Mom's Viral 'Garbage Bag Cleanup Plan' Is an Invasion of Her Teens' Privacy

garbage bags teenTrying to get a teen to clean her room is right up there with trying to get a newborn to sleep through the night in terms of Sisyphean parenting tasks, so it's not surprising that one mom's recent solution to her daughter's slovenly habits is going viral -- but did it also go too far? 

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Alice Velasquez posted recently about what she clearly thought was an ingenious solution to her teen daughters' consistently messy rooms, which was to put all of their belongings in trash bags and offer to sell them back at $25 per bag. Check it out:

What do you do when you are DONE telling your teenage daughters to stop letting their room look like homeless people...

Posted by Alice Velásquez on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

That's ... a pretty expensive pile of garbage bags. As one might expect, this post got lots and lots and LOTS of encouraging comments ("Genius!" "Great idea!" "OMG I love it!" "I have to try this!"), and as the mother of a teen girl, I definitely understand the frustration behind what drove this mom to bag up her kids' belongings -- but I don't understand how she could actually do it.

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Here's the thing: I know this is a difficult concept for many parents to grasp, but teens need -- and deserve -- privacy. Yes, they're your children, and yes, they're living under your roof, but they're still human beings who are frighteningly close to the age when they're going to be going out into the world on their own, and as such they need a space that's all theirs -- a space to process their feelings, think their own thoughts, and form their own opinions.

Plus, their possessions are a reflection of those feelings, thoughts, and opinions. The things we might think of as pointless stuff or clutter are incredibly meaningful to teens -- so to invade their private space and confiscate these material extensions of their burgeoning identities feels like an almost barbaric attempt at maintaining order. And all for what, a tidy room? 

To me, it feels like a betrayal -- one that almost crosses the line into bullying.

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Look, I'm not trying to be overly critical. Does it make me want to bang my head against the wall that I can barely see the floor in my daughter's room? Yes.

But would I ever dream of breaking the trust we have to take away the things that mean so much to her all to prove a point about being neat? Never.

Busting into a teen's room and holding her clothes and journals and photos and memories and trinkets for ransom is like snatching away a toddler's security blanket, and that just strikes me as sick and wrong. Perhaps I'm being overly empathetic, and perhaps my reluctance to force my teen to be tidy now means she's doomed to live like a slob for the rest of her life, but if it means safeguarding her developing sense of self-confidence now, well, that's a risk I'm willing to take. Call me a softie, call me a pushover, call me the mom with a kid whose room qualifies as a biohazard, but I don't care. 

No, my kid's room isn't Pinterest-perfect, and it would likely make Martha Stewart faint. But in the long run, does any of that really matter? Or does it matter more that my daughter feels like she's a human being worthy of respect and deserving of space? It seems to me that's a more important lesson for her to learn in life, and one that's a lot easier to learn as a kid than it is as an adult. And I'm pretty confident that at some point, she'll learn how to clean her room, too. 


Image via Alice Velazquez/Facebook

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