I've been taking a mental note of all the places that need work. The kids' clothes I went through a few months ago that need donated. The basement that we tried to organize, but it turned into a rummaged-through mess. The hall closet that's still a hodge podge of misfit items that I unpacked and wasn't sure where to put.
That list is growing and ever before me as I pass by each little mess, each little area begging for my attention. As I get started on Week 1: Setting Up + Entryway, I think about welcoming people into this place, as that's part of the purpose-driven goals for our home, and all I can think of is the mess.
This place has been stressing me out, all of the little piles and cluttered closets that make me lose sleep at night. (Actually, it's the 8-month-old still waking up at night that makes me lose sleep. But a close second is the messes in our home.) And, no, it's not at all helpful to know that other's places are messier than mine. Their mess doesn't bother me. It's our mess that stresses me out.
I clean our home for my sanity, but the truth is I also want it cleaned up for others.
There's so much I'd like to get done so we can invite people in more. Even if it's not perfect (I've come to terms that it never will be), at least it will be a little neater, a little more welcoming.
Does it have to be that way? Do we really have to tidy every nook and cranny before having people over?
The hard lesson of my adult life is: No. Our homes and even our lives, don't have to be perfectly Spring Cleaned to invite people in. In fact, life is better when we focus on the beauty in the mess and invite others in anyway.
(I'm not talking about the quick tidying we do before someone comes over. If I have a few minutes, I'll likely do some version of that. I'm talking about the inclination to withhold invitations because of unfinished home projects or clutter-filled corners.)
That's a hard lesson, because welcoming people into our mess goes against what our pride and egos tell us to do. We assume people will judge. They'll think we're messy or that we don't care. They'll see a less than picture-worthy reality and we fear maybe that means we're just simply unworthy. Of friendship or love or approval or whatever it is we deeply need.
Actually, welcoming people into our mess, when we're brave enough to do so, can be tremendously life-giving. It says we're human and right here in our mess is a safe place for others to be human, too. It says that we're actively living this life and that sometimes that gets messy, but we're not afraid of that. We're not afraid of the reality of imperfection, and we're not afraid to extend love and value and grace to those messy, imperfect people, like us, who deeply need it.
Yet, welcoming people into our mess is still hard. We have to fight our pride and egos in order to do so. We have to be vulnerable to the possibility that we could be judged or hurt in the process. But it also could be worth it. We could find the help and connection and beauty we long for. Even right here in the mess.
This became clearer to me eight months ago, when Moving Day and Bringing Home Baby collided. It was never my intention to do it that way. I've had a couple babies, and I've moved a couple times. I knew better than to combine those two life events.
Yet, it wasn't entirely up to me.
We'd been on a waiting list to move into this home for months. When we finally got the call that a spot was available for us, a little thing like moving date and baby's birth possibly overlapping wasn't going to stop us from making it happen.
Friends that had just moved to town offered to help us pack--they had boxes and were willing to help fill them with our things. I knew we needed help. And I also felt a very real struggle with my pride.
Between the morning sickness, anemia, and caring for two kids, our home was more or less neglected throughout my pregnancy. So many areas needed deep cleaning, so many things needed to be decluttered, and I was embarrassed thinking of people seeing behind closet and cupboard doors into the mess.
Of course, for the sake of our family and our sanity we chose the help. We were so thankful for their willingness to enter into our mess. Because, let's face it, as much as we don't want others to see our mess, it can be just as awkward for them. And we're the ones to gain from it.
Baby 3 came the next week. The leasing agent met with us in the hospital to sign papers and hand-off keys. The day we were to leave the hospital, I hung out a couple extra hours while my husband, backed by a team of extremely helpful (and speedy) coworkers, friends, and family, loaded the apartment into a truck and unloaded the truck into the townhome in the matter of 2 1/2 hours.
I sat in the hospital bed cuddling my sleepy newborn. I'd feel a wave of guilt that I wasn't out there helping, then a request for pain meds would remind me having a baby is as good a reason as any to "laze around" a hospital room.
The next few weeks were less of a daze than postpartum with my other two babies. I attribute that to a little attempt at "pausing on purpose" that I'd learned throughout this pregnancy. Slowing to enjoy life is the only way to not live for moments of the past. Look around to grasp the beauty of the messy present while it's still ours to enjoy.
That must also be a little of what kept me calm while our home was chaos. Every few days, friends, family, or Daniel's work colleagues would stop by and bring us food. We welcomed this blessing with gratitude, as we also welcomed these people into our mess.
Waiting patiently as I toss wilted produce to make room for their delicious casserole. I push aside my pride and accept this gift, that from the mess of their kitchen they would cook a loving gesture, offer a bit of hope, delivered to the mess of our kitchen.
Sharing our excitement as we show around this new place we'll call home. A mere rental, attached to the community of townhomes around us. Bare-walled rooms with open tubs half-unpacked, and laundry piled on flat surfaces. I hold onto my pride and accept their shared joy on our behalf, that beyond this mess is a place we'll make our home.
It's when I put down my walls of pride that we truly welcomed people in, making a chaotic season a joyful one. Because beyond the mess was our complete family enjoying time together. Beyond the mess were friends and family sharing our joy. Beyond the mess was the kindness of others carrying us through a stressful time.
Sure, there may be a mess, in our homes or in our lives or likely both. And that's okay. There's still beauty here in this home with this people in this moment.
Welcoming people into the mess may never really become easy. But it can become habit. Put down pride, accept help. Put down pride, make real connections. Put down pride, be a dose of grace and love in someone else's mess. Put down pride, focus on the beauty in the present.
simplifying home: 8-week challenge
week 1: setting up + entryway
purpose-driven goals for our home