Wednesday, April 13, 2016

No One Cares If Your House Is a Mess

When I was entering those angsty teenage years, my mother used to tell me "Don't worry about how you look. Everyone else is so busy worrying how they look, they don't even notice the things you're insecure about."

Or maybe that's just what I tell my pre-teen, I don't remember.

In any case, it's true. I spent much of my teen years obsessing over whether my ears stuck out (they did,) whether I'd ever get a voluptuous figure (I didn't,) and whether my pimples were visible from space (they were, but so were everyone else's.)

With all the wisdom I've gathered as a 34-year-old, I now see that was a lot of wasted time that could've been put to better use, say, learning how to knit sweaters for homeless cats. Or digging holes and filling them in for fun.

However, I realized yesterday that maybe I haven't actually learned my lesson. I still care way too much about appearances, but the name of the game has changed.

Sure, you can't see the because of all the scattered toys and there's a pair of preschooler-sized underwear of questionable cleanliness in the corner, but I have two words for you: So. What.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Yesterday morning (I use the term "morning" loosely, mind you) my doorbell unexpectedly rang. I happened to be showered and dressed in real clothes, but my house was a complete mess.

Last night's dinner dishes were littered all over the kitchen counter.

The unloaded contents of my kids' backpacks lie in random piles around the room; I hadn't gotten around to sorting through them yet.

The floors needed a good sweeping and vacuuming, which admittedly you couldn't really see because of all the toys everywhere.

I put on a confident face and opened the door  or at least, I tried to. It hit one of the three laundry hampers filled with clothes in various states of clean and dirty waiting to be washed or folded, which I swept out of the way with a face that was quickly turning red.

It was my neighbor, stopping by with some mail that had accidentally been delivered to her house.

I invited her in and tried to smile, nod, and make small talk although I was totally preoccupied with the disaster area into which I was welcoming her.

The bi-fold doors that normally hide the disorganized chaos that is our laundry closet were flung wide open, treating her to a display of a gigantic pile of mismatched socks and a shelf about to collapse under the weight of cleaning supplies, light bulbs, batteries, and whatever else we'd stuck up there and forgotten about ages ago.

I tried to look her in the eye but found my gaze darting all around the room. Did she notice the crumbs on the floor? What about the fact that there was a pair of child-sized underwear in the corner of questionable cleanliness?

Stepping over a pile of playing cards my toddler had dumped everywhere, it was hard to resist the urge to apologize for my messy house.

I knew that saying "I'm sorry it's such a mess around here" would just be an invitation to look for it. I knew it would only be a big deal if I made it into one. I knew I was more aware of it than she was, and that even if she did notice, it probably just made her feel better that her own kitchen looked similar (If not right at this moment, then it probably did yesterday.)

Logically I knew all of these things, yet I still felt super uncomfortable. And the moment she left I flew into rage cleaning mode.

I guess I'm not so different than my preteen self, after all.

I don't care anymore if my ears stick out, or that I could totally share training bras with my 9-year-old, or if a bright red zit (thanks, pregnancy hormones!) cropped up last night on the end of my nose.

But I do care what my house looks like. Let me rephrase that: I care about what other people think about what my house looks like.

This is how teenage insecurity manifests itself in your 30s, I guess. This is the way we compare ourselves now.

Maybe I should call my mom so she can remind me that everyone else is too preoccupied with their own messy houses to notice mine. Moms are smart like that.

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Unremarkable Files

37 comments:

  1. Make the trip to see me... my house is a mess too.
    Don't let the fact that I have fewer children fool you either. Madilynn can make multiple messes in a limited amount of time.

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    1. Looking back at pictures from when we had 2 children, there was just as much disaster in the background. So I think kids are just dirty, no matter how many of them there are.

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  2. Something that drives me mildly crazy is when friends or neighbors apologize for "the complete disaster" that their home is when it's literally spotless. And I'm not even using "literally" loosely! :) I know I shouldn't, but I start to compare and think "If you think THIS is a mess, then... you ought to not come over to my place!" (whileas if they had said nothing, I wouldn't have thought of it)

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    1. What they mean to say is "Sorry my spices aren't alphabetized. SOOOO mortifying..."

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  3. I was over at a friend's house last week and it was messy. I noticed BUT I DIDN'T MIND. I could care less. It's not my house, who am I to judge? And we had a lovely chat. That's what I valued.

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  4. Very true! Unless the person visiting doesn't have kids, most of the time, they get it, and sometimes even then they understand. We had our house alarm go off (false alarm) and the cop came in to do an inspection and I was mortified. My husband and I had just gotten home from work, the house was trashed. It looked like we had been robbed and vandalized. I apologized and the cop just looked at my 18 month old and grinned. His response? "I have twin three year old boys, this is nothing." I never apologized for the state of my house again.

