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Motherhood Matters: 10 good reasons to stop the house-shaming

I was going to write a post today called, “The Chore Chart that Saved My Sanity,” but it felt a little disingenuous as I looked around my house and realized I was living in a hot mess.

The truth is, this chore chart has saved my sanity — when it works, but it only works when we as parents work it, and that doesn’t always happen. Like this past week, but you know what? As visually annoying as it is, and as embarrassing as it would be if someone dropped by my house right now, I’m done with the house-shaming. You’ve heard of body-shaming? Well, today I’d like to coin the phrase “House Shaming.”

You already know intuitively what this means because you’ve felt it. After seeing thousands upon thousands of visual images of picture perfect homes and spaces on Pinterest, HGTV, Houzz.com, and maybe even your neighborhood, you’ve felt ashamed and “less than” when looking around your own home and observing not only undecorated and unorganized spaces, but messes. Maybe hot messes like mine. Messes that can never be totally eradicated because the people making them continue to live in your home and make them — over and over and over again. (Maybe you are one of those people.)

And even if it may all just be in your head and nobody but you is noticing or caring (most likely), it still feels like “they” are not only noticing and caring, but judging you because you can’t take care of your home properly; because you have no sense of style; because you’re disorganized; because you’re obviously lazy and passing it on to your children. And on and on and on . . . House-shaming.

Maybe you’ve seen the sign some people put on their front porch that reads, “Please excuse the mess, but we live here.” That’s where I’m at in my evolution of caring about a perfectly clean and orderly home for other people to admire and envy. I’m just here living my life with my family, and that means we make messes. And we make them every waking hour of every imperfect, messy, wonderful, creative, hard-working, joyful day of our life together as a family.

The truth is, having a super clean and orderly home and making sure my kids follow a really tight daily checklist and chore chart to ensure said clean and orderly home has really lost its place on my priority totem pole.

Does it bug me when the house is a mess? Absolutely. But do I expect myself and my kids to spontaneously clean up after every single mess like good little disciplined soldiers to the exclusion of everything else? No way. And I refuse to let that expectation destroy my peace or my relationships with them any longer. There is so much more to life than a clean home.

So let’s talk for a minute about the messes I’m staring down in my home today and what they really say about me as a mother and how “lazy” I am. Let’s call this list, “10 Good Reasons to Stop the House-Shaming”.

  1. Dirty dishes from the yummy, healthy veggie omelet I made for family dinner last night. Oh, the shame!
  2. Pillows, blankets and jammies on the oversized chair in my bedroom where our youngest slept last night because she said she felt “weird” and we were too tired to bother coaxing her back to bed. Everyone got a good night of sleep. You can’t knock that.
  3. Piles of books and papers on my bed stand full of the things I love to read and think about. Should I be ashamed for reading and enlightening my mind and soul sometimes instead of cleaning? Really?
  4. Piles of clean, unfolded clothes in the laundry room that no one has gotten to yet. Think about that: PILES of clean clothes! How fortunate are we? And how lucky for me as a mother that half of the kid clothes were washed and dried by my two oldest children. Would they know how to do laundry when they leave home if I was the clean freak who always micromanaged the laundry room? I think not.
  5. The cello and music on the floor in the living room where my son left it last night after I accompanied him in a solo ensemble competition where he played beautifully and was complemented highly by the adjudicator. (One reason we didn’t do the usual after-dinner family cleanup.) Bonus: I got to meet the adorable girl he is crushing on and we had a nice chat about it. Can a clean floor beat that?
  6. The leftover Christmas cards still taped to my front door. It’s all of my favorite people smiling at me as I leave the house every day. Why would I clean that up? Maybe I’ll just wait to take them down when I get replacements next year.
  7. The sewing machine and supplies all over the kitchen island where my oldest daughter has been creating a wildly creative costume for the Comic Convention in town this weekend. I love that she can sew well enough to make her own costumes and that she has the interest and motivation to do it. She can clean it up herself when the convention is over. No biggie.
  8. The remnants of multiple nights of homework and school projects from this past week stuffed in a corner of the kitchen for us to get to “later.” All four of my kids are doing well in school this year, and I know part of the reason is the time I’ve been taking to help them stay on top of their homework schedules and projects. I’ve even been reading “Anne of Green Gables” to my two youngest daughters before bed every night which is something I couldn’t do if I insisted on picking up the house at the end of the day. You know the saying, “Don’t save for tomorrow what can be done today”? I respond with, “The messes will always be there, but the kids won’t.”
  9. The inbox of papers that belong to me which have been neglected because I’ve been doing other things this week such as helping my daughter wrap up her science fair project and going to the school to see it on display (she’s going on to district!); taking my two teenagers to interview for a really cool volunteer program and coaching them on how to conduct themselves in an interview; attending an event for a friend’s nonprofit organization that helps rescue children from sex-trafficking (another post about that coming soon); visiting with another friend with some family problems who needed a listening ear; trying out a water aerobics class at the local recreation center as part of the rehabilitation for my knee I just had surgery on; and getting a mammogram. (Because self-care matters to me and helps me be a better mother, and going through my inbox doesn’t count as self-care.)
  10. Me, sitting here unshowered in my exercise clothes on my unmade bed because instead of endlessly cleaning I’m committed to take time every week to write articles for moms. Articles like this one which I hope will give some mom out there the permission to stop her self-inflicted house-shaming and pat herself on the back for leaving her messy home alone at times in the name of much higher priorities.

Don’t worry, we’ll have a big family cleaning session this weekend and put everything back together again (using that chore chart that saved my sanity), and we’ll do it together as a family, just as we’ll make a bunch of new messes together as a family by the end of that same day. And so it goes. It almost makes me want to create my own sign for the front porch that reads, “Please enjoy our mess, we are living it up in here!”

QUESTION: Do you frequently feel ashamed by the messes in your home? Where do you think that comes from? Do you think it’s justified? Necessary? Helpful?

CHALLENGE: Take a long look at those messes and what they represent. Maybe even make a list like I did. Is there really any reason to feel a sense of shame?