It’s the same routine every time someone comes over to our house.
I’ll plan to clean the night before to save myself the last-minute panic—really I will—but inevitably, something always comes up.
So instead, 20 minutes before our guest’s arrival, I’ll light a nice-smelling candle, run around the house speed cleaning, then greet them at the door with a smile, hug, and some canned response about the state of the house.
“Sorry for the mess.”
“We’ve been on the go all week and haven’t been home long enough to pick up.”
“I meant to get to the dishes, but then I got busy with the kids.”
“Work has been sooo crazy.”
The words are different, but they all mean the same thing: my house is a mess and I hope you don’t think I’m a complete slob of a homemaker.
The thing is, no matter how many hours I spend cleaning . . . no matter how many routines I try to put in place . . . no matter how much my family pitches in to help with the chores (and they do) . . .
Our house is pretty much always in some sort of disarray.
Because spoiler alert: kids live here.
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Kids who drink from the million cups you see scattered about. At least once, that is, until an hour later when they forget they already have a cup and go to the cupboard to get another.
Kids who change their clothes no fewer than eleventy-billion times a day—from pajamas to jeans to dress-up clothes to shorts to sweatpants back to pajamas again. And they make these outfit changes all over the house, leaving piles of inside-out pants with the underwear stuck inside and shirts stained with ketchup strewn about.
Kids who love arts and crafts, and whose creativity we love to watch blossom—but who also drop trails of crumbled play-doh under the kitchen table and markers in between the couch cushions.
Kids live here.
Kids who enjoy helping me cook in our teeny tiny kitchen but haven’t quite mastered egg cracking or shredded cheese sprinkling. Kids who always get excited and turn the button on the mixer up just a little too fast, sending a puff of flour up into the air.
Kids who are reallllly into snacks but not so into putting their bowls in the sink or their wrappers in the trash without more than a few reminders.
Kids live here, and even though I know logically the mess is probably normal, I won’t pretend it doesn’t bother me. The clutter really stresses me out and constantly triggers my anxiety.
What’s more, I think—actually, I know—social media has given me unrealistic expectations of what a family home should look like. I see squares of white walls and markless-couches and think there’s something I must be missing.
What are we doing wrong? Why can’t I keep up?
The worst are those curated messes on social media. “Can you believe how messy my kitchen is?” they say—before panning over to a counter with exactly one dirty spoon on it.
I wish that was my mess, but for me and my family, that’s just not real life.
Some days I get so discouraged I seriously consider burning down the house and starting over. “Why is this place such a wreck?” I’ll growl as I start to rage clean. Without fail, my husband gently reminds me, “Because we live here. Because they live here,” as he gestures towards our beautiful family.
I know he’s right.
Our house looks like three active, vibrant, happy, messy young kids live here. . . because they do.
And that’s OK.
Are there people who truly do keep their house cleaner than we keep ours? Absolutely, and I’m more than a little envious that they have the secret figured out.
But do most—if any—homes truly look perfectly spotless when they have tiny humans living inside of them? I really don’t think so.
One day, our home will be a whole lot emptier and a whole lot cleaner.
And while I assure you I will not miss the mess, I will miss the laughter, creativity, and love that overflow from these four walls during this season of our lives.
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So I’ll keep doing that weird tippy-toe shuffle through the living room because my kids left an obstacle course of chairs, pillows, and stuffed animals laid out from their latest game of The Floor is Lava.
I’ll cringe less and soak the moment in more as I watch more sprinkles go onto the floor than on the cookies we’re decorating together.
I’ll give myself grace about the fact that our house could not look farther from the ones I see on Pinterest and Instagram.
I’ll be more intentional about finding the beauty in the chaos that is our home right here and now. And gosh, there really is so much beauty.
Because how lucky are we that right now, kids live here.