Tales from the Top Bunk: Earning the Girl Scout Senior Room Makeover Badge

The Girl Scout Senior Room Makeover badge is so fun, and so worthwhile. I mean, doesn't it make a lot of sense that in a lot of cases, a kid who is now fourteen will want to change some things about her bedroom, or bathroom, or playroom, or any other personal space? I know that there are families who've moved, giving a kid an all-new space to decorate, or who regularly redecorate, anyway, but surely my kids are not the only kids who are still living in the exact same room that we moved them into eight years ago, sleeping on the exact same bunk beds.

Heck, I don't think the kids have even switched bunks in at least seven years!

At the same time, though, this badge seems like a challenging one to earn as a troop. Every kid's personal space is so... personal! Any project that you do as a group, whether it's canvas art or a mosaic picture frame or a throw pillow, isn't necessarily going to fit every kid's idea of what she wants in her own space, and learning to take ownership over choosing what goes in one's space--and therefore the responsibility of care and maintenance--over one's own space seems like the overarching point of the badge.

Nevertheless, for an individual kid--for MY individual kid, in particular--this Room Makeover badge was a perfect fit. I pulled it out last summer, actually (I pulled it up on my phone, even, crammed into the back seat of our little car with both Syd and Will, on the way to the airport to send them both off to Camp Grandma for a week), when Syd suggested that maybe she wanted some new things for her bedroom, and following the badge over the course of almost an entire year turned out to be a great way to guide Syd through the process of redecorating her personal space.

For Syd, the process of earning the Room Makeover badge was also different than is written in the badge book. The badge book has a specific skill set that it wants a kid to learn during the makeover process--she should be able to paint, sew, repurpose, and build, with a level of craftsmanship that makes her products attractive and usable. Well, Syd is my crafty kid, and she can already do all of that, and so instead of rehearsing every single skill and requiring her to create something that she didn't really want in her space, we focused on self-expression and, again, building that ownership over her space that also includes its care and maintenance.

Step 1: Gather ideas and inspiration.
Syd came to the table with some ideas about what she wanted in her top bunk personal space, and for everything else of course there's Pinterest, but for this particular step, I also wanted her to take a comparative, global view of what a teenager's personal space can consist of. Fortunately, there are several projects that accomplish exactly this and that are easily available to view. My favorite is this James Mollison book:

But if you can get by without the captions that contextualize every image, you can also see them here. This is a great book because not only do you see examples of shocking wealth, but you also see examples of shocking poverty, all through the lens of what that tends to look like when reflected by a child's sleeping space.

To get the same global perspective of older young adults' bedrooms, here's another good photo essay.

I also wanted an inter-generational perspective, so I found this epic set of photos of teenagers' bedrooms in the 1980s. For a funny look at complete unreality, here's another set of images of teenagers' bedrooms taken from teen films of the early 2000s, and another set from the 1990s--everyone had so much room!

And obviously, we couldn't finish up this topic without requiring that Matt tell Syd all about his own childhood bedroom (LEGOs for days! A Nintendo he bought with his own money!). As for me, I still have the rock-n-roll kitty cat poster that was the star of my bedroom for my entire childhood. It is my precious, and I will never consent to be parted from it.

Step 2: Paint something.

Nothing got painted. Not that I don't think that the space couldn't have used some freshening up, but Syd wasn't into the idea, so I let her focus on the plenty of projects that she WAS interested in.
Step 3: Sew or glue something.
So, indeed, nothing got painted, but Syd did a LOT of work on this step. The way that the kids' bunk beds are built (they're your bog-standard IKEA Kura set up upside-down, with a wooden sleeping platform built by Matt on the bottom solely so that Will can't grow up and tell everyone that her parents made her spend her entire childhood sleeping on a mattress on the literal floor), the top of the top bunk is basically at adult eye level, and so it's no wonder that someone whose sleeping space is at eye level would long for a nice curtain around her bed.
I gave Syd a pretty generous (for me, lol!) budget for her room makeover, mostly because it'd been so long since she'd had anything new for her room, but also because if taking ownership over her own space DOES lead her to take responsibility for its care and maintenance, then I am all for that! So I let Syd pick out a really lovely gauze, told her to research how wide the curtain should be (here's the answer to that!), and purchased the yardage that she told me to.
Syd and Matt scavenged a curtain rod from the garage (why do we have a curtain rod in the garage? Where did it come from? When did I have curtains that I do not now have?), and Syd measured its circumference to get the measurement of the channel she'd need to sew in her fabric to accommodate it. We went back and forth about tabs and grommets and clips and other reasonable ways to hang curtains (can you tell what team I was on?), but Syd was adamant that she wanted her curtain mounted the way that she wanted it mounted, so I settled for making sure she knew what the other options were, and then left her to it.
I DID win the "Do I really need to pre-wash my fabric?" battle, though. To the claim of "I don't need to make sure the curtain is pre-shrunk because I'm never going to ever wash it," I countered with "Oh yes you WILL wash it!"
To be fair, though, I don't think the child has ever seen me wash a curtain before...
Syd's other dream curtain attribute was twinkle lights. I mean, if you're going to have a gauzy curtain, you practically require twinkle lights, yes?
Unfortunately, it's never Christmas when you need it to be, so we had to rely on Amazon for twinkle lights, and I don't know if we just had bad luck, or if there really is some kind of national twinkle light racket going on, but the first two sets of twinkle lights that Syd picked out were absolute trash and had to be returned. Eventually, we seem to have scored with these sound-activated twinkle lights. They work for a change (even though Syd has already had to repair the wiring after her murderbrat got ahold of them...), they're just the length, size, and color that she wanted (because apparently warm white and cool white are different whites and this difference is important), and they blink in time to her music. I would have sold my mother to have had something like that at her age!

