My 19-year-old has just come home. He's back for a few weeks before he disappears off to university. I went upstairs to his room to ask him something - maybe how many 12" pizzas he wanted for lunch - and stopped, horrifed.
I couldn't see the carpet.
Two days ago, there was nothing - just the tramlines left by the hoover. Now there were clothes, newspapers, books, DVDs, coffee cups, empty beer bottles, a laptop, a plate with toast crumbs and a straw hat.
'Floorganisation,' says Joe.
What is this teenage obsession with filing everything on the floor? His younger brother has a sea of paper for a carpet, even though he finished exams weeks ago.
'How about putting some of this stuff away?' I say hopefully
'Don't touch it!' he says, as if it's about to explode.
His 15-year-old sister has a muddle of tiny possessions matted together into a kind of Accessorize rug - socks, earrings, hairbands, scarves. The cat went missing recently. I swear he was tied up in a knot of tights.
'How can you ever find anything?' I say. The floor of her room looks like some kind of jumble sale.
'I know where everything is,' she says firmly.
I stomp round to my friend Angela to moan. What's wrong with shelves, cupboards and drawers? Hasn't IKEA taught us anything? 'It's worse than having toddlers,' I say, miserably.
Angela understands. She has two teenagers of her own. 'I've given up,' she says. 'It's just fighting a losing battle.'
Back home, my 15-year-old is getting ready to go out.
'Mum,' she says, 'have you seen my purple cardigan?'
Sweet victory! But I'm way too slow.
'Oh, I forgot,' she says. 'I left it at Alex's.'
And off she goes, leaving me mouthing like a goldfish.
Angela's right. This is a battle I'm not going to win.
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