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

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

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  1. I’m so glad to have read this post this morning. I really needed it! Yes, this is definitely been me for the past 2 months. I keep walking by our jack-o-lantern which is rotting outside our front walkway, I’ve neglected the jar of water kefir grains which have been sitting too long, I have piles of dirty & clean laundry everywhere, and we had pancakes for dinner last night. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who is a big mess! 🙂

  2. I was so happy to read this post this morning! THIS IS ME! I go through stages where I feel like I’m in control of everything and everything runs smoothly. Then I slowly fall out of it, and suddenly I’m overwhelmed by all that is not getting done. About the bath thing, I thought I was the only one who didn’t bathe her kids every single night! All my friends seem to make it a nightly routine to get their kids into the bath, but somehow it just doesn’t happen around here, and I really put myself down about it. I’m so glad to hear there are others out there like me!

    Thank you for the encouragement, Stephanie!

  3. I am a total mess……and I don’t do it all……and Annie gets a bath once a week…..and what does it mean to clean baseboards? 🙂
    Great post Stephanie. One all Mommies (including myself) need to remember on a daily basis.

  4. I felt like I was reading a description of my car when you talked about your mini-van. My son only gets a bath when he really needs it, sometimes closer to 10 days then a week. I’m also in the midst of starting a papermaking busines, which I haven’t touched for almost two months. I think it’s great to be able to share our imperfections and recognize we are all human. I put a lot of effort into making sure God remains our families focus, and when we drift away we turn around and run back to our Father, His grace is enough, and will carry my family through our disorganized crazy life!

  5. So grateful for this post! As a wanna-be homemaker with a full time job, I had been struggling enough with getting the dishes washed and the hair swept up off the bathroom floor. I just found out I’m expecting our first and the tasks I was getting done aren’t happening now.

    Dishes pile up in the sink so I can sleep. The bathroom is dirty so I can sleep. The carpet is vacuumed because my husband took the time to do it (so I could sleep), and I haven’t cooked a meal in two weeks – you guessed it, so I can sleep… well, and because food and I aren’t getting along so well right now. At least every other day I have a breakdown over the fact that my poor husband is living in filth, cooking all the meals, doing all the grocery shopping and STILL giving me a foot rub at the end of the day. The poor man works more hours than I do.

    He’s been so gracious. But I am reminded constantly how messy I am – how thoroughly incapable I am of completing what seems to be even the simplest of tasks. I’ve been assured this period will end and I’ll eventually feel like cooking and mopping again – but in the moment its nice to be reminded I’m not alone.

  6. Thank you for this fantastic, uplifting and encouraging post. Just what I needed.


  7. Thank you for this! A lot of that sounds like me and my home! Actually until the allergist recommended we do daily baths for my daughter’s eczema, I think the kids were getting a bath every other week. LOL

    I have to admit, I am actually proud that I’ve gotten to vacuuming weekly! And I have a new weekly date with laundry as well. 🙂

  8. AMEN, Stephanie! And THIS is why KOTH is one of my favorite blogs! You are REAL! We other humbled homemakers (and yes, it’s because I’m *just* the mess you described above that I named myself that) *need* to hear this! If it makes you feel any better, I don’t do baseboards, or windows or walls either. I feel like this post described me to a T! And even my guest bathroom gets into “fits of unsanitariness” sometimes! THANK YOU for this post!!

    This post reminded me of one LeighAnn @ Intentional by Grace had recently: http://intentionalbygrace.com/2011/11/11/what-i-do-when-i-find-bananas-flour-and-boogers-on-my-pant-legs/ as well as one written by another friend, Melanie, at Joyous Refrain: http://joyousrefrain.tumblr.com/post/12607279629/gospel-centered-mothering

    It is incredibly refreshing to hear from other moms who don’t have it all together either–but fall into God’s GRACE!

  9. I’m like this too, of course. Especially during certain seasons. Right now I feel like I am in a “recovery” season from the first trimester, trying to pull together a bit more order (no it won’t be perfect) before the 3rd trimester hits me.

    My garden was totally left to its own devices this year. I never did add the leaves to it this fall. I never did take all those weeds out (well, I did take out the big ones that were getting very tall!) and they are still there. They will die off/decompose/be pulled out in spring. And I plan on not planting all my garden next spring, when I will have a 2 month old. I will see what the baby is like, but I am giving myself grace to just do a small garden next year. More of just what we need, not extra for storage. This year my carrots and potatoes got dug just last weekend. And it was really late for here. In fact, had it been a more normal fall, they would have been lost. Its been a warmer fall. However I froze my hands and had to go inside several times to thaw them out- there were ice chunks in my soil that is trying hard to freeze. A few days later it was too late so its a good thing that I did it then. And its all okay, which amazes me. Thankful for that- despite my last minute digging its all okay!

    Thank you for sharing this post.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. It’s so nice to know that I am not alone, yet at the same time to be encouraged that I don’t have to give up and never try again. I have two girls, and just found out baby #3 is on the way, so things have been slower for us than usual. My husband has been very understanding, and gracious of the fact that less is getting done than he would like. I try so hard to at least accomplish something he can see every day, becauses I know how much it means to him; it’s an expression of love. I really needed this today; thank you again!

  11. I’m reading Grace for the Good Girl right now. SO GOOD! I’m underlining it all over the place and I never do that with books. And I love your transparency – we are all broken and messed up, but lovely in God’s eyes. THanks for the reminder!

