On Keeping a Messy House


Last night I forced myself to keep my house messy. I’m serious. And it was kind of hard, but actually refreshing. Because the other night as I plopped down on the stairs while I was waiting for Amaleah to get ready to come up to bed, and I glanced around the living room, all I felt in my heart was failure.

My house was a wreck–I felt like I can’t keep it straight and I can’t figure out how to get anyone else to either. So as these things usually go, all of my blaming thoughts point back on me and I start to feel inadequate and like my work zone is always in a state of upheaval, and that feels like a huge reflection on me.

Ah, but that thought was fleeting. Because if I’ve been learning anything lately at all, which I have, it’s that my value isn’t placed in what I do, but who I am (a daughter of the King). And my house doesn’t have to be clean and magazine ready 100% of the time to prove that I’ve done my job here. It honestly doesn’t have to be clean at all to prove anything. And if that’s why I’m keeping it clean than scrap it.

Cleanliness is not next to Godliness, and stewardship doesn’t equal a clean house.

There, I said it. And now all the ladies from the 50’s are turning over in their graves. Sorry ’bout that.

Please tell me there’s more to this mom thing than a clean house.

Wait, I’m telling you this! There’s more to this mom thing than a clean house. A clean house isn’t the only stamp I will leave on this world. Heck, it really won’t ever leave a stamp on this world. 

I’ve gotten to where my kids are sort of walking on egg shells every time they see me looking around the house and taking deep cleansing breaths. I’ve trained myself to think that I *need* a clean house in order to function better and in order to validate me–like I have a daily punch card that needs validating before I end the day. And so I’ve trained them to think so too–

So last night, I literally purposed to leave the odd assortment of things on the counter and not to clean off the coffee table and not to criticize my children as I arrived at the top of the stairs to see the usual hurricane that hit at midday.

And you know what I noticed? Instead of feeling frazzled because my house was a wreck, I felt restful and at peace. I felt that if my family can relax and feel good about being home even when things are lying about not exactly in their proper place, so can I.

I feel like my life is being wasted with all the moments I spend on keeping my house neat. I think a house can be neat, but it doesn’t have to be that way all the time, and it’s time we went back to the nightly clean up session and the Saturday chores and be done with it, and high time I free myself from all the in between rigamarole of nit-picking my house and my family to death in the every day.

It’s time I let go of my own personal expectations and pay attention to my family’s rhythms and comforts.

It’s time to slow down from focusing on the minutia of life and lift my eyes up to eye level to really see the people within these walls we call home. To see the moments of rest and the moments we can share, even when the house is messy, especially when the house is messy, because that’s real life, friends. It just is.

Life doesn’t stop and wait for everything around it to be neatly swept and tied up with cute string. Life keeps going. And I hate the thought of my kids growing up and remembering my nagging them to death every day about the house while all along they were growing in ways I could never notice because I was focusing on all the wrong things.

I guess when push comes to shove, I’d rather have kind, loving, relational, God-loving people in my home than neat and tidy ones (even though truth be told both things would be nice. wink)

I just think that if I slowed down my pace and allowed the edges of my home to be rougher and imperfect (not that it’s ever fully smooth or perfect, but according to my unrealistic expectations I guess I impose that ideal on us).

It just may be that if I relinquish my grip on the things I act like I value most (a clean house), there would be more

life-giving, restful living

and less life-sucking, stressful living.

So here’s to accepting and sometimes embracing (or ignoring) the mess in order to stop wasting my moments constantly straightening up.

Life is short, and there’s so much more to it than a clean house.

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  • Miranda

    I don’t read many blogs anymore but I always come back to yours. I am so thankful you take the time to write and it always seems I resonate heartily with you in this space. This house issue is HARD! Since we still homeschool it just seems ridiculous to expect things to stay neat, organized, etc. I have struggled with this so much lately. I do want to encourage good habits in everyone but that slips so quickly into perfectionism. Am I building good habits for their good or my identity? As I have added my fifth I am *starting* to realize just how futile this all is! It’s like an endless hamster wheel and rarely am I rested from all the work, nagging others and my own internal legalist! I do want to grow in understanding how to work hard at something for everyone’s good yet not NEED it for my happiness, my peace and my joy. Anyways – thank you for always sharing here – I’d love more posts on this subject, how this struggle relates to hospitality, letting love for others motivate our jobs as wives/moms, etc. Blessings!!! PS – heading to Rachel B.’s baby shower at FBC this weekend 😉 Crazy….

    • Miranda!!! You have five now! Crazy! I’m so thrilled you chose this blog to come back and read, as there are many days I think I’m going to close up shop. Thanks for reading! And this topic is definitely not over, I think there is much more to figure out here. I will say that I do feel there’s been a stronghold released somewhat in my life once I wrote this post, that I’ve actually been able to pull my head out of the nitty gritty and overlook what just a week ago would have made me crazy. It’s a huge choice, I have to talk myself through it sometimes, but I feel so much more rested and less frantic about it. I’m so ready to dig deeper into this issue because I think you’re so right, there’s so much inside us that’s going on and we need to figure this out!

      • Miranda

        Yes, my youngest is already almost 2 now though. I can’t believe yours are so big and oh so precious! And girl, please don’t “close up shop” 🙂 I think what I love about your writing on different things is how you are able to bring the gospel down to these earthy things we all deal with daily in this season of life. Your keeping the gospel at the center – which breathes life! I am so grateful for gifts in the body and how one sister’s words (or even your own as you wrote the post!) can be a catalyst for letting truth instead of lies settle. Thanks for the encouragement…

        • Ah, thanks friend! It’s a blessing to know that somehow my words translate into encouragement, that’s truly what I desire.