Monday, March 26, 2007

A Perfect Mess

While she was here, I told Penny she should read A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman because it is entertaining and interesting.

Steve told me I do not need to learn how to be messy. I told him this book is not to encourage messiness or disorder, but to point out that extreme neatness and organization are not always beneficial.

When we first married, Steve and I both worked and I did all the housework and most of the cooking, but our home was always neat, clean and organized. And the cleaning and straightening and meal preparations never took more than six hours out of a week. The advantage of being neat and organized was not outweighed by the cost.

Twenty-four years, nine children, a work-at-home husband, and seventeen years of homeschooling later the cost of neatness and organization is much greater. I can keep my home spotless, have everything in its place at all times, make tolerable meals, have the laundry done, and every piece of correspondence/paperwork addressed each and every day, but if I do I will not be homeschooling my children, reading (to myself or anyone else), knitting, sewing, running errands for anyone, taking children to music or sports' practice, or spending an evening watching a movie or conversing with Steve.

We've had to make a choice: strive to keep super-tidy and neat, as though we were a childless couple, or a family whose children attended a conventional school; or accept a certain amount of disorder and mess and enjoy the family and the circumstances God has given us.

I confess to struggling with a misplaced admiration of neatness. I saw myself in some of the types of neat people Abrahamson and Freedman describe. For example, my children would agree that I can be an "order terrorist" who always demands that they put away all toys before leaving a room or before bedtime (yeah, that can be a real joy-killer when a child has been making a super set-up with Playmobil toys or Legos, has to go to bed, but would like to play with the set-up the next day...) and an "orderly procrastinator" who spends more time picking up toys, books, shoes, etc., than playing with my children. (They write of the orderly procrastinator: "Avoids real accomplishment by endlessly reneatening and reordering." Ugh! That's me!)

The bottom line is that I need to realize that some types of mess and clutter are useful and helpful. I also need to remember that my children have personalities and traits that God gave them, and they aren't going to be cookie-cutter images of me. And I know that some day Steve and I will again be alone in the house, and the house will be neat, clean, orderly - and boring, and silent, and calm.

Better enjoy the mess, the clutter, the disorder and slack organization while it lasts...



Blogger Tammy said...

Oh! I so need that book. I struggle desperately between accepting the chaos that results from 7 of us living in 1300 sf and overflowing with frustration as I pass or overstep each pile. I know I could work harder at cleaning but whatever I do is undone within hours. Sniff. Pity party coming.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Go get the book from the library - or buy it. It's that good!

4:33 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

The library... let me tell you about me and the library. Fines... always. Sadly, even though library books do have a designated shelf, 1 or 2 always get lost in the, uh, perfect mess that is my home. I'm much better off to just buy it... I guarantee it will be cheaper.

4:54 PM  

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