I have something to tell you: I am not a domestic perfectionist.
If you know me, if you’ve dropped my house unexpectedly, you know. There are books and toys and DVDs strewn about, as well as dress-up clothes and yoga mats, the remnants of the fort we built yesterday and some paint splattered on the floor from an impromptu finger-painting session last night. There are definitely dirty dishes in the sink.
Some might call it lived in. Others might call it lazy. I like to think of it as creative swirl. And its a good thing. It means that we are busy living our lives, busy making them feel right, instead of making them look right.
Don’t get me wrong, I think neat and tidy has its place. I enjoy relaxing in a clean, crisp environment as much as the next person. But as a mother, that is not my top priority.
If you have young kids you know what I mean: the process of cleaning up can seem never-ending. It can become a battle ground, especially if you have a domestic perfectionist living inside of you.
But around here, we find perfection within the imperfection.
Around here, it is messy. It is a creative swirl.
It is also fun and active. We have important things to do. Like wrestling and dance parties. Bubble baths and homemade spa days. Things like watching movies in a cuddle pile on the couch. Or drinking tea, discussing the day’s unravelings— not letting “dealing with the mess” get top priority.
It was not always like this. I’ve had to work, really work, at letting the house be messy and still being able to relax in it.
I’ve had to work at not letting my happiness depend on whether or not the laundry is folded and put away.
Before that, I was letting the state of the house determine my mood: if it was messy, I was unhappy. I’d carry a dark grey cloud above my head, huffing around the house putting things away, blaming someone else for the mess, feeling resentful that I HAD to deal with it in order for my day to feel good again. Sometimes I got really ugly and looked something like this:
Then I realized something: I didn’t HAVE to. The mess didn’t have to come before my happiness. My happiness could come first. I could choose it. I could look at that bad mood brewing in me because the house was untidy and I could not let it take over. I could sit down in the middle of the house and not do anything at all to change it. I could accept things as they were, crumbs and all.
Maybe I’d even shrug at the mess and laugh a little, wiggle my shoulders and jostle my head. I’d decide to hug my kids and read to them in a cluttered house. I’d decide to joyfully make pancakes for breakfast even if last night’s dishes were still in the sink. I’d let the mess be, especially if letting it be meant I was a happier and more present person, a more loving mom, a more relaxed wife.
Now when I clean, I do it because I want to, because I enjoy it. I don’t clean in order to maintain cleanliness, I clean because I want to create a fresh page, an empty canvas–so the creative swirl can be begin again in whatever way it needs to.
I won’t sacrifice a happy environment for a clean one anymore. It’s just not worth it. It took a lot of practice, but I no longer have a domestic perfectionist in me trying to control things and resist mess. Instead, I have something else. I like to think of it as a domestic goddess. Yes, that’s right.
A domestic goddess has a home that feels full and fun and loving. She has kids that know they can be messy without being scolded. Kids that play without feeling stifled by a mom who needs everything to be cleaned up on the spot. Kids who don’t stop being creative because they fear how tense mom gets when things get out-of-order. She tidies up without anger or blame. She spends time with her partner at the end of the day, making catching up more important than cleaning up.
A domestic goddess has a wide and long view, one that extends beyond this mess, this day, this week. She sees down the road—way, way down when the kids are grown and everything is different—and seeing that place way down there, she turns and looks back.
With that perspective, she sees this moment, this splatter or spill or stain. She laughs at it and wipes it up. Or she steps right over it, that bit of creative swirl, and kisses or tickles or hugs whoever it was that made it. And in that moment, she finds a snippet of domestic bliss. It’s a wonderful place to be.