Right before I got married my aunt and grandmother (both notorious neat freaks) were coming for a visit. I took the day off of work to scrub the house from top to bottom. Two years later I went down to South Carolina to visit them with my eight month old daughter. My aunt asked if there was any way I could keep the baby from throwing food on the floor at dinner. I just looked at her and said, “you got a tarp?”
Repetitive Stress Disorder
The moral of the story is our ideas about cleanliness before kids and after kids can be vastly different. If you stop by my house on any given day it will probably be a mess. I have three kids and repetitive stress disorder from picking up the same toys and clothes off the floor all day EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s like I’m caught in the movie Groundhog Day, forced to relive the same drudgery of cleaning up after little people hell bent on putting it back into their own chaotic “order” mere seconds after my cleaning marathon is over.
No Cleaning OCD For Me
This is real life people. Living is messy. Children are messy. I’m not one of those bloggers that’s going to tell you how to clean and organize any room in five minutes per day. Half the time I want to throw up my hands and say, “Ok, I give up. This is what the house is going to look like till all three have left the nest.” Save a few days per year, I do not have cleaning OCD. I know some people do and if you’re one asking for forgiveness for a mess when it’s hospital grade clean I’ll totally give you a pass.
For every other mom with small kids, and even teens let’s just agree to put away the phrase, “Excuse the mess.” If someone is showing up to my house unannounced chances are they are a friend that already knows I have three kids and hence it should be assumed the house is not going to be pristine. There will in all likelihood be a fresh layer of cereal on the floor because my toddler just loves to “eat” it all over which is code for throwing it like confetti.
Scavenger Hunt Anyone?
She also likes to pick things up all over the house and deposit them in unexpected places like a scavenger hunt no one agreed to play. My older two simply think all communal space like the kitchen island is the appropriate place to deposit all school work, miscellaneous toys they are “cleaning up,” random candy and other bits unidentifiable junk.
So Moms, if you’re in the housecleaning trenches with kids I get you. You don’t have to say, “Excuse the mess” EVER again. I know the frustration and futility of trying to keep the chaos manageable. I know that a hundred times a day one or more family member will ask you where something is and you’ll want to scream.
Company’s Coming Tornado
Oh sure, if we know company is coming we clean like a tornado and God help any spouse or child that gets caught in our path. But why do we try so hard to impress each other? Why are we embarrassed by our reality? We have kids. It should be universally understood and forgiveness for the state of chaos in our households is unnecessary. If you’ve got toys on the floor, that’s to be expected, clothes near but not in the hamper I join you in a solidarity eye roll.
The truth is, when your house looks AMAZING and you say this phrase, it makes the rest of us feel lousy and if you’re me you may even question the sanity of the person saying it. And if your house is a mess, there’s no need to say it. You’ve got kids. If I’m coming to your house I already know. I’ve already decided that I’m going for the company and not the cleanliness. Don’t worry about that toy landmine, I’ve learned to spot a Lego or spiky warrior toy from a hundred paces away.
8 Tips To Win The Unwinnable War
If someone is coming to your house that would make you feel bad about the state of life going on at any given moment under your roof, it’s time to rethink inviting them over. I’ll give you my tips for keeping your house clean.
1. Don’t buy anything in cream color or white. Yeah, I’ve made this mistake in about a half-dozen ways in my house.
2. Don’t buy new furniture until your kids leave for college and then you can send those worn out couches with them.
3. Don’t keep ANY pens, pencils or markers in your house.
4. Keep all toys safely at the toy store where they can’t clutter up your house.
5. Place laundry baskets and garbage cans at intervals of every six inches of square living space.
6. Get rolls of that paper they use at kid-friendly restaurants and cover your tables and dining room/kitchen floors with it to catch ALL the food that doesn’t make it into mouths or into the garbage cans you so carefully placed at 6 inch intervals throughout the house.
7. Invest in good non-spill cups and bowls, then go ahead and chuck your child’s beverage and food of choice directly on the floor because they don’t seem to do the only job they were created for.
8. Last, but most importantly, don’t have kids cause no matter what steps you take they’re going to mess up your house. Oh, it’s too late for that?
Well just embrace them then. You can fight the good fight against the mess, but love your kids in the messy, fun chaos of their lives. They won’t remember that your house was perfect. One day your house will be clean and quiet, but you’ll be nostalgic for the laughter and the mess. Be honest, how often do you say, “Please excuse the mess” when someone comes over? I hope one day in Mom solidarity we’ll never have to say it again.
Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found blogging at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her otherwise three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow me on Facebook or Twitter for my delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails.