How to be at peace with a messy house

Parenting

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No one enjoys living in a messy house, but it’s par for the course with little kids at home (especially 9 of them)! If you’re looking for ways to stop going crazy amidst all the chaos, here are my favorite tips for how to be at peace with a messy house.

If you’re a listener of Outnumbered the podcast, you’ve probably heard Audrey and I laugh about our unofficial tagline of the show:
“Lower your expectations.”

Of course we say this partially tongue in cheek, but in all reality, managing your expectations – of children, husband, household and friends – is one of the keys to happiness. There’s nothing that ensures more constant misery, than wondering why no one around us is living up to our expectations.

Dirt and messes are enough to drive anyone crazy and I certainly don’t advocate ignoring the filth until it becomes a health hazard. So what’s a mom to do?

Here are my favorite tips for finding peace with a messy house:

1. Acknowledge that everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be

This tip seems a little hokey and New-Age-y but think about it for a second: if your house is messy, it’s because someone in the family made it that way and no one cleaned it up. Plain and simple.

There are only two solutions to this: convince family members to make fewer messes or make sure more cleaning happens. And while most of us moms work on both of these things alllll day long, the reality is, it’s impossible to have a perfectly clean home while kids are there.

What if, instead of wandering around the mess with anger building up as we internally curse the rogue 3 year old who deposited crumbs everywhere, we surveyed our homes with an attitude of acceptance?

What if we said to ourselves, “I value my children’s independence, which is why the stove is covered in egg goop. My 9 year old worked on her cooking skills today.” or “I love that my children play so well together. It’s natural that the house looks untidy…creativity is messy.”

I’m not saying that you don’t teach your children chores or how to be respectful of property, I’m merely suggesting how powerful our own thoughts can be when we make it a point to manage our expectations.

2. Accept that a perfectly clean house is not your objective

Have you ever decided that you’ve had ENOUGH of the messes and just followed your children all day, yelling and cleaning up after them? How did that work out for you?

I’ve been there, sister! And it makes me feel like garbage every time I do it. Instead, I’ve learned to be at peace with my priorities and shift them around as necessary.

For example, I run a couple businesses and homeschool my children, which essentially means that I have little to no time for housework. These life choices leave me with a couple of options.
I can:
1. Give up on sleep so that I can scrub my house
2. Turn into monster mom who just yells about messes all the time
3. Hire cleaning help
4. Accept the mess as a result of spending my time doing things that I find more valuable

In the end, I usually choose number 4 with a healthy dose of number 3, as the budget allows. When I fall into the trap of comparing myself to other moms with cleaner homes, I remind myself that I make choices every day to put other priorities ahead of having a clean house.

This reminder makes me feel empowered surrounding my choices, rather than feeling trapped or like a victim.

3. Create a basic cleaning standard and let go of the rest

I’ve mentioned this concept before (in this post) but it is truly life changing! When we realize we’ll never get to all the cleaning there is to do, we have to choose what our priorities are.

This is a fairly simple task…just imagine that your mother-in-law is on her way to your house and you only have 15 minutes to panic clean. What do you do?

Whatever chore you choose to focus on is probably the one that means the most to you. Mine is always cleaning the floor since having stuff underfoot or gunk on the tile stresses me out more than anything else.

Regardless of what you choose, acknowledging your top 3-4 priorities will help you learn what your basic standard of cleanliness looks like. Decide on it, communicate it to your family and then let go of all the rest.

4. Create a clean haven

Even if you perfect all the tips above, it’s important to realize that messes still engender stress. All moms should have at least one room (or closet!) in the house that stays clean where you can escape to rest and recharge.

For me, this is usually my bedroom and sometimes my child-free office (although the latter depends on how messy my last work project was!). I LOVE being able to retreat to my bedroom at the end of the day, lock the door and recharge with a book as I lie on my perfectly made bed on my clutter-free floor.

Of course, my kids often make messes in there too when I’m not paying attention (is nothing sacred to these children??) but cleaning up one room is SO much more manageable than scrubbing an entire house. It’s pretty easy for me to keep my bedroom at the top of my cleaning priority list.

P.S. I also sometimes escape to my room during the day to scarf a handful of chocolate and remind myself that not every inch of the house looks like a bulldozer went through it. It’s bliss, let me tell ya.

Maintaining order with little kids around is NOT easy, but take heart that one day your kids will be old enough to help out more! In the meantime, I hope these tips help you find some sanity and feel at peace with your beautifully chaotic home.

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