How can I get my children to keep their personal space tidy?

I know. If I had the answer to that I would make a fortune and could retire to some sun drenched island in the Indian Ocean. But just because I appear to be striving to fulfil the impossible dream doesn’t mean that I am prepared to stop trying. I am going to give a good fight before I accept defeat and bow out gracefully.

The little ones aren’t too bad at tidying up. Unless they have had a friend to tea, when the entire contents of their wardrobes will end up on the carpet, they generally keep on top of their mess. But the big ones?!

Now I know that I am quite tidy but I didn’t used to be. I only developed my fear of mess when I became mistress of my own destiny and space. When I lived at home, I organised my room very much on the ” don’t open that cupboard – things fall out” school of tidying. I was a teenage girl. I had a lot of stuff. On the surface it was tidy, ish. As long as you didn’t open my desk drawer or try to find anything in my wardrobe the room was straight, ish.

This cannot be said of my children’s rooms. Each Friday I go in to tidy up before I clean. At 13 and 12 they haven’t yet reached the stage where this is a gross invasion of privacy and anything that I find is seen as payback for not having hidden it better in the first place. Today followed the usual pattern. I won’t bore you with a list of all the stuff that I found that was rotting or contraband or both. Suffice it to say that Environmental Health wouldn’t have been impressed.

But the thing that really got me riled was the state of my eldest’s clothes. Now, she has a slightly tricky arrangement for the storage of her clothes. Whilst she has masses of hanging space, there isn’t room for a chest of drawers and so she has to keep tee shirts and the like folded on shelves in her wardrobe. When I opened the wardrobe today I found everything that I have ironed for at least three weeks thrown in there willy nilly, mixed in with stuff that was clearly dirty but hadn’t made it to the washing basket. All my beautiful folding was but a memory.

I admit it – I was cross. Really cross. And then I had a great idea. I refolded everything and then removed it and hid it elsewhere in the house. Even as I type I am awaiting with a sense of gleeful anticipation the shouts as she opens her wardrobes and realises that all her clobber has gone. To the charity shop, I shall tell her, on the basis that it was so badly cared for that I assumed she didn’t want it any more.

I know. Childish. But strangely satisfying. It won’t make any difference. She will apologise and promise to make more effort and all will run smoothly for a fortnight or so until she slips back in to her slovenly ways.

Everyone tells me that I should just close the door on it and pretend the mess isn’t there and I fully anticipate that the time will come, in the not too distant future, that I am forbidden to enter but for the time being we can do it my way. I may tell her where her clothes are if she’s really, really nice to me! And then again….