I’m a Mess, You’re a Mess, We’re All Just Lovely Messes

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Outside the window, leaves of crimson and burnt orange shiver on the trees, and every once in a while, a cluster of them swirl to the ground as a gust of wind blows urgent. The seasons have shifted and I find that as the weather turns chilly and the sun hides its face and the branches become bare, I turn inward, physically and mentally.

Physically, I begin to look at my home as the lack of warmth and the steady drips of West Coast rain draw us inward, more home-bound than we have been for months. The time spent indoors causes me to open my eyes to my surroundings and in doing so, I become more critical. I notice the lack of organization, the need for deep cleaning, the clutter, all of the projects that have remained on my to-do list far too long.

Mentally, I begin to crawl inside my skin. The outer chaos that I notice in my home eats away at me. Words like failure, bad homemaker, undisciplined, disorganized, and messy begin to surface.

Realization of these outward evidences of my inward mess and imperfection eat away at me sometimes. I seem to go in seasonal patterns, and one such pattern is a sudden urge to remake my life, to purge, to re-organize, to get myself in order. I pull out stacks of how-to books, try to get myself inspired and motivated, and figure out just why it is that I can’t get it all together.

I tend to overlook the obvious. The reason is simple.

I’m a mess.

And so are you.

We’re all messy and that’s ok.

Just because I run a blog called “Keeper of the Home” does not mean that I am an exemplary homemaker. Far from it. Would you like to know some of the things that I just cannot do?

  • I can’t tell you the last time I cleaned baseboards, windowsills, windows, or walls (aside from obviously needed spot cleaning).
  • Though I keep the downstairs guest bathroom clean enough, our master bathroom is prone to fits of unsanitariness (yes, it’s a real word now because I just used it and you know what I mean) every few weeks until I finally stop ignoring it.
  • I just made bread again for the first time in several months. And it wasn’t soaked or sourdough.
  • My kids bathe once a week. When they’re good and stinky and they really need it.
  • My cell phone is never charged, the keys often disappear, the minivan is full of crumbs and random garbage from our various outings.
  • I have to keep things I’ve borrowed from others beside my front door, in hopes that they might make it back to those gracious individuals at some point in time. It still usually takes a couple of months.
  • Don’t even ask my friends what a joke it is to leave me a message on the answering machine.
  • As summer ended, I left the garden to its own devices. Just yesterday, I finally cleaned out one of the six garden beds, and only because I was getting dangerously close to not having my garlic planted in time before winter. (And no, I didn’t manage to get the garlic actually in the ground before we needed to leave for my daughter’s ballet lesson, but at least I tried.)
  • We’re mostly on target with homeschooling, but we’re had many days where we just couldn’t get through the more involved topics like history or geography or science, and had to resort to the basics… language arts and math. The 3 R’s, right?
I could go on, but I don’t need to. You get the point, and I’m sure that you’re nodding in relief and coming up with your own lists of all the things that you don’t or can’t or only wish you could do.

It needs to be said, so very often, that none of us can do it all. We’re feeble. We’re human. We’re weak. We’re imperfect.

We’re all just such a lovely mess. Together. I think that there is something powerful that happens when we are willing to say out loud to each other that we don’t have it all together and we can’t keep up with everything and though one area of our life might look amazing there are others that don’t look nearly so pretty if we were to throw open our closet doors and lift up the bedskirts and let others see our dustbunnies and cobwebs and dirty socks.

We need to give each other permission to be imperfect also, and then we can point one another in the direction of the ultimate Grace-Giver himself. Because he gives grace that covers sticky floors and laundry piled up and scrambled eggs for dinner (again).

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So where do we go from here?

I don’t think this means that we just give up, throw our hands in the air and surrender to our messy ways, our misplaced priorities, or whatever others areas in which we struggle. We acknowledge them, we accept grace for them, we love others (and hope that they will love us, too) in spite of them, and we rely upon the only perfect One for saving grace, and strength that we could never conjure up ourselves.

I don’t know what you need today. A reader commented last week that when she reads posts encouraging her to be more efficient and productive, she feels burdened by this Martha mentality of doing, doing, doing, when what she needs is to be encouraged to be a Mary, to serve and praise and just be in the midst of the messiness. Perhaps that’s you right now.

If you need to allow yourself that space to just be, you might appreciate some of these reads:

Unity of the Sisterhood (and how we tear down masks of perfectionism, embracing one another just as we are, in God’s freedom)

Imperfection (sharing all the things we don’t do)

2 Reasons Why You Might Feel Overwhelmed 

One Thousand Gifts (learning to name and be thankful for the gifts He gives is a powerful way to learn to live fully, in the midst of the mess)

Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try Hard Life (the next book on my reading list, for obvious reasons- also visit Emily’s blog, Chatting at the Sky, for a breath of fresh air)

Or is it time to make some changes?

For some of us, although we need to recognize that we are messy and imperfect (and still accepted and cherished and valuable all the while), we also need to take responsibility for our weaknesses and pushing forward to make some changes, however small or simple they may be.

This is very much where I am at. Spending time reading and reflecting on the fact that I can’t do it all and accepting grace for my imperfection. But at the same time, I know that I am the cause of some of my struggles right now (like a cluttered and disorganized house that is causing me unnecessary stress and work) and that by taking some simple steps, there can be positive change.

Here are a few resources that might give you a gentle nudge in the right direction, without overwhelming you:

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life (I’m really appreciating this series from Money Saving Mom, recognizing that as much as we might actually be the problem, there is so much hope when we realize that we are also the solution, and that we can take small, incremental steps towards positive changes and reaching goals that we set)

31 Days to Clean (this popular 31-day ebook encourages you to look makes changes in your home, but by balancing a Mary heart with some Martha challenges)

Organized Simplicity (this is what I will be working through over the next two weeks, because I’ve recognized that my unwillingness to take some time to de-clutter and rethink the purpose of the rooms in our home has led to unnecessary stress and time spent on maintenance)

One Bite at a Time (if you’re looking for some simple, manageable steps that you can do one at a time, as you’re ready, Tsh has brought together a great selection of projects and organizational tasks that can help you to streamline your home and bring more peace)

Can you relate to being a “mess”? In what ways are you aware that you can’t do it all? Would you like to share some of them, just to join in collectively as we announce that we are frail, imperfect, messy women?

Top image by Ian Sane

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this. When you are raised as a child that you have to be perfect and do everything perfectly you always feel like you are not good enough and a failure. You become obsessed with striving to have everything perfect and being perfect from big things in your life to making sure all the cans in cupboard are facing the same way and in alphabetical order. When you’re like this and your place isn’t perfect you tend to curl up in a corner and think no matter what I do this place will never be how it should be. These are some things I struggle with daily along with having two children that are 3 and 2 and the 3 year old being special needs. Reading this was very helpful and I plan on finding some of the books listed and see if they help. Thank you so much for posting this. God Bless

  2. this is so timely for me as i am overwhelmed with the mess my house has become during my 1st trimester of pregnancy and now trying to dig out during the 2nd and feeling like there is just way too much to do! i, for one, will fully acknowledge that my weakness when it comes to being a good housekeeper. i want to grow though! i actually was reading this just as i was processing a mountain of clean laundry. thanks for the encouragement.

    my recent post: how to deal with money with faith instead of fear

  3. Thanks! I appreciate this! I feel like a “mess” here and there, throughout my days. As I told my niece (who lives with us) today, “I don’t know how to respond to the question, ‘How was your day?’ oftentimes because my days are usually rollercoasters – filled with so much up and down that they are hard to sum up! I am glad to have productive, peaceful days. That is my goal! If I strive for PERFECTION, I am sure to fail!

  4. Ahhh, I can breathe now. :)

    Janelle
    GraceTags

  5. Thank you for sharing so honestly. I think it is so important for bloggers to share everything: the good, bad, and the ugly. Otherwise we make ourselves to appear perfect. And I know I’m not perfect. Like you, my children do not get bathed very often. Maybe 2-3 times a week. And my master bathroom also looks for unsanitary. It’s something I need to tackle, soon!

  6. Thank you for this! It’s like you live in my house. Do you live in my house? You very well could and I would never know. With two kids under the age of three and working full time, my house is always in some state of messiness (and yes, sometimes unsanitariness)! It’s often 10:00 at night and I’ve just finished cleaning up dinner and getting things ready for the next day and I look around and see dirty laundry, dog hair on the floor, toys everywhere, and dust clinging to every flat surface it can find. I usually just throw my hands up and go to bed, but it causes quite a bit of stress in my life. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not the only one! :-)

  7. I love this and I can totally relate. I get really down on myself by not being able to keep up with all that needs to be done. I also go through cycles of re-vamping all my schedules/systems/routines in hopes that I can finally create something that I can stick with for more than a couple months. The problem is that no one person can do all that I put on myself to do. It’s nice to be reminded of that. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for being so honest, your describing me exactly. I really needed this today. So encouraging!

  9. Stephanie, thank you for the encouragement, and for the list of resources! I downloaded some kind of 31-day house-cleaning Ebook ages ago, but then proceeded to get sick. By the time I was well, the book, and my resolve, were long forgotten. :)

  10. Sylvia Brown says:

    I am one of God’s “lovely messes.” I have fibromyalgia and all the symptoms that come with that, including the nausea, IBS, etc. I was a private caregiver and kept my clients’ homes spotless. My apt, too. Now I can’t stand up for more than 15 min without pain; have anxiety and bipolar, too.
    My apt is a “mess” and my husband is not a housekeeper. I also have OCD, and this drives me nuts!
    I appreciate your links so much. I’m going to try and do something, something each day. The only problem is, my husband sabatoges it – I shouldn’t complain. He’s a wonderful caregiver, and does do the dishes at times. But here’s to trying everyday!
    Thanks so much for your newsletter! It is very much appreciated.

    Sylvia

  11. Donna Walker says:

    Must be the season or rather the transition of seasons. I am still canning and freezing produce from the garden. Today we gathered all the green tomatoes, some cabbage and the peppers to make chow chow. All summer a queue of produce has been lined up outside the kitchen waiting to be eaten or preserved. Seems I cannot do some needed cleaning and organizing done because I’m busy cooking, preserving, and the myriad of chores and interactions required to maintain our family! I’m happy as long as I don’t think about needing to get the house spit-spot for the holidays.

  12. Stephanie, I appreciate your honesty. I appreciate that you aren’t perfect! I also love that you included in the last section that we do need to address our weaknesses and work on change. Often times, people post about “I can’t do it all” and others commiserate and then we all feel better because “we aren’t alone.” But what about change? We don’t get it all done and that is OKAY, but what on our list NEEDS to get done? What has happened to our priorities? Are they in line and we are simply over burdened? Or are they out of whack and we need to revamp? It is something we all need to examine. And guess who is the best help? Jesus! I *try* to give Him my to-do list as well as my goals in general. Amazing how more gets done when He is in control!

    I love your blog…thank you for sharing!

  13. Christine K. says:

    Wonderful post, and I’m sharing it with a lot of women I know. I kept reading and thinkging “”Yeah, but I-” and the next sentence you were admitting to it also. A nice read, and I’ll be checking out the links on the bottom as well :)

  14. Thank you, Stephanie! Your graciousness is directly reflective of our Heavenly Father. Thank you for blessing me with this post.

  15. This is such an important message, especially when younger wives/moms are visiting our houses. When we clean everything (almost) perfectly for these visitors we are setting a standard that they can’t dream to live up to. I’ve made a point that when people come over they see how we live. This doesn’t mean I don’t do a quick pick up and vacuum, but if there are dirty dishes in the sink and fingerprints on the walls, that’s okay.

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