I was going to write a post today called, “The Chore Chart that Saved My Sanity”, but it felt a little disingenuous as I looked around my house and realized I was living in a hot mess.
The truth is, this chore chart has saved my sanity–when it works. But it only works when we as the parents work it, and that doesn’t always happen. Like this past week. But you know what? As visually annoying as it is, and as embarrassing as it would be if someone dropped by my house right now, I’m done with the house shaming.
You’ve heard of body shaming? Well, today I’d like to coin the phrase “House Shaming”.
You already know intuitively what this means because you’ve felt it. After seeing thousands upon thousands of visual images of picture perfect homes and “spaces” on Pinterest, HGTV, Houzz.com, and maybe even your neighborhood, you’ve felt ashamed and “less than” when looking around your own home and observing not only undecorated and unorganized spaces, but messes. Maybe hot messes like mine. Messes that can never be totally eradicated because the people making them continue to live in your home and make them–over and over and over again. (Maybe you are one of those people.)
And even if it may all just be in your head and nobody but you is noticing or caring (most likely), it still feels like “they” are not only noticing and caring, but judging you because you can’t take care of your home properly. Because you have no sense of style. Because you’re disorganized. Because you’re obviously lazy and passing it on to your children. And on and on and on . . . House Shaming.
Maybe you’ve seen the sign some people put on their front porch that reads, “Please excuse the mess, but we live here.” That’s where I’m at in my evolution of caring about a perfectly clean and orderly home for other people to admire and envy. I’m just here living my life with my family, and that means we make messes. And we make them every waking hour of every imperfect, messy, wonderful, creative, hard working, joyful day of our life together as a family.
The truth is, having a super clean and orderly home and making sure my kids follow a really tight daily checklist and chore chart to ensure said clean and orderly home has really lost its place on my priority totem pole.
Does it bug me when the house is a mess? Absolutely. But do I expect myself and my kids to spontaneously clean up after every single mess like good little disciplined soldiers to the exclusion of everything else? No way. And I refuse to let that expectation destroy my peace or my relationships with them any longer. There is so much more to life than a clean home.
So let’s talk for a minute about the messes I’m staring down in my home today and what they really say about me as a mother and how “lazy” I am. Let’s call this list, “10 Good Reasons to Stop the House Shaming”.
- Dirty dishes from the yummy, healthy veggie omelet I made for family dinner last night. Oh, the shame!
- Pillows, blankets, and jammies on the oversized chair in my bedroom where our youngest slept last night because she said she felt “weird” and we were too tired to bother coaxing her back to bed. Everyone got a good night of sleep. You can’t knock that.
- Piles of books and papers on my bed stand full of the things I love to read and think about. Should I be ashamed for reading and enlightening my mind and soul sometimes instead of cleaning? Really?
- Piles of clean, unfolded clothes in the laundry room that no one has gotten to yet. Think about that: PILES of clean clothes! How fortunate are we? And how lucky for me as a mother that half of the kid clothes were washed and dried by my two oldest children. Would they know how to do laundry when they leave home if I was the clean freak who always micromanaged the laundry room? I think not.
- The cello and music on the floor in the living room where my son left it last night after I accompanied him in a solo ensemble competition where he played beautifully and was complemented highly by the adjudicator. (One reason we didn’t do the usual after-dinner family cleanup.) Bonus: I got to meet the adorable girl he is crushing on and we had a nice chat about it. Can a clean floor beat that?
- The leftover Christmas cards still taped to my front door. It’s all of my favorite people smiling at me as I leave the house every day. Why would I clean that up? Maybe I’ll just wait to take them down when I get replacements next year.
- The sewing machine and supplies all over the kitchen island where my oldest daughter has been creating a wildly creative costume for the Comic Convention in town this weekend. I love that she can sew well enough to make her own costumes and that she has the interest and motivation to do it. She can clean it up herself when the convention is over. No biggee.
- The remnants of multiple nights of homework and school projects from this past week stuffed in a corner of the kitchen for us to get to “later”. All four of my kids are doing well in school this year, and I know part of the reason is the time I’ve been taking to help them stay on top of their homework schedules and projects. I’ve even been reading “Anne of Green Gables” to my two youngest daughters before bed every night which is something I couldn’t do if I insisted on picking up the house at the end of the day. You know the saying, “Don’t save for tomorrow what can be done today”? I respond with, “The messes will always be there, but the kids won’t.”
- The inbox of papers that belong to me which have been neglected because I’ve been doing other things this week such as helping my daughter wrap up her Science Fair project and going to the school to see it on display (she’s going on to district!), taking my two teenagers to interview for a really cool volunteer program and coaching them on how to conduct themselves in an interview, attending an event for a friend’s non-profit organization that helps rescue children from sex trafficking (another post about that coming soon), visiting with another friend with some family problems who needed a listening ear, trying out a water aerobics class at the local recreation center as part of the rehabilitation for my knee I just had surgery on, and getting a mammogram. (Because self-care matters to me and helps me be a better mother, and going through my inbox doesn’t count as self-care.)
- Me, sitting here un-showered in my exercise clothes on my unmade bed because instead of endlessly cleaning I’m committed to take time every week to write articles for moms. Articles like this one which I hope will give some mom out there the permission to stop her self-inflicted house shaming and pat herself on the back for leaving her messy home alone at times in the name of much higher priorities.
Don’t worry, we’ll have a big family cleaning session this weekend and put everything back together again (using that chore chart that saved my sanity), and we’ll do it together as a family, just as we’ll make a bunch of new messes together as a family by the end of that same day. And so it goes. It almost makes me want to create my own sign for the front porch that reads, “Please enjoy our mess, we are living it up in here!”
Allyson’s Interview at Studio 5
QUESTION: Do you frequently feel ashamed by the messes in your home? Where do you think that comes from? Do you think it’s justified? Necessary? Helpful?
CHALLENGE: Take a long look at those messes and what they represent. Maybe even make a list like I did. Is there really any reason to feel a sense of shame?
Image: varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Originally published January 30, 2015.
Alisha Gale says
I had a friend come over, and at one point she needed to wash her hands in my sink. I apologized for the dirty dishes that were already in my sink, and she said, “Don’t worry. I live in my house, too.” That has to be one of the best things I’ve had a friend say to me. I’m definitely on Team No-More-House-Shaming.
Team No-More-House-Shaming . . . love it! I also love that your friend was so comfortable with your mess and let you know. That’s a friend to keep, right there!
I literally was just complaining to my husband about this exact thing!! Thank you for the reminder. I need this message plastered all over my house; why is it so hard for me to remember?!
It’s hard to remember because we’ve all been trained (thanks to our culture and all the visual images of perfection every where we turn) to expect perfection of ourselves and our homes. Why not make a little sign for yourself and “plaster” it in a few prominent places to help you keep a sane perspective?
Danielle Taylor Porter says
This is so great. I love this mindset- yes a clean home is lovely, but when we put in perspective the things we are choosing first, those things are even more amazing. I need to do this more, and not apologize for ‘living’ in our home. Yes we have order and need to work to clean, but my house is a blessing to us, and we should not be servants to it.
Exactly! We should not be servants to our homes! They exist for us to live our lives with our families, not for us to devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to make sure they look picture perfect.
Love love this one Allyson! Amen and amen! Im done with the house shaming too.
Thanks, Cheryl. 😀
What an uplifting article Allyson! I too have a chore chart and routines that work (usually). but there are many days that our house looks like a tornado hit too. I often feel like a failure when I see these kinds of messes. I think your perspective is so much better than mine! I will be looking at messes with new eyes! Thank you for your perspective.
Your are most certainly welcome! The fact that you have a chore chart and cleaning routines but still find yourself occasionally living in a mess tells me you are exactly the kind of mother I wrote this for. This post isn’t an excuse to live like a pig, it’s just a reminder that sometimes we can’t keep up with housekeeping when family life and being a mom takes more of our time and energy. If you have chore charts/routines in place you will always get back to “ground zero”, and in the meantime, don’t feel bad for those days you are off schedule–especially if it’s because you are doing more important things. As I said, there’s more to life than a clean home!
