Sisterhood of the Messy House

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

I'm finding it increasingly ironic that my blog is called "Clean". Because it's not exactly squeaky in my world. It never has been.

Some days it's clean over here – everything in its place! It's delightful, but rare.

Most days are messy.

Today there is a pile of paperwork and kid-art on the top of the fridge and there's a good deal of mud by the back door.

There is a basket or two of clean laundry in the living room and the bathroom could definitely stand for a little love.

And we're ripping out some walls in the kitchen, so drywall mud, power tools, and plastic tarps are our new decor.

But you know, that's life.

We live here. It's a mess. Make yourself at home.

Sure, some of us manage to keep it all together and have a tidy house at the end of the day. And while I'm a bit star-struck by that idea I'm not sure how it's done.

As for the rest of us, chaos reigns.

And yet I know how hard is it for most of us to admit that about ourselves. That we're imperfect. Vulnerable. A bit of a disaster. 

Whether it's our hearts, our families, our jobs, or our homes.

We're imperfect. Life is messy. This is real.

But that's scary to have seen.

Maybe it's time that we cut through the bullshit and stop pretending.

Stop pretending that the laundry is always folded and the dishes are always done; that the floors are always swept and that we've got this thing together.

Because it's not. We don't. And that's okay.

(Okay, some of us do, but in that case let's use the house is a metaphor. We are all falling apart somewhere I suspect.)

It's a game we all play, bluffing perfection because everyone else is.

I'm not talking about a special holiday or celebration. I'm talking about everyday. The casual visits, the drop-bys, the playdates.

Friends coming by? First we clean. Like maniacs. Maybe we hide the laundry or the paperwork or the toys. If not we'll probably apologize uncomfortably for the mess, as though it snuck up on us and took us by surprise. (Oh! Two weeks of dirty clothes. Where did those come from?)

That is if we have the courage to invite them in at all.

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Enough already.

It's time we made a pact.

Let's call it the Sisterhood of the Messy House.

No cleaning. No apologies. No bullshit.

Because if I clean for you and you clean for me and we apologize for the "mess" after we spent the better part of the day cleaning and yelling at other people to clean (yeah, I know the drill) then we all lose.

Because we're making ourselves crazy and to top it all off we're not being honest. And we're setting this ridiculously high bar that even we don't live by.

We're doing a disservice not only to ourselves but also to each other. Our falsely clean houses are whispering, She's got this. Everybody's got this. What about you?

So let's just stop pretending.

It's time for a new game.

One where I'm just glad you showed up, not worried that you will judge my worth by the state of my bathroom.

Where I'm safe to let you see me, piles of paperwork, dirty floors and all.

Because really, isn't that what friendship is about?

And when I walk into your house and it's honest and lived in and messy (and you don't apologize) or authentically tidy (and not because I was coming over) I know I belong. You're real and I'm safe to be real with you, too.

And I mean that in a much deeper way than letting you see my kitchen.

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

Because there are more important things than a clean house |

The truth is I'd rather have you show up with your kids and cook a meal with me than stand here alone wondering if my house is clean enough for company. I want connection and conversation – not self-judgement and false pretenses.

Because relationships. Community. Friendship. That's where the depth is. That's what's real.

Yes, I am flawed. And sometimes – usually – I'm a bit of a mess.

And my house is, too.

It's time we stop pretending we're anything other than what who and what we are and seek connection instead of perfection in the messy realness of these lives we share.

Because – as it turns out – there are more important things in life than a clean house.

Oh, yes. Who's in?


Because there are more important things than a clean house |


42 thoughts on “Sisterhood of the Messy House

  1. Thea says:

    I agree and have shared similar posts with friends before. I think having young children, homesteading and homeschooling adds a whole new level of “messy” too that some people may not quite understand but luckily friends do, I think!? Thank you for sharing!

  2. Holly Dean says:

    I feel an embroidery quote coming on. YES! We unschool in a tiny-tiny house. It is a disaster in here. Thank you! That’s all I’m gonna say. Oh, and love the pic with the dog in the corner..that is a riot! I wonder what he or she is thinking. LOL

  3. Michelle says:

    Well my house is always clean, my laundry is always folded and things are always put away. I do dishes three times a day. Every day. So it is not impossible. What is impossible is to do all that and have an awesome, involved, spontaneous life like you seem to have. I don’t. In fact with me it is mostly work and little play and that my friend is the trade off. Who has it right? Certainly not I.

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    But of course you know that one path is not right and one is not wrong. Just different. There are many days that I (and more often Pete) wonder why we cant keep it together enough to have things picked up. I suppose that we each come with different gifts, different struggles, and yes, even different shame. Love to you, friend.

  5. tameka says:

    I totally agree. I’m guilty of this. And count me in!!! Many times I feel that cleaning my house is a waste of time, time that could go toward doing something more meaningful. Like hanging out with my family.
    That pizza looks so yummy. Will a recipe show up soon? Is it one of Chef Sage’s creations?

