49: The Monster in the Closet

49: The Monster in the Closet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

The Monster in the Closet

Out of clutter, find simplicity.

~Albert Einstein

My three-year-old doesn’t read yet, so I feel safe in admitting the truth here. There really is a monster in her closet. It wears last year’s snow boots, several mismatched hair bows, and the remains of a July tea party. Silent, but deadly, it hurls missiles from an entire village of Barbie rejects, and is known as The Closet Beast.

The Beast has relatives in the homes of everyone I know — Coat Room Chaos, Mudroom Muddle — even a miniature breed, Junk Drawer Jumble. But the truly mammoth variety hides in the closets of small children. What begins as a reasonable assortment of toys, clothes and books soon grows faster than a pile of dirty diapers after a Toddler Chili Supper. A master of camouflage, the Beast enjoys disguising itself in last season’s must-have toys and holey-kneed jeans. It presses against the closet doors, attempting escape, and is held at bay only by the daily struggle to squish, cajole, and jam as many objects as possible back into its den.

The covert union between Child and Beast works against the organized parent. My daughter sings to herself, communing in code with the fiend of confusion. And she cements her loyalty at every attempt to clean out her closet — exclaiming over some “lost” treasure, refusing to depart with dearly loved stuffed animals that haven’t seen the light of day in months. Therefore, it is vital that a strategic plan be put into action to vanquish that unwelcome guest. We are at war. I share my tactics here:

The Raid: Not for the faint of heart, this technique is both dangerous and time-sensitive. The prey’s accomplice must be out of the house (remember, she can turn giggles into tears before you can say Angelina Ballerina). Remove as many unused items as possible, in the shortest amount of time, before the child returns. This covert operation has a ninety-five percent rate of delayed fallout, culminating in wails of anguish when the pipsqueak with the photographic memory realizes something is missing.

Divide and Conquer: This two-step maneuver has proven invaluable in the case of a child who cannot bear to be parted from even the most neglected objects. Select a chosen few to be reassigned to Grandma’s or the babysitter’s, then decommissioned after a separation period of two or three weeks to the local resale shop.

Prisoner Exchange: Some mothers swear by this crowd control system. For every new toy brought into the home, the child must release an old one. It effectively cycles items in a kind of automatic closet patrol. It’s also an effective exercise for thinking ahead, as the child must decide if a new toy is worth the sacrifice of one.

Invasion: An all-out attack on the Beast, this procedure involves complete restructuring of the area. Empty the room entirely, and then analyze the space for maximum usage. Little clothes can hang above a shelving unit supplied with baskets for similar items and assists in children putting away their own belongings.

I trust your campaign will meet with success, but remember that constant vigilance is required to keep the Beast at bay. Any leave of absence can prompt an invasion. Soldier on.

~Karen B. Nelson

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