If anyone is ever wondering why it is that kids’ rooms today tend to be (a lot) messier than they were in Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, allow me to make a list:
- musical instruments
- game systems
- dvd players
- books and magazines
- 81 pairs of underwear and shirts, more than 12 pairs of jeans, multiple sets of every season’s outerwear
- multiple pairs of shoes (more than 2)
- sports equipment
- accessories (hats, necklaces, jewelery, belts)
- arts, crafts and school supplies
- decor items
- gifts from every holiday and event throughout the year, including one from every single party they took a gift to this year
In 1955, most kids would have owned play clothes and ‘good’ clothes, possibly enough shirts and underwear to make it through a whole week without having to wear anything but pants twice. They would have worn their ‘good’ clothes to any special event requiring them, from weekly church to weddings and funerals.
In 1955, kids would have, with rare exception, owned nothing but the gifts they received for their birthdays (supposing it wasn’t clothing or bath supplies) and Christmas, usually only from three or four people. Bikes lived outside, ski gear lived in the attic or the basement with the (solitary) box of seasonal decorations.
The TV Distortion
Watching M*A*S*H reruns so many times meant that I realized TV is different from real life in one really important way: props storage.
Within a couple of seasons of that show, they had so many silly costumes (gorilla suit, kimonos, everyone in pinstripes, Klinger’s dress collection), strange props (the bathtub, the party props, art supplies, Radar’s animals, horse tack) and new things (Christmas gifts, presents for BJ’s birthday, Margaret’s growing collection of things from gentlemen callers) run through the hands of those characters, they could (and probably did) fill a warehouse. Not a set of tents made to collapse, put in trucks, and drive down the road on two days’ notice.
Old Time Design Today
Today’s kids’ bedrooms have not be dramatically re-designed, with 50 times the amount of storage as the houses built in 1955. In fact, it’s the opposite: bedrooms are smaller, and there is less storage space built into homes today –no unfinished basements, no attics, linen closets are a rarity –than those of the 1950s and 60s.
Today, kids have less drawer-space per wardrobe item they own, less closet space per sports team they play on and less shelf-space per category of toys than kids had in 1955. The Beav played baseball with nothing but a glove, a bat and a ball –the softball girls I umpire have sliders, cleats, gloves, batting gloves, uniforms, batting helmets and a great many of them have their own bat. The Beav could leave his glove on the top of his high-boy bureau; these girls can’t even fit all their equipment for this sport on a 6-drawer dresser… supposing they don’t also play hockey, soccer… et cetera.
Until bedrooms (playrooms, rec rooms and houses) are re-designed with the volume of objects a ‘normal’ child owns in mind, the idea that an over-filled room can be kept incidentally-clean is irrational. By ‘incidentally clean’ I mean that without spending a great deal of the day carefully stacking, and re-stacking everything in piles alongside the woefully-lacking storage available, to keep it all neat.
We live in a ‘grab and go’ culture, with kids often racing between activities. That they (also) drop things in the hallway or on the floor of their rooms before rifling through the pile that’s already growing to find the stuff needed for the next thing… well, it’s simply a design flaw.