If we’ve ever had a story that’s prompted parents to write in and say “Thank you” — it’s this one!
In this story, there’s a boy named Buddy whose room is a mess. And a clever little gnome — the Dirty Dusty Gnome — takes up residence in it! It doesn’t take long for Buddy to want things a little tidier, so that the gnome will leave him be!
Parents have reported that this story has inspired kids to go right to their rooms and closets — and begin cleaning! (With not a word from the parents!)
If you have a child who resists keeping their room tidy, this may be the story for you!
”So Many Fairies”
Dirty Dusty Gnomes
Do you like to clean you room? Are you a child that enjoys having your room neat and tidy and you know where everything is when you want it? Or are you not so interested in cleaning and your room is often a little messy and its hard to find things? Is that you?
Well you are not alone. I know many children who have messy rooms and they would still be messy if it hadn’t been for the gentle reminders from their moms and dads to tidy it up. Sometimes it takes many reminders for some of these children to pick up their things and put them where they are supposed to go. They just don’t want to clean.
But did you know that there are fairies that love a dirty room? They love it when a room is untidy and things are spread out all over the place. They laugh when a child is looking for something and can’t find it. They are happiest when there are several socks, shirts, toys and books under the bed or behind the dresser and bits of puzzles, colored pencils and lego pieces spread on the floor. Now what kind of fairy would enjoy such a thing. Why the dirty dusty gnome fairies of course!
These are the same kind of gnome fairies that live in the compost heap in some of your back yards. They love to take things like banana peels and carrot tops and onion skins and turn them slowly into dirt – dark rich dirt to be used in your garden the next year. They are magical gnomes that love worms and bugs and anything that helps them make the best soil. They work all day and night churning the soil and breaking down old lettuce and weeds and tea bags into tiny little bits that will eventually become dirt. In that way they are magicians – for it is certainly an act of magic to turn your leftover lunch into dirt.
Well the dirty dusty gnomes will sometimes come inside your house and look for a mess. They search each room and if everything is put away in its place and the floors have been swept and the tables dusted – they keep walking. They are not interested in such a place. They feel uncomfortable in these rooms because there isn’t much they can do. Such rooms make them feel tired. But when they come to a room where the stuffed animals are on the floor or better yet, stuck behind the bed with the dust bunnies and the dirty socks, then they get excited. If they see little things like marbles mixed with toy trucks and slippers all together in a jumble on the carpet, then they start to rub their little hands together and smile. This is where they can do some work. And so they move in.
Once a dusty dirty gnome moves into your room it gets much harder to clean it. It just feels like too much to put your things away because it seems like you will never get it clean – that there is too much mess! So you let it get messier. Even when your mother or father tell you again and again to clean your room you feel like you can’t. This is in large part because of the dusty dirty gnomes.
Once they move in, they make the mess bigger. They do it slowly and steadily bit by bit. For instance whenever you open your sock drawer, they let a single sock fall on the floor. Then they move the sock slowly every time you walk by until they have it hidden completely under the bed or under the rug. They will do this with parts of games too. Every time you take out your favorite game, they will hide one of the pieces – like the dice or spinner. Often they put it in the same spot as the socks. Then soon lots of things are missing and you can’t find anything. They love that.
Then they can cover the lost things in dust with the hopes that one day the sock or spinner or piece of puzzle or paper airplane can be turned back into soil. They know that it will take a very long time – a very long time – but they don’t mind. Dusty dirty gnomes are not in a hurry.
Now this is a story about a dusty dirty gnome named Shpina and a little boy named Buddy.
Buddy had a little room that had a bed and dresser and closet and two shelves that were for his stuffed animals and books. His mother had given him boxes for under his bed to store his toys and bins in his closet for his extra clothes. But Buddy wasn’t very good and putting things back into their boxes and bins and in drawers or on shelves and it wasn’t long before there were books mixed with shirts and toys mixed with stuffed animals all over the floor.
Every Thursday was cleaning day in his house and Buddy would shovel everything into the boxes and bins and pile everything in his closet and under his bed. When the closet door was closed and the covers were on the bed, his room looked almost clean. But it wasn’t. It was hiding a rather big mess.
This might have fooled Buddy’s mother and father, but it did not foot Shpina, the dusty dirty gnome that wandered into his room one day and decided to move in. Shpina was very happy there. He liked the way Buddy pretended to clean and how Buddy played because Buddy loved to empty out all his bins and boxes looking for something and then leave everything out until Thursday.
Shpina used the now-empty shelves to hide small things — like felted balls and puzzle pieces. He happily covered them with dust and fuzz, and pushed them to the edge near the wall. And then looked to hide bigger things. Shpina loved the boxes that Buddy shoved under his bed. It was easy to hide things there. He had collected a bunch of clothes and toy trucks and pingpong balls and tucked them in the corner behind the boxes where Buddy couldn’t see. And the closet was perfect for losing things. The dark corners of the closet were excellent spots for hiding bigger clothes like pants and jackets as well as stuffed animals.
Shpina was doing so well that Buddy often spent most of his playtime looking for things rather than actually playing. His friends chose to invite him over to their house rather than play in his room because it was so messy. Buddy knew something wasn’t right, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
And then, one day, Shpina hid something very important to Buddy, something Buddy did not ever want to lose.
Buddy’s favorite stuffed animal was a moose with wide golden stuffed antlers. He got it for Christmas years ago and Buddy slept with it every night. He called it Moosey and it always helped him feel better during lightning storms or when he would wake up in the night. Shpina found it next to Buddy’s dresser one morning and assumed it was yet another forgotten toy that he could claim and cover in dust. So Shpina tucked it behind the headboard of the bed along with a nightshirt and a rubber ball.
That night, when Buddy couldn’t find Moosey, he threw a very big fit. He said that he would not be able to sleep without Moosey, and that everyone needed to look for him. His mother and father did their best but reminded him that it would be easier to find things if his room was tidy. But that didn’t help Buddy. He was sad and angry that he couldn’t find Moosey. He kept looking and looking but no Moosey. Finally it was so late and he was so tired that he lay in bed, cheeks wet with tears, and at length fell asleep.
That night he had a difficult dream. It was not a nightmare, but it wasn’t a happy dream for him. He dreamed of the compost pile in the back yard. He dreamed that it was huge – almost as big as a house and that there was a little man, a fairy – holding a shovel. The fairy would stick the shovel into the pile and turn it over. Again and again he would do this until he saw little Buddy – the dream Buddy – looking up at him.
“Hello little boy” said the fairy.
“Hello” said Buddy wide eyed and curious, “What are you doing?”
The fairy stopped for a moment and looked down at Buddy, “This is my pile. I am making the finest pile of deep dark, rich soil for the gardens of the world. I’ve made it from all sorts of things: pulled up weeds, kitchen scraps, bits of vegetables and all these things that were lost in a very dusty and dirty room.”
Then Buddy looked at the pile and saw socks, shorts and shirts that looked a little familiar. Then he looked closer and saw bits of his favorite game as well as a broken wooden dump truck he used to use all the time. And then the fairy stuck his shovel in the pile again and overturned the soil exposing … Moosey! There he was, sitting in the pile covered in dust and dirt. The dream Buddy called out “Moosey!” and then he woke up.
The rest of the story is about what happens the following day. Buddy decides he does not want the fairy to make a pile out of his things and he starts to clean his room. He finds Moosey, he apologizes to his friend and then dazzles his parents at what he can do. The fairy, who no longer has anything to work with, moves on to another home – with another child’s messy room.