Bless This Mess (without the stress)

Listen to me, young folks in your 20′s, figuring out what you’re going to be–I want to tell you something. You can, in fact, have it all. You can have a meaningful, fulfilling career, AND a healthy, happy family. Those who say you cannot are haters, so don’t listen to them. You can do both and live. It is possible.

What you will probably not have–nay, what you will never have, in that particular life combination–is a clean house. Just live with it. You will be happier, and so will your someday family and co-workers.

Some people choose to work and not have children. That is fine. Some people have children and choose to be with them as a full time job. I think that is awesome too. Either choice is valid and can lead one to a full, healthy, happy life. That said, the people who say you CANNOT have both–they are the people who can’t live with the messy house. So what they really mean is, “I, me, personally, cannot have a both a career and a family because i can’t live with the chaos that would ensue in my kitchen, laundry room, car, office…etc.”

It is just as well that they know this about themselves because, really, I am writing this as someone who does have it all, and i’m telling the story in the midst of clutter. Not filth. Don’t get me wrong, we are people who do wash dishes, clean toilets and run the vaccum from time to time. But toddlers are little pack rats… they make piles of random things in some kind of order that  makes sense to them and is crucial to development, blah blah blah…whatever, it just means a big pile of mess in every room of the house. Oh, and they pack in rocks from outside to play with. They change clothes 4 times a day. They teach their baby brothers to pull everything out of the kitchen cabinets, and then said baby brothers start to do so, even without instruction. Little dogs shed lots of hair. And 2-or-3 days worth of meals for 4 people =quite alot of dirty dishes. [I almost laughed out loud when our landlord chose us as tenants because she thought we looked like we would be "clean." !!!]

If that sounds like your life, or your house, you know what i mean. You know what it is like to have the cup of blessing runneth-ing over, and how futile the efforts to keep a lid on it.

If you are 20-somethings [especially if you are certain 20-somethings i know who think that you could not live with the spill-over that comes from having kids] then know that a messy house is the sign of a full and happy life. It also reflects a certain maturity of the soul that means you can find your sense of order within, whatever your surroundings. [yeah, i'm still working on finding that "order within." i'll let you know when i tap into it.]

We are not gross people. we do the laundry–and then we live out of laundry baskets all week, until we’ve lost track of what’s clean and dirty. We cook dinner–OR, we eat sandwiches and do the dishes from LAST night’s nice, home-cooked meal. That is to say, it is a rare night in which we have both clean dishes and a good dinner.

But, that is just the rhythm of this life, and we picked it. Having kids means relinquishing control, at least in part, of one’s time and space, and it is an art to be learned. If we spend our evenings playing or reading books or having a family dance party instead of putting away laundry, we count that a good day.

So yes, folks, you can have it all. Almost all. If for a few short years of your life, you can relinquish the Pottery Barn catalogue ideal of a well-ordered and decorated life (PB catalogue=what is wrong with america, btw…saving that for another post) then you can happily, joyfully, take in the chaos and have it all. Just, quit saying “having it all,” because that phrase carries with it a certain sense of western entitlement that i just can’t quite stomach. It also implies the pottery barn floor plan for an ordered life, and that icks me out too.

Instead, let’s call this tenuous, beautiful balance “having all that I need,” and then let it be so.

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • http://gravatar.com/anothermindstreasure Nicole

    LOVE this!!! By your measure, I am completely at peace within, because as I sit here on my sofa, laptop where its name implies because there is no horizontal space in my house clear enough for the 1.5 square feet required to sit the thing down, I can see various toys, shopping bags, pairs of shoes, and a paper plate from yesterday’s PB&J, all sprinkled over with a dose of beagle fur. The sink is full of dishes, too, though I can’t see those from here (that’s my project once I get off FB).

    I think I’ve decided that one’s contentment is in inverse proportion to how clean one’s house is (though I’m sure there’s a line there somewhere between I’m-too-zen-to-clean-all-the-time and Hoarders). My life is full and messy, and I love it. I’m not even always busy, so I can’t use that excuse. I’m not one that always fires on all cylinders. But I am a writer and a daydreamer–and a horrific insomniac–in addition to mother, wife, and Realtor, so my time usually seems to demand something of me other than loading the dishwasher or putting away laundry. Except for now, when I really DO need to load the damned dishwasher…


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