Great thoughts! I can relate 100%!
I have a feeling most moms can relate. We’re all in the same messy boat, some of us just devote more time and energy to cleaning it.
Love it, love it, love it!! I ran into an old friend today and she wanted to see my kids who were all buckled up in the car. When she opened the car door I know she saw dirt all over the van floor from the “grassless” dirt yard of our newly built home. My baby was sockless with a messy face because I let him finish his lunch before swooping him quickly out the door. The van smelled like fried food from the corndogs we had just picked up having been on a long drive running errands and visiting some good friends several miles away. And I was about to start the apologizes and stopped myself and thought “life is real and this is what real life looks like.” So I didn’t say a word about any of it. We finished our brief greeting and she was on her way and yes I hoped she didn’t think any less of me but I also hope that maybe she enjoyed our visit more because we could just really visit and not have to get through all the apologies that really weren’t nessissary. I loved this post. Thank you so much for helping me feel like I’m totally normal.
You are absolutely normal, and I LOVE that you deliberately refrained from apologizing. Good for you!!
This article is such a breath of fresh air. I’ve not been coming to this site a lot lately because it seems to me overflowing with organization tips, clutter control, keeping your house neat and tidy. These type articles that have turned me off somewhat.
I enjoy a clean house, however, a clean house is not my goal in life nor as a mother. So many things come first for me and often, with five children, if I put a clean, organized home first, I miss out on so many other beautiful things for my family and myself. I don’t have an overly cluttered home but with seven people living in our home, disorder and clutter are a part of our current stage of life. And I don’t want to spend all my time and energy fighting against that. I have gracefully accepted that it will look clean (enough) when company comes. And at other times, we live here, work here, play here, laugh here and sometimes spill our popcorn.
Thank you for being a voice of reason and wisdom when it comes to living in our homes, not staging it for a photo shoot, and putting priorities where they need be–sometimes cleaning and organizing, sometimes letting it go until later.
Thank you so much for this comment! Graceful acceptance . . . I love that. And yes, we can also get the house in pretty good shape for company when needed which indicates neither of us is living too far out of balance, but the rest of the time? As you said, having a clean house is not my goal in life.
Thank you for this article, and for all the comments. These words were an answer to prayers for me today. I’ve been working on finding a balance (easier said than done). There’s a difference between enjoying a clean house, and making yourself crazy when it gets dirty. I’ve been falling into the latter category much too often lately. I want to be able to actually enjoy my children and their inherent messes. Life is not about perfection, it’s about making mistakes, and growing and learning from them. I’m learning that the Savior’s atonement applies to our home as much as any other area of our lives.
Thank you so much for your personal thoughts. In my opinion, family life and “perfection” don’t belong in the same sentence unless you’re willing to radically change your definition of perfection. I think perfection has much more to do with the condition of our hearts than any outward display of visual perfection (perfect body, perfect house, perfect outfit, perfectly behaved kids, etc. etc.) It is definitely tough to strike a good balance, and the right balance is different for every person. Maybe more than seeking balance (since I’ve found that to be very illusive as a mother) we should simply be seeking peace and happiness. Good luck with this process!
Amen! Pat yourself on the back! You just saved this mother and her family today! I made my new sign and put it on my bathroom mirror! Well spoken. Xoxo
Mission accomplished! Thanks for letting me know! 😀
Thank you! I too have stopped reading this website for a while because the focus has shifted it seems and it’s not what it used to be. This kind if article is what it needs more of. I don’t need more systems, I need more reassurance.
Ali look around if you haven’t been on the website for a while. There are some wonderful, reassuring articles and podcasts. April recently did a podcast about Never give up on motherhood. It was beautiful!