  6. Laura Lulei says:

    I am in! It’s been hard work for me to let the stuff just be without getting anxious about it. Leaving the mess and seeing that nothing bad happens. Finally being at peace with it.My house was always as clean as I could make it and yes I never played with the kids though. Not good for me, it felt like reality was conspiring against me. I just had to practice letting it go.

  7. Stacy says:

    On the days when I’m most overwhelmed, feel like I leave one room clean only to come back an hour later to have it destroyed (again!!), and I vow to purge every toy that is left on the floor, i try to step back. I try to remind myself that all too soon there will be no young roommates around to pick up after, to cook for, to bake with. My kids will become the visitors who I clean for as I anticipate their arrival.
    Soon the toys and messes will be gone. Hopefully the memories will remain and in 20 years I will find a long overlooked fingerprint on the wall to wipe away.

  8. Carrie @ November Morning says:

    I actually do keep a pretty clean house because mess and clutter make me anxious. I’m more relaxed at the end of the day if the dishes are done. My little studio room, however, is a disaster. It amuses me to no end, the difference between this room and the rest of the house, but that’s my reality. I used to apologize for the mess in here, but I’ve gotten over it. Should anyone find themselves in this room, I just say “yep, that’s my office” and move on. It feels better that way. Honest.

  9. Sinead says:

    Yes yes yes! Chose to spend the afternoon looking round charity shops with my teen who has finished school for Christmas rather than do my Monday chores………even if I did clean today it will still be messy again tomorrow – hard for me to do all the time, but when i can – let it go. x

  10. Dawn says:

    Love the bold brave you are sharing here. It is good to be real and to share life because that is what we are meant to do. Thanks for writing real!

  11. Karen C says:

    I so needed this post today. I’ve been trying to clean up my kitchen island/bar for over a week, but something else always comes up to distract me. I have to get it done, though, because it is so stressful for me to see it all day every day, and never have a place to set anything down. Not to mention the bills that are buried deep in the rubble that are probably weeks overdue. I’m sure we would feel at home in each other’s place. Mine is very lived in, too!

  12. Kate says:

    Yes! When I clean, it last for maybe an hour, and then toys are scattered everywhere, homes are created for dolls right in the middle of the living room and then I sadly wonder what all that effort was for. Maybe just to keep the dog hair in check for another week? Thanks for sharing your mess. Makes me feel a little bit better about not having it all together.

  13. Melanie says:

    this was good to read- being close to 6 mos pregnant with our fifth, and homeschooling the other four, I’ve lately felt rather frazzled with teh state of our house! but you know what, I’d rather sit and read books to the littles than take care of that laundry 🙂 and yes, a true friend is one who can see your house in it’s true state and not raise an eyebrow- and I have felt that too, in going to other’s houses and seeing that they didn’t clean. I prefer it, actually!
    I had to laugh at your description of frantically cleaning and yelling at each other to clean. . . we’ve sooo been there.
    Thanks for this!

  14. Janet says:

    I’m in. Amen. I am done with what does not make me happy. I refuse to stop thinking I need to have people over that I may not even like because it is the “Christian” thing to do. I want to sit with my immediate family and my true friends or I love being alone. Everyone else can go scratch. Merry Christmas!!

  15. Knitting Mole says:

    I LOVE these pics of your kitchen!! My hubs is the “housewife” in our family and he does a spectacular job of keeping the house clean (he’s a bit OCD), but still at the end of the day, the dishes are always piled up in the sink, and the dining room table is covered in the day’s debris. He still tries to hide it all away when company’s coming. Unless he’s not in the mood, then, screw it, let em see our real life. I’m always game either way.

    PS> the best photo is the dog waiting for some of that cheese to hit the floor!

  16. Alison says:

    I am so down with this! I have made a significant effort recently to focus my energy on relationships (face to face) and time with loved ones versus fretting over a clean and well put together home… and it has felt AWESOME. I absolutely love, love, LOVE this post!!!

  17. Ashley says:

    Love this 🙂 I do not currently have human children of my own, but I have cats and ducks and chickens and a partner to share the mess with. I do feel the day to day struggle of clean vs. create.I am an artist like many of you…Just today I said enough is enough I’m going to play in the fog and watch the trees in the mist. It was gorgeous on so many levels. and the mess? Well the mess will be here everyday. Maybe it’s suppose to stand for something??…. M-meaningful..E-Energy…S-surrounding…S-souls… 🙂 our souls. Cheers everyone!

  18. Camille duckworth says:

    I agree , to a degree. Yes, I’m not ashamed when my house is a mess because I DO homeschool my five kids. But I also teach them responsibility and cleanliness, cause it’s next to godliness right ;). The truth is, there is so much more harmony in my home when it’s clean. When my kids can go get a drink and not have to dig through a sink if dirty dishes to get a cup. When im not digging through piles of laundry to find my son clean underwear in the morning! So although I love my slow, purposeful and often messy house homeschooling my children, They and I also work daily on improving our habits so that we can dwell in a somewhat clean environment on a daily basis and not just throw up my arms, accepting a messy house because of all the excuses I could come up with why it’s messy and assume anybody who expects more should just not be my friend.

