on the mess

Let the house be a mess. Let the house be a mess. Let the house be a freaking mess.


I don’t know where it was I picked up this idea that the measure of a woman is the state of her house.

But somewhere along the road I grabbed the handle of a heavy suitcase that had no wheels but did have the word “perfection” emblazoned on its side. I’ve lugged it behind me these eight years of homekeeping.

Perhaps the road was named “worth” and its cross street called “woman’s duties” but I traversed it willingly, happily in the beginning. I’m an all-or-nothing girl who takes any decent cause and cheers it until it’s become a weight around my neck.

So it is with this house of mine.

My chest gets tight when my eyes behold clutter and I can’t rest if there are breakfast bowls beside the sink and I can’t go to the park if I’ve left laundry folded on the couch, can I?

The converse, in true extremist fashion, is that when I have to do exactly that – leave the laundry or the million tiny bits of paper cut by safety scissors – I decide it’s not worth trying because it will never be just right and let’s all just raise our hands and give up already.


It’s just a house, isn’t it? But it’s three stories tall and each one the size of the little cottage we called home before this. And it’s bathrooms with toothpaste in the sink and so much light carpet for both the black dog and the vacuum to cover. It’s a sink full of dishes and guest room sheets to wash and a basement of scattered toys and couch pillows and did I mention all the vacuuming?

It’s ungrateful, I know, and absurd, I’m sure, to say that the house is just too big when so many wish for any house at all or for more space for little legs to jump and toddle, for voices to laugh and carry. And this house, a true gift in its rental price to fit our budget and its yard and the wooden playhouse. How spoiled can one family be?

But still I tense my shoulders and mutter under my breath. I run around the furniture, picking up toys and straightening the blankets tossed over the couch and picking little pieces of black dog hair from the carpet to keep from having to pull out the vacuum for once. I sigh over the bathrooms and the toys and that one office-slash-craft room we can never seem to get set up properly.


I counted one day how many times I take the stairs and lost count after fifteen. The baby startles in my arms at the speed with which we fly up and down these two flights.


This thing is good, you know? The life we live – the way my husband works hard and I work hard and my part of this partnership is to mother the tiny ones. This house – its tall windows and big white mantle. I’m feeling it right to call this place home and I’m learning to again treasure my privileged place in this family as dwelling keeper and maker of a lovely abode. I’ve left the road called “have to” and now walk along “get to.”

But still, I stand on the grass of this white giant of a place, smile a bit and shake my head at it.

I’m not going to live for the house. I’m going to live from the house.

In fact, I’m going to live from the house.

Oh, I’ll clean it. I’ll wipe my counters and scrub my toilets and I’ll vacuum all three levels.

But I’ll leave those stacks of books beside the couch and I’ll leave the house with dishes in the sink. I’ll let friends pop in when the basement is a wreck and I’ll nod politely to the blocks and action figures on my way up to bed and tell them

I have too much life to live.

 “Funny, isn’t it,” I said to John the other night, “the way it feels a little more homey when it’s all slightly messy around here?”

“You mean,” he smirked slightly, “it feels like people actually live here?”


Let the house be a mess. Calm down and breathe and let the thing be a mess.


16 Responses to on the mess

  1. Wendi Lane August 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Love this post!! I too have found my self saying..”we will do it as soon as I get laundry put away and the dishes done..instead of thinking let us just go and have fun and I will do this later..dishes, dust and toys don’t leave :) I also love what John said it sounds like something Jim would say!!

  2. Arianne August 13, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    I get twitchy when things are cluttered, too. I think it’s because I know how quickly that mess becomes a mountain. But it’s so so good to let life be, sometimes.

    You are churning out good stuff here, sister. <3

  3. brianne August 13, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Yes, let it be a mess! Hooray! I need this reminder because, although I don’t judge others on the state of their place (I need to often remind myself of that) I’m hard on myself, and instead of giving myself time to rest or do something creative and fun, I start to do something that looks so “important” like scrub the wall behind the stove. Ya know? Sometimes I think I should make a cleaning schedule for myself so I know that I’ll get to it, and it doesn’t have to take up my time RIGHT NOW.

