mess

This House Is a Mess!

Yes! Homeschooling is messy—and that's okay. Great read. #homeschool

I once walked into the house after a two-week holiday and immediately thought, “The neighbors must have had a party in here! We couldn’t possibly live like this!” But alas, we do live “like this,” and the grime in the sink and the Lego blocks on the floor were wholly of our own making. 

Before I had children, when my husband and I both worked outside he home all day, the house was always clean and tidy. We hardly owned anything and our home only really consisted of a few small rooms. As our family grew, so did our possessions. I had less and less time to clean, dwindling enthusiasm for tidying up toys that would just get dragged out again, and I wanted to spend my time with my babies, not with my clutter.

It used to really bother me that my house was untidy. It bothered me a lot. I used to think to myself that I wanted people to walk into my house and feel relaxed, not stressed by having to move toy train tracks or Spiderman magazines off the seat before they could sit down. I didn’t want people to have to step over big bags of outgrown clothes in the hallway, waiting patiently to be given away to charity.  I wanted people to feel at home here.

Back on that day we’d just returned from our holiday, when my house was in such a state it looked as though it had been ransacked by burglars, I noticed how my children reacted when we walked in. The six-year-old put his pjs on then went straight into the living room, lay on the sofa and started looking at his Spiderman magazines. My 10-year-old stepped over those charity cast-offs and went upstairs to listen to an audiobook. My 13-year-old went to the kitchen and started baking cookies. They felt at home.

Noticing all of this inspired me to look again at my goals for my home. I wanted people to feel relaxed and comfortable here. Which people? Visitors who hardly ever come? People who might raise their eyebrows at my clutter or criticize me for having a messy house? Naysayers who question my life choices and shrink from the chaos of my life? No. The people who I want to feel relaxed and at home here are the only people that matter: my family.

I’ve taken to saying that my home is a “working home.” When you visit a “working farm,” you’d expect rather a lot of mud and straw and dust and mess, because it is a place of work. Similarly, when you come to my home, expect mess because this is a place of work and creativity and imperfection. And we embrace all of that. 

When you visit us you may have to cleave a path to the sofa, but I can always guarantee excellent reading material (particularly if you are a Spiderman fan) and excellent home baking. 


Making Peace with Homeschool Messes

Sometimes, the perfect life looks a little messier than you might have expected. Shelli explores the surprising beauty of a messy house.

There are four baskets of unfolded laundry at the foot of your bed. The afternoon light streaming through the window is shining a spotlight on dusty floors. It’s almost time for dinner, and you haven’t even thought about it yet.

Other mothers are so much better at all this stuff. They plan meals, keep their houses clean, play with their children and watch prime time T.V. while snuggling with their husbands after the children go to bed. Maybe that is an unrealistic image, but other moms seem so much better at this.

You were never a neat freak by any means, but before the children came along, the house was at least tidy. Now the clutter, oh, the clutter that comes with children and—especially— homeschooling.

A new neighbor stops by with her son, and you look over your dining room before you answer the door. Only, it’s a not a dining room anymore. It’s been converted into the “school room,” and it is cluttered with all your homeschooling books, games, projects, and more. The mess is not pretty like the messes you see in parenting magazines. It is cardboard-dust, glue-stains, puzzle-boxes-dangerously-stacked, broken-crafts-crammed-onto-the- shelves messy,

You wish you didn’t always feel the need to apologize for the mess, but you can’t help it. You do it anyway, and you expect your neighbor to give the routine reply. “Oh, don’t worry about it! I completely understand.” (That’s what you always say.)

Instead, she stands there quietly, look- ing around, and she says slowly, “Do you know what this says to me?”

You shake your head. Messes can speak?

She says, “This tells me that you spend a lot of time doing activities with your children. I would like to do more of that.”

You feel something akin to light shining around your head. It’s more than a light bulb. It’s a new perspective. You would like to kiss your new neighbor, but you control yourself.

No mother is perfect, and every mother has her own talents. Some are good at cooking. Some are good at organizing. Others are good at being spontaneous. Some are good at creating structure. Some encourage messes because they know their kids are creating and using their imaginations.

Some mothers and fathers work full-time or part-time, and some of them do that while also homeschooling their children. Some spouses help out more than other spouses. Every household has its own way of splitting up the duties of making a living, keeping the house clean, and giving the children an education.

But listen to this: No matter how you slice it up, something has to give. You are either giving up time with the children, or you are giving up time to take care of yourself. Absolutely nobody can do it all.

Make a list of your priorities. What do you want to accomplish? What are the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy quality of life for yourself and family? Put those at the top. (You better put self-care up there. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of your family?) Now, what’s the least important stuff?

Think about this. What’s the least important thing that you can let go of? One of these things is surely keeping a clean house. If you are always worrying about the clutter in your house, then you have too much clutter in your brain. Let it go.

Make your goal more reasonable. Think “sanitary and livable” but not perfect. Dust bunnies, clutter, and glitter in the carpet can wait. You have more important things to do.

On the crazy days when you feel most overwhelmed, go back to your list of priorities. Have you maintained that top one? If yes, pat yourself on the back. When life gets the most harried, that’s what is most important.

 

This article was originally published in the spring 2014 issue of home/school/life magazine.