“Your house just looks… lived in!” my good friends would gently lie to me upon entering my messy abode. Knowing my insecurities about the mess factor, they went out of their way to console me and let me know it really wasn’t so bad.
For years I blamed the kids. They were the reason our house was never clean, right? Papers and toys and gadgets and stickers on the floor — it was all too much to deal with day to day. And I either couldn’t or wasn’t willing to keep up.
It wasn’t until my neatnik mom came to visit one weekend and literally cried when she saw my room that I realized how out of control I had let the house become. It was also when I realized I needed to stop hiding behind the kids as an excuse for why the house was in such disarray. I needed to own up to the fact that I was the slob — and that I was potentially starting to raise slobs.
From that point forward, I dutifully created chore charts, kept on top of the dishes, and tossed massive amounts of unneeded papers that seemed to appear from every crevice of our space.
The kids started taking out the trash and recycling once a week and now do their own laundry. They are learning to do the dishes and are responsible for cleaning their bathrooms. They even do some of the cooking!
Now here’s the part where you’re not expecting this story to go:
My house is still a complete mess.
And you know what’s even more shocking? I don’t care.
Don’t get me wrong — in an ideal world, I would have full-time help, take hours per day to vacuum, make my bed, and mop the floors. I love a clean and organized space like the rest of you, but I’m coming to terms with this reality:
1. I would rather play with my kids versus spending my time cleaning and constantly nagging them to clean.
2. I own my own business, and I sometimes prioritize my clients, my blog, or my online initiatives over doing the dishes. This is a choice I’m making because we just don’t have time for everything.
3. In the scheme of my life, do I want to say I had a pristine and clean house, or that I lived life on my terms, spent quality time with the people I care about, and worked on the issues in society, in my business, and the things I value most? For me, I choose the latter, despite the consequences.
I’m not advocating that everyone should share this philosophy. In fact, it would make many people absolutely miserable and unable to be productive in other ways. Some people choose the opposite of what I do simply because it makes them feel amazing to clean and to have a clean, uncluttered house. I applaud you!
What I’m saying is that it’s OK to relax a little bit. It’s OK to have people over and not shove everything haphazardly into a closet for the evening just to keep up appearances. Moms get it, right?
Some people ask me how I do it all with my business and my kids, and do I even sleep? Yes, I love to sleep — and I get plenty of it! How do I find the time? I don’t prioritize an impeccably clean house. That is how. It took a long time to accept these words as reality. For a long time, I’d tell myself I’d get to organizing that closet or the random array of electronics in my garage. I’d fantasize about the organizational systems I’d buy and use. Until I finally let it go.
The dishes do eventually get done, papers are occasionally thrown out, and I even make my bed from time to time. But I refuse to obsess about the piles in my room. I refuse to lament about the kids’ scattered half-finished art projects and once-beloved toys now abandoned in a corner in the playroom. For me, these ARE remnants of a lived-in house — a house full of activity and joy and craziness. Why would I want to sweep away the beautiful evidence of our life together? There will be a time when none of those items remain. And despite my occasional angst at its existence, this is what reminds me of the fact that we have a house full of amazing, busy, healthy, and — yes — messy kids. So for now, I embrace it.
And if you decide to come visit us, which I hope you do, there is no need to sugar coat the situation. No need to tell me my house looks “lived in.” Go ahead and say, “Wow, your house is a total mess!” I’ll take it in stride. And maybe even embrace it — just a little bit.