  4. Barbie August 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    The state of my home causes me much anxiety. I work full time outside the home and have four children and am actively involved in ministry. I am only home four nights out of 7. I am learning to stay balanced and let some things go. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Samantha August 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Finding that balance is hard… but it’s worth it! :)
    I like what you said about “get to” instead of “have to”. I very much agree with that attitude; we should always be praising God for the things we get to do and it’s good for our souls to remain positive :)

  6. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect August 11, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    I have not found my in-between spot in this struggle yet. I lean more toward “let it all go because it’s so annoying and impossible to keep up anyway and ohmyword, how did my home turn into a frat house with smelly dishes?” And, you know, that’s not good either. I’m working on it, though – keeping things picked up in general and just looking away from the tiny (or not-so-tiny) scuff marks and cobwebs. Thanks for your honest post!

  7. Lisa August 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    Yes. Let it be a mess. We live in approximately 800 sq feet of mess. (I just had a baby, too. He’s my first, my miracle.) I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. We talked about adding on a large room to have people in, but it looks like those plans are going to be put on hold for a good reason. Rather than spend the time to build it on our own, hubby will be helping a friend. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed, but it is the people in the home that matter. I’d rather we are happy and not stressed…and able to share from our abundance than stressed and strapped to something that is a project. Space doesn’t matter. Relationships do. :) Thanks for your honesty!

  8. Laura August 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Aaaaah. You have spoken my heart. Except we don’t have a mammoth of a house…just big enough to be beyond the reaches of my time and attention. I used to cringe at my sticky floor and try to mop it once a week. Now it’s a monthly deal, at best. And we just wear our bare feet and track in the dirt and don’t worry so much. Oh — sometimes I still have a coniption fit. Yes, I do. But I have noticed the stress level drops and everyone seems happier when I worry and clean less. I grew up in such a neat and clean home. My mom cleaned all the time. So even though I know that’s not ideal, it’s still a hard habit to kick. My heart beats faster when I see clutter too. But I have a few hundred tiny pieces of paper on the carpet right now too. *high five*

  9. LeAnna August 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    This is like a big glass of ice cold lemonade…refreshing…
    Honestly, I get a little weary of the amount of e-books about how to organize your life in >insert random number here< days, etc. Sometimes life isn't organizable. And I'd like to be ok with that. :)

  10. Mel August 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I don’t even have kids yet and I struggle with this. I’m slowly but surely letting go and letting a single fork NOT ruin my night!

  11. Sarah August 10, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Truly realizing that the house is not a reflection of my worth, and is much more a reflection on the fact that currently living in my house are two busy adults with jobs and 3 little kids who need the freedom to play? That moment was probably the most freeing moment of my life recently. I mean, yes, I had given lip service to the entire idea of the cleanliness of my house not equaling my worth as a person before, but actually REALIZING it? Very freeing.

  12. Natasha August 10, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Oh, my. I love this. (and I love the quote from you husband as mine is often known to say the exact same thing…)

  13. Cynthia August 10, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    For me right now, it is less about letting the house be a mess and coming to terms with how the lack of funds impedes us from making … maybe not necessary as in NEED but necessary as in this old home needs this … improvements.

    The fact that we need a new front door, we need a major kitchen renovation, we need to finish the front bathroom, we need flooring is making me angry … at myself, at my husband and at my home. This anger isn’t nice, isn’t fruitful.

    So, I have to evaluate and reevaluate what NEED means. I have to let this be our home even when all these other things have to be undone for now. In the end, it will matter more that we were happy.

  14. Holly August 10, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    Oh honey, you’re not the only one that fights this! I do too! Everyday! But you know, we will look back once those littles are grown and gone and we will long for just a little mess or two. Just keep telling yourself to live in every moment and enjoy every moment for it will be those moments we will remember, not the messes and not-so-clean-and-tidy home.

    Blessings to you…… :)

  15. Gretchen August 10, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    I’m still learning this balance… Thank you for the smiles and the mental images of your happy home…and the reminder to live. :)


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