I’ve always walked into the house of a person that does not have kids and admired the ability to keep a clean home.
Let me be honest: keeping a clean and tidy home has always been something that I’ve struggled with. But one afternoon, we had a friend watch the boys when we were in a pinch, and she said something that really flipped a switch in me I didn’t know I needed.
It was her first time in our home, and I invited her in and habitually apologized for the state of the house and began trying to clean up the mess as I stepped aside. As she came inside, she took a slow look around the house and said very nonchalantly, “Don’t apologize! I love your house. It’s so lived-in.”
I was immediately defensive. I thought, what does lived-in mean? Does she mean messy? I had honestly never had anyone define our house as such. And long after she left, I began to think about what a clean vs lived-in home meant.
As a mom, my title has grown lengthy throughout the years: first it was student, then changed to graduate, then leveled up to marketing director. Then I dropped that and changed to military wife, transitioned to mom, and added subcategories such as personal chef, maid, chauffeur, and homemaker.
But to be honest, out of all the titles, the one I often feel like I’m lacking in is the homemaker department.
Between having children, a dog, work obligations, and my own busyness, sometimes I feel like I can never just sit down. My homemaker tendencies have become more of a second thought than a forethought.
We have twin three-and-a-half year old boys. So at any given time of the day, there are slews of Matchbox cars, Transformers, sticks and rocks to tiptoe around. Sippy cups and half eaten snacks are strewn on the counter, and there are always crumbs hiding in the corners of the couch or the room. Our house almost constantly seems to be the definition of lived-in.
Before I would worry about having announced guests, and I would start cleaning the house a week in advance.
I needed 24-48 hours notice. I would sweep and mop the floors, wipe down the counters, make the beds, fold the mounds of laundry, pick up the toys, and light a candle to mask the smell of little humans. Unannounced guests would send my stress-level sky rocketing, and I would be a flurry of awkward movements as I tried to hide all the things while carrying on a casual conversation. I would worry about having a clean house, so I would be perceived as having it together.
But what my friend said really resonated with me. My house isn’t always clean, but it’s lived-in. And there’s beauty in that.
Instead of worrying about making things perfect or scolding the boys for making a mess, I realized that by letting the house be lived-in, I made the environment much less tense.
Today, you can see the monster trucks laying around and almost hear the vroom vrooms from their lips as they played in the living room. The smell of breakfast lingers a little longer, and pjs lay on the couch. But as I look around at these little things, I feel much more at ease now than I did when the house was always tidy.
I’m trying to remember that this is a season, and one day that season will be over.
Eventually the boys grow up and learn to clean up after themselves. They’ll start doing chores, and the days of mess will look different. One day I’m going to miss all the lone socks laying everywhere and random toys on the floor, especially when they’re teenagers and going off to their rooms instead of hanging out with us in the living room.
So instead of thinking my home is messy, I’m going with a lived-in look.
And for this season, I’m trying to enjoy this look and everything that comes with it. We’re going relish in the moments that led to what it looks like now. Because I know the parenting days are long, but the years are so, so short.