Messy Home Tour | learning from your messy home

A few months ago, out-of-town friends visited our apartment for the first time. They complimented what we've done with our small space. Then, one friend commented that the pictures I've posted on this blog make other people jealous. This caught me off guard, especially coming from people that always have a very clean, well-organized and nicely decorated home. Also because I feel like our home is in constant disarray.

But, of course the photos of our home make others jealous. The photos I've posted of our home make me jealous. Because these photos are how I want our home to look, and how I know it could look. But it only looks like this when (if) we do our weekly Friday detailed cleaning--and the cleanness barely lasts the evening. It looks pretty good sometimes when we have company over. And for photos... because I juggle things so it doesn't mess up the part of our home that I want to share with the world.

Today, that changes. Today, I tell you the truth. Here it is, the truth: It's normal to have a messy home. It's normal for kids to complicate housekeeping. It's normal for full lives to show through cluttered and well-used spaces.

If a sometimes (frequent?) messy home is all too familiar to you, know this: You are normal.

Most often I approach our messy home as a problem that needs to be fixed. Makes sense, right? There are crumbs on the floor; they need to be cleaned. Clean clothes are getting wrinkled in a laundry basket; they need to be folded and put away. Mail gathers on the kitchen island; it needs to be filed or recycled. If these things are not getting done, then "of course" it's because I've become lazy or need a better system for getting everything done.

After five years fighting against (and getting overwhelmed by) our frequently messy home, I'm learning our home actually has something to teach me, if I'm willing to listen.

7 Things Our Messy Home Tells Me

Here are 7 things our messy home tells me, and whether or not they are a problem I should fix.

1 | Something is out of balance.
When a family member is sick, or I'm working on the computer trying to meet a deadline, or a teething toddler won't stop crying at me, or even when I'm overwhelmed with a headache and cramps once a month, my life and our home get out of balance. My energy and attention are distracted from housekeeping.

Leave it temporarily, or fix it.
I need to leave it, at least temporarily, if a sick or cranky child has my attention, or I need to meet a deadline tomorrow. In these instances it's more important to get the family well, give the cranky child my attention, or work hard to meet the deadline. Once our family is back to normal, I can spend some time playing catch up.

Sometimes, it's a problem to fix right away if things are out of balance because I've gotten distracted by something not pressing or unimportant (say, browsing Pinterest). Then I need to get my priorities back in order and spend some time on chores.

2 | Our spaces are being used.
With only 1,000 sq. ft. of storage and living space combined for our family of four, there's bound to be a mess somewhere. This simply means that our spaces are being used. A messy kids' room means they've played in their room. A messy desk means I've gotten some work done. A messy kitchen means we've eaten at home.

Leave it, or fix if needed. In the case of using our space well, messes are expected. These are okay to be left in the process, then cleaned as part of our daily routine. These messes are a problem to be fixed when they are stagnant or inhibit our use of the space. Like the pile of stuff I kept in our hallway (our "outbox") while I decided whether or not to keep it. I finally got rid of it and it feels so good to have an empty space when we walk through the hall!

3 | Routine is missing or not being followed.
Daily chores and even deep cleaning and decluttering are a part of my daily and weekly routine. When our home gets neglected, it's often because I'm neglecting that part of my routine.

Fix it.
Of course, if our routine is mixed up because of a sickness or visitors, then we'll adjust and pick up our routine when things return to normal. Otherwise, the routine needs to be fixed. Either I need to update it to meet the changes in our obligations or schedule, or I need to make a more concentrated effort in following it.

4 | We have too much stuff.
When toys cover our living room floor, but the kids are still bored; when clothes flow from my closet and drawers, but I still can't find anything to wear; when papers don't fit in the files I rarely access--then I know that we simply have too much stuff.

Fix it!
When a draw or cupboard or flat surface is constantly cluttered, then the only way to fix it is clearing out the excess. Anytime I do this, I am always amazed at how easy it is to keep the space clean.

5 | Our lives are full.
We have two growing kids, my main man has a full time job that also involves a lot of travel and weekends, I write from home and work on a growing blog. We work out most evenings, eat home cooked lunches as a family, and invite people over sometimes. Our lives are full of family and friends and work and play, and messes are evidence of all of that.

Leave it. A full life is not a problem to be fixed. We will not be getting rid of one of our children, Daniel will not be switching to a part-time job, we won't quit inviting people over, and we won't stop cooking meals, working out, or enjoying our favorite past times. If I have to choose, I choose a full life rather than a pristine home.

6 | We've taken on too much.
While our lives are full, if we find ourselves so busy that we are unable to maintain basic home upkeep or family time, then it's possible we've taken on too much.

Fix it, when possible. If this is a temporary imbalance, then we may need to just suck it up and leave it until our lives settle down naturally. Otherwise, it might be time to intentionally give something up. Maybe we've volunteered for one too many things, or I've taken on one too many jobs when my focus is supposed to be my family and home. It's important to prioritize and make sure we're living our lives according to these priorities.

7 | We're being lazy.
Occasionally, our home is a mess for no other reason than we're simply being lazy. This most often happens on Sundays and doesn't last long.

Leave it. We rarely leave the apartment a mess out of laziness. Partly because I can't think in messes, and they break me down. Knowing that we'll get back to cleaning everything up as soon as possible, I need to welcome breaks to enjoy family rather than keeping everything in perfect order.

There's plenty more that my messy home could be telling me. The point is to extend a little grace for the mess. Realize there is a reason for it, and either fix it or leave it, depending on the circumstances, knowing that seasons and times change, and some are cleaner than others.

What is your messy home trying to tell you?

PS, I'm working on my next project, pulling together all sorts of resources and expounding on my past posts to help those of you seeking to simplify, organize, or better your home. More on this project soon!