Allyson Reynolds says
Ali, thank you so for your comment! Cheryl’s suggestion is great–there really are a lot of other articles like this one. That being said, you’re right, there are also a lot of “systems” articles and resources. Most likely that is because some (many?) moms need that to feel a sense of peace (or reassurance) that their lives aren’t going to spin totally out of control just because they became a mother. You just need to know yourself (which it sounds like you do!) and what works for/appeals to you and put blinders on to the rest of it. Please keep coming back!
This is super, Allyson! I totally love being surrounded by clean (which around here usually means lack of clutter plus everything put back where it belongs), but “clean” doesn’t always mesh well with the realities of daily life. Kids come with a lot of stuff – and as soon as you’ve figured out a good system for dealing with one set of “stuff” (diapers, baby bottles, etc), the kids get bigger and the “stuff” changes. Life partners aren’t always raised with similar ideas about home organization or aesthetics (do we store everything on the countertops where it’s easy to get at, or find a “home” for it all somewhere else?). And picking up just doesn’t always happen when you’re ready to collapse into bed at the end of the day, or when the five minutes you hoped to spend clearing the breakfast rubble get eaten up by a last-minute diaper explosion on the way out of the house. Every so often I have to remind myself that anyone who might come over (whether dropping by, or as an invited guest) most likely has had kids, and knows that a little mess goes with the territory, and they’ve come to see us – not to judge us on the state of our house!
Allyson Reynolds says
Well said, Flossie! I couldn’t agree more. 🙂
Sally Jackson says
Love this! I’m a huge fan of the saying,” Clean enough to be sanitary, messy enough to be happy!”
April Dodd says
Holy Cow did I need this today. My kids are sleeping and I’m going to take a nap too after reading this!!!
Part of the reason I loved this is because you are at the same stage in life as me. My youngest (of 6) is in kindergarten this year and I thought this would finally be the year I could organize and clean every inch of my home. I started out with a detailed list and moved room by room. I was sorting, purging, scrubbing, and polishing my way to insanity. Yes, it felt good to create order, but I was trying to do too much, too soon, and I discovered that I felt even more annoyed with the kids for leaving messes when they got home, because I had been investing so much time into the housework. I only have two hours without kids each day, and spending that precious time cleaning was not as renewing or rewarding as I had imagined. I haven’t given up, but I have learned that I am a happier person when I just do the basics around the house and then use my “me” time to study the scriptures in more depth, take a long walk, paint a piece of furniture, read a good book, or any number of enriching things. Thank you for helping me feel validated in my choice, because I realized that I was feeling a bit of ‘shame’ that my house isn’t perfect and my kids are all in school.
This is so insightful! I have figured out the same thing and have chosen to compartmentalize my cleaning into specific time frames ONLY so I can have some sense of balance with all the other demands/needs. What I can get done feels good, but I can’t get done? I let it go.
Ona Bolton says
Love this!! I am constantly feeling house shame – just. can’t. keep. up. with. everything! My best friend came over a few weeks ago and we were standing in front of the piano, which of course was dusty. We looked down, and one of the kids had drawn a smiley face in the dust. My friend and I both laughed – at least it was a smiley face! Thanks for keeping it real.
This is so great. Nothing like a smiley face in the accumulated dust! It’s good for something!
Jennifer Porter says
Thank you, thank you! This is my life to a tee! Thanks for putting into words what I have always felt. So true, messes will always be there but the kids won’t!
You are so welcome! And thank YOU for taking the time to comment! It’s nice to know when you’ve lifted someone else’s burden a bit.
In response to your top ten list:
#2- I will never knock whatever it took to get a good night’s sleep.
#3- I have the same pile.
#6- I left my Christmas cards up for several weeks too because I liked the smiling faces. Do it every year.
#9- Thank you for pointing out that going through my inbox does not count as self care.
And I LOVE your remake of the saying/sign “Please excuse the mess, we are livin’ it up in here!” Perfect conclusion.
Sounds like I am in good company!
Thanks for the wonderful post! It made my day- I do this all the time, the house shaming thing which after reading your post I am going to try harder to enjoy the messes in my home- Everyone that knows me well, knows that we have tons of clean clothes that I am still trying to train to fold themselves, but no luck. I will enjoy the clean unfolded clothes and the memories of my girls adventures as they were wearing those cute clean clothes that never got folded.
