Sometimes the line between a more democratic and an autocratic home environment gets fuzzy for me. In one of the many parenting books I've read - I think it was Screamfree Parenting - the author wrote that he thinks kids should be able to keep their room however they want. Afterall, they have very little control in their lives, and to say it's "their" room and then dictate how it should be decorated or kept clean is denying them real control over their personal environment.
Yes. I buy that - right up to a point. And we reached that point this last weekend. The kids were getting picked up for a night away with grandma, and they were going to the beach, and we could not find their sandals. Anywhere. And Carbon's room was so messy that I had no idea if there might be a sandal somewhere in that pile. We ended up sending them off with other shoes, and after they left I poked around a bit in his room.
Oh my, it was disgusting. If I can find dead bugs and rotten old food in a room, it has gone beyond the point where I can allow that to be "personal autonomy". So I went in there with some big tubs and a snow shovel and broom and I cleaned it out. Trash was thrown away, but anything else went into storage in the garage.
When Carbon came home from his weekend away, he was upset - but also excited by how open his room was and how much easier it was to play and live in there. I showed him where all his stuff was, and we took pictures of all angles of the room in their clean state.
Now he's in the process of gradually earning his stuff back, by keeping the room clean. Every night at bedtime we'll do an "inspection" using those clean pictures, and when the room passes inspection he gets to go in the garage and choose two things to bring back into the room. I figure that whatever is left at the end is his least favorite stuff and we might be able to get rid of that. Even if we don't get rid of anything, it will all have been gradually re-incorporated into the clean room and have found a proper storage place.
And hopefully he'll keep the darn place clean in the future!