It's easy to love your kids but hate their messes. You'll probably never forget the day a telltale smell led you to a cache of week-old Brussels sprouts wrapped in a funeral napkin and stuffed behind the toaster. Actually, that one pales in comparison to the discovery of your favorite knickknack, chipped and hidden under a couch cushion. When you're a parent, the world is full of these unexpected and sometimes nasty surprises. A few of them are endearing (but gross), like that wad of gum under your child's pillow, while others can be -- well, just maddening.
Let's take a look at five places your kids consider hideaways for their guilty misdeeds, curious experiments and untidy habits. Think of it as an Easter egg hunt -- but this egg is often cracked and rotten.
Kids are often opportunists when it comes to hiding the evidence of playtime exploits gone wrong. That torn pillow or cracked photo frame may end up in the trash, but it's much more likely to end up behind or under the couch. Kids can feel fearful when they break things, especially when participating in banned activities like indoor roughhousing, but they forget fast. Put a couch check on your list of cleaning chores. You'll be surprised at what you find. To prepare for food related messes, keep some upholstery cleaner on hand, and invest in slipcovers -- lots of slipcovers.
Young children are fascinated by electronics. From dunking the TV remote control in the toilet and then hiding it in the hamper to opening and closing the DVD tray a hundred times, electronics have enormous appeal. Come to think of it, that DVD tray can be pretty vulnerable. Your child may not have the requisite DVD to make the system work, but adding a cookie, sandwich or dog biscuit might seem almost like the real deal to a child and result in a repair bill for you. Imagine your joy when you discover what your little darling has been putting in there. It kind of gives "play" a whole new meaning.
PS: Watch your toaster, too.
Some kids are smart -- and sly. Instead of finding a hiding place for broken toys (dishes, small appliances or anything that belongs to dad) in the house, they just open a window and pitch the evidence in the bushes. If your landscape looks like something out of a Tarzan movie, it could be a decade or more before the loss is ever discovered. When it is, your child -- now a teenager -- can blame it on a burglary gone wrong. You really have to admire that kind of ingenuity.
Here's another thought: If you have very young kids, opening a window may be too much of a challenge, so try looking in your floor vents for small items instead. We don't know if kids think half-eaten crackers, carrot sticks and broken crayons just biodegrade when they're pitched in a floor vent or not, but it's one spot that can yield a bonanza of discarded objects and moldy food.
This one is a classic. Your kid may think there's a monster in the closet, but you know there is. The monster is all the clutter your child manages to create during the course of a week -- and then cram in the closet when you ask him to put his toys and other "stuff" away. The solution: closet organizers and plenty of them. You can find modular organizers that will make indiscriminate "dumping" harder and provide fewer excuses for monster closet syndrome.
The absolute best place for a kid to hide a mess is under the bed. There's quite a bit of area under there, so it has the potential for hiding multiple messes. It also offers easy access to a kid but is a tougher stretch for mom's aching back and tired knees. There's a psychological component to hiding treasures -- and disasters -- under the bed, too. It's in the middle of a kid's personal "territory," so it's a more desirable place to stash the really bad stuff -- you know, the lousy report card, the hopelessly stained pants and that pilfered lawn gnome the neighbor's been looking for. If you've wondered where your good wristwatch disappeared to, or what happened to the crystal candlesticks, check under the bed in your kid's room.
This isn't all bad news. If you decide to keep the extra leaves to the dining room table under your child's bed, there'll be less real estate in which to conceal the carnage. Until then, performing an under-the-bed check every once in a while couldn't hurt. Go prepared though. From moldy pizza crusts to month-old underwear, you never know what you'll find.
Take this HowStuffWorks quiz to find out your how your cleaning skills stack up.
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- Cafe Mom. "Do Your Children Hide Things?" 8/25/11. (7/11/12). http://www.cafemom.com/group/preschool/forums/read/14812784/Do_your_children_hide_things
- Instructables. "How to Hide Things From Your Family." (7/11/12). http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-hide-things-from-your-family/
- Parent Dish. "How to Keep a Lid on Kid Clutter." 4/26/11. (7/11/12). http://www.parentdish.com/2011/04/26/keeping-a-lid-on-kid-clutter/
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- Yahoo. "Do You Have Kids That Hide Things or . . . ?" (7/11/12). http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091008203001AA4ZRxK