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    1. I just had to laugh! The same thing happened to us when our oldest was a toddler. It was so embarrassing!

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  5. Yep! Totally get it!
    I think you are right about it being our house and not our zits now. lol Our neighbor (In her 50's, house is always spotless, only had two kids and finds us 'interesting') stopped by unannounced shortly after our youngest was born. You can only imagine what our house looked like. I was mortified. It doesn't help that we are under construction all the time.
    I try to be all zen and ok that our house looks like a bomb went off on a daily basis...even though it gets cleaned daily. (we find the counters and main floors at least once a day..and put away 2-5 loads of laundry a day) It is just a very small space and looks like we haven't cleaned in weeks within fifteen minutes.
    I have often thought about what people probably think of the mess on out vlog, but I also hope that they notice that the piles change daily. lol

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    1. If it's different piles of mess, that's totally okay.

      We have a small place too, and it can go from sparkling to completely trashed in a shockingly short amount of time. I've been doing this for years and still can't quite wrap my head around how it happens, actually.

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  6. Yes! I can completely relate. I've mellowed a lot about worrying what people think of my appearance, but I fly into a frenzy when I know someone is coming over. We have out-of-town friends coming for dinner tomorrow, the house is a disaster, and right before I read this I was in a complete panic mode about how I'm going to clean it all while baby-wrangling. I'll just tell myself they won't notice ;)

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    1. And the thing is, they most likely won't. You'll see all the little crumbs and stuff lying around, but their brain won't even notice that things are out of place because it's not their stuff.

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  7. It's very true. I always admire my sisters in law for how clean their homes are. But admittedly I only see their homes when I'm expected, so they have a chance to clean up.
    I find cleaning gets in the way of doing other worthwhile things. If I clean up, things will get messy very quickly again. If I write a blog post or search pinterest for fun ways to spend time with my kids, it's time better spent.
    #sharewithme

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  8. Oh yes, I can certainly relate. I have a neighbour who occasionally pops in for a cuppa without any prior warning and it's forced me to relax more about the house being messy if someone drops by. I remind myself that they've come to see me and not my house. I always feel slightly relieved when I go to a friend's house and it's messy - makes me realise I'm not the only one!

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  9. Yes, we all do care about our own appearances and our own house's appearances much more than anyone else does. But it creates such funny and exciting memories like scrambling to 'subtly' clean up the (disasterized) house when my pastor stopped by to visit my family the week after baby #6 was born. I'm a naturally neat person, and I actually do notice messes in other people's houses, but I'm the good kind of neat person. Whenever I'd walk into my college buddies' apartments, I'd start washing the pile of dishes in the sink or sweeping the floor. At my relatives' homes, I'll do the same kind of thing, and they're always super happy about it--I'm much older than all my cousins, so most of my aunts and uncles are still juggling a bunch of little kids. At my parents' home, I'll straight up go into the little girls' room with a trash bag and say, "Okay, we need to take out all the junk and get this room in order!"

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    1. Do you want my address? You're welcome to come over anytime. Stay as long as you like.

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    2. Want to come and visit me? =D

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  10. I won't even let my neighbour in the front door. I've made progress but I need to make more progress. I don't even have kids to help with the mess creation (unless hubby counts). Mostly I'm just focusing on getting rid of stuff, it's helping, the more I ditch the easier it is to keep things under control. There's still so much to ditch though.

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  11. Stella, and Jenny I feel y'alls pain. I have no kids, well, except the grand visiting, and my house is still a mess!
    We all band together, then messy is normal!!

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  12. "But I do care what my house looks like. Let me rephrase that: I care about what other people think about what my house looks like."

    I think I still do care for myself... Because I hate living in a house that is a disaster, a house where every other step I'm dodging some object on the floor. It's stressful. It's cluttered. It's messy.

    That said, I totally go into cleaning mode before people come over. But, mostly because I want them to feel relaxed in my home, and not disgusted, or stressed, or have them trip over the laundry basket... Like, it's a courtesy thing, ya know?

    At the same time, my house isn't pretty (it's actually a small apartment) and I don't do decor... we have white walls, my office in our living room, and well, it's full of art pictures and homeschooling pictures in our main living area. But, I STILL invite people over into our small apartment home, because I am not ashamed of my home.

    Ugh. Being a grownup...

