I feel like I know you. You are a good parent. You provide unconditional love and occasional boundaries. You cook now and then. Maybe you even over help your kids with the laundry. And when the going gets tough, you come to Facebook – not so much for help and encouragement, but to see people failing worse than you, so you can get through another day feeling smug and successful. I get you. I am you.
So I know that as we pose with our kids and share their smiling photos on Facebook, many of us are hiding the same dirty secret: Those adorable outfits our teens and young adults wear in their Instagram selfies are snatched from floors and laundry piles that would make the health department call for backup.
I am here not to shame you, but to help you.
It was my oldest daughter’s inspiring “floordrobe” that prompted me to write my first book, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening. When I walked into her room the first day of her senior year of high school, after keeping my word to stay out all summer, I was terrified at what I saw. The garments for which I had shopped so carefully were strewn and smashed among textbooks and expired Victoria’s Secret coupons. Her failed future flashed before my eyes.
So certain was I that her sloppy ways would ruin her life, I began four months of journaling to come to grips with my fears and to fine tune advice to her.
When she got into her dream college, I began the process of making peace with her hangarless habits. She had successfully pulled one over on the admissions staff, so maybe I was overreacting. When she moved her floordrobe to college, with other women who seemed perfectly happy to commingle their fashions on the hardwood dorm floors, I began to realize I was not alone. The floordrobe is a phenomenon that reaches beyond my midwestern home and my parenting inadequacies. From kindred souls I learned that I didn’t cause it and I can’t control it. What a relief.
When I asked moms on the group page of Grown and Flown to come clean and share photos of their kids’ walk-on closets, they lovingly locked cyber arms and took the challenge. Some have not seen their teens’ floors since the seasons changed, but they courageously agreed to the quest . . . for the common good.
“Wish me luck, I’m going in,” said one mom.
“I hope I come out alive.” Said another.
Some recoiled in fear.
“I don’t think I was meant to see this,” said the mom of a college Freshman home for the holidays.
“I think something’s breathing under there,” said a mom of high school twins.
Brave moms, take heart. The truth is, your children and their floor-bound fashions are beautiful. They are inspired and inspiring. You should be proud. While you look at your daughter’s room and see sloth and hopelessness. I see more:
Confessions from the Floordrobe
1. Our millennials are on-trend (That’s the on-trend phrase for ‘in style’).
Evidently, ironing is sooooo 2005. Folding is almost as lame. Wrinkles are the new pleats. And wet towels are the new spray starch.
2. They are busy and engaged in life.
They can’t possibly spare the milliseconds to open a drawer or hang the favorite jeans on a hook two feet away. After a day of sports, school and repairing the world, they cannot be expected to muster the energy to reach two inches to the waiting laundry basket. Returning a garment to its hanger is blasphemy, of course. A girl could fail classes with such messed up priorities.
3. They seize available resources.
The floor, as my daughter once explained, is not really being used. With her ‘chairdrobe’ and ‘bedrobe’ spilling over, she was completely out of real estate.
4. They are resisting the pull of perfectionism.
In today’s perfect, Photoshopped society, we should be pleased when our children are able to tolerate imperfection. Such first-world hang-ups are so unattractive. (Hang-ups are not to be confused with hangers, which will always be beautiful to me.)
Maybe this perspective will comfort you. Maybe it will strengthen you. Maybe the next time your daughter dashes down the stairs after changing from soccer practice clothes to her favorite jeans that she has worn three days this week, you will be able to resist the urge to criticize, and to say what so many of us have said before: “Are those cleat prints on your favorite top?”