Messy is underrated. I recently heard of a movement of mothers who are trying to make messy the new “in.” I like that idea. It goes along better with the Law of Entropy: My house moves naturally toward messy without any help from me. When neat is the goal, I have to put some scrub to the tub, so to speak.
When I heard about this messy movement, it captured my attention. Are my standards too high I wondered? Am I bowing to the gods of neatness when my time could be better spent elsewhere? Mind you, we’re not talking about dishes left in the sink for days, or filthy bathrooms. We’re talking about how picked up and beautiful we feel our house should look all the time. You know that fleeting ideal– how the house looks when there are no people in it. When the cleaning lady (me) has finished and no one is home yet, or before the guests arrive for our child’s birthday party with its festive table setting.
When I heard of the messy movement, I immediately thought of a few friends who I’ve always admired for their toleration of mess—no kidding! There’s Caroline (name changed just in case she doesn’t yet see being messy as an admirable trait.) When you enter her house, you notice that her main living room has a large pop-up princess fort and one of those crawling tunnels. The Little Tykes kitchen is in the corner with the cookware and fake food strewn around. Living in a chilly, rainy climate, these toys provide an indoor large motor play place for her children. Because the living room has the most space, they use it for what their family needs most in this phase of life. On the occasions that grown-ups are over, the stuff gets moved, but on a daily basis, the living room is play central. That practical attitude gets a messy award!
Another friend of mine has a messy art table by their front door (which I blogged about earlier this year). No hiding away this messy space in shame. Art projects are not interrupted prematurely by a need to clean. Once in a while pens and paint jars are capped, but not before some have dried to a crust. Piles of paper grace the floor and scissors, crayons and glue cover the table top. A true messy haven for a budding artist, who paints and draws for hours each day I’m told.
The point of the messy movement, I would guess, is not mess for its own sake. It’s a reaction to a perfectionistic mentality. When we have an unhealthy ideal of what our home should look like, we can be so driven to achieve this unrealistic goal that we drive ourselves and our families crazy. We aren’t having any fun and neither is anybody else as we chase this illusion of a perfect home.
Parents, I have a proclamation for us: Family life is messy. Seems to me the messy movement is all about bringing balance to our lives. There’s a time to clean and a time to be messy. When our children are young, it is the time to be messy. Celebrating messy is part of celebrating kids. So let’s spend a bit less time restacking the Tupperware they’ve thrown into the cupboard (or whatever our neatness obsession is), and more time taking our kids out to the garden to play. Afterwards we can cut some beautiful flowers to put in a vase for the kitchen table. We can clear a space for it in the middle.
-posted by Donna Detweiler who hears there’s plenty of time to have a clean house (and be lonely and wish it were messy again) after the kids are gone.