Bless this Mess

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.


  1. 5peasinapod says

    Unfortunately, I’m in the why why why can’t I find anything stage. My problem is more clutter than dirt. I can do clutter much better than dirty…but with three kids 4, 6, and 8, working full time, and taking 2 grad classes a semester (74 miles from my house!) I have to let somethings go. Every once in a while I go a bit psycho on my house and bust out garbage bags and start tossing what ever is out of place and not nailed down…


  2. 5peasinapod says

    My daughter has not stopped talking since she said her first word. In comparison, my best friend’s son is autistic and didn’t start speaking until he was three. Back then I thought of how nice silence would be or how nice it would be if she would go play by herself like he did. It was a fleeting selfish wish.

    Of course I don’t wish for my children to go through what he does nor would I want the torment/anguish that my best friend feels daily when she worries about him not fitting in with other children. Unanswered prayers are often the best kind!

    Ann Landers printed an article “Things to be Thankful for” and it reminds us to be thankful for the pile of laundry because it means we have clothes to wear, thankful for the dishes in our sink because it means that we had food to eat, etc. I love it and repeat it over and over and over as I scale three flights of stairs to the washer and dryer.

    Only hind-sight sees 20/20! I’ve learned to let the guilt go and try to embrace the chaos of my young family. I find it far more rewarding and far more fun!


  3. says

    I walked into my next door neighbors home last week. It was perfectly quiet and perfectly clean….too clean. It was sterile. As I have thought about why it felt so unlike a home it was because there were NO family photos on the wall, no artwork that had any meaning, no momentos of children (they have two). They also have a lot of family issues. It didn’t feel like a home. I walked back into my mess (due to 5 children ages 1-12) and loved the feeling there, it was chaotic but it was full of love and photos and children’s artwork and there were legos on the floor of great creations my kids couldn’t wait to show me. I’ll take the mess ANY DAY!

    • April Perry says

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cheryl! I love to see moms cherishing the messes. It doesn’t always appear to be as enticing as a spotless “model home,” but honestly, there’s nothing better than having a home with a loving family. We so appreciate having you as a part of The Power of Moms.

  4. Mia says

    Another really spot-on post :)

    “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:”

    Yes! So, so true. That could be my house and my view. I also have 4 little ones (all 5 and under…including 1 year old twins), and I’m definitely of the “I need it to be relatively clean” variety 😉 Don’t get me wrong, the kids are always playing, ( or tracking mud in!), or drawing or generally causing chaos – and the house looks like it has been hit by a storm every night…but I really need it to be clean each day (hence hours of cleaning each night). It’s not that I’m so fussy, but that 4 kids so young make SO much of a mess, and it gets So dirty so quickly, that it needs to go back to “zero” (as I call it) each night. Otherwise, each day would start in chaos. As they get older I don’t think it will be such a big deal to get it in such order every night, but at the moment, with them so young, and my twins into Everything, and so many toys! and running a consultancy, it needs to be done. Although, I agree with the post by Cheryl above, a house should feel like a home and be lived in with the children’s art Everywhere :)

    • April Perry says

      I can totally relate, Mia! I love to get my house to “zero” again each night, as well. I am amazed at any mother with twins! And I think the time you take each night to prep the home for the next day is an important investment. It sounds like you have a very healthy perspective on messes :) I wouldn’t turn down a nightly cleaning crew to come in and wipe down the entire place each night, though! Thanks for your comment. Have a great day!

  5. says

    April, I actually have a wall tile that my husband got me in Amsterdam that has the saying on it: This house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.” It is my motto when it comes to the cleanliness of my house. to me, when things get messy enough that you can no longer function, that is TOO messy, but everyday untidiness with a toddler int he house is pretty much inevitable unless you spend all day chasing after them picking up every little thing they drop along the way!

  6. says

    What a wonderful article. I often put too much stress into having our home “clean.” I home school my four children, so daily doings at our house are constant. The kitchen table is where we eat, play, and do school. (while still trying to keep it clean in between each activity). I am grateful for the days when I can look at the train tracks spread across the entire room and remember that we are growing and learning, that these moments are precious. It’s a tough balance. Thank you for recognizing that~!

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