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  13. Hah I get it! The messy house conundrum! Several years ago when I was done being the slave around my house and with piles staring me down everywhere I put the children to work. They are in charge of quite a bit now and I am much happier. Oh there are still messes, lots of them. They just know now that they have to clean them up in a set and prearranged time frame. It's funny to hear the 8 year old tell the toddler you need to clean that up or mom will throw it away, because I will! Oh the joy of taking a full load out to the trash :)

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    1. Yes, it made my heart sing when I once overheard my 7-year-old tell the 4-year-old, "You're not done with the game until you clean it up, because cleaning up is part of it!" Of course they don't always, but at least the idea is there.

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  14. Yes! I always find myself apologizing as soon as people step through the door, and then kicking myself for caring so much! It really doesn't matter, and my house isn't anymore messy than anyone else's really! We're our own worst enemies, aren't we?

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    1. Still love this post! Found myself nodding along again :) Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

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  15. Boy I get what you said in this blog in SPADES! I work from home full time and homeschool my kids so there is ALWAYS some one here making a mess of some kind and at the end of a busy day that has little room for rest, all I want to do is go to bed, not spend an hour cleaning my house. AND besides that, even if clean to a spotless degree, it's a mess before the next day is out. And then when I go to visit friends or my mom's house, I feel so bad that I'm unable to keep house as well. It is like you said, just like a teenager, only in a different form and at its base level, a form of devaluing worth by comparing. Thank goodness God doesn't look at my house and decide whether He loves me! Appreciate your good thoughts!

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  16. Oh my goodness, this is me. I try not to obsess too much over how my house looks but when people pop in, I am super insecure. I do care what other people think my house looks like and it drives me crazy because let's face it... KIDS! Children will always = a messy home. ALWAYS. lol

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

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  17. I'm house a s tip often as there jot much point after 5 mins it be rampaged again. It is good to chill out about it as youve got kids so it is acceptable lol X #swm

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  18. Well said. I have a friend who often answers her door with "The maid didn't show up today..." and has me or others over. I read a Shereadstruth article a year ago or so that was talking about hospitality and how hospitality is about caring for others in our home whether or not we are "ready" for it. If we only allow people in when we are ready, we miss out on opportunities for fellowship. Though I like to keep my house clean, I resolved to never turn anyone away because my house wasn't in "guest condition" - because it really is never going to be in that condition with 3 little homeschooled kids, a dog, husband and me. Nuh-uh. And, I haven't gotten any dirty looks yet. I did one day have to accept help from a friend when stryofoam bits were all over the house!

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    1. Styrofoam! That stuff is the worst. It's forbidden in my home because it makes the most awful messes and sticks to everyone/everything, and no matter how sure you are you got it all, you still find bits and pieces for months. Also Easter grass. Maybe this is a blog post in the making?

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  19. So true! I went over to a friend's house recently, and her house was a disaster. I noticed it, and my first thought was, wow I'm so glad I'm not the only one! I'm sure your neighbor thought the same. Still, I do like a clean house when I can get around to it! For at least thirty seconds ;)

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    1. That's what I'm here for. Just to let the whole neighborhood know that it could be worse. :) I'm not a hot mess, I'm a public servant!

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  20. I would be the exact same hun I actually do it all the time if someone pops by I quickly run around picking up things or moving them as I am speaking to them hoping they are listening more to what I am saying than paying attention to my frank attempts of hiding my mess. lol At least we know we are not alone in that. Definitely agree though they probably don't notice. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me

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  21. So true, I worry about people judging my house, but I never judge theirs. We are more focused on our own faults anyway.

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  22. We've lived in our townhouse for a year.

    Yesterday, we finally got the last bookcase we need for our books. We've had a pile of books sitting on the floor in the living room for a YEAR. We own a lot of books, and we just hadn't gotten around to getting another bookcase for them.

    Now that our living room looks livable, maybe I'll actually organize our home office... In the next year.

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    1. No need to rush... you'll make the rest of us look bad.

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  23. Loving this post for "The Prompt"! Another here who only has time for those who can see past the mess and chaos and just want to be friends :) I have the most wonderful mother-in-law who despite being the neatest, tidiest and cleanest person on the planet (you really could eat your dinner off ANY floor in her house!) has always said to me she can feel the warmth and love radiating out of my home whenever she visits and that that is the best thing she would ever want for her son and grandchildren :) Now you can see why she is just SO lovely? Super to meet you and look forward to catching up again in the future!
    http://pempispalace.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/care-for-your-woolens.html

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    1. Sounds like you married into a great family! I like how you point out that it's possible for someone to be a very tidy person without making others feel that they're being held to their standards... that's the very best kind of person you want around.

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  24. Other people's mess never bothers me - reminds me that we're all human! I like having clear surfaces in my house but all my cupboards are total chaos, and the whole of the utility room is just a mountain of clothes and just never enter my house by the back door - it's hidden round a corner and it's crammed with everything in the world!#theprompt

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