Here’s Why I Stopped Being Ashamed Of My Messy House

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Here's Why I Stopped Being Ashamed Of My Messy House

I have always been a messy person.

As a little girl I was ridiculed constantly in school for how messy my desk or my backpack was. In elementary school, I remember being asked to skip recess several times simply because I needed to clean my backpack or my desk. Of course, I was also raised by a clean freak mom who ALWAYS had a clean house! Though I have a great relationship with my mom, and I hold no hard feelings towards her, but cleanliness was a pain point between us growing up. It took me until having my son for me to realize how sensitive of a subject cleaning was for me.

After having my son, those feelings of shame I had around the cleanliness of my house came to a head. Don’t get me wrong, our house is typically at a “functional” clean, but it’s NEVER spotless! We make sure our house is hygienic, but not Marie Kondo quality of organization and tidiness. Yet after having my son, functional cleanliness didn’t feel like enough. I started having moments when I would “panic clean.” It wasn’t the kind of cleaning people do when they’re stressed out because cleaning relaxes them, it was the cleaning some people do before going into a full-blown panic attack. The thought of cleaning my house would send me into a literal panic, and was becoming a burden on my mental health. If there was a single dish in the sink, I would feel immediate shame. I let the cleanliness of my home determine my worth as a mother.

It wasn’t until just recently that I realized that my experiences with household chores were common with many moms.

It’s taken me until just recently to realize that my worth is not defined by the cleanliness of my house. Whether my house looks like a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, or it looks like a dumpster fire, I am still a good mother, a good person, and worthy of love and appreciation.

So if you come to this article looking for the best tips on how to clean your house to spotless perfection, you may want to go somewhere else. Instead, allow me to let you in on my embrace-the-mess mindset, and why every person should adopt it for themselves.

Join the messy house club

Last week on my Instagram, I surveyed my followers. I asked them about their feelings about doing household chores, as well as societal expectations around household chores. I had about 20 people answer each question. Below were the results of my survey

Do you enjoy cleaning? 81% answered yes, and 19% answered no
Do you clean your entire house all at once, or break it up throughout the week? 45% answered all at once, and 55% answered one room at a time.
If you are married, does your partner help with chores around the house? 67% answered yes, 33% answered no.
Do you stress clean? 87% answered yes, and 13% answered no.
Do you ever get really overwhelmed at housework? 92% answered yes, and 8% answered no.
Do you ever feel guilty for not having a clean house? 100% answered yes.

Needless to say, most of the surveyed women said though they enjoy cleaning, it can be overwhelming. and every single one of them said they have experienced guilt about having a messy house!

This shined a big light on an issue I thought I experienced alone. I thought I was the only one who felt guilty for having a messy house, or that cleaning wasn’t an enjoyable experience for me. It also showed me that we need to be kinder to ourselves when it comes to household chores.

Over time I’ve learned a few things about household chores, as well as my self worth around them. I know my opinions are simply opinions. My hope is that in sharing these opinions, you can learn to be a little kinder to yourself when it comes to getting things done around the house.

Chores are morally neutral

The term “morally neutral” means that it can’t be good or bad, it just is. Let me explain:

Perhaps your childhood home was expected to be a spotless house. If your room wasn’t always clean, you were punished. Now you’re an adult, and you still carry that negativity about an unclean house with you. When your house isn’t as clean as it can be, you are reminded of those times you were punished for having a dirty room.

That may be a bit of an extreme example, but it shows how some people put a moral standard on cleanliness. Some people truly believe that you a better person for having a clean house, and a worse person for not.

That, my friends, is so far from the truth!

Who you are as a person doesn’t change when your house is clean or when it’s dirty. You are just as good of a person with a messy house as well as a clean house. Don’t try to give moral worth to household chores, because in turn, you’ll feel like a terrible person when you don’t live up to that standard of cleanliness you set for yourself. Who you are as a person will not change if your floors look like Toys R Us blew up, or if they look as sterile as a hospital.

It's time we stop putting a moral standard on whether our house is messy or clean. Regardless, you are worthy of love and appreciation.

I’m allowed to live in my house

Have you ever panic cleaned your entire house because guests were coming over? If you really think about it, isn’t that silly that we do that?

When in society did we start saying that houses must be perfect for people to accept us?

The truth is, there’s no reason for us to feel like our house needs to be “guest ready” at all times. Even if we had people visit us, there should never be shame in your guests seeing that you do in fact live in your house! Perhaps societally, we should change the narrative that a clean home equals a well put together person, and that a messy home doesn’t equal a hot mess family who doesn’t have it together.

We live in the age of social media. We see influencers and celebrities posting pictures of their perfect homes, and we compare our mess to their perfection. In all honesty, their perception is only as wide as the camera lens. You don’t see the pile of laundry outside of the picture, or the dirty dishes in their sink, or literally anything else in their house. You MAYBE see 10 square feet of their 6,000 square foot home. The reality is those influencers you’re jealous of have maybe one clean corner in their massive yet dirty house.That or they hire people to clean for them, as opposed to the average person who can’t afford to.

