Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lived in

When The Engineer picked us up from the airport Wednesday night and took us home, it was a pleasant homecoming.  He'd worked very hard to tidy up the house, and I was able to smile and feel home instead of being overwhelmed with what I'd need to do the next day.

Then Thursday my two adorable little daily hurricanes made landfall again, and I found myself looking around, groaning at the mess.  Often I feel so unsettled just with the everyday stuff that ends up all over the place when small children are in the house.

But that day I started trying to look at that stuff differently.  My house is not going to look like a model home most of the time.  Even when we tidy up, it will quickly get untidy again.  What I'm realizing, and trying hard to internalize, is this:

It's okay for a house to look "lived in."

My life feels unsettled when I'm cluttered, and in realizing that over the last few years, I've become somewhat better at reining in the clutter.  But now I am challenging myself to learn to be at peace even when my house looks like a house where two little kids live.

It's disgusting if I go a year without cleaning a bathroom.  It's not disgusting to have children's books strewn about.

It's unsanitary to leave dirty dishes on the countertop for weeks at a time.  It's not unsanitary to have a stack of mail on the table that I haven't gone through because kids have needed me.  Or even because I chose instead to read a few blogs.

And while it's a good thing for kids to have clean clothes to wear, it's okay if I've gotten so busy that it takes a few days to get all those clean clothes folded.

I'm realistic--I know I'm not going to have a perfectly tidy house most of the time.  So hopefully just by changing my viewpoint, my emotions will follow (eventually,) so that I won't feel so unsettled when the house that we live in looks lived in.


Rachel Cotterill said...

I had one friend at school - yes, just one - whose house was always 'show-home tidy'. It was a scary place to visit, we were always afraid we'd make a mess and invoke the wrath of her parents. So Chickie & Zoodle's friends will be happier if you manage to master this new mindset! :)

Strange Mamma said...

Your post struck a chord with me today. I have always joked that I'm a neat freak stuck in a slob's body. So my house is always in a bit of disarray and I'm always stressed by it. Now that I have a husband and now what is quickly becoming a toddler, I have even more clutter/mess around me to stress me out. It seems that the more people I add to my life, the more OCD I get about things 'being in their place' and the less anything is. Your viewpoint changes I could recognize as being positive ways to look at things, but I just about had to put my head between my knees thinking of the stack of mail and unfolded laundry as 'okay' because more important things now take up my time. Ugh. Looks like I've got some things to work on, too.

Call Me Cate said...

One of my goals for the year is to keep the house more presentable. Not spotless or perfect, but presentable. So far, it's working for me. I try not to stress too much about cat hair on a daily basis (my equivalent to toys, I suppose). I bet Chickie and Zoodle would rather remember Mommy building them a fort than running around with a mop.

SciFi Mama said...

Your house sounds like mine. My house is lived in. The bathroom is clean, the kitchen is clean, and there's no food laying around anywhere. Fisher Price is my decorator. I have a small child who likes to play. As I look around a see Barrel of Monkeys, 7 or 8 books, K'Nex, child's guitar, sit N Spin & Dora figurines. That's all just around the couch & coffee table. Yes it's messy, but we've been playing this morning & having fun. We make a point of picking up toys nightly, and having Paige help.

It makes me feel good to relax after her bedtime in a somewhat clean house. But, during the day I would rather play than clean.

Eternal Lizdom said...

My house is messy. And I'm totally fine with it. Toys are strewn about, there are dishes from last night in the sink, the bathroom counter is cluttered with hairbows and brushes and toothpaste. The beds aren't made.

But my house is a place where you walk in and feel like you can put your feet up. If you spill your drink, no one is going to have a heart attack.

And my hope is that this is how my kids' friends will feel that way when we get to adolescence. We want to be the "hang out" house... and hopefully the acceptance of mess and clutter and noise will lend itself to that.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

A comfortable, lived in, warm family home is what your children will treasure, not never seeing their mom because she had to clean every minute of the day - And I know some moms who are like that - and I don't think it's healthy - Good for you getting the balance right!

Sandra said...

Beth -- I have to admit, as much as I'd like to forget it, that my house was a M.E.S.S most of the time my kids were growing up. Because I'm able to keep it much neater now, it's easy to forget those "messy days." But, I think you are exactly right, messy house and little kids just go together like cream and sugar (in most cases).

Dina said...

I struggle with the same feelings. I blame them on growing up with a neat freak mom - using the word freak in the most loving manner. :) My friends used to make fun that even our so-called junk drawer was perfectly organized. Anyway, having a husband who likes to leave things laying around and a child has forced me to relax and realize that I can still have a clean house that looks lived in - which is a good thing. Anyway, it's nice to know that others struggle with the same feelings.

By the way, thanks for your comment on my post the other day!

TesoriTrovati said...

Hi Beth- I have to say that I agree. I have always said that I would rather have children that remembered that I was never too busy to play a game, watch a ladybug crawl or marvel at the moon than to remember that my kitchen floor was spotless!

I was given the "Honest Scraps" award from Angie who is a talented poetry writer at
This award is given to someone who blogs from am honest place in their heart and soul. You are one such person (all your posts bring back so many memories for m). You can go here: to see what it is all about. And no obligations to play along!

Enjoy the day!

Janell said...

Amen sister! My house is "lived in" too, and I have the same anxiety about it sometimes. But I think for me to have a very neat house all the time, it would require too many sacrifices of my time with my kids and my "me" time. As DH says sometimes, we're in the kid business, not in the clean house business! As you said, there's a difference between dirty (that's gross) and cluttery (that's life). Lately I've been looking for more ways to clean and organize "smarter" so I don't have to work "harder"! We'll see how it goes...

C. Beth said...

Rachel--Thank you! I definitely have never had a "show home." Just trying to change my attitude to realize that's OKAY! :)

Heather--I become more stressed about mess when I'm busier too. It's like when I feel out of control of my life, I want to be in control of something!

Call Me Cate--"Presentable." I like that!!

Sci Fi Mama--Going to bed with things picked up definitely helps me too.

Liz--I hope my house is a place where my kids' friends will feel comfortable, too! BTW, cute profile pic.

A Woman of No Importance--I think I'll always be working on balance in this area...hopefully as I grow I'll get it right more often than wrong.

Sandra--Oh, it's very nice to hear that from you! Because judging from pictures on your blog, you have such a beautiful, "put together" house. It's nice to remember I could have that more consistently, in the future, when the kids grow up.... :)

Dina--My mom is very into cleaning too. It works for her! I just have had to realize I don't have to be just like her to be a successful mom.

TesoriTrovati--Thank you! I'll visit your blog to check out the award.

Janell--Yes, I need to work more on the smarter organization too...I get overwhelmed when I think about it!

Becky said...

Heather's comment - "a neat freak stuck in a slob's body" - describes me perfectly. My house totally stresses me out and I hate feeling like that! But no matter how hard I try I can't keep on top of the mess, so I've got to learn to let it go a little bit. Good thing most of my friends and relatives know not to stop over uninvited. :-)

Our Scoop said...

Amen! So hard to do but so right!

Mike said...

What a great realization! There is a very subtle line between "lived in" and "clean". If you have mail and childrens' books strewn about, it's not a big deal, as long as the house is mostly free of filth! The rest are details that can be tidied up when you have a minute (OMW!). Blogs are better than MacDonalds coupons and bills anyway!!! :)