The other day I came across an article about house cleaning and creativity. Seems like this is an age-old dilemma for women of every generation, because I remember hearing this discussion as a young mom, then again (or still!) when my older children were in their school-age years. It’s kind of like a few other topics that never seem to go out of style for a good debate!
This particular article that I read the other day made the case that one cannot be productive or creative in a clean house. Well, obviously there is a bit of common sense in that assertion! If we NEVER make a mess, we will NEVER do things like paint a picture, or sew a new outfit, make a quilt, cook a favorite meal, or for that matter, if we are never willing to make a mess, we will have a hard time feeding our family. Productivity requires making a mess.
On the other hand, some people simply cannot function (be productive or creative) in the midst of clutter. So perhaps this conversation is really about different personalities instead of a particular Philosophy of Messes (or lack thereof!)
As spring arrives each year, at our house we find that throwing open the windows to air out the winter dust and washing those windows until they sparkle and shine is great therapy after being stuck inside for so many months. There is great inspiration in sorting through all the junk that accumulates in a home over the winter and throwing out all the unnecessary stuff to make room for the latest creative project.
The question then is not about whether it is a good thing or a dumb thing to spend time spring cleaning our homes – it is about recognizing that we all have different perspectives on what “clean” is or what “productive” might look like. For me, I don’t find it to be productive at all when there is so much junk piled up that I can’t find what I need to do the next creative project on my list.
Then I have to invest my “productive” time searching for things OR invest that time and then money as well to go out a buy whatever the thingamajig might be that I can’t find. I don’t find that messy = productive. Or creative. Only annoying, exasperating, and down right frustrating when I’m tripping over stuff on my way to the paint brushes.
Here are a few tips that have worked for me over the years, in my efforts to keep my little world organized and tidy enough to be productive, but not so “immaculate” that we are afraid to fix a peanut butter sandwich because there might be a “mess”:
1. Establish a daily routine of picking up and putting away stuff that has been left where it doesn’t belong. This can take 15 – 30 minutes (set a timer and then STOP!), and if you have small children they can join the challenge to see who can pick up 10 things and put them away the fastest.
2. Decide what level of “mess” you can tolerate and then live with it. If you are OK with toys on the living room floor, dirty clothes piled in a corner, 20 pair of shoes just inside the back door, or dog food strewn across the kitchen floor . . . . so what? It’s your house! On the other hand, if someone else finds that kind of environment to be distracting and annoying, and they feel the need to focus time each day on making their home a bit more tidy, orderly, and peaceful . . . so what? I think it is time we pay attention to our own lives and mind our own business!
3. Stop comparing yourself to someone else. We frequently feel the need to criticize other people to make ourselves feel better about our own lives. So, if you tend to live in a home that is cluttered and messy, you might decide that people who like their home to be clean and tidy are a bit “uptight” and need to “relax” a bit. Those two things have nothing to do with each other. We are all who we are and God has made us just the way He wants us. Let’s accept one another, even with all of our differences.
4. Consider the possibility that creativity / productivity, while “causing” messes to be made, might actually be facilitated in a more orderly environment. God is not a God of chaos and disorder, and since we have been created in His image, it is possible that we will actually function better in a situation where we feel peaceful and calm instead of scattered and chaotic. Just something to think about!
5. No more “either this . . . or that” self-talk. It is not necessary for someone else to be wrong for you to be right. Figure out your own comfort level with this topic; avoid reading articles or listening to people who speak with authority and tell you that “A messy house is the sign of a brilliant mind,” or that “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” That is all a bunch of non-sense! A clean house is a sign that someone cares enough to make a peaceful, orderly home for the people who live there. A messy house could mean that there is someone living there who in, in fact, a genius. But it could also mean that someone is just looking for an excuse to be lazy.
This is just such an unhelpful discussion, so let’s give one another a bit of grace, tolerance, understanding and acceptance . . . and get on with the business of living. For me, I’ll do the spring cleaning . . . . again . . . . . and again . . . . and again, because I believe it makes for a healthier place to live and a more peaceful home for my family. But either way you look at it, I’ll still be your friend and I’ll still think we shouldn’t make these kind of silly rules for one another.
While you are contemplating whether or not you’ll do your spring cleaning, I hope you will join us for the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop at Katherine’s Corner!
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