In our house, there are no toys downstairs. None. If a stuffed pony or a helmeted Playmobil soldier wander downstairs, back up they must go at bedtime. This keeps the downstairs in more or less pristine order, but I always feel a twinge of guilt when visitors remark on it. What I want to answer is, Go see the bonus room and you won’t be nearly as impressed.
Because, see, even though we’ve organized the bonus room, and reorganized, and then organized again, and purchased awesome storage units from Ikea and EVEN PUT LITTLE CHALK LABELS ON THEM, the room is still a perpetual mess. A Playmobil0-Lego-Calico-Critters-My Little-Pony mess.
I have tried, and tried, and tried to keep it tidy. But, dang it, it’s not my job! I’m not the one waging the Revolutionary War in Playmobil form. I’m not the one spreading Cloverleaf Corners to all ends of the room. I don’t dump out the entire Lego bin in search of one tiny red brick.
Yet when I utter the words “Clean up the bonus room,” I receive the full brunt of denials and accusations. But I wasn’t playing with Playmobil! The Calico Critters aren’t mine! I don’t know who dumped out the Legos!
Really, we need a security camera in there.
But on this Thoughtful Thursday, rather than launch an interrogation about who-did-what-when, I instructed the kids to sit down and each come up with a list of rules AND CONSEQUENCES about the bonus room. See, we just finished up with the Code of Hammurabi (the “eye for an eye” guy), and I figured it could serve as inspiration for our own Code of Bonus Room rules.
And wow, the kids came up with some harsh rules — most of them directed at each other. If sister leaves her Calico Critters out for more than a day, she will be subjected to forty lashings and fined $20.
When they finished with their rules, I had them sit down at the bonus room table (after first clearing it of copious art supplies that should have been put away long ago) and I left the room. Just like the Greeks in the Assembly, their job was to argue until they reached a set of laws satisfactory and fair to all.
And guess what? They did. I was pretty impressed with their melding of history, writing, and, finally, collaboration.
It shows that writing can often be organic, and not just a school assignment. So what needs addressing in your house? What written rules need to be created?
Bonus Room Rules
If someone does not play with something at all they shall not have to help clean up.
Nobody is allowed to play with clay in the bonus room.
Playing with Calico Critters, Playmobil, and Lego is permitted for two days. The materials shall be cleaned up by bedtime on the second day. A fine of $2 applies if this rule is broken (payable to Mommy).
If the bookshelves are messy, everyone has to help straighten them.
If someone leaves the lights on in the bedroom or bonus room, they must pay 50 cents to Mommy.
If art supplies (including markers & pencils) are left on the bonus room table, the last person to use them will have to sharpen all the colored pencils.