1.26.2011

battling the tidy monster

I have a confession to make.

My last post was about the constant organizing and reorganizing that goes on at my house to try to accommodate our crafts, play, and basic living.  I began writing the post from a place of frustration, feeling like I was in a war with our usual household state of semi-chaos. 
But, by the end of the post, after talking about Smootch's craft area and all the creative acts she performs hundreds of times a day, I was almost feeling sentimental about the mess.  Still, I have persisted in trying to lower the frustration while still allowing as much access to creative materials as possible for the kids and have settled into a domestic schedule where I can take care of what needs to be done one thing at at time and let the rest all go hang.

Here's the thing: calling something a mess doesn't necessarily make it bad.

Photobucket

Perhaps not all would agree.  We live in the time of professional closet sorters and life coaches and most people would prefer to have their tea in a tidy room rather than one that recently had three poorly supervised toddlers and a wet dog visit with a bucket of paints.  But is a tidy room really better than a messy one?

I guess it depends on your perspective.  And energy level.

Photobucket

Messiness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Photobucket


I once read a book that detailed the benefits of a mess and the downsides of tidy organization.  The basic message was that order looks fine and dandy, but takes a whole lot more energy to maintain (you can pick up the toys eights times in a day or just once - your pick) and lacks the serendipitous inspirations that come from having a bunch of seemingly unrelated stuff all squished up together. 

Photobucket

This thought keeps me feeling good about my one labelled box of craft supplies and ten boxes of 'random' things that the kids actually go through and build their fantastic creations with.  For anyone who has gone through introduction psychology or was playing attention during the '80s and '90s while everyone fretted about children having an 'enriched' environment for optimum brain growth, having more stuff lying about IS an environment more enriched.  More to explore, more stimulus, more connections between the synapses.  A mess develops the powers of observation as you search through the pile looking for the missing sock.  Plus, navigating a room where the actual floor only appears every three to four feet is good physical exercise.

Another great thing about a mess is that the worst, so to speak, has already happened.  Okay, much worse can happen (my Sharpie markers and utility knives are locked away, thanks), but when I've just scrubbed the floor I'm much more prone to say 'no' to almost any activity the kids can dream up in fear of undoing my hard work.  When the floor is already confettied with sequins and toast crumbs, well, there's really no harm in throwing in a bit of sand from collages and dirt from planting some kitchen sill basil.  Where would you rather be?  In the 'no' house or the 'yes' house? 

I know where Smootch wants to be.

Photobucket


When I see the children playing away, felt pens running off the paper onto the table, pulling clean clothes out of the drawers in order to play pirate while ignoring the dress up trunk, the cushions from the couch dragged into the kitchen where they've made a wild animal den, I can't help but be impressed with their minds and energy, and know that as long as they can continue to engage creatively with the world I am doing o.k. as a parent.

Plus, there are few things more beautiful than a child covered with paint.

Photobucket


My most poignant thought is that this disordered, cluttered time is only temporary.  The children will grow, they will become more tidy, their pursuits will take them out of the house and away from me.  One day I will be able to clean up the kitchen and no one will track mud across the floor, leave the cupboard door open and the tap dripping.  It will be still, unchanged.  Lonely.

Photobucket


So, I will try not to go overboard, to organize my home into suffocation.  I know I will err, but let it be on the side of too much - stuff, activity, attention, love - instead of not enough.

Besides, after so much chaos, so stimulus, noise and movement, getting it all clean and ordered is just that much sweeter.  When the house is usually in shambles, even a quick tidy can bring a deeper satisfaction than deep cleaning a house that is always HGTV worthy. 

Photobucket
Clean has its place.  It's after the party ends.