Everyone deserves to live in their home shame free. A messy house means that you live in your house, and that is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Someone else’s “perfect” cleaning system may not work for you

If you got in Pinterest right now and searched for “cleaning schedule” or “cleaning systems,” you would be swamped with solutions for keeping your house clean. I have fallen victim to many of them. Many of these systems promise that your home will have less clutter, clean dishes, and a perfectly tidy home in no time flat! I’m sure that these systems work well in some people’s homes, but I have always been more overwhelmed by them.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with the creators of those schedules and systems. They clearly know that keeping a house clean is a problem for many people, and they’re just trying to help. They are also experts at creating a system that works for them, and probably works for others.

What I’m saying is their system may not work for you. And if it doesn’t work for you, that is fine! There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if someone else’s cleaning schedule or system doesn’t line up with your lifestyle. Not everyone can clean their bathrooms every week, and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Not everyone can vacuum every day, and you don’t need to be ashamed about that.

I’m sure you can pick from the information that is out there for you and gain some useful knowledge, but there is no perfect solution. Every home and family is unique. Perhaps you can glean pieces of information from those systems and come up with something that is more feasible for you. If that is what you need to do, then that is fine.

You’re allowed to not enjoy cleaning

I honestly find it so strange that people actually enjoy cleaning. Like…do you enjoy getting your teeth pulled as well? If you’re the kind of person who enjoys cleaning, then good for you! That is a trait I wish I had, but the truth is that as much as I try, I just can’t get into it.

I will NEVER understand the joys of cleaning, and I don’t have to! Like I said before, everyone is unique. Some people love cleaning, and some people hate it. If you hate it, then you’re still just as valuable of a person as the one who loves it.

Think about it like this: some people LOVE salads! They could have a salad for every meal. We as a society have been taught that salads are healthy, therefore that person who loves salads MUST also be really healthy because they eat lots of salads. In reality, it’s not the salads that make them a healthy or unhealthy person.

We as a society have been taught that if you dislike cleaning, you MUST be a dirty person, and a dirty person is bad. The truth is, you can hate cleaning and not be dirty. Just like loving salads holds no moral value, neither does loving cleaning.

It’s ok to do the bare minimum

There are some days when I feel good enough to organize my sons toys and put them away neatly, and there are days when I push them off to the side. Neither one of those is better than the other. I am still a worthy human being whether I organize the toys or just push them aside. Some days I have a perfectly tidy home, and sometimes I only leave enough space for my family and I to function. Regardless of what I have the energy and brain power for, neither state of my home is more superior to the other.

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We as a society have been taught to be excellent at everything. I don’t think there’s much wrong with wanting to be excellent, but when you’re a mom (or really anyone), excellence can be exhausting. As a mom, you may already experience exhaustion, so cleaning excellently can feel like the last nail in the coffin for you.

So I am giving you permission to do the bare minimum.

Think about the only things you need to do in order for your home to function. Does the sink need to be dish-free for you to function? Does you bed need to be made for you to function? Do you need to have the laundry finished the night before in order for you to think straight the next day? White down those bare minimum chores and hang them up somewhere.

For me, if all I do that day is clean the toys off the floor and have the dishes clean, I know I’ll be able to function the next day. You may need to do more than that, and that’s ok. My needs are different than yours.

When you establish your bare minimum, then that can help take away any shame of not accomplishing enough chores. If there are days where you’re able or motivated to do more, then great! If all you can do is the bare minimum, then also great!

For some reason, we have made “minimum” sound like a dirty word, especially when it comes to keeping your house clean. Some days, the minimum is all you can do. Don’t let minimum become a dirty word in your vocabulary, because some days it may be all you can do.

There is no shame in “messy”

If this is the only message you get from this article, then my mission is complete. Messy is not a sign of incompetency, and isn’t a symbol of your failure. It’s a sign of you being a human being who lives a busy life just like the rest of us. Having the perfect house is never the goal, and we should stop holding ourselves and others to that unrealistic standard.

It can be hard to rewrite your own self-talk behind cleanliness, but when you start taking the shame out of messiness, you start to see that it isn’t as bad as you thought it was.

I know for a fact that my son wouldn’t care if the house was messy or clean. How do I know that? Because he would still play and feel comfortable being himself regardless of how the house looks.

Do you think you could feel comfortable being yourself, regardless of how your house looks?

If not, I challenge you to see whether you’re holding a moral standard to cleanliness. Have you been taught as a child to be ashamed of mess? Do you think of yourself less when your house isn’t clean? Have family members in your past held cleanliness next to Godliness a little too much?

The cleanliness of your house is not a moral standard. You are a wonderful, valued, and loved person regardless of how your house looks right now. You are not a failure if your house isn’t sparkling. All you are is a human who lives in a house. Whether you clean your house right now or not, you will remain the same.

If a system of cleaning doesn’t work for you, you’re not the problem. If you hate cleaning, you’re still a great person. And if all you can do is the bare minimum, then you’re still a wonderful human being.

Clean houses don’t make great people. You already are one.

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Emily Maggard

Emily is the voice behind The Overcoming Mom. This music teacher turned stay at home mom has made it her mission to give moms practical and Biblical solutions for overcoming what overwhelms them. After a long battle with postpartum depression, she has learned many tips and solutions along the way to help moms through the tough realities of motherhood. She shares her life with her husband, son, and two cats.

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