Don’t Mind the Mess: Why One Mama Chooses Sanity Over Scrubbing

When my husband and I were dating, his mother had this wastebasket in her bathroom that was always empty. Always. It seemed to serve virtually no purpose whatsoever, having a wastebasket in your bathroom but not using it. Sometimes I’d throw tissues in it, just to see something in there. Within the half hour, the tissues would magically disappear and it would be empty again. Her house was always immaculate as she uses Skip Bins Manly.

I am now married with a family of my own, full blown adulting to the fullest, and my wastebaskets are overflowing. All of them. They are never empty. There’s one in my room, one in my kids’ rooms, in the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the basement. And they are all packed to the gills with who-knows-what.

When I empty them, they fill back up as quickly as my mother-in-law’s wastebasket seemingly emptied itself.
My issue is not merely with the wastebaskets. If I were just a person with surplus garbage in baskets around my house, it would be a manageable problem.

But I’m also a person with dirty laundry in almost every room, just lying about. There’s also clean laundry, the unfolded kind in baskets fron which we all get dressed in the morning. I’ve been “still doing the laundry” for about six consecutive years now.
I’m also a person with a sinkful of dirty dishes at all times, one who will leave them there overnight, even sometimes more than one night. Some days there just isn’t enough time — or energy — for emptying and filling the dishwasher and then washing pots and pans forever.

I’m a person with smudges on windows and doors and mirrors. Not because the smudges are unavoidable, but because I have even less time for fussing around with Windex than I do for emptying eternally full garbage bins.

I’m a person who doesn’t fuss around with a mop and broom every single day of my life.

I’m a person with random papers and notices and letters and bills strewn about in most rooms.

I’m a person with a growing mountain of clothes in the bedroom corner, reject outfits that I simply didn’t bother hanging back up.

I’m a person who doesn’t bother making beds in the morning that will be messied again at the end of the day.

I’m a person with toothpaste on the mirror and gunk at the bottom of the sink and the toilet.

I’m a person with dust bunnies under the bed big enough to hop away and celebrate Easter.

I’m a person with messy counters, random toys and kids’ stuff strewn everywhere. There’s even an area at the bottom of my steps I call “False Hope Landing,” where I often pointlessly place my children’s belongings — with the laughable assumption that someone might actually carry them up their room eventually.

I’m a person with mismatched furniture, unpainted walls, a half-finished kitchen, hardly any décor worth mentioning. The epitome of a lazy homeowner.

Frankly, I’m just a person. One person. A person caring for a whole family, performing the impossible balancing act of work and kids and marriage and life. A person who has no time or patience for tidying up. A person who prefers to spend my rare free time relaxing over scrubbing.

This is harder to admit than you think. I’ve revealed much, much more personal details of my life to the general public, but this is one of the hardest. I fear the judgement of the OCD-addled mom or grandma, shaking her Costco jugs of Lysol and bleach like pitchforks in my direction. I’m terrified that my lackadaisical attitude toward housekeeping will horrify people who are disgusted by a mess of this magnitude.

But I think maybe there are less of those people around than it seems. And I mean no offense toward them—truly, how I envy them!—but I just will never, ever be one of them.

I was talking with a mom from the kids’ school recently who kindly admitted to sending her daughter to school in dirty, mismatched socks. My kind of mama! I laughed and told her the sweats my son had on simply passed a sniff test from the dirty laundry pile earlier that morning. We both then admitted that binging Netflix is a lot more fun than doing laundry, and bonded over all the series we’d devoured while disaster piled up around us.

I want to be organized, neat, tidy. I’m sure it feels wonderful living in a beautiful and orderly home. I want to breeze through my front door every day to the lovely aroma of lemon-scented cleaner. I want to be the kind of person who washes a dish everytime I dirty one, thereby avoiding the inevitable pileup in the sink.

I want to crawl into a bed of fresh, fluffy linens every night, and wake to the calming view of an uncluttered bedroom in the morning. I want to start and finish laundry in the same day — or at least, in the same week!

I want to stop living in fear of the unnanounced visitor. I want to stop taking my kids’ photos in the same corner of my home– the one where I can easily shove the chaos out of the picture frame with my foot.

I want to enjoy the luxury of order and organization as much as the next person.

But I also want my sanity. And unfortunately, they don’t sell jugs of it at Costco.

By Jeannine Cintron, a Staten Island mom of two who momentarily considered publishing this anonymously but changed her mind. So go easy on her… and read her blog at highchairsandheadaches.com.