And actually, Syd did help Matt build a wall bracket for one end of the curtain rod--oh, and she painted it, too! She DID paint something!--and she helped him install it, so I guess she technically completed other parts of the badge that I didn't even count because I'm mean.
Step 4: Redo something. 
We played around with some ideas for this step, but ultimately, nothing stuck out as something Syd definitely wanted to do to her space.
Step 5: Build something.
The other thing that Syd really wanted to DIY for her space was a light-up photo wall. She found another super long set of twinkle lights that she could drape back and forth across the wall next to her bed--

--and it even came with adorable teeny clothespins for photos.

If only she had a bunch of teeny photos!

Matt showed Syd how to upload the photos from her ipod to a graphic design program and tile them onto a canvas, and Syd made me several 4" x 6" prints' worth of teeny photos that I printed for her.

When the photos arrived, Syd cut them out and pinned them up, and I think they look so cheerful and adorable in her space:

Because I can't even tell you when the last time I'd bought my kids new bedding was, and one of the things that Syd wanted in her room WAS new bedding to match her decor, it's a good thing she'd already earned the Girl Scout Cadette Comparison Shopping badge, and was quite capable of setting up her own criteria and searching for the best sheets for her price point. I was less enthusiastic about letting her also pick out a blanket, because OMG we already have so many blankets, and I feel like I do nothing but make more quilts every year, but apparently we do not have any blankets, nor any quilts, in Syd's specific top bunk color scheme, and fine, I might as well make up for eight years of never buying the kid a thing for her room all in one go.

And also a pillow that cost more than I thought it should. How much do y'all think is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a pillow? Is it thirty dollars?

Story time: When I was a teenager, I got a job pretty much as soon as I could drive, and a lot of the reason was so that I could have ownership over my own possessions, especially my clothes. I was both a fat kid and raised by my grandparents, and I spent my entire childhood either being stuffed into whatever hand-me-downs from my older cousin that I could be stuffed into or wearing clothes that my grandmother picked out or sewed for me. From the former, there were a lot of itchy dresses and corduroy pants (fun fact: fat kids HATE corduroy pants!). From the latter, there were things like polyester granny panties exactly the same as the ones my own grandmother wore, and one-size denim jumpers, the pattern for which started off as the pattern to make my junior high choir concert uniform but Mamma thought it was cute and should be immortalized in denim.

It wasn't cute, and it shouldn't have been immortalized in denim.

ANYWAY, even when I had my own money I wasn't a big spender. I mostly bought stuff like cotton panties and concert T-shirts from concerts I didn't go to (I STILL have my Pink Floyd concert T-shirt from Russia; it's as soft as butter and thin as tissue paper, and I'll probably be buried in it one day). I never felt like I spent any kind of big money, and yet every time I came home with a shopping bag my grandfather, who was, to be fair, himself raised during the Great Depression, absolutely grilled me about what I'd bought and how much it cost. And no matter what it was or how much I'd spent, when I told him the number he'd always suck in his breath and be disappointed at my excess.

Like, after a while I started lying, even, just saying some ridiculously low number that you couldn't possibly buy a pair of jeans or whatever for, even at Wal-mart, and he'd still do it. For him, it was more the principle of the thing--he didn't want me to spend my hard-earned money frivolously (or, possibly, at all...). For me, though, it started to feel like maybe I didn't deserve a $12 Russian concert T-shirt, or a $16 pair of jeans, or a $4 pack of cotton panties. Which is not something that Pappa would have ever believed, himself, but I feel like kids internalize stuff that you bitch about, even if you're not bitching at them, necessarily. And maybe, you know, I don't want Syd to feel like she doesn't deserve a $30 memory foam pillow just because her parents sleep on pillows so old I don't even know how long we've had them.

Actually, our pillows kind of suck. Maybe I deserve a $30 memory foam pillow, too! Unless that's a ridiculous amount to spend on a pillow? Which brings me back to my original point, which is that I have no idea how much is appropriate to spend on a pillow, and $30 feels like a lot, but I can afford it and therefore I'm not going to bitch about it to Syd. Instead, I'll just bitch about it for six paragraphs to you, because you're my safe space for bitching about stuff.

So even though this Senior Room Makeover badge didn't come together quite the way it does in the badge book, I think Syd (and I!) got a lot out of it. Syd got a chance to really think about what she wants her space to look like now that she's a teenager, and she learned how to make that vision a reality for herself. She got some nice, new bedding that she was definitely in need, of, anyway, and it was good timing for developing a routine for the care and maintenance of her belongings.

Please let me know for future reference how much is appropriate to spend on a pillow. #GirlScouts #Sewing #InteriorDecorating
GirlScouts Sewing InteriorDecorating