Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Friendly House

A friend stopped by today to pick her up child at my house. Today, like most days, my house was neither clean nor tidy. There was a puzzle in progress on the table. Lunch dishes hadn't been cleared yet. Two games were in various states of play on the floor. A stack of boxes, delivered by UPS a few days ago, stood next to the front door waiting to be opened and put away. The floor needed to be swept and there were a few piles of clothes at the bottom of the stairs. Most days, this doesn't bother me at all. This has not always been true. In the past I have spent much more mental and emotional energy wishing my house could be cleaner, wondering what others thought about me and my less than picture perfect home, and nagging on my kids to clean up. But I've come to realize that there is a lot more to a happy home than a perfectly clean house.

House cleaning has never been my favorite activity, especially if there's something else I'd rather do (like pretty much anything other than cleaning). Sure, I like it when the house is picked up and stuff is put away. I do savor those brief moments after I've tidied up and scrubbed the bathrooms and there's no laundry piled on the couch. There are times when I can really get into house cleaning. I turn up the music really loud and walk around using the toilet brush as a microphone. Admittedly, it can be fun. But really, I have many more things to do that are far important than keeping my house spotless. Did I mention that I share my home with three very busy and very messy children? I love my children dearly, but neat and tidy, they are not.

As unschoolers, we have lots of unscheduled time at home. This means more time for us to get out toys and games with many, many small pieces and parts, which don't always get put away right away. This means more meals that are cooked and eaten at home which do not always get cleaned up immediately following mealtime. When my kids were young, and I was still teaching, my house was much cleaner, because we were rarely in it. I remember longing for stretches of unscheduled time when we could just be home. What good is a clean house if you can't use it?

As I chatted with my friend, we picked up the pieces to a game and put them back in the box. The kids raced past us on their way to the hammock for one last ride before it was time to say good-bye. My friend looked around and smiled, "Becky, you have a very friendly house." I like that, because it is. Kids don't have to be afraid of breaking something at my house. Most spills and messes are easily cleaned up because there isn't anything particularly fancy to wreck or ruin. The next time I'm feeling self conscious about my housekeeping habits, all I need to do is look around me and remember why I make the choices that I do. I choose to fill our home with the fun stuff, and all the fun stuff can get messy: art supplies, puzzles, stacks of books, baskets of tiny figurines, legos, tinker toys, building blocks, car tracks, more stacks of books, board games, card games, magazines. Some might call it chaotic, disorganized, or messy. I prefer to think of it as a friendly, happy, kid centered home.


Lucinda said...


I loved this entry. It reminded me of my grandparents in England, for whom a clean house was a very low priority. That place was a magic kingdom for kids! Meanwhile, my mom's parents had a housekeeper and most things were off-limits to kids. It was not nearly as fun to be in that sterile environment. Also, interesting to note that my dad and his brothers, raised in that very chaotic kid-friendly house, are some of the most relaxed, creative people I know. I think there's a link there.
Thanks for inspiring me to loosen the reigns a little on tidying our house.

Becky said...

Thanks for the validation, Cinda. I was just contemplating tidying up the house while the kids are at their Dad's....nah. I think I'll read a book instead.

Marsha said...

I enjoyed your blog but especially this post. My house has been very much like yours for years - - now the kids are growing up and two have left home, but my 20 y.o. and 17 y.o. still have things they are in the middle of, and so do my dh and myself. I hope my house reflects "Friendly" to most folks - though I know that to some it will always just be "messy". So be it! :-)