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Stop apologizing for your messy house

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I don't care about laundry baskets and stray shoes, I care about good conversation (and good coffee).

I have this bad habit of apologizing when someone comes over and my house looks lived-in. Which, with five kids and a dog, is always. One day my friend Monica asked if I scrutinized my house this much when everyone came over, or just when she did.

I thought about that question when I read a post at Scary Mommy last week, where the author describes her own whirlwind-cleaning routine that she performs before strangers or acquaintances come to her house. It sounds just like mine — shoving papers into drawers and yelling at kids to get it done. And like my routine, it can be done quickly because I do have a baseline standard of cleanliness and order that we maintain. Saturday chores get real around here.

But unlike me, she doesn’t stress about friends dropping in unannounced. She even lets them see the mess when she knows they’re coming, and she believes they should consider it a compliment:

“Take it as a compliment. I’m serious.

“Because if I didn’t know you well and like you a lot and trust you implicitly, I wouldn’t let you see all of that. I’d put on the neat-and-tidy show for you — out of respect and courtesy, of course — and wouldn’t invite you into our intimate mess.”

Reading that made me stop and wonder what message I was communicating with my constant apologies. I know what I was trying to communicate — that as a SAHM, it’s my job to maintain order in our home and when it looks disordered, I feel like a failure and am afraid others will judge me as harshly as I do myself.

But I have lots of friends who are stay-at-home moms, and their houses are all as different as they are. Sure, some of them are show-ready at every moment, but others are more like mine. Not a pit — there aren’t roaches skittering across the floor or anything — it’s just a house full of people (and laundry, and shoes). And I never judge them.

In fact, I don’t even notice. I feel comfortable in my friends’ homes when they are comfortable. I don’t care about laundry baskets and stray shoes, I care about good conversation (and good coffee). I care about my friends, and it deepens our friendship to be invited into their family life. It helps me understand them better.

I like it when my house is spotless, but order is not my charism. I think better when things are a little cluttered and slightly skewed, because that’s how life feels to me. It’s comfortable and honest. I should trust my friends enough to let them see that, without apologizing for it, because inviting them into my real life is the only way to build a true friendship. It can’t be built on artifice and exteriors.

Life gets messy sometimes, and that’s when we need friends the most. But we have to trust them enough to open the door.

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