“Would you rather have a full-time maid, nanny, or chef?”
Most women I know quickly answer maid—because cooking isn’t so bad if you don’t have to clean up afterward and making messes with the kids can be kind of fun, if you don’t have to clean up said mess (or nag them to clean up the mess).
So while we all say we struggle with keeping the laundry folded and the counters cleared and the dishes done, if a friend texts that she’s going to drop by why do most of our hearts sink? Because NOW she is going to have visual confirmation that the laundry is multiplying like bunnies and taking over our house.
Nothing will get my husband evil, stabby eyes more than apologizing to a “pop-over” guest (and we live on a Christian camp so we have a lot of those kinds) for the state of our house. I KNOW there are messes—but we are living here, people!
If you stop by there is a 99.9% chance there will definitely be crumbs on the floor, overflowing baskets of laundry, and toys strewn everywhere. I sincerely hope there will not be underwear on the bathroom floor, but I’m not going to say it hasn’t happened.
And you know what, aside from the undies, I’m not going to stress about it.
My house IS clean once a week: the toilet shines, the floors sparkle, the laundry is tucked in drawers, and it is a glorious sight. But it only lasts till the kids are up from naps (so two hours maximum) and then things quickly descend into the establish rhythms of chaos.
You know why I push down my prideful panic? Because my mom did.
Let’s take a trip back in time to 1999 and a little farmhouse in Indiana: you would probably find dirty dishes, school books stacked on the table, and nasty chore boots (covered in what comes from a real barn) kicked off by the door. It was messy most of the time. It was clean sometimes, but God love my mama, she was fighting a losing battle with five kids, a dog, and 30 goats on the property.
I’m sure my mom felt the pressure like I do to have it all together if a friend drove up, but I don’t remember her apologizing. People came in and it didn’t matter if their shoes had mud on them. They would slide my math workbook to the side and pull up a bench at the trestle table.
Because it may have not been perfectly clean, but the home I grew up in was a welcoming one, a cozy one, where people came “for a second” and lost track of an hour chatting about husbands, kids, church, goats, the usual.
When we were teenagers there was a revolving door of friends who came to hang out and eat food. I think my brothers’ friends broke a coffee table having “wrestling night”. My sister and I spilled hot pink nail polish and Pepsi on the carpet. I’d like to believe that life gets cleaner after the “little years” are over, but I have some pretty sincere doubts.
My point is—I remember the memories, not the mess.
I remember the feeling of being comfortable and that my friends were comfortable, too. And now that the “family years” are over and can’t be called back, I know my mom misses the mess because it meant we were all there, living a full life, together.
I long to create a similar atmosphere in my home—a place that is cozy, peaceful, fun, and where we can all be REAL.
But it starts with us getting real, with being OK that our house isn’t always or often going to be perfect. Yes, create those tidy routines, one-touch rules, and cleaning schedules. You clearly don’t want to live in squalor. I’m just saying let’s loosen our grip on “the perfectly clean house” . . . beds will get left unmade and dishes will stay in the sink until they are crusty because our kids need us to color with them, our friends need us to drink coffee with them, our spouses need us to relax with them.
It isn’t an either/or thing. In the classic sweet Mary versus get ‘er done Martha, Jesus didn’t say, “Never clean up your house and don’t serve dinner when a bunch of people show up at your door.”
He just said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it won’t be taken away from her.” (Matthew 11:41-42)
The clean house and “hostess with the mostess” would last just through that night, but the words Jesus was giving would last forever. Jesus wasn’t mad at her. I don’t even think He was disappointed. In His words, I sense a sadness for what she had lost with her hustling. Would it have mattered if dinner was late? Or if everyone made themselves a PB&J while sitting on the dusty floor?
“Katie, dear, Katie, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and it won’t be taken from her.”
It’s a good thing competing with a better thing, the creme brulee competing with the veggie tray. And God is pleased when we let the eternal win.
Let laughter win, let spending time with Jesus win, let cuddling win, let kisses win, let dirty fingerprints win, let the meaningful mess win.
A peaceful home starts with a peaceful heart.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog
You may also like:
Just Come Over: The Art of Gritty Hospitality
It’s OK to Be a Mess, Your Kids Just Want You
I’m the Mom With the Messy House
Motherhood is Messy and I’m Tired of Hiding It