yurt life

A Home of Two Halves – on tidyiness, motherhood and creativity

13 September, 2016

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.A Home of Two Halves - on tidying, motherhood, creativity

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  • Miriam 13 September, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    I love it. I have a similar approach, but sadly our entry takes guests straight into the kitchen 🙁 So I try to at least keep the kitchen table clear(ish) and the floor swept.
    I visited a new friend’s place last week and I breathed such a sigh of relief when I saw that she wasn’t super tidy. I read something a while ago about Authentic Entertainers (I think that was it) and I could see that she was one of us 🙂 No facade of ultra tidiness, just a relaxed atmosphere in which I sank into the comfy sofa and let my guard down; the conversation flowed 🙂

    • Lucy 13 September, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Ooh straight into the kitchen is a tricky devil!
      I love the idea of Authentic Entertainers. Gonna make myself a tee shirt

  • Jill Paxton 13 September, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    LOVE it! I’ve been thinking for some time about starting some sort of anti-Pinterest/Instagram where we all show what our homes ACTUALLY look like. Let’s do it – start a hashtag Lucy and I’ll be all over it. My friend and I recently decided that actually, having people round even when our houses are messy is a really important thing to do. It shows them that we can all be real with each other and that they are NOT failing as a Mum or a woman or whatever…. Tidying up before people come over is kind of just perpetuating this myth that we all live in enviable tidy homes – right? It’s crap and I hate it. That said, the endlessness of the mess, the chores and the not being able to find ANYTHING has led me to pursue a 6-month long slightly insane declutter/organise…..but this is purely for my own sanity and not to impress other people. There will still be a lot of mess on a daily basis I just one day aspire to not spending half an hour every morning looking for my kids shoes and then finding them in the nappy bucket. That’s the dream. Dream Big.

    Let’s unleash the mess! We’ve all got it…..

    • Lucy 13 September, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      HEEHEE YES. Love that. Although some people don’t, I think, and they rule Instagram harhahaha.
      Definitely living in community keeps you real.

    • Lala 14 September, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      Oh yes Jill I agree with all of this!

  • Dani 13 September, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Love that Women who run with Wolves book! We have a front room that barely gets used which I LOVE as I can go here and escape when the little is asleep and pretend I don’t live in chaos. Some nights I just go from here to bed pretending to be oblivious that the dining room/home office/playroom aka. home to a million tiny things/yoga studio/library has had a bomb dropped on it… oh and don’t even get me started on the kitchen… if anyone has a solution on how to cook and clean during meal prep with a toddler i am ALL ears. But you know, life is too short and it’s a bloody thankless task and once that is so relentless… clean when you need to and don’t if you can’t get away with it. Thanks for sharing your messy home… i hope there is a following instagram revolution of mess sharing.

    • Lucy 14 September, 2016 at 7:47 am

      Ah you lucky parlour haver! That is a new life goal for me hehehe

  • ThaliaKR 14 September, 2016 at 1:10 am

    Wonderful, Lucy. I just want to quote every second sentence.

    Thanks for the permission and encouragement and inspiration.


    • Lucy 14 September, 2016 at 7:47 am

      🙂 x x

  • Amanda 14 September, 2016 at 1:54 am

    I want a bumpersticker that reads: “Life is to be lived, not sanitized.”

    • Lucy 14 September, 2016 at 7:48 am

      I want a bumper sticker like that for my front door!

  • Louise G 14 September, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Gosh this is so topical for me right now!! I loved this – thanks so much. I too have a house where the first room you hit as you arrive by the front door is the (tiny no where near big enough) kitchen. It’s painful. I don’t invite people over any more. It’s too stressful. We home educate so there is evidence of the children everywhere. My true friends don’t judge me but sadly my husband does. I’m kind of living in domestic hell if I’m honest. Your video put a smile on my face. Thanks so much. Going to find you on IG. I’m @loopygibbens over there and note: you will see not one single picture taken in my home. And now you know why…

  • Pam De Guzman 14 September, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    I hope my mom reads this! She is kinda of an OC and our stuff gets cleaned and organized without us getting informed. We clean for us to make use of the space and for the things to be used properly not overly cleaned and ending up hiding it.

  • Pam De Guzman 14 September, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • Sarah 14 September, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    I could have written this myself! I think I should start a local Facebook group of all those who value raising children over clean and tidy houses so we can all visit each other without shame! I wish there were more like us. Thanks for writing it.

  • Lucy 15 September, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Pokey London one bed flat =communal areas (bathroom/living room) relatively tidy. Not for guests areas (tiny kitchen/bedroom) have you actually been burgled?!

  • julie constable 15 September, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    I love your article, and agree with women being themselves, creativity and just being with kids. I am a creative, a mother who spends times with her kids and someone that enjoys being at work as well. But I don’t function with clutter and a whole bunch of stuff around me. It is just how I roll. Can’t we stop judging and just accept that there are a whole range of people that function in different ways and do things differently. Whilst I like that you are getting at being with the kids, I think you can be a more minimalist person and that doesn’t mean you are an anal retentive domestic mum who spends no time with your kids. We are all just different in the way we do things, mums and dads just doing our best.

    • Lucy 17 September, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Yeah, totally, absolutely no judgement – really surprised you read any there? This was aimed at the messies at the people, like myself, who find it hard to manage both.

  • Aussie Mum 16 September, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! I so needed to read this right now!

    I have 3 children, 5, 3 & 1 years old and my husband runs his own business and I run our farm… Some times it looks like a cyclone has ripped apart our very open plan ‘Shouse’ (shed-house)
    It’s really hard some days not to think that some how I’m failing as a stay at home mum. It’s really reassuring to know that no actually, there are other parents going through this too. In fact, maybe just quietly, this is normal. That those perfect homes are mate a little crazy.

  • Kathryn 17 September, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Ha I love this post Lucy! I don’t do much tidying or cleaning when my son is awake, except hoovering cos he loves to help with that! However when he naps I used to rush round in a frenzy trying to clean & tidy everything, and failing of course. Now I’ve realised spending that time on me is far more important for my well-being and happiness, and by extension that of my family, than tidying! The kitchen gets a quick 10/15min going over, washing gets put on then it’s straight to the sewing machine! But I do admit to still tidying before guests come over, and you’ve reminded me that really that’s a pretty false thing to do, especially to other mum’s.

  • Lady Demelza 4 December, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Oh Lucy I love you so much! Again! I am messy and cluttery and really can’t even be bothered to feel ashamed of it any more. I have more important things to care about. If people don’t like it they don’t have to visit me! I really wish that you could have just kicked that rude person out of your house and not let them back in, but of course, in reality, it depends who it was, doesn’t it. I only draw the line at unhygienic mess – as long as there is nothing growing in it, and it’s not festy, stuff the untidiness. Thank you so much for being brave enough to show us what your real life looks like – it makes you a real person.