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BIS LIVES Blog

To the Mom with a Messy Home

messy house

Sometimes I struggle to keep up with all the mess in my life. And trust me, with a 18-month-old little boy, more often then not there is a lot of it. More laundry, more toys to be picked up off the ground. More dishes to be washed. And let’s not even talk about the bathroom that hasn’t been deep-cleaned since we moved in.

Does this sound familiar? It is tempting to judge ourselves by our failures. As a stay-at-home mom, it feels like my job is to keep house, like my primary duty in life is to match socks and scrub floors. When this doesn’t get done, it feels a lot like failing.

Are We Failing?

We all have mess in our lives. You may be better at keeping your house tidy than I am. But I bet some corner of your life is covered with dust and cobwebs—whether figuratively or literally. And it weighs on you.

But equating our worth with the cleanliness of our kitchens is toxic and frankly, blatantly false.

Homes were made to serve the people who live in them. Beyond that, they have no dignity of their own. A house is just four walls with a roof over it, and your stuff is well … stuff. There is nothing morally better about cleanliness. We clean our houses to serve the people in them.

I find this helpful to remember when I am struggling beneath the weight of housework. Reflecting on this fact reminds me that while housework is important, it is not the most important thing I will accomplish in a day. And if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t get done, that’s okay.

The Better Part

Remember what Jesus said to Martha? She was running around the house, trying to make sure everything was perfect for her guest. And when she saw her sister sitting around, apparently doing nothing, she snapped.

Here’s what Jesus had to say:

Martha, Martha. You are anxious and worried about many things. Your sister has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.

He says the same to you.

Being present to the people around us is the better part. Taking a break to rest, pray, or do something that brings you joy? That’s the better part as well. We don’t need to struggle on when it becomes too much. There’s beauty and grace to be found in admitting that we can’t do it all.

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A Few Practical Tips for the Messy Home

So what should we do when we are totally overwhelmed? Obviously I’m no expert, but here’s a few things that help me when I feel like that weight on my shoulders has become a bit too heavy to bear.

1. Pray

As Catholics, our first line of defense should always be prayer. That’s obvious, but I find that a reminder is sometimes helpful. Say a Hail Mary, read the Bible, or even just sit silently with God for five minutes. It will make a world of difference, even if you don’t feel better immediately.

2. Set a Routine

Even if you don’t like sticking to a strict schedule, having some sort of routine in place can help bring order into your life. For example, I like to tidy the house during my son’s nap time and right after he goes to bed. Having set times to do this task frees me from worrying about it at other times during my day.

3. Take a Shower

This might sound silly, but whenever I’m feeling stressed out or unable to tackle a particularly daunting task, taking a shower almost always helps. I don’t know if it’s the relaxing effect of the warm water, the forced time-out, or if I’ve created a habit that hits some sort of internal reset button, but there is just something real and tangible about washing of the dirt of the day and starting over.

4. Set a Timer and Do Something Else

Sometimes you just need to do something else for awhile, be it spending a little intentional time playing with your kids, reading a good book, working on a creative project, or sitting down for a cup of coffee. I’ve found that setting a timer on my phone is super helpful. That way my little break doesn’t turn into a three hour session and I don’t end up even more stressed when I realize half of my day is gone.

Order is Good

There is nothing wrong, of course, with keeping a clean house. Cleanliness and order are good things. They help create beauty, and beauty soothes our soul, drawing us closer to God. Beyond that, order helps us think more clearly, work more efficiently, and play harder. Cleanliness even keeps us healthier. No one wants to eat off of a dirty plate, after all.

There’s a quote from Mother Theresa that has been circulating the internet recently, that I think is particularly applicable. “Wash the plate not because it’s dirty, nor because you’re told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.”

How often do we get so caught up in the work, elbows deep in the mess of our daily lives, that we forget that the chores we complete are more than check marks on a never-ending to do list?

Chores are more than actions, completed because they need to be done. They are acts of service. By changing diapers, folding laundry and dressing screaming toddlers, you are clothing the naked. By fixing meals, day after day after day, you are feeding the hungry. And by washing those dishes? You are loving the people who will use them next.

Do you struggle with a messy home? How have you found ways to be attentive like Mary and productive like Martha?

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Erin Rebar is a freelance writer, blogger, and author living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband Brian, son Clark, and very large dog Flash. When she isn’t writing or wrangling her toddler, she enjoys adventures and curling up on rainy afternoons with a long book, an oversized sweater, and a large cup of tea. You can find out more about her here.

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