Thanks again for making my day a little brighter!
You’ve got the right perspective! Enjoy the messes–they are a sign of life!
Lately I have been pondering the reasons for things more than the rules for them. Why do I want a clean house? Safety and sanitation aside, I want a clean house because I love the sense of peace and serenity it gives me. I also find myself too quick to overlook all the many blessings I have received when I am unable to see them or when they are strewn around in a decidedly unblessing-like manner.
If I become too fixated on the tyrany of a spotless house, then I lose out on those basic reasons for having one. If I am fearful of making a mess or constantly scurrying around picking up after others, I lose the peace and serenity I was originally seeking. If I force myself to be in constant cleaning and perfection mode, then it is sadly easy for me to begin to perceive my blessings as merely burdens that must be managed into shape.
House shaming is an easy trap to fall into. Thanks for reminding me to look at the bigger picture and remember that I need to seek the end result and not get stuck on a tangent along the way.
So many great insights here. Another articles worth. In the end, it really is about doing what makes you happy, not what you think you should do even if it makes you miserable. Thanks for sharing!
Lovely. So much good in this article.
Love this wonderfully refreshing article. I am often house-shamed with our mess and clutter. I am blessed with 2 young active boys who like to stir it up a lot of the time. We are also fortunate to be able to home-educate . . . we have work books, art, science experiments all over the place but I love that we learn together . . . even if we don’t have time to tidy every nook and cranny of the house. Thanks for the inspiration to enjoy what the mess means!
People who home school get extra slack in the housekeeping department if you ask me. Not only are the kids home all day, but like you mentioned, you’ve got SO many educational materials around the house. Kudos to you!
Sitting here in tears. I have never kept an “immaculate” house and have always had the attitude “our house is lived in by 2 adults, 3 boys, a dog and a couple of small caged pets”. The problem for me is that my husband does not agree at all. He would like for our house to be spotless and completely clutter free. He is so adamant about it that he has stated that if I don’t do a better job with house cleaning and De-cluttering, we ” may have to consider parting ways”. He does have many wonderful qualities and he is the love of my life. I just don’t know if it’s possible to find a happy medium.
This makes me so sad! Can the two of you find a good mediator to talk it over with together? If he feels that strongly about it, you may want to work hard on your end to find that happy medium. Maybe you could make a list of everything that goes into keeping your home clean and ask him to help make specific assignments for everyone in the family based on their time and ability. Sometimes it helps husbands who are gone all day (not sure if this is your situation . . .) and not dealing with the actual housework to see how much is involved when you write out a long and detailed list of every chore. However, if he is an extreme perfectionist and not able to cut you some slack (3 boys and a dog is a lot of messes! I have a dog too, so I feel for you) then I would look into finding someone to help you work it out. It’s worth it! Especially if he is the love of your life as you say. You can do this!!
We have a picture of a snail up on our dining room wall. It was made by our daughter, Hope, at the nearby youchien (kindergarten). It’s a good reminder to slow down.
Rebekah Jennings says
Wow. This hit a nerve that needed a deep massage. It made me cry (in a good way), and also opened a place up in my mind and heart to let some love and grace grow. Thanks.
Nicole Reza says
I don’t think I need to say anything more than thank you for this reminder.
Melissa Fredrick says
I couldn’t love this more! For years I apologized for myself too many times- for the messes on the floor, for not finishing my long to-do list each day, for not making dinner from scratch… but life happens. And I’d rather my kids see me happy in this phase instead of apologizing for not being perfect.
Tara B. says
all of this.. yes yes yes! I also think some of us (myself for sure) need to work on not house shaming on other moms’ homes! I typically see the good in someone’s home.. like a great paint color or a craft they did with their kids, but I also secretly see a messy bathroom for instance, and think, “my bathroom is way cleaner than this.” I know I don’t really care if their bathroom is messy– in fact it makes me feel better about my own! But it’s still a habit I need to stop, because it’s actually only adding to my own personal house shaming habits, I think.