When a Neat-Freak Shares a Room With Her Slob Sister: What's a Mom to Do?

girls bedroom

I find myself in a pickle in regard to my daughters’ room. Two daughters, one room, one catastrophic mess. Now I’m normally the type of parent to choose my battles, and so long as there’s nothing growing out of the hamper or under the bed, I’d be inclined to let them live in the chaos. Unfortunately, because there are two of them, the parenting gets a bit trickier than letting them live with the consequences of their actions (or inactions, in this case).

Here’s the dilemma: I have an Odd Couple situation on my hands. My nine-year-old is more fastidious; she likes to have things in their place, and is easily upset when her world is disrupted. The four-year-old, on the other hand, has affectionately been nicknamed The Destroyer for her penchant for, well, destroying things.


So I have these two very different little girls that have to share a room. Big Sister wants things to be neat and tidy, and carefully puts her things away when she’s done using them. Little Sister is never happier than when every toy she owns is on the floor, and she sees no reason to pick any of it up because she’s going to play with it again anyway.

Disaster. Total Disaster.

One wails that it’s not fair that she has to share a room with her messy sibling, and the other wails if she’s forced to pick up her toys. It’s a constant battle to get their room picked up, and more often than not I just end up pushing piles of crap out of the way so I can vacuum the floor.

What’s a mom to do in this situation? I thought getting organized would help them, so we got storage cubes and bins from Ikea and found a place for everything. My youngest’s favorite thing to do now is dump the containers upside down onto her floor. Then my eldest whines that it’s a frickin mess, but of course she won’t put things away unless she’s made to, because she didn’t do it.

I could go in everyday and clean up myself, but that won’t teach them responsibility and respect for each other and their things. Another option would be to stand there, prison guard style, and make them do it themselves despite the whining and the tears, but that sounds hellish. I could tell the older one to suck it up and either pick it up herself, or take a hint from her pal Tom Sawyer and figure out how to trick her sister into doing the work.

I’ve even considered bagging up everything on the floor and donating it to Goodwill, and honestly, this is usually the only threat that works when I really need them to clean up. Thankfully, I’ve never had to test if I have the guts to go through with it.

Should I suck it up myself and play Mean Mommy everyday at bedtime until things are put away? Will they ever fall into the habit of doing it themselves? Is that wishful thinking? Can I bribe them with candy? Can I bribe them with candy just to get them to stop complaining about their shared living space? Can I have some wine now?

Do your kids share a room? Do you have any tips for creating a peaceful environment? Are you laughing your hiney off at me for even attempting to stop sibling squabbles and messy room syndrome?

Image via Jenny Erikson

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