Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: House stuff and brain development - Feb 05

From Thursday, February 24, 2005

I've spent most of the morning cleaning and tidying - mainly tidying. I love my toddler and my teenagers but they need a *lot* of facilitating. I'm not complaining about this, it's not something I resent doing at all, especially since I read of some published research about development of the brain, which said it looks as though the part of the brain related to tidy living doesn't mature properly in most people until the age of 25! It was previously thought that all of the brain was fully mature by a much earlier age but a lot of brain scans have now been done of people of all ages and areas of the brain mapped WRT their different purposes, hence the recent conclusion.

This makes sense to me in the light of my own experience, the way my children are and what I've observed of other people I've known well for a long time. Babies and toddlers have such a short attention span, living very much in the here & now to the extent that when their interest moves on they'll just drop whatever they were previously doing and forget all about it. This was demonstrated to me this morning when, tidying up, I realised many of Lyddie's DVDs were missing from their boxes and I couldn't see them anywhere. They're expensive and easily damaged, so I was concerned and I asked her where she'd put them. She honestly didn't know the answer, because, for her, they'd ceased to exist the minute she'd finished with them. She'll have stuffed them underneath something or between something or behind something or even just thrown them - out of sight, out of mind, quite literally.

The older children are different again. I've just filled a laundry basket full of crockery from their rooms, and another one full of dirty clothes - and it's only about 3 days since I did this last time. They're helpful, intelligent children who understand the consequences of their actions, but simply can't function all the time to the level required to live tidily. Zara came in from the snow yesterday and stripped off wet jeans, boots and socks onto a heap on the cloakroom floor. "Can you put those to dry?" I asked. "No, " she said. "My legs are numb with cold. I've got to go and get warm."

I can remember being like this. It's NOT laziness, it's to do with a way of thinking. I can remember the next thing being of supreme importance, or my hunger or comfort being far more urgent than tidy living. Tidy living requires a presence of mind not usually found in young people, I think. You have to create a template for how you want things to be. "A place for everything and everything in its place," was my stepfather's mantra. In a house full of everything we need and use, this is a very complicated thing to do. Maybe toddlers' sorting games help to develop the function. (Rosie?) I struggle with it myself sometimes.

Also, in the modern world there's too much stuff. I sometimes feel like I'm forever sorting through mounds or heaps of stuff: keep or throw? Landfill or recycle? We have hundreds of little bits of toys, audio cassettes, CDs, books, comics, files, folders, bits of paper, jars, ornaments, odd socks, packets, boxes, wrappers, cheap toys, notebooks.... the list of manufactured stuff that comes into a modern family home on a regular basis is endless. Most of it never gets used, but if you just throw it all away you're both adding to the landfill problem and risking discarding someone's vital receipt, favourite comic etc. So it all needs careful sorting and thinking about, which I find to be very taxing on the brain! I can only do it properly and consistently when I've had enough sleep, good food and a bath. Otherwise I put it off and then it mounts up and becomes more of a problem.

Even when I think I'm on top of it, there'll be a little seam of chaos somewhere that I've missed. This can be the garage (usually), or one or more of the teenagers' rooms (usually), or Lyddie's toyboxes. Even areas under furniture attract chaos. There's a 6-inch gap under the bookshelves in the dining room that's rarely clear of little bits of junk. I could spend all my time sorting through things and tidying up and there will still be some place in my blindspot that I just don't see.

I think our personal spaces are perfect reflections of our inner selves, because they result directly from how we think, because how we think dictates how we live. Just as there are little areas (or sometimes big areas) of chaos in our houses, there are also little (big?) areas of chaos in our minds.

Blog-writing is also a great method of procrastination when there's lots of tidying-up still to be done.

posted by Gill at 11:21 AM 12 comments


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