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Muddy shorts, broken furniture, old food – dare you enter kids' rooms?

MY clothes are fluttering on the line for the first time this year. Something is stirring inside me. It's that Spring Cleaning Feeling.

This year is going to be different. This will be the year of the clean paint, the tidy garden, the cracked tiles replaced, the photos put into albums, the new wallpaper put up in the bedroom, the paintings hung on the walls.

A new start: that's what I want, and already I'm ripping through the house opening windows and throwing out dead plants.

Then I hit the kids' rooms and I burst out crying. All right, I don't burst out crying. I burst out cursing.

My 11-year-old daughter's room is like a monkey's cage. We're talking apple cores. Furniture broken up and on its side. Her clothes lie in clumps as they were worn, pants inside jeans, T-shirts inside jumpers and, heartbreak of heartbreaks, single socks everywhere.

I'm purple with rage, but I try to calm down when I go next door to my 12-year-old twin boys' room.

The autistic boy can never choose what to wear so he throws everything out on the floor.

That's excusable given his disability.

Except now that I look at the clothes on the floor, they're not his. They belong to his brother, who has obviously decided that "when in Rome . . .".

I haven't been up to the eldest boy's attic in the longest time. But this morning, in the spirit of the year that's going to be different, I discover my inner Mount Everest explorer and climb the stairs.

I find he's completely given up on the whole wardrobe and drawers concept. His clothes are in an avalanche on the floor, expensive school trousers mixed in with someone else's swimming gear and mud-encrusted sports shorts.


Now I know why he studies in the kitchen. He doesn't want to sit in his room with the lights on. I can't blame him. I've only been in his room three minutes and I've lost the will to live.

What am I going to do? Have you help for me, oracles of the internet?

They are American and horribly upbeat and they all say I should "partner" with my children to organise their rooms. My role, says one, is to be my children's "organisational consultant".

And it's got to be entertaining, apparently.

Why not play a game of "match the toy to the label"? And here's a handy tip – why not whistle while you work to show your kids that cleaning is fun?

So now I'm an "organisational consultant" whistling gaily like the Seven Dwarfs. Is this guru serious? She sure is. She says it's my job to teach my kids to organise themselves.

They need to learn to look after the things we've given them to show us they care.

So mine don't care? Or mine weren't taught to care? Bit of both, I imagine. Four kids, busy mammy, a dad who came to marriage from a distinguished career as a bachelor slob.

"Don't go upstairs," his flatmate warned.

"It's the dark night of the soul."

So, however it happened, my kids are never going to "whistle while they work", let alone play "match the toy to the label".

Hold on – maybe here's the advice I need. One guru says messing up their rooms is how pre-teens and teens show their independence. It's their way of marking out their territory. It's their way of winning back a little bit of control.

So what if I show my independence too? And win back a little control? Make my kids pick out their school clothes and sports gear every night even if they have to tunnel with a torch to find them? But leave their rooms alone?

Maybe this year is really going to be different, after all. I'm going to take a totally new approach to cleaning my kids' rooms.

I'm going to slam their doors shut.