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"Why I won't apologise for having a messy house."

My linen cupboard resembles a cliff face about to avalanche, my fridge is barely visible under a sea of souvenir magnets I have picked up on my travels, my pantry... well there are occasions where you can’t actually walk inside it, and any surface that items can be placed on top of, like benches or tables, are utilised. Heavily.

I imagine that if Marie Kondo walked into my house she might let out a little horrified squeal.

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And to some extent I blame Marie. I also blame the ladies from The Home Edit with their colour coded bookshelves, the ‘professional organiser’ brigade on Instagram, and Pinterest home porn. I mean come on?! Who can actually live in these homes, like properly live - with coloured foods and drinks, with pets who pee and poo, and with kids that do the same? I know I couldn’t.

While I know Marie and her tidying friends are meant to be there to help those with mess and clutter spark joy, and I know that for some people it does and I respect that, for me at least, this tidy house obsession just does the opposite. It makes me stressed, it makes me frustrated, it makes me tired, it makes me UGH.

I began feeling the pressure to have a tidy house the first time around when I was on maternity leave with my eldest child.

I vividly recall one day while catching up with my Mother’s Group friends that the topic of cleaning and tidying came up and evolved into an extensive conversation around the challenges of keeping their homes tidy. It was clearly something which struck a nerve with them and that they viewed as important.

Some would just comment on how hard it is to keep their home clean with kids, some said that they are cleaning for hours each day - vacuuming or mopping once, sometimes even multiple times, a day. 

One even said that if the laundry isn’t folded and put away they get anxious because they're stuck looking at it all the time.

Initially when my friend said this, I was shocked that someone could be impacted so much by a pile of laundry. 

I also wondered was what the f**k is wrong with me, because tidying and cleaning that extensively would be what pushed me over the edge, not the mess itself. I wondered why I didn't seem to care about mess like the others.

But then over the years, I heard more and more women (no, never men) making similar statements, or apologising for the state of their house when I came to visit if there was even one toy on the floor. 

I’m not sure if this is really about how it makes them feel, but an unspoken expectation of what a ‘nice home’ should look like.


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In some instances it is definitely about how it makes people feel, and for these individuals - the Marie Kondo types - I say clean and tidy to your heart's content if that is what brings you joy.

But for those who are thinking that their home needs to be tidy like an after scene in The Home Edit, well I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t.

Now, I haven’t conducted extensive academic research into the topic but what I do know is how having a messy house makes me feel. 

The truth is, I like my clutter. I really, really like it - and much of it actually brings me joy.

Take my ‘fridge clutter’ for example. For me, it's like a trip down memory lane. While I stand there in front of my fridge contemplating my next snack, I look at my magnets – the Statue of Liberty holding her torch, the mysteriousness of Stonehenge - and I joyfully recall the time when I could leave the country and travel. 

My linen cupboard clutter - the strange, even ugly, disorganised-organised system of bath towels stuffed in on one side, beach towels on the other, mats and washers somewhere in the middle - brings me joy because for me, it is an effective system that works (I know where stuff is and can access it) and does not require hours of folding to ensure the piles are straight (because who even looks in the linen cupboard anyway?)

Finally, my cluttered shelving filled with photos, artworks and ornaments. These are my favourite part of my untidy home and the reason I won’t apologise for a messy house - because they show my family’s personality, and that brings me the most joy of all.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher living in her messy house with her husband, mother, two daughters, two cats and three goats (they live outside). You can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Instagram @shonamarion

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