Why I Won’t Take a Photo of My Disorganized Home: The Anti-Messy House Project

Sometimes I feel different in crazy ways. For instance, the hugely popular “messy house project” from this very publication. Never have I seen anything with so many shares. 

I took me months to work up the courage to even read it. I kid you not. I fought the feeling for a long time, such is my strong emotional reaction to my own messy house.

Apparently women love seeing pictures of the messy houses, while others love saying mean things about it. Reactions were varied but usually involved talking trash about:

1) women who have messy houses (they must not care about their kids or sanitation so we should gossip about them…)

or

2) women who have clean houses (because these women must not care about their kids but rather ignore them for constant cleaning, so we should gossip about them.)

the anti-messy house project

I begrudge no one these activities – either the gossip, the picture taking, the messy or the clean house. All are fine with me. I will pass on these activities, but go right ahead if it brings you joy. 

But I can’t bring myself to share messy house pictures.

I hate having a messy house. (No, that is not my messy house.)

the anti-messy house project

I am struggling to launch my own “anti-messy house project.”

I DO have a messy house very frequently. I can think of several areas at this very moment that have too much clutter, that are disorganized, and that basically make me cringe.

But you won’t find me taking a picture of them. I hate them. They make me feel a little ashamed and generally overwhelmed with life. I can’t bring myself to see my messy house as a badge of honor.

In fact, over the last five years I have embarked on the “anti-messy house project.”

It all started…

Actually I don’t remember when it started. There were a few years there between having babies 3 and 4 that are a blur. But I remember I was living with my mother-in-law, pregnant (or recovering from a pregnancy) and freaking out about the constant mess.

I know some people will say that we shouldn’t worry about messes because of the pressures others put on us but, never fear, this is a pressure I feel only from me. It isn’t peer pressure, it’s internal!

I simply couldn’t handle being constantly behind all the time. Waking up to sink full of dirty dishes each morning, struggling to find anything, digging through boxes, searching for that evil purple sock with the black stripes, the list goes on. I can’t handle it.

The more kids I had, the more it bothered me.

I was just overwhelmed and I knew that the mess was part of the problem.

I can’t feel at peace in my own messy room. It’s like taking a bath in tub with mildew all over the place. You want to relax, but as soon as you get in you you just feel like you need to grab a toothbrush and baking soda and get to work.

I discovered the wondrous Fly Lady. I promise I am not paid to advertise for her, but it was kind of life changing. (Not entirely, of course, because I still have messes, but a little bit life changing.)

She told me to shine my sink and write in a journal and exercise every day. She told me to do something (even something super tiny!) for self care each day. She told me to clean for 15 minutes and start a load of laundry every morning.

the anti-messy house project

I discovered that there are few things more beautiful than a clean sink. (That is however not MY clean sink.)

So I tried it. I jumped in to the “anti-messy house project” like it was my new religion.

I got emails, inspiration, and updates. I changed my ways.

Eventually I fell off the wagon, but I had gained some good habits. And I had learned something important from her – You Can’t Clean Clutter.

Next thing you know I had discovered the “Zero Waste Home,” a blog about a woman in California with two children who only threw out a mason jar’s worth of trash each year.

Umm…what?

That seems cool. I like Mother Earth as much as the next guy. Maybe more since I ate a placenta once.

Plus her kitchen looked like a piece of art. No clutter in the cabinets. No overflowing drawers.

Crisp, clean lines. Beautifully stacked glass containers full of nutritious staples.

I think I fell in love with a trash hating French woman that day.

At first it was just all about the trash for me – avoiding the plastic bags, buying in bulk. Feeling a little smug. (I need that sometimes. Admit it, you do too.)

Then I realized that part of the reason she didn’t have closets full of stuff wasn’t just because she hated trash and loved Mother Earth – it was because she was a self avowed minimalist.

I admit, I had to google that. What on earth was a minimalist?!

My eyes were suddenly opened.

The beauty of empty spaces, clean lines, stainless steel, refrigerators and garages where you can find things, and taking only two minutes to choose and put on clothes each morning…

Oh my gosh. My life didn’t have to be chaos. It could be…simple.

Clean.

Organized.

Minimal.

Stripped bare of the things that don’t matter and full only of the things that did – that is a thought that I could get used to. Not to mention, I was pretty sure I would yell at my kids less if I wasn’t always tripping over their piles of cheap crap, assembled by children in another country in inhumane conditions.

Is this possible? For me? A mom of four in a small home to actually feel comfortable and safe and relaxed and decidedly “un-messy” in my house?

I started getting rid of stuff, and I haven’t stopped, and I won’t stop anytime soon.

I even discovered the incredible Kim John Payne and his book, Simplicity Parenting. The man is a genius. Maybe, just maybe, my kids would behave better if I had less clutter?! SIGN ME UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

Messy house project?

No thanks.

the anti-messy house project

Not when a picture of a garage this clean makes me want to weep with joy. (You guessed it, that isn’t actually my garage.)

Seeing stuff all over my floor doesn’t make me want to take a picture. It doesn’t make me feel grateful that I “let” my kids have fun. It makes me feel like I have a life full of excess that doesn’t need to be there.

It means I need to clean and organize, and buy more stuff to organize, and trip over junk in the night, and lose things that are actually important, all because I am caught up in things that don’t actually matter to me.

Nope.

Not interested.

Do I have a messy house?

You betcha.

I have six people in a small home and lots of clothes and stuffed animals. I have piles of paperwork and things that I have a purely emotional attachment to.

But I don’t like that and I am not proud of it and I will work on fixing it until I can walk into my home and breathe a sigh of relief because I am in a place that makes me feel at peace rather than walking in and being hit in the face with a feeling of dread because I am so far behind. 

I don’t believe that mess is helpful or happy for me or my children I think one of the biggest hurdles for many modern children to overcome is the curse of excess – excess stuff, excess food, excess activities- pure, constant excess.

It bothers me and I am not ashamed to admit it.

I am on the “anti-messy house project” and I am nowhere near being done. But when I get there, I just might take a picture.

Photo credit: thisgeekredes via Foter.com / CC BYElizabeth/Table4Five via Foter.com /CC BYnosha via Foter.com / CC BY-SAJoe Shlabotnik via Foter.com / CC BY


12 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Take a Photo of My Disorganized Home: The Anti-Messy House Project”

  1. oh my gosh, yes! I am so overwhelmed by all the clutter. Nothing is ever clean enough these days and I’m a walking ball of stress. It’s horrible. We are currently in transition living with my grandparents (hoarders in the making) until we get our house, along with 4 kiddos and so much crap. I’m about to lose my mind. So glad I can vent and that someone else gets it!!!

  2. THANK YOU!! The reverse judgement of people who do keep a somewhat ordered home is ridiculous. Can’t we as women see something good that another does and just be happy about it rather than implying that she wastes her time or ignores her children?? Disorder and messiness are not virtues and I really appreciate you tying it into the crazy amount of STUFF that we in our society think we need. Yes, a clean house isn’t the MOST IMPORTANT THING but it IS a good thing.

  3. I agree COMPLETELY! I am completely fed up with the mess in my house, not being able to find anything, feeling stressed just looking around, seeing my kids pick up my bad habits with leaving things lying around….like you, my main motivation is the stress it causes me to have a messy house. I love minimalism. I love walking into a room and seeing few things, empty space, clean counters. It has a HUGE impact on my mood and well being.

  4. I like the photos of messy houses to let me see that I am not alone. The pictures have helped me recently when I was starting to worry that I was the only one who has a house “this” messy. But regardless, I loved your article and pretty much have a very similar journey and interest as you (first flylady them minimalist). And I just this week cleaned all my counters in the kitchen of everything, including knife holders and toaster, etc. And it’s been working to get me to keep up with the dishes. What a difference. I too have been working towards getting to a minimalist life, but pretty slowly! I have 4 kids too. Anyway thanks for your article and good luck and good work to us both!

      1. I don’t view messy homes as “inadequacies”. Unless a person is not able to function at home, the clutter that is there is sometimes just a real part of life-like the vase on the table or the car in the driveway. It is not a temporary condition that “needs to be fixed”. If it bothers someone they can fix it, of course.
        I personally just ignore negative comments and judgments from others on clean AND dirty homes. I just view them as homes. I don’t celebrate mess or clean (unless someone asks me to congratulate them on their cleaning job).
        We are all living our lives in our environments. It is where we are and it is life.

  5. I also struggle with a chaotic house and have determined that getting rid of everything we don’t need is the solution! It is so depressing to see nothing but clutter and filth in every direction you look throughout the entire house. We greatly desire to live in peaceful, orderly, uncluttered surroundings, yet in our mid 40s have yet to attain that. Five kids and a small house which we are renovating doesn’t help. Since the house isn’t getting bigger, the excess stuff has got to go. I’ve done many major purges over the years, but we’ve still never got the house the way we want it. I’ve been reading lots of minimalist blogs lately and feel a mind shift and am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve got to get rid of everything we don’t actively use or will use. I like having stores of needed items on hand, but there is so much that we don’t use and never will. I am going through the house and finding all I can to donate to thrift stores or trash, and then find a place to keep what we do use. One of the best tips I’ve read is to only put what you do want in an area, like only put what you do want on your desk, etc. Then, you have one area of serenity, and eventually hopefully do this throughout the whole house. I’ve still got lots to do and purge, but I’ve taken countless bags of STUFF to the thrift stores, and parts of the house are looking more spacious and uncluttered. It’s still a nasty mess, but I’m making progress!

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