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The Toy Tidy-Up

Michelle G. (rising 7th grader)

Eek! A head slowly rolled past my foot as I picked up a bag. Luckily it was a plastic one. A few weeks ago, I had stomped upstairs, fury boiling inside me. I was extremely angry at my mom (I can't recall exactly why), so I had gone upstairs to avoid her. I plopped down on the carpet, looking around the room. 

That's when I realized how utterly, disturbingly messy it was. The middle was clear of anything, but the corners and sides of the white room were crammed with plastic bags and buckets stuffed with toys and loads of unidentifiable and useless objects. I decided to dump all the items out and reorganize them. It was a horrendous idea. Of course, I realized that promptly after I emptied out the last bucket. The cleaning spree was off to a horrifying start. Toys intentionally strewn all over the carpet. Cobwebs strung across the shelf. Even worse, the room smelled like burnt hair once I opened a wooden box that hadn't been opened in years. 

"Don't do it," a voice whispered inside my head. But it had to be done. I felt a little seed of annoyance sprouting. My feet shuffled across the floor, painfully stepping on Legos every few seconds. Determination bursting through me, I armed myself with a few garbage bags and started the painful process. It wasn't too terrible. I mean, sure, my back was aching, but not only did digging and dumping the boxes out release toys and trash, it also released memories. 

Candy wrappers that my siblings and I sneakily unwrapped upstairs, totally aware of but ignoring the rule that my mom set to prevent ants. Toy cars chewed-up by my brother. Decapitated dolls with Sharpie ink streaked on their faces, their matching heads' hair-dos chopped, some shaven clean, all done by my artistic little sister. I wanted to give up, but finding all the forgotten trinkets boosted my curiosity and my urge to freshen up the room. 

My brother and sister eventually noticed all the racket happening upstairs. "What are you doing?" my sister wondered. "Go away," I grouched. "Fine," she responded with the tone that she used specifically for that word. "Hey…" my brother whined as he saw me dispose of a cheap plastic whistle. "You don't even need this junk," I argued. He mumbled "humph" and retreated downstairs. 

My mom had no idea what I was doing since she was outside mowing the lawn with my dad. A few hours later, I was famished but still determined to clean up the room, with a new, additional goal developing: wanting to show my mom what an amazing child I was. I eventually started losing energy, especially my brain juice. Struggling to remember where I put something—everything, I laid down on the carpet and looked around. I had barely made a dent. 

Dumping out all the toys was the worst idea ever—this was when I realized it the most. I gave in and reluctantly called my siblings to help, feeling uneasy that I wasn't independent enough to do what I believed was a simple task. My siblings both arrived upstairs, surprised that I—the most independent, reserved person ever—actually needed their help. Amazement tingling through me, I watched as they started organizing objects in ways that I never thought of. 

Soon, the room was clean, not a single scrap of paper, a bead—or even a clear Lego!—left on the floor. Feeling a sense of achievement, I stood on a stool, studying the spotless, tidy room with freshly sorted bins and buckets of toys that we—or my siblings, since I obviously don't play with toys—actually enjoyed playing with. We were so bored that, in the newly cleaned room, we even set up the small tent that my dad had bought for camping. We also watched Netflix inside the tent and played board games. My mom came upstairs that night, shocked to find that her children could actually clean. 

And I learned something too. Even though being independent is amazing, as you can make your own decisions and don't have to rely on anyone else but yourself, teamwork is crucial at times. As Ken Blanchard, a bestselling American author, said, "None of us is as smart as all of us."

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