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Thurston column: Clutter is in the eyes of the beholder

On a lovely August day, just before my youngest son’s junior high school year, I gave some friends a tour of his room that included several points of interest. There were the dresser drawers, his bed, the bookshelves, and the inside of his closet. Best of all, there was the floor.
It caused exclamations such as, “Ah,” and “Oh, my!” and a few, “I’ll be darned,” from the women (all mothers) looking over the sight.
I must admit it was well worth the time to look over the room. It was the first time since my son became a teenager that the place had been picked up, cleaned up, and put in order by my son’s own hands!
Only a few weeks earlier my mother, visiting from Denmark at the time, approached me and indignantly asked, “Have you seen the floor in your youngest son’s room?” To which I quite honestly answered “No. In fact I have not seen it for months!”
A year earlier I had separated our two sons, leaving our first-born in the room they had shared for years and moving the younger one to his slightly smaller but very own room. At the time I foolishly thought, “Now he won’t have such a big area in which to dump and mix together his clean and dirty clothes.”
My husband, ever the wise one, patiently listened to me while we moved furniture from one room to another and with the philosophy only delegated to fathers said, “He’ll just pile it high instead.”
Now, you all the know the saying about corn, “knee high by the fourth of July.” Well, July came and went. I hate to tell you what the room looked like by the end of the month. How he managed to go into his room, having just left the bathroom a total wreck (most hurricanes could not have done as well) and emerge an hour later looking neat, clean, and pressed, I’ve never figured out.
It is not that I am a clean house fanatic. I have been known to shove things out of the way and into closets so crammed that I will reveal my true age and weight before letting anyone look in, but I do take offense at too much clutter.
So here I was that day in August wondering what in the world had prompted him to clean up his room. I was to afraid to ask lest he tell me something I did not want to know; teenagers have a way of doing that, so I left it alone and ’til this day do not know the reason.I did, however, get a little concerned a few days later when we all went to see a movie. While waiting for things to start, I offered him a piece of candy. He reluctantly accepted, informing me, “I really prefer not to eat at the theater.” I thought he was joking until he nudged me and asked, “What do I do with the candy wrapper?”
I realized a change had come about when, after suggesting that he do like most others, “drop it on the floor and let the cleaning crew sweep it up after the show,” he said, “Surely you are not serious!” I replied that indeed I was, only to be told by this newly changed fiend of cleanliness, “I never litter when I am out.”I was about to say something that ought not be repeated in polite company when the movie title flashed on the screen and I suddenly remembered the orderly chest of drawers, clothes hung up in his closet, and his clean, clean floor. Instead I quietly took the candy wrapper from his hand and put it in my handbag and with a smile sat back to enjoy the movie.
Oh, the wonder of neatness.

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