Notes On…

Why Mums Do Not Need To Worry About A Messy House


Our house has been chaos for months now and at times it has driven us all completely mad.

We’ve had our cellar extended, Pod built, window replaced, patio dug up, trench down the garden and now the decorators are inside. We have had people here, doing something, since last June. I just want my house back! I’m fed up of living in a building site. It’s not good for my mental state or for the rest of the family either.

Keeping on top of the usual day to day stuff is bad enough but with people trudging mud and even more crap everywhere, we’ve all had our testing times. As per usual, it feels like mum – me – takes on most of the additional day to day cleaning or moving things from one place to another until I work out where they can go in this new chaos.

Also, is it only mums that ever take anything upstairs? I leave ‘stuff’ belonging to other family members on the stairs and they will happily walk past it for weeks. I think it must become invisible to everyone but me.

I keep going for a few weeks and then I throw all my toys out of the pram – adding to the mess! I tell everyone that I refuse to be the House Elf any longer. It works for a few days but then the mess returns. Things are dumped everywhere, builders walk over clean floors and I decide that it’s probably best for me to just do it because I do like things to be tidy. It’s the way I am. Call it my Virgo brain, tidy house, tidy mind thing or simply that I breathe more easily when my worktop looks shiny!

Our homes are supposed to act as our sanctuaries. They are the nests we return to for rest and nourishment before we venture out once again to spread our wings and fly. During lockdown, they have become our home, work, leisure space and everything else in between.

I certainly feel that my home has been surrounded by turmoil rather than harmony and definitely bathed in chaos rather than immersed in peace. I’m thinking that it might have felt a bit like this for you too?

How do we return any form of harmony to our homes within the reality that children make a mess – and actually, I love that they do because I know that they feel safe here? How do we keep our house in the state we need it to be in for our own mental health?

My thoughts are these:
– if you can afford it, get a cleaner. My number one practical solution. Cleaners are weekly drop-in angels who make your worktop shiny!
– accept that this is how it is because it may be like this for years. No matter how good intentioned you were about keeping only one room downstairs for child stuff, it grows legs and moves itself into every other space, including your handbag, the toilet and your car. Your house is going to look very much more ‘lived in’ than it did pre-children and that’s ok. A lived in house is a loved in house. Our house is tidier now than it once was because it’s not littered with toys. Shoes, yes – but not toys.
– try your very best to be good at tidying up once a day not constantly throughout the day. I know the temptation to move those Peppa Pig figures is real but do it once – after bedtime. That way it doesn’t constantly feel like you’re trying to put the dinosaur back with George. It’s less exhausting if you do it once a day.
– do not own the problem of mess. It’s stressing you out because not everyone else in your home sees it the way you do. Try to figure out what’s causing that difference. Are you assuming that every other home is tidy? It is not. Are you being fooled by all those beautiful social media homes you see? If so, unfollow them. You are chasing something that doesn’t exist. Every ‘real life’ person with children has a messy house.
– don’t see it as a reflection on you. If anyone who visits judges you because of it, you don’t want them visiting again. They are not being supportive or friendly. On the other hand, if you really do need help with a good tidy up, turn it into a social occasion and invite the good people round to help!
– cupboards and Ikea boxes that go under things. It is my firm view that a few cupboards in every home should be reserved for stuff that has no where else to live and you don’t want to see it all the time. I have a particular cupboard in the kitchen for plastic stuff that I open very carefully because something generally falls onto me when I do. It’s very much; shove it in and shut the door as quickly as possible!
– cleaning takes time and you could be spending that time with your family. Trust me, they would prefer you to be with them; reading, vegging, cuddling much more than they want to see you washing up. I wonder how many ‘tidying up’ hours we spend that aren’t really necessary? A passage I read out in my classes goes something along the lines of ‘cobwebs and dust can wait but babies grow.’
– a tidy house does not equal to a good mum. Loving lots and being free with your time and your cuddles does that. When I was little, some of my best friends had the messiest of houses but they also had the greatest mums who they loved loads.
– this is a little deeper this one but is your need for neat masking something else? When I felt out of control after Grace was born, cleaning gave me back some sense of sanity. It wasn’t for the right reasons but it helped me to hang on for a little bit longer. You can’t hide in tidy for ever my lovely. If this feels even a tiny little bit like you, please tell someone. They will understand. I do.
– if it really does feel like a mess fest, go outside and leave it behind for a bit. Breathe deeply and know that it won’t last forever. One day your babies will be grown. I’m dreading Grace going to University in September. I know that I will miss her shoes in the hall, coat on the chair, bra in our bathroom and AirPods on the floor. I will welcome her mess when she’s home. And I guess that’s the Circle of parenting life!

Let your house be the home that is right for you to live in. Not the place you think everyone else expects it to be. It might not feel like a haven every day but it is a place where love is freely given – in between the arguments because we all have those – that’s a Note for another day!!

Notes On…