I walk into my house after picking up my son from preschool. I drop the mail in the bin hanging from the wall. I hang our coats up in the closet and drop our shoes in the basket at the bottom of the stairs. I walk through the kitchen to put his lunchbox away and don’t trip over a single toy. My kitchen greets me with clean, empty counters. The cabinet doors close easily without me having to risk a landslide of plastic cups and containers if I don’t close the door fast enough.
This is not my house. These are not my normal behaviors. Normally, I’m a dump-everything-anywhere kind of gal. I’d be the one sharing the articles that say things like, “You’re my real friend if you come over to my disaster of a house and pretend not to see the mess.” I’d advocate that a messy house is a lived-in house. Toys scattered everywhere are a sign of a fun day. A kitchen covered with pots and pans is indicative of the great meals I’ve made for my family. The pile of shoes by the front door is proof that I made it to the gym today. Or sometime last week, or last month.
A few weeks ago I would have argued all these things are true. A part of me still believes that, but I’ve never lived in such a clean and organized house until now. I had no idea of the invisible stress that mess was imparting on my shoulders, weighing me down without me even knowing.
See, we’re getting ready to move. Our first step was to get rid of all the extra stuff in the house. We donated, trashed, and tossed everything we could. Haven’t used it in a year? Donate. Don’t know what it is? Trash. Doesn’t make me happy? Toss. Eventually we found something we never had before: space. Space in our closets, our attics, our storage bins. Our floors, our cabinets, our furniture. Suddenly there was a place to put everything. A place for each item to call home. Somewhere for everything to belong.
That’s when I realized how much the idea of a simple daily clean up overwhelmed me. I always had an excuse: I was too tired, we’d just use it again tomorrow anyways, or it’d make too much noise and the toddler was finally sleeping. I could come up with a lot of reasons why I should put it off. I just never realized it was because I didn’t know what to do with the stuff. That it didn’t really feel any cleaner if I was just shoving things in corners or making new piles.
But once everything was clean – I mean really, absurdly clean – it suddenly became easy. I noticed if something was left out the minute I walked into a room. I didn’t need to turn a blind eye, as it was just as easy to tuck it away. I cleaned the counters and the floors because, hey why not? It’s easy to scrub when there’s nothing in your way. I’d been living under a cloud where there was no room to acknowledge that a clean house made me happy. An actual burden was lifted from my shoulders that I never even knew was there. It makes my house feel like a home. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be content in my space.
At the same time, it makes it easy, too, to forgive myself for all the excuses I made and all the years I spent tip-toeing through the mess because I was too lazy to tackle it. There’s nothing like a clean room to prove just how easy it is to undo it all – how simple it is to make it a disaster zone once again. Watching my organized space turn into a place of chaos in a matter of minutes let’s me acknowledge all those old reasons for embracing a messy home were okay things to believe. My messy house IS a lived-in, played-in, happy house.
But for now, just for a little while, I’m going to try to keep it a clean, lived-in, played-in, happy house. Because it makes me a happier mom.
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