I came from a home where cleanliness was not only encouraged, but expected, and there were consequences and shaming if you didn’t keep the house clean or do your chores to the satisfaction of my parents. So when I was single my apartment was always “company ready,” but now that I have a family I’ve found that it’s much more difficult to keep our home as clean as my mom would consider acceptable. Our home is very “lived-in” and that’s the way my family likes it, but I sometimes suffer anxiety because of my childhood. When I feel like this I tend to get upset and lash out at my family, which happened a few days ago.
I was frustrated by the messy living room yet again, and was venting to my 8yo about all the stuff all over the floor. She responded with, “I’m sorry that you chose a family of slobs. I’m sorry that I’m so messy. When you complain about how messy I am, it makes me think that maybe I should leave. And if I leave you’ll have a clean house, but you’d also have a broken heart and you’d have to clean up that mess.”
I felt like a switch had been flipped. I imagined how I would feel if she left or was somehow taken out of my life so I would no longer have to clean up after her. Then I did the same for the rest of the people in my family. Somehow the mess no longer mattered at all. I told her that she was absolutely right, and I’d never trade her for a clean house, and I’m sorry that I made her feel bad. And I cried.
I’m working hard to let go of my struggle with messiness. I’ve come to understand that relationships are more important than a tidy, “company ready” home, and I really NEVER would trade any of my family for a clean house.