight jeans, torn in all the wrong places. Grubby tank tops in a rainbow of faded colors. Stretched-out, stained sweats from after-school programs long past. (Really, when was the last time my daughter was on a gymnastics team? But, she still has the warm-up pants, the team leotard, the beach towel.) Chances are, she'll give on one or two of these tatty treasures.
The third and final category will be the clothing that I think she should keep even though she doesn't like it or plan to wear it — now, next year or ever. There are pretty dresses, cute cropped jackets, black velvet pants. She'll give me a look that says, "Fine. You like them so much, you wear them." And, I would. I really would. If, that is, I were three inches shorter and thirty pounds thinner. Again, we will compromise, but it will be me who looks longingly at the pile of giveaways.
By the time we break for dinner, her room will be tidy and organized. Everything will have a place and be in that place. Jewelry neatly organized. Foldable items folded. Hangable items hung. Shoes lined up just so. Socks rolled into uniform little balls. Desktop cleared and ready for any impromptu studying she might care to do.
My daughter may feel a momentary sense of accomplishment. She may rejoice in the recovery of some long-lost favorite pair of gym shorts. She may even say "Thank you." Chances are, however, that she'll head downstairs for a snack and a 20-minute episode of "Phineas and Ferb."
But, I'll stand and admire our work for a few minutes. My daughter's clean room is like an ornate sand castle or a jolly snowman. It's a piece of art. But, it's temporary.