20 comments:

  1. beautifully said! i, myself often but-heads with my husband over this exact predicament, and youre absolutely right, a clean house is often a "no" house. a "yes" house is more my style, and i know my kids sure love me for that :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love how you word things, and intersperse such fantastic pictures with your writing! I enjoy visiting here so much. (Oh, and I can't help but notice that you used the correct forms of "its" and "it's." That made me happy.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can I just tell you that I love your blog? I've been following your blogs for 3 or more years now, since before I even thought of having a little one of my own. I love reading about happy family life, and craft tutorials make me happy, too! A mom friend from my internet mom's group posted a link to this post tonight and I just thought I had to share :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love this post. An older friend of mine told me one day, when I was stressing out over cleaning before company: Your kids won't remember your house being immaculate. They will remember the time you spend with them. So if it's a choice between doing something with or for them, I'm going to leave the clothes in the hamper to wrinkle and the bed unmade.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, great post. I've always struggled to reconcile a tidy house with the wildness of my children's imaginations. The two don't seem to mix and it's always a mess -- but we are a 'yes' household and that seems to mean more both to my boys and to myself.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A clean house is a happy house. I could care less if my house is happy! My children are very happy. My sons favorite saying is, "I used my imagination."

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, you have to decide if you want a nice house or nice kids. I'll go with kids every time. Although it is good to have a sanctum within the home, though, that is without much clutter...even if it's just a corner of your bedroom. You can always retreat there.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh how I love this! I had to quote part of your blog on my husbands facebook! LOL "having more stuff lying about IS an environment more enriched. More to explore, more stimulus, more connections between the synapses. A mess develops the powers of observation as you search through the pile looking for the missing sock. Plus, navigating a room where the actual floor only appears every three to four feet is good physical exercise."

    I could picture him stumbling through toys and clothes and mumbling all the while! I love this! I grew up with a perfect housewife mom! I vowed to never be a clean freak and I am far from it! LOL Enjoy them while they are young!

    ReplyDelete
  9. hmm yes thank you. I love this way of thinking!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Its such a hard thing to balance. It taken quite some time to let my house be messy, its not that I am a perfect tidier, it was always a mess and now I let it be a mess rather than worry about it. I try to get it staright once a week and not fuss tooo much inbetween. My 3 kids are in school fulltime and so now I know its me that makes the mess during the day!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you, I needed to read this right now as I am getting frustrated with the mayhem in our house too :-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well said...thank you...those are words I needed to hear. I too struggle to keep the house tidy.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love your blog. I am always nodding my head the whole time...you have a fabulous way of putting into words what I am sure a lot of us feel.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love it! Crafty mess is the way to go! As a crafter, I completely agree with the awesome ideas that occur when things are all over place and end up near each other. I'll never forget visiting a friend's home as a teenager and seeing the ultra-formal sitting room that was magazine perfect but very uninviting. I was afraid to go in the room for fear of wreaking something! I don't want anything like that in my house!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love this. It's much better not to worry about messes. But I need to find the balance between it driving me up the wall (to live on the clean roof) and being relaxed about letting all the toys come out.

    One good thing to do is just have multiples of all the essentials that get lost. Tape, scissors, paper, needles, pens, and so on. Much better to spend 10 dollars or 5 pairs of scissors then 10 dollars on 1 or 2 pairs that get lost. (Except my good sewing scissors which are never to leave the sewing box!!!)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I am a very very new reader...this was the first post I read and boy I am already in love with what you have to say.
    I am going to write those last two sentences and frame them some place just to keep me from going insane!:)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Such a fantastic post... one for all of us who wonder sometimes - how can we live like this? But you are so right... one day it will all be still...and lonely. Sure, I miss the house I had before my kiddies came romping along, but I'd not give up my messy abode filled with laughter, crayon scribbles, tantrums and tears because just listening to one pure, honest joyfilled laugh or squeel of delight or simply watching the rise and fall of their chest as they sleep peacefully will forever make the mess insignificant!
    Absolutely loving following your blog! While I'm here I wanted to invite you over to say hi and to enter my follower giveaway.
    Hope you can stop by...
    Cheers
    The Spangler @
    The Quick Unpick

    ReplyDelete
  18. It was so wonderful to read this and realize that there is someone else going through similar things. Im constantly trying to clean up throughout the day and i end up yelling and "noing" and generally banging my head against the wall when all my kids want to do is inspect all the pots and pans, use all of the lids for construction and drool on the carpet a little bit..and thats ok.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow
    For babies grow up, we've learned, to our sorrow
    So quiet down cobwebs
    Dust go to sleep
    I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep!
    ~unknown

    My Granny wrote this up and framed it for me when I had my first baby, many years ago. No truer words were ever written. I have given it to each of my daughters and sons as they welcome their own first born.

    ReplyDelete