With four children under the age of 11 and lots of responsibilities between me and my husband, life often moves too fast for us to stay on top of the stuff in our house 100 percent … or even 80 percent. (I will say that it drives me crazy to drop below 70, so we rarely go below that, but if I could choose, I’d be at 95 percent all day, every day.)  Here’s what my three-year-old can do in an hour and a half:

While I think it’s essential to de-junk regularly, clean WITH my family, “organize as I go” and slow down my life so I’m not flinging groceries into the kitchen on my way out to soccer practice, I also think it’s essential to see the mess in my home as something beautiful.

So here’s my thought for today: In order to love the mess that is your house, all you need to do is focus on its beauty.

Does that sound ridiculous? Tell me what you think of the following ideas:

  • It’s lovely to have “a place for everything and everything in its place,” but it doesn’t matter if everything is in it’s place all the time.Model homes look like heaven, at first glance, but there’s no LIFE in them. That’s not heaven to me.
  • Working together and keeping a home tidy is essential to building strong relationships, teaching responsibility and maintaining a healthy standard of living, but if our homes get messy during this process of raising children, that’s not a poor reflection on us as parents.It’s natural.
  • Messes are signs of growth and development. When piano books are stacked all over the piano, that’s because we’re learning to read music. When papers get piled up on the counter, that’s because we all set our stuff down before heading out to the backyard to play – and then we made tacos together, visited with the neighbors, worked on algebra, folded the laundry and then headed up to bed for stories. It’ll get clean, but what’s the hurry?
  • And finally, there’s a difference between “people-live-in-this-house-so-it-doesn’t-look-perfect” messes and “Argh-I-can-never-find-anything-in-this-pig-sty-why-why-why” messes. The former, I can handle, but the latter requires some serious, immediate attention. This is my new motto: “Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be happy.” Wouldn’t that make a great wall stencil?

I didn’t always see messes for their beauty. When I had three preschoolers (while living in a tiny apartment in Boston) I felt like I couldn’t control ANYTHING, so I tried to control each and every mess. One night, I wanted so badly to have our apartment “perfect,” that I was tempted to walk into each bedroom and make the beds while my children were IN them. I stopped myself in time, but I laugh now as I think back on those days.

With experience comes wisdom (at least I like to think so). The day is over, my children are tucked in their beds and I am curled up on the couch, gazing lovingly at the remainder of today’s beautiful messes. We’ve got toy cars all over the train table, too many shoes by the front door, a dishwasher full of clean dishes, a sink full of dirty ones, leftover tacos that need to go in the fridge, at least 64 surfaces that need to be wiped, disinfected or polished, and crayons on the kitchen table.

Isn’t it beautiful?

QUESTION: How do you come to terms with the mess that’s inherent with raising a family?

CHALLENGE: The next time your mess starts eliciting steam from your ears, stop for a moment and notice how beautiful it really is.

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