  12. Ohhh, Stephanie, you and I are kindred spirits, girl! I needed this reminder this morning. I have such a hard time geing graceful with myself when I need to, but also finding the balance and challenging myself to work harder when I need to. I also deal with a lot of mom friends who think that I must be a perfectionist when they hear about all of the natural living/gardening/cooking from scratch/crafting kind of stuff I do. The last thing I want to add to my plate is dealing with comparison and competition with other moms. Sometimes I host a big playdate and intentionally leave the crumbs under and round the dining room table, dishes heaped in the sink and toys and clutter scattered about – just to keep me humble! Now that I am pregnant with my third baby and this had been a rough pregnancy, Ive realized that I need some extra help to maintain everything I want for our home life. two life saving changes for us have been putting the kids in a Monday morning drop-off preschool program at a local church (they love it and I get a lot done during those three hours!!) and I also asked my husband if I could hire a cleaning woman (a sweet lady from church who also needs the work!) to come and do a monthly deep clean of the house. She just came and vaccuumed under the bed, whiped down baseboards and windowsills and everything you just mentioned – things I never do either!! It is a luxury for me to have help like that, and probably not a long-term solution, but so worth the budget cuts I had to make in other area to make it work. Iam thankful that even in the midst of toddler messes and dirty dishes and frustrated mom moments, God’s grace covers all. Thanks for the reminder to keep it real this morning!!

  13. HA! I was just lamenting this morning how hopelessly disorganized I am. I mean, I know where things are but when I take off my own rose colored glasses I can see that I have clutter EVERYWHERE. I always mean to get it together but somehow I just end up back at the starting line. This weekend I can acknowledge that I just opted to read instead of pulling old dusty things off the top of my cabinets, watched a movie ( or 3) with my boys while (kind of) folding the laundry. I CAN say that I managed to get all of the laundry folded (and put away!) and I made 3 loaves of bread (though more because each didn’t quite turn out right than out of a desire to have tons of bread), my errands were run and my floors were mostly clear of toys. Hey, I still have about 6 months before we put the house up for sale. I can make it! 😉

  14. Great post! I have all of the resources you mentioned and love them all – however my issue is wanting to do them all at once! Not realistic. I need to take a deep breath, pick on and work through that, then move on to something else if it seems needed.

  15. I loved your post, and especially love that I am not alone since so many other people are feeling this way too. I am starting to make lists, but haven’t gotten to the “doing” part yet. I really have to break it down into small parts or I quickly get overwhelmed, and then by the time I get through everything, the first thing you did is back to the way it was before you started it seems (ex. junk drawer, linen closet, etc.). I have several daughters who HATE to clean, and I know they must be going through it too because yesterday one of them enlisted her older sister, who does love to clean, to help organize her bedroom. I can cross that off my list at least, because their room was on it :).

  16. Awesome post Stephanie! I always question myself but this week especially I have felt like I can’t live up to what is expected as a homemaker in the blog world or even my own description. I have felt inadequate, but know the Lord had made me adequate! 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

    I with you on it’s time to make changes! I just need to do it! To get organized and have a better schedule! “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison and great quote I need to remember is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” don’t know the author but the statement is so true! Thanks for inspiring me to make some changes but at the same time a reminder of Grace!

  17. Dear Sister, What an encouragement you have been to me this morning. So many wise words. Thank you!

  18. I am so there! Although I don’t have littles (my boy is mostly grown), still, in this season of my life, I have no time to “properly” (whatever that is) take care of my home. I’m back in school full-time and this means I either clean, or I study. I’m in my last year so I try to make my studies count as much as possible. Having said that, I still try to find time to cook and prepare real food for my family, but this means everything else goes by the wayside (of course, my husband does what he can, but he works full time). Like…..my washroom doesn’t get cleaned as often as it should (OK, I think it’s been a few weeks now), dusting happens very infrequently, and I haven’t gotten my garlic planted yet either! My house never, ever looks good enough to have people stop by unannounced, sadly. I try to be OK with it all but somewhere in the back of my head swim visions of Martha Stewart, Betty Crocker, and all the ideal images of homemaking that bombard women at every turn. Because I’m a perfectionist, I really think my home ought to be perfect, but, when I’m being a realist, I know it can’t be. Not if I care about other things, more important things in my life. I spent too many years caring too much about how clean my home was instead of how much time I could be spending with my boy. I did make a point to play with him every day when he was little, but I think now that I could have spent so much more time with him, teaching him, learning with him, enjoying him. He’s all grown up now and I’ve never had the chance to do it all over again. I guess what I’m saying is…..make each moment with your kids count. They are only little once……and then they grow up all of a sudden. Squeezing those chubby cheeks is ever so much more important than dusting or vacuuming!

    Thanks for the encouragement, and for the reminder that we can’t do it all alone, nor should we try. 🙂

  19. Thanks for this post- I just had my 2nd baby on the 5th and wow, is life different! It is hard to balance being a perfectionist and a mom to a 2 year old and newborn. God definitely gives grace!!

  20. Thank you for this. Blog reading can be a blessing and a curse to me. So much inspiration but so many times there is guilt because I’m not seeming to be achieving all these things. I’ve realised, especially as we were dealing with my son’s special needs assessments this last year, that our view of other people’s lives is generally based on their public face, most people will only show you their most together self, not the mess that lies beneath. It’s like the gracefulness of swans, you don’t see the legs madly kicking under the surface to keep them moving.

  21. 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.

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

  23. 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 🙂

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.


  27. 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. 🙂

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

  29. 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!

  30. 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! 🙂

  31. 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!

  32. 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!

  33. 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

  34. 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

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