The Teacher is Talking
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The Teacher is Talking: Tackling Messy Rooms

By Leslie Lindsay

I love my daughter’s room.  It’s well-decorated, well-organized, and well…just a delight to be in.  Not! Books and reading 007

I have a 7 year old 2nd grader.   Her room is anything but neat and delightful.  While the space itself clearly represents a little girl with an active imagination, a good sense of self, a huge collection of art and horses, trinkets and trash, and a mommy with a good eye for design, but it lacks in order.  Big time. 

This weekend, I brought two big plastic tubs into her room.  One tub was marked “Donations” and the other “Relocate/Repurpose.”                                                                       (Image credit: Leslie Lindsay)

“We’re going to play a game.  It’s called ‘this or that.’  I am going to hold up two objects in your room and you are going to tell me which one you want to keep.  The other item will be donated to a kid who has less than you.” 

Big, fat salty tears ran down her porcelian skin.  “You can’t do this to me!  I love everything.” 

At first I tried to be sympathetic.  And then I said, “Well, I don’t [love everything].” 

And so the process began.  She hated it.  The ‘This or That’ game was harder than I invisioned.  I would hold two jewlery boxes up for her inspection and she would say, “neither.”  (one was particularly junky in comparison).

I revised my tactic and held up a piece of trash and the good jewlery box.  She pointed to the candybar wrapper.  Okay, she was catching on. 

As we worked in her room for fifteen minutes or so, her attitude softened.  She actually pulled out this book we had gotten for her awhile back, Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room by Carol Gordon Ekster, ilustrated by Kimberly Soderberg.  Product DetailsMy heart swelled with pride, “Oh my gosh…she acutally listened.  Maybe she got a something out of that book.”

I was right. 

Not only does young Ruth have difficulty with organization, time-management, self-motivation, and focus, but she also has a junky room (it all kind of goes together, doesn’t it?).  At the back of the book (which is a nice, hard-cover illustrated kid’s book), is a checklist on keeping a clean room.  Also, a parent tip sheet on helping your kids keep a neat room.  I was most appreciative. 

Towards the end of our cleaning frenzy, Kate opened her CD case and pulled out Being Messy (Joy Barry) another resource we had gotten her several years ago.  This was a book and CD companion Product Details(images of books retrieved from 1.15.13) We listened to the audio version of this CD.  I smiled on the inside. 

And when it was all said and done, I smiled on the outside too. 

For more tips on how you can help your child manage their chaos, check back in next week on “The Teacher is Talking Tuesday.” 


  1. milly collins says

    My great niece is Kimberly Soderberg. I am so proud of her and her art. As a child she was always organizing and reorganizing, so this book was perfect for her to illustrate. Thanks for sharing and teaching good skills.

    • Milly, I love how supportive you are of your niece/illustrator of Ruth the Sleuth. Thank you for reaching out. I have a feeling I would get along well with both your niece and the author of this book. I am just baffled as to why my daughter can’t keep her room a little more orderly. Best to you and yours! –L : )

  2. As the author of Ruth the Sleuth and the Messy Room, I was thrilled to come across your blog. I am so happy that the guide and game at the back was useful and hope the story inspired your daughter to want to keep her room clean. I taught elementary school for 35 years and organization was something I worked on with all my students. Thanks so much for writing about this. There’s nothing that can touch an author more deeply than to know her book touched lives. You have a very special blog here. Continue to touch lives with your writing!

    • Hello Carol! How wonderful to find your comment–made my evening. : ) I was so very pleased when my daughter pulled your book from her bookshelf and promptly opened to those last few pages. It was as if the lightbulb had gone off. So far, so good…the room is still in decent shape. I applaud you for teaching your students organizational skills in elementary school. It truly *is* something that will carry through into every aspect of their lives. Best wishes to you and yours! –Leslie

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