Monday, November 8, 2021

Motherly Advice That Nobody Asked For: Keep it Tidy and Keep it Together

After a fun family weekend a couple of weeks ago, I overheard Maggie (13) asking Brendan (5) what his favorite part of the weekend was.  He replied “Cleaning out the toy room with Mom and Dad.  I just really like when things are clean.”

I smiled and mentally moved him up to the top of my favorite child list.

{Spoiler alert - he didn’t last long at the top when he asked me at Mass last Sunday if I was pregnant.  Ummmm, no and I’ll never wear that dress again.}

But back to cleaning and organizing.  They really are the most satisfying chores, something I put off for too long and then once it’s over I wonder why I didn’t tackle that sooner.  The benefits are so plentiful after an area is neat and tidy.  

I smile every time I see it, so it brings joy.  

I feel like I can breathe easier, so it radiates peace.  

I know what I have and can find everything with ease, so it brings contentment.  

I don’t need to hide that messy area any longer, so it invites hospitality. 

Whenever I feel comparison stealing my joy, like I *need* a new outfit or car or house, I find a deep cleaning and organizing brings me right back to being grateful for what I have.  My dad says that a clean car rides better, and he’s totally right.  Taking care of our blessings brings happiness.  And then that joy overflows to others and we can give of our self and time and talents more freely when the environment is tidy.  

Physical clutter creates mental clutter, whether we realize it or not, and our families feel the same.  Even my littlest guy likes the way he feels in a clean house.  As Phil always reminds our kids “There’s no maid that lives here” so we all have to chip in and help out.  We try to make it as fun as possible by playing music or timing certain areas, or promising a fun activity when the work is complete.  Honestly, the job usually takes way less time than I think it will and I’ve never missed anything I’ve given away.

Two books helped me a lot in keeping a home, besides learning from my parents’ examples and my own mistakes:

Sink Reflections and The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up

I think if I were asked to give advice to young families, this would be on a very short list - a tidy house makes a happy home.  Don’t listen to those cute quotes about how dishes can wait but babies don’t keep, or a messy house means you’re making memories, etc.  Nobody likes to live in chaos.  Your home does not have to be perfect to raise a wonderful family, it’s just about keeping it clean and cozy and peaceful for your family to be able to bloom contentedly. And remember, bleach is cheap but peace of mind is priceless :)


  1. Thanks for this encouragement. I often think that advice to let the dishes sit it aimed at 1. Smaller families and 2. People who struggle with perfectionism in the area of housework. Not me, who would rather read than clean, following my dear mother's example. I am drowning in stuff and babies and small children and slowly trying to clean up, pitch stuff, and figure out a rhythm of chores that we can all maintain!

  2. Thank you for this!!! Sometimes I've felt guilty, wondering if I spent too much time keeping my house in order when my kids were growing up, especially when I see moms who are so much more relaxed about housekeeping than I was. And every now and then looking back I'll wonder if my boys lost out on something because of it. But I don't think I could have functioned in utter chaos. This post has reminded me that peace and tranquility and order are actually good things in a home--and that even though this might not be the case for everyone, I was probably a better mom than I would have been if I'd been stressed out about the state of my house all the time. So thanks for writing this! It's a good reminder that just because you like a tidy home, you aren't suffering from OCD!

  3. My aunt gave me a small plaque YEARS ago that said something along the lines of please excuse this mess, my children are making memories. Then when we put on our addition she gave me a HUGE wall hanging that said the same thing. I'm noticing a not-so-subtle message here. I do like a neat and tidy house but it doesn't happen often. I do require the kids to help out and when they moan I remind them IT ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES, not to mention YOU MOST LIKELY HELPED MAKE THIS MESS.

  4. This is a good reminder that a tidy house is a good goal. It makes everyone feel better about life! But I would add that I think it's rarely the case that a house is untidy because the family is just neglecting it. There is usually a good reason. So I think while it is good to aspire to tidiness, we also sometimes have to offer up our unmet desire for tidiness and accept if we can't do much about it. I think that's more the sense of what people are saying with the "babies don't keep" sort of thing. (For me -- 4 HG pregnancies, postpartum disasters 3/4 times, no family support, little money for help -- my tidiness projects take about a year each!)

    1. This is me too. Homeschooling and expecting number ten. It's often frustrating and upsetting how I can't keep up with the house and I have to remind myself that someday they'll be older and things will get better.


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