Messy enough to be happy

My husband was out of town for a few days this week. Which meant I was at home for a few days with a few kids for the first time in forever.

It wasn’t bad. I actually am quite the pro at taking 3 children out and about now. My method includes constant bribery for the 3-year-old and/or the reminder of the birthday party that we’re invited to in the not-so-distant future. We had successful trips to Target, Jo-Ann Fabric AND Chick-Fil-A. How’s that for the suburban mommy circuit?

But strangely, for some reason, I felt this pressure because my house was such a mess. We had no plans — no company was coming over — nobody was going to see it. But I like going to bed with a clean livingroom and sparkling-countertop kitchen. I like getting up in the morning to a fresh, clean house to make a morning pot of coffee while the sunlight filters in through crystal clear windows. I like when there aren’t piles of randomness here and there. [Insert all the moms saying: Duh, don’t we all?]

But lately — it seems as soon as I spend three hours organizing one room of a house, another goes to Kansas and gets hit by a tornado.

So I’m getting over it. Because I had an epiphany.

I was sitting in my livingroom while the kids were napping. My livingroom. You know — where we live? And while I was doing that, I read this really good blog post: 10 Great Ways to Be An Unhappy Mom. [The writer, Beth Berry, is a fabulous blogger I just discovered. Check out her blog, Revolution from home.]

In the post, Beth says that the #3 way to be an unhappy mom is to:

3. Base your contentment on the state of your house. I like a tidy house. I feel more on top of my game, at ease and productive once it is relatively “clean.” But I would have gone insane (and taken everyone with me) if I held onto the idea that I could only be content once everything was “in its place.” Kids exist to dispel this notion. Likewise, feeling the need to apologize for the state of things upon welcoming unannounced visitors is like saying, “I’m sorry you have to see that we live in this house.” The notion that homes must look like display windows before they are presentable to guests is a crying shame in a culture so starved for community.

I loved that sentence, “I’m sorry you have to see that we live in this house.” Isn’t that funny? We ooh and aah when we go to homes that look like a page torn out of Better Homes and Gardens — but a well-lived, broken-in, happy home is often not the picture of, well, this:

You know when my house looks like this? When I am ALONE.

Alone, alone, alone.” — Renee Zellweger  in Jerry MacGuire.

Actually, my house never looks like that. Even when I’m alone. White pillows? Breakable knickknacks on coffee table? Fresh flowers? They so don’t have toddlers… or cats.

But don’t you think it’s funny what we put on a pedestal? Fluffed pillows. Magazine homes. Baby nurseries that look like they were decorated by stylists at Anthropologie. I guess it is impressive — and I love decorating and organizing as much as anyone on Pinterest — but when it comes to happiness:

Our homes are not made for looking at, they’re made for living in.

And that livingroom, with a World Market rug covered in pillows, toy cars, Halloween costumes, sippy cups, Goldfish crumbs and other “decorations” — that room has seen a lot of living.

And what a beautiful view to wake up to.

So when my neighbors or friends stop by — and by some twist of fate, I just happened to have vacuumed and organized and Windex’d — and for some rare moment my house seems eerily put together, maybe that should be the occasion for apology.

“I’m sorry my house is so clean. I promise we really do have fun here.”

“This house is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy.” — Magnet on my mother-in-law’s fridge