But I’m okay with that.
Now you notice I didn’t say I like it because I don’t like it one bit, but it’s the reality I’ve been handed and I’m learning to deal with it. Coming to accept it has been a long and arduous journey, but I refuse to live my life tormented in mind over the fact my house isn’t perfect.
I read an article the other day called, “Confessions of a former perfectionist,” by Heather Lende, who admitted to once consuming herself with a spotless home and perfect dinners while involving herself in more civic activities than might seem humanly possible, especially for a mother of four small children who also worked as an obituary writer for her local newspaper. She managed an incredibly busy schedule, children, and a home and did so perfectly!
Or so it seemed. Lende explained that she did all those things to the detriment of her friends and family. It was only when she was hit by a truck, (literally, she says,) and was put on her back for weeks with a broken pelvis that things really began to come into perspective for her.
I understand, at least to a degree. I was never a complete perfectionist, but I certainly wished to be. Nor was I ever hit by a truck. Thankfully!
My own epiphany moment came in the form of a fourth child. I had things pretty well under control until his arrival, but then came Peanut, all 6 pounds of him, and that sweet, tiny, harmless-looking baby boy turned my world upside down! He practically refused to sleep and wanted to nurse on a constant basis and to make it all worse, two of my other three, who had been angelic babies themselves, turned into rotten toddlers always vying for what little attention their stressed, sleep-deprived mother had left to give them. There were other changes around the same time that worsened the effect, like a job change for my husband that meant dreadfully long hours for him at work and therefore dreadfully long hours for me alone with four children.
And my pretty little house was just destroyed in the chaos of it all. There were a lot of days I did well to wash a single load of clothes. That would be my only real accomplishment at the end of the day, aside from feeding children, filling sippy cups, and wiping bottoms. The carpet went unvacuumed. The sinks went unwiped. The clutter went untouched or simply worsened.
I cried a lot, but you know what? Nobody died. Nobody was crushed under the clutter. Nobody contracted a serious disease from a dirty toilet. We all came through it just fine.
Almost three years later, things are definitely better. Most days now I can accomplish more than a single load of laundry, but the fact remains that I have four children who demand a lot of attention and only 1100 square feet to contain all the necessary and not-so-necessary stuff for a family of six. There’s only so much I can do to keep it all in order.
In Lende’s article she says she once wrote an obituary for a woman for whom the nicest thing family and friends could think to say was, “She kept her stove clean.” Nightmarish, is it not? Surely to goodness at the end of my life people will have more to say than, “She had the cleanest floors I’ve ever seen.” Or, “You’d never see fingerprints on her doorframes!”
Heaven save me from a legacy as pitiful as that!
I would love to have a clean house. I would delight in having everything in order. I don’t like seeing a soapscumed bathtub and I don’t like tripping over dirty laundry and I despise clutter piled on a countertop. But at the same time, my house is not a museum, it’s the place where the Holt family lives and there is so, so much more to this life than a spotless house.
And I don’t say any of this to justify filthy homes that are the result of sheer laziness. A constant pigsty does nothing to glorify the Lord. But it’s also important to keep in mind that the old adage, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” is not in the Bible no matter how many people seem to think it is and sometimes we can so obsess ourselves with those needful, but very temporal things, that we’ll neglect what matters most. Like our spouses. Our children. Our friends. Even our God.
No, I would rather attend church with my husband and children than have a clean stove and sparkling kitchen floor. I would rather sleep and therefore be a more pleasant person than stay up all hours of the night folding endless piles of laundry. I would rather learn to deal with a little untidiness than spend my days barking at my children lest they cause my “museum” to get out of order. I would rather my husband not live in fear of my wrath if he forgets to remove his muddy boots when he enters. I would rather have hobbies beyond removing every speck of dust from the ceiling fans and goals for God that surpass maintaining smudge-free mirrors.
And someday maybe having a clean home will be a little easier. The kids will be older. Their toys won’t have so many pieces. Maybe they’ll be a little less clumsy and a little more mindful of muddy shoes. (Maybe.)
But either way, I’m learning that it’s okay if my house isn’t perfect. And though I must confess I still break into a cold sweat at the prospect of an impromptu guest, I’m trying to relax about it.
After all, my house may be messy, but I feel my priorities are finally in perfect order.