Our home is perched on a hill. We overlook meadows and a mountain range. The beauty mostly stops at our front door. Every step into our home leads you deeper into disarray. For the first three metres of our yurt you might think “Oh, this is a nice little lived-in sort of place with a few lovely things!” but by the time you reach our back room (we call this the Snug) you will wonder who lives here? A clan of cuddly toy collecting room smashing rock stars?
to which I can only say, weeeeelllll yeah. Sort of.
But the thing is, we aim to mostly entertain in the front half. So it’s all good!
This is the compromise we have got to, as people who are generally quite messy living in a world that fetishises minimalism.
I call this method the Home of Two Halves.
I beleive, like most new concepts, it has it’s roots in the old skool. It used to be called The Parlour. It was a front room kept shut apart from when visitors came over. We laugh at The Parlour these days. Ha! A china tea set that was used 6 times a year! Sofas that you weren’t allowed to sit on! But the thing is, we have got rid of The Parlour but we haven’t got rid of the judgment of mothers who fail to have a tidy home when unexpected visitors pop in.
I have had someone stand in the doorway of my home, shake their head at the messy room they were staring at and tell me that I am a poor housekeeper. Never mind that I had a baby and a toddler and was writing a book at the time.
I think The Parlour was a thing that women came up with as a way of juggling people’s unrealistic expectations along with childcare, self-care and home-care. People are not meant to be able to keep an entire home spick and span – it is unhealthy!
Like, I mean it. A bit of dirt is good for us. Even messy beds keep us healthier.
But mentally too. Stay At Home Parents (most of whom are women at this point in time) labour under this burden of respectability when actually our primary job, a job that can impact the world for better or worse, is caring and nurturing our children. The truth is, if I am rushing around trying to get my home looking clean, I struggle to dig deep for the empathy and extra help my kids might need. I wish I was a better juggler than that but I am not. I’m freaking out about someone judging my messiness and I say “Wait a sec, I have to get under this minging cabinet” instead of meeting their need.
So much research points towards this idea that meeting our kids needs empathetically will nurture a generation of empathetic, kind people. The world should be making a big deal about parents that choose to be attentive to their kids over being attentive to tidiness. I mean sometimes, just occasionally, they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my kids will bounce on the trampoline for 1.5 hours straight and I will have a fun time straightening things up. But sometimes I do choose to just be with my kids whilst our home is in squalor, and that is a good thing for the world’s future! Do I want an award? Yeah, okay. I’ll take an award.
Creatively too. Holy smokes if there is one thing many mothers need it is permission to be themselves and give voice to the creativity inside of them. I can’t speak for all mothers. Some mothers have a more basic need than that and my heart goes out to them. But there is a crowd of mothers with this wild urge for making who are quietly wilting because they are waiting for permission to let go of some other stuff that feels important.
What does the world need from you? Not a tidy home, that’s for sure. Do we need dreamers to dream? Yep. Do we need singers to sing and artists to paint and writers to capture that illusive string of words that will illuminate something really deeply meaningful for us? Hell yes.
“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés,
There’s probably loads of answers to this problem. Making sure everyone checks in with reality is part of it. Which is why I have done a big reveal of the shockingly messy half of our house in this video. Sink full of dishes? Normal. Teddies everywhere? Normal. More clothes out of the drawer than in? For some families this is reality. Instagram feeds with their clean white surfaces are not everyone’s reality. Ugh.
The benefit of having our yurt on the hill is that I get a good warning of an advancing party. I spy them pulling in and have chance to get the front half looking its best.
And sometimes, like yesterday, I’m busy and don’t get the advance warning and the new neighbours have arrived and our entire place looks like a volcano filled with grubby white teddy bears and dishes has exploded in the middle of everything. I sang a hallelujah for the sunshine under my breath and I shut the doors on the yurt and we had tea outside.
Let’s do it, my friends. Dismantle those ridiculous expectations, do what you can, ignore what you can’t, prioritise your children and follow up your creative urges. Life is to be lived, not to be sanitised.