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what your messy house says about you

This post has been a longtime coming. I’ve written and re-written in my head, in my sleep, in my minivan as I turn up the radio. It’s not the thing I want to write- not here, not now, not on the internet. But sometimes there’s something that just wants to be said, and I guess this is one of those things. So here we go. 

We started back to homeschooling towards the end of August. With a firstborn heading into middle school and a littlest one still in diapers, I knew the year would stretch me to new places and help me revisit some of the my least favorite places (and by that I mean homeschooling with a busy toddler.) But off we went and the first week went so well, I was pleasantly surprised.

Week 2 carried on, and we were doing it. This was doable! Things were happening! We were knocking our school days out of the park, and I was a strange mix of giddy and suspicious.

Near the end of week 2, I glanced down the hall and realized the laundry was taking over. Out of control. Uncontainable and multiplying by the minute. That’s funny, I thought, I know I just did laundry…

I stopped to think, and it slowly dawned on me that I hadn’t done a load of laundry since the school year started.

Well, no wonder this all felt so manageable- I had stopped paying much attention to my house in the efforts to ramp up the school year.  Oh, boy.

There’s something about this business of caring for a house that leaves me feeling like I’m missing a critical piece of the puzzle. I’ve read about routines. I understand the basic elements and what needs to happen. I’ve subscribed to Fly Lady and waded through her millions of emails. I’ve listened to my friends explain it slowly for me, tell me simply how they manage to keep their homes in a mostly clean state most of the time.

But for me, it’s futile. And that is just the plain, there you have it, how I’m wired truth.

I recently had an important thought: my kids are well-loved, well-fed, and well-educated, and I don’t need to feel guilty for the fact that all of that isn’t happening in a picture perfect house.

I refuse to let a few days of laundry stand in judgment over me.

I refuse to allow a sink full of dishes make any statement about the kind of person I am.

I don’t care what the dust on my window ledge says or means.

When it comes to the pressure of keeping a clean house, I officially give up. I’m done. I’m so over it.

This declaration of quitting doesn’t mean I’m giving up the fight; it means I’m going to stop making value statements about myself based on the state of my home.

Instead, here’s what my house says:

The laundry pile speaks of life, of busyness, of growth. The stains say “Those kids are busy!” and the holes speak to adventure and effort. The beach towels and swimsuits celebrate the season, and the soccer gear makes me grateful for all the soccer laundry my mother endured.

The dishes speak of bounty, of sufficiency, of being in the blessed slice of humanity that always has enough to eat. The sticky table testifies to hours of conversation and laughter around this island (which is stained by sharpies, long leaving their marks- which testifies to creativity, imagination, and a bit of sneakiness.) The booster seat that hides cheerios stuck to the chair underneath is a reminder of the sweet surprise of our last little person and his joy in joining us at the table.

The shoe pile by the back door says that lots of us live here. And we go places. And we tumble in and peel off our shoes as we settle in to this home.

The well-stocked but jumbled up pantry says, “Hey, she’s trying to be prepared. And she’s more of a creative than an organizer, so give her a break.”

Because it’s true, I am trying. You probably are, too. And the rough and tumble state of your home does not mean you aren’t trying; it simply means that a lot of life is happening in the sacred and crazy four walls of your home.

Some days you keep up, and some days you don’t. And THAT IS OK.

Do I want order and peace and clear surfaces?

Of course I do. But I don’t want to idolize them, to spiritualize it, to treat housekeeping like a high stakes contest.

Parenting? There’s a lot at stake there.

Building into your marriage? So incredibly important.

Authentic relationships, cultivating community, moving in love when you feel lead? Of the highest and most sacred places.

But the random crumbs in the bottom of my oven? Please.

The junk that rolls around in my van? Annoying, but not significant.

As moms, as women, as people- let’s set our hearts on the highest things, and stop letting the insignificant speak to our own significance. 

If you stop by on any given day, here’s what you’ll find: My children will celebrate wildly because they love surprise guests. Our couch cushions will be pulled out because that is inevitable. You’ll step over book piles and blanket “nests”. Some complicated and fantasy-themed game will probably be taking up the majority of the dining room table. We’ll put on coffee and find you a clean mug (or clean it on the spot) and someone will be hungry so food will appear. Knock-knock jokes will abound.

And when you leave, I know for a fact that you won’t be impressed by our immaculate home. But I hope you would feel heard and seen and loved for who you are.

So what does your messy house say about you?I don’t really know.

But more importantly, what does it say to you? When you look around and sigh, what are you deciding about yourself or your worth or your value? That message is much more defining and important.  Don’t let your house tell you things it was never meant to tell you.

Be good to your people, and be kind to yourself.

Take care, friends-

6 thoughts on “what your messy house says about you”

  1. Yay, Becky! You’re getting it! Our family life was much like you described and I love how our kids turned out. When I cleaned, they said, “Who’s coming over?” But hospitality was just their lifestyle. A youth pastor friend said, “I wish I had some Peters kids to welcome new kids.” I’m so thankful to say I know you! Keep your eyes on Jesus and His priorities.

  2. So so good. Thank you for this. Found you through your post on the Art of Simple, which I also loved!
    I am cluttered and messy by default, but there is an expectation at my house to keep it neat and tidy (from the other half). With five kids and a small space, it can be a challenge. When it gets out of control, I feel guilty and overwhelmed. When it is clean and organized, I struggle with pride and judgment at the state of other’s homes. I hate both ends of the spectrum. I am thankful to have a husband who encourages us to keep simplifying and putting away, because there is more peace without all the stuff. But, I also want the freedom to just be and not worry about whether it is good enough, whether I am good enough. There was something very familiar and freeing about your words. I don’t think I can let things get too carried away, but I can focus on the people more than the projects and lavish love on those who both live in and visit our home, regardless of how it looks on any given day.

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