  19. Angie says:

    I’ve been at this for a long time. When something had to go I said goodbye to making sure I had a clean house all the time. So stop on over anytime and I’ll probably have to clear the couch so you can sit down and then wash a glass so you can have a drink but I’ll be so happy that you stopped by 🙂

  20. Carrie in Nova Scotia says:

    Very good timing for me- thanks for saying what needs to be said- when so much good is going on in our home, when we’re so privileged, why is it that I can’t stop focusing on what isn’t done (like more dishes even when I’ve done them 3 times today!)- isn’t that the whole point of living simply?? Why this self- distain for what we can’t get done?? That’s a good hurdle to get over at this time for year, for sure.

  21. Wendy says:

    I have taped on the wall in my kitchen:
    “It’s not a mess. It’s a happy-mess.” We’re a living, creating homeschooling family and yes we strive for order but I love how you are inviting us to drop the facade. Count me in.

  22. Willow says:

    I think there’s a difference between a messy house and a house that’s just well lived in. We have dishes and piles of things around our house too, and that can occasionally become overwhelming, but for the most part, they are just evidence of people living and enjoying life. We like to throw a potluck occasionally to motivate us to do a big tidy. Otherwise, friends just get the apology at the door, ” the house is a mess but come on in….” Nobody has refused to come in yet. And honestly, when I go and visit my friends, I am most comfortable in the houses that are also well lived in. <3

  23. Tor says:

    You are music to my ears. Blissful, wonderful, fantastic, truthful music. I will never be more tidy and organised and ‘in place’ and that’s ok. X merry christmas.

  24. sarah says:

    Oh Thank you! Being stay at home homeschoolers – our house is OFTEN messy! There’s plenty of time for clean, perfect homes when the children are grown and moved out 🙂

  25. rebecca says:

    Having grown up in a house where cleaning and tidying were not a focus or priority at all, I want to add to this. There is a significant difference between being -focused- on cleanliness and having/owning the responsibility of cleaning up after oneself. It is a learned and developed skill for most people to pick up whatever one has been working on when done. My parents were kind, loving, mission focused people but they never learned or developed the skills/ability to finish and follow through the “boring” part of cleaning up or maintaining a house or yard. (Both of my parents are P in the Meyers Briggs personality) I hated living in my house ( I am a J). As I grew up into a teen I was totally embarrassed of the constant state of our house and did not have people over because of it. I begged to have a cleaning schedule when I was a teen- which I was denied. So, as a home schooling SAHM of three, we had a lived in house that we all cleaned EVERY Saturday. The focus was not clean, but tidying and cleaning was a foundational rhythm that built skills and expectations of responsibility.

  26. Sandi says:

    There is also a significant difference between what you went through and what this writer is experiencing, a few dirty dishes left while playing with children does not an unhappy and deprived childhood make.

  27. rebecca says:

    Maybe my comment was misunderstood, my childhood was not unhappy or deprived….. I do honor the sentiments of the author below though.

    “When I take a shower, I hand wash my dirty clothes (if they’re dirty), wring them out, hang them to dry. When I change, I carefully put away the clothes I’ve changed out of. When I prepare food, I wipe the counter and put away the ingredients. At least I try to – I don’t claim to be perfect.

    Remembering to do these things when we’re done with the activity isn’t just about neatness. It’s about mindfulness, about completing what we started, about being present in all we do instead of rushing to the next activity.”

  28. Hajar says:

    I have a few wonderfull friend who, even help me clean, when they come to my hows, and usualy it looks exactly like yours…3 children…homeschooling, living in a village…chickens….you know….when I go to a friends howse, I like to help to do the dishes, the food…. Youre absolutely right about friendship.

  29. Hajar says:

    We have a shedule allso, but sometimes its not about desire….sometimes in my howse the work is just to much(with 2boys, and a baby…chickens, cats, garden, homeschooling…)…. There must be a balance between things, we should not go crasy becouse of a few dirthy dishes and some loundry in the livingroom….and ofcourse we should clean allways when we have the time to do it….but Im not going to appologise becouse I have to much work, and my howse is not allways clean….and im not going to guge any of my friends, when I go to her, and in her howse is a haos…Im just helping her get the things done, and then I drink cofee, and talk to her, because I know exatly how she gat in this mess :-).

  30. Jeanne Miller says:

    I feel the same way about neighbor gifts at Christmas. I love getting them, for the record, but I don’t believe they gave it to me with the expectation of getting one in return. And if I ever give one (because my kids really want to, and I’m not opposed to it, I’m just not that organized) I don’t want anyone to feel they have to give me one in return. But I hear so many people rattle off these lists of “To Do’s” during a time that they’d rather not be doing so much and would rather be spending time with their family, or at least having a minute to wrap the presents they are hiding before Christmas Eve, and on those lists, quite often is “I still have neighbor presents to get” or, “I still have to make candy for neighbor gifts” Which of course takes longer than just cookies and they make several different kinds and have to buy extra stuff to make it all and …. I feel guilty if they think they have to do that for me. I don’t want to add to anyone’s stress. But if they really love it and want to, that is totally fine! However, I think a lot of times they end up resenting having to do it.

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