Being deep in the throes of a PCS purge, I find myself ruminating on one — seemingly impossible — idea. So impossible, in fact, I guarantee that as my husband reads these very words, he’ll be left mouth agape, wondering what has happened to his always-on-the-edge-of-a-clutter-induced-anxiety-attack of a wife.

But it’s true.

As we prepare to depart yet another home, another space of memories, the thought keeps knocking: sometimes the mess just doesn’t matter. 

And no, I’m not talking about letting the world fall to pieces. My sanity really does rest upon some semblance of order. I am, and will continue, to be annoyed at the scattered shoes, homeless puzzle pieces, and dirty socks that have found their way into the coat closet instead of the hamper.

I’ll lose my cool at having to ask my kids to put away their clean laundry for the umpteenth time and then shapeshift into some ghastly monster upon later discovering pieces of it shoved into the dirty clothes. The toothpaste in the bathroom sink, the zillion Band-Aid wrappers littered across the floor (was anyone even bleeding?!), the literal trash my kids will happily walk over without ever noticing its existence—it will all continue to grate on my every last nerve. 

Always a surprise with your snake in this house!

But then there are other messes, those we stumble upon in the stillness of the night or the chaos of the day that make us—dare I say it?—smile. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes I find appreciation for the messes the littles leave behind.

And as the winds of change blow us in a new direction, I am trying to actively watch for these pockets of sunshine and recognize them for what they are: childhood—cluttered, messy, imperfect childhood. 

I find them in the missing Tupperware being used as a tank for plastic whales and fish; in the freshly diapered doll hogging the baby’s crib.

I see it in the sparkly puppy purse crunching underfoot when I wake up in the middle of the night and find a kid clutching it on the floor by my bed.

It’s in misspelled letters of love left on our pillows and a melting bucket of ice after recreating a scene from their favorite movie. 

I find these messes both inside and out—in the monster trucks strewn across the front walkway and the non-water toys soaking helplessly in the tub. 

The plastic cockroach is much worse… trust me.

It’s in the stickers and Valentine’s Day cards stuck to walls with utter randomness, and the plastic critters left behind with mischievous intent. 

It never matches, always clashes—like the family of Parasaurolophuses taped above our headboard. They certainly stood out among our cherry blossom bedspread, but they are my favorite dinosaur,
after all. He knows it. That was the very point. 

Can’t say we haven’t taught her to dream big

They stayed for weeks—like the American Girl coloring page on my nightstand, shaded and blended with newly acquired colored pencils, her artistic triumph evident in her barely dimpled smile.

It’s the hijacked grocery lists, grubby handprints and misplaced barrettes. It’s in the mess of books she somehow manages to collect and sleep among without a care in the world; and the “pets” he insists on treating like family. 

It’s all there — every maddening and adorable messy moment.

You see, the mind-numbing repetition of cleaning that encompasses motherhood, it needn’t always make us crazy. Sometimes, in the midst of the insanity, it’s important to stop and look around. And sometimes, when the timing is just right, we can appreciate it for the innocence it reveals. 

These are the moments when I choose to leave the mess, to give my anxiety a rest and smile. It doesn’t mean my standards go out the door or my mood is always bright—I guarantee, my husband knows his always-on-the-edge-of-a-clutter-induced-anxiety-attack of a wife is just a heartbeat away. 

But these days, I’m looking for beauty in the chaos and challenging myself to grow as a mom, even when it feels like the walls are closing in. Because, as much I crave space, it’s important I leave some for them.

It will be messy. It’s supposed to be. 

So as I continue this PCS purge, shuddering at the never-ending parade of plastic that looms around every corner, I’m keeping an eye out for the little things. Because while scraping stickers off the walls is no one’s idea of a good time, it reminds me that this house has been lived in, that it is a part of our family’s story, even if only for this fast-paced sliver of time. In a few months, another home will begin our next chapter. It, too, will bare the marks of childhood.

And that makes me smile; because it isn’t the mess that matters, it’s the memories. I intend to help my kids make them, even if the Lysol wipes are never far behind. 

This rubber snake feasts like a king