The Cardboard Conundrum

This is not a travelling or a National Park post.  It’s 100% Parenting.  Is that “Blogging Taboo?”  I’m fairly new here so I’m just going to play dumb and write about what I want.  Skip it if you must.  Today is about cardboard.  I was actually going to publish this last week, but decided to follow my “think before you write” rule and held off until I was less… frustrated.

If you walked into my youngest daughters bedroom you would find (in addition to the blankets on the floor, haphazard stacks of papers heaped in the corners, grubby pencils thrown on every surface, and random assorted piles of junk) the following items: cardboard stables, cardboard tack rooms, cardboard tack bins (w/cardboard lids), cardboard dog kennels, cardboard fences, cardboard silos, cardboard storage rooms, cardboard wagons, cardboard cross ties with posts, and even a cardboard “pasture.”

Yes, Arwen is what we affectionately call, horse-crazy.

Spring 2013 – Arwen and Secret

Before I go on, let me just say that what she’s done is… magical.  Yes, magical.  For the past year she has quite literally created for herself the world she wants to live in, and she does live there, allowing us non-cardboard village dwellers an occasional visit.  It’s very creative and sweet, and yes, I’ve fallen in-love with her community too.

BUT…but.  Do you realize how much trash is created when you save trash, to cut up the trash, to make new trash, which is just saved to make more trash?  The room is a perpetual pigsty.  Really, there are only so many cardboard cut-outs, paper scraps, unraveled yarn, material scraps, and grass clippings that one room can hold.  The first time she made a cute little tack room out of a shoebox, I thought it was amazing! Adorable!  Incredible!   This was a year ago and I couldn’t have known where it would lead.  Could I?  I’ve always known she had the heart of an artist, but not until this year did I realize she also possessed my insuppressible need to take the simplest tasks to unconscionable levels of “overboard.”


Now I’m scared to buy anything that comes in a cardboard box, which let’s face it, is almost everything.  Half cut-up cereal boxes continue to litter her room and granola boxes get stacked in a corner to “save” with all the extra bits and pieces she’s cut out and “might” need.  It’s trash people.  Piles of trash.  My daughter’s room looks like the neighborhood reclamation center.  One time, she actually asked me to stop at the gas station to buy her a can of Pringles potato chips just so she could dump them out and use it as a grain silo.  In hindsight, I should not have acquiesced to this.  As soon as she had that silo she was out cutting up dried grass and leaves from the yard to use as hay and oats.  Yes, I’ve allowed my daughter to actually carry up piles of grass into her room.  She replenishes it when her horses have eaten it all.  What??  She is now stocking four silos.  I finally had to put my foot down when I discovered “cardboard” water barrels in her room. This whole situation has gotten completely out of hand.

Scotch Tape.  How often do you really need it?  Sporadically at best, right?  Maybe a torn letter here, a birthday present or a school project there.  Not us.  I’m buying BRICKS of it from Costco.  Do you know how many rolls of Scotch Tape come in a brick?  Twelve.  And we are always, ALWAYS, out.  It disappears into the black hole of Arwen’s room where clutter goes to rot.


So, what to do?  I’ve tried to be really nice and lull her into cleaning.  I’ve tried being mean mommy and forcing her to clean for hours despite a continual flood of tears.  I’ve even tried just giving in and doing it myself, but she comes home and within 60 minutes the room has reverted to it’s natural state of mess.  The one time I reached a breaking point and actually tried to (God-forbid) take out the trash?  She was reduced into such a helpless state of hysterical sobbing that I actually went out to the cans and hauled the trash back up to her room myself.

Do I really nix the cardboard and associated scrap to buy her all the shiny plastic junk toys that will just clutter up her room in another manner?  No, probably not.  The fun for her is in creating it, and I know I couldn’t create a cardboard wagon with spoke wheels and a driver’s bench.  I did try buying her a beautiful wooden barn with hand-crafted stable doors and detailed hinges from a craft festival once.  She uses it for storage now.  I’m not kidding you.  It’s filled with rolls of tape, scissors, accessories that don’t fit into her cardboard tack shelves (yet) and piles of yarn, which she uses to fashion bridles and reins.


Here I am, a year into this “stage,” with no end in site.  My already seriously debilitating lack of patience has been tested beyond reason.  The constant mess is DRIVING ME C.R.A.Z.Y!  There, I said it.  Yelled it to the world actually.  Now, perhaps I’ve coerced another year of patience from my inner Neat-Freak who knows that everything has it’s place and likes to “remind” household members of this rule on a pretty consistent (daily) basis.  In the meantime, I’ll just  resist the temptation to open her bedroom door every so often.  And when I can’t resist?  I’m going to try to focus my neat-freak blinders on her amazing creations instead of the interminable debris explosion.  This stage too shall pass, no doubt perpetuating all the nostalgia as the ones before it.  After all, life is short, but childhood is even shorter.

More travel posts are in the works… Happy Trails.