Hot Mess Mama: How a Messy House Can Be A Good Thing

This is the tale of two houses. The house I live in when no one is around and the house I live when someone is about to step foot inside.

playroom with toys strewn aboutThe house I live in when someone comes over is neat and organized. The kitchen counters are wiped down and the floor is swept clean. Toys are all put away and books are neatly placed on the shelf. Papers are piled up in nice, neat stacks, and pillows are fluffed and inviting. Sure there is a random Lite-Bright sitting in the family room, but things are all put away as they “should” be.

The house I live in when no one is around is both comfortable and chaotic. Glue sticks, Play-Doh, and art projects are scattered around one half of the kitchen. In the other half, you can find a half-eaten bagel, Bamba crumbs, and an apple with one bite taken out of it. Oh, and definitely some unwashed dishes in the sink. Head over to the family room (but watch your step so you don’t step on the rouge Paw Patrol action figurine) and you will find a fort made out of pillows and an unfinished game of Candy Land. I won’t even get started on the playroom.

Levels of Cleanliness

sink full of dishes and cluttered countertopMost of us have a tendency to clean up our messy house before someone comes over. However, not all guests are created equal. Different guests require different standards of clean. Just to name a few there are the:

“Friend coming over for a playdate” clean.

“My mom is stopping by” clean.

“My cleaning lady is coming so I need to tidy up” clean (yes, it’s ironic to clean before someone comes to clean but let’s be honest, we all do it).

and the “New people are coming over” clean.

Behind Closed Doors

closet cluttered with random assortment of household suppliesBut why? Why do I spend all the time and energy tidying up and organizing our messy house? And why do I have different degrees to which I clean based on who is coming over?

You can liken my house cleaning methods to the way I get dressed before heading out of the house. Depending on who I am seeing and what I am doing I dress differently. While I always try to dress as somewhat put together, the clothes I wear to the park to play with my kids differ from the clothes I wear when going to work. However, all of these looks are trying to say “I have it together”.

It’s the same thing with my messy house. There is a desire for my house to look presentable to others. By having a clean house, I feel like I am communicating to others (and let’s be honest – to myself) that I am a responsible, productive, and capable adult and mother. I am showing people what I want them to see.

Let the Chaos Out

child's messy bedroomWhat I want people to see ends up being an incomplete (and at times false) narrative. By showing this front, I am not letting people see my full self. I most certainly do not have it all together and it is okay for others to see a glimpse into that part of me. Sure, not everyone needs to know that I can be a “hot mess” at times (however I do realize that by writing this now everyone will know). Sometimes we do need to present ourselves in certain ways. But it’s okay to let others in and not present a false mirror of perfection. It’s more than okay. It’s healthy, necessary, and freeing.

By hiding our messy selves, a layer of shame starts to become associated with that part of ourselves. We start to see it as “bad” and “not good enough”. But everyone has this part of themselves. By accepting our messes as a part of us, we become more approachable and relatable.

Kids and a Messy House

baby and toddler play in messy room And who are we trying to fool anyway? We all know that where there is a child, there is likely a mess. Kids and messes go together like peanut butter and jelly (which also leads to extreme, sticky messes but let’s not digress). In fact, messes are essential in helping a child to learn, explore, and develop. Plus they are fun! When I think of some of the biggest messes my children have made (and trust me there have been a lot), those messes are also the times they were having the most fun and learning something new. So just think…by having messes you are actually doing your children a favor.

The next time you see a messy area of your home or think of cleaning up before someone is coming over grant yourself some self-compassion.  A messy house does not mean you are a mess. Messes are part of being human, are expected, and are a whole lot of fun!


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Elyssa Gottheim
Elyssa was born and raised in Houston. Deciding to try out life in the cold weather, Elyssa attended University of Michigan for undergrad and University of Chicago for grad school. After obtaining her LCSW {licensed clinical social worker}, Elyssa decided that she was not cut out for the cold and moved back to Houston in 2012. Shortly after her move, Elyssa met her husband, Paul. Elyssa and Paul have been married for 6 years and have two children – Henry {October 2018} and Josephine {March 2021}. After working in schools, hospitals, and community clinics, Elyssa currently has a private practice where she specializes in working with children, adolescents, young adults, and parents. When she isn’t working or chasing after her kids, Elyssa’s favorite activities can be described as the ultimate mom cliché – baking, working out, and napping. Elyssa is a huge fan of trying new restaurants and dining spots especially if it involves any form of dessert!


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