Excuse the mess, but we live here.

>> Monday, February 8, 2010

"Excuse the mess, but we live here." -Roseanne, from the Roseanne show.

I race in the door at 5pm as the sitter and her daughter rush out. The boys are hungry and the baby scurries up my body like a little monkey, clutching my hair and flashing his 8-toothed smile.

I promise dinner, but am foiled when I shove a wooden spoon too far into the high-powered blender and splintered wood blends with pinto beans. Maybe if the blender baton wasn't lying under the toilet on the bathroom floor - where the baby left it a week ago - I could have whipped those beans without utensil casualties.

I settle for bacon and eggs, with Life cereal and skim milk as an appetizer, knowing my hubby can fend for himself when he gets home. But before the bacon is done cooking, my 3.5 year old has fallen asleep at the kitchen table. At 5:30. Good thing he's still in his jammies from this morning.



I leave him lying on the bench while I toast some bread and pop the baby in his high chair. My 6 year old is finished eating by the time I sit down with my dinner, so I shovel it in alone, listening to him shout his stories of the day from the living room.

Tonight is surprisingly typical. When I'm scrambling to feed the kids and get the dirty dishes off the counter and listen to their stories and double check that the sitter got my email about our schedule change, I wonder if everyone else's life is this chaotic.

I tell myself it is. That everyone is really this messy and crazed and eating cereal for dinner a couple nights a week. But every now and then I wonder - is it just me? Do other people somehow manage to pull it off with a little more grace?

Because I'm pretty sure my house is messier than anyone I know. Dusting? I thought that went the way of wearing slips under skirts. (It was for our mother's generation, not something we ladies of the 21st Century have to deal with.) Washing the floors? Well...I spot clean if someone's spilled or peed.... (What's the point in washing the whole floor, really? We're just going to walk on it again.) Vacuuming? Exactly why I rolled up the rugs months ago. It's much easier to swoop down and collect the tumbleweeds of dog hair. It's just too bad the dog stopped eating the dropped Cheerios and Goldfish. By the third kid, he turns up his nose and holds out for PB&J crusts instead.

People ask me how I do it - how I find time to write (blog, freelance, now my new job...) with three kids. Honestly? I don't clean my house. Pretty much ever.

Also? My kids dress themselves. I insist on teeth brushing, but their hair? Meh. I hear dreads are back in fashion. You'd be surprised how much time you can save by letting your nappy haired kids run around in sweatpants and their favorite hoodie instead of fighting over outfits and grooming every day.

Most of the time I'm glad I've adopted this laid back approach to childrearing and house maintenance. And honestly, days when the baby is teething and he's camped out in a sling all day, it's an accomplishment to get a load of diapers washed.

But sometimes I wonder if I'm trying to pass off laziness as priority-setting.

What do you think? How on earth do you do it? Do you keep it together - the kids, the house, your job, your passions, your relationships...?? How on earth do you do it? Are you as messy as I am? What do you let go? What's non-negotiable for you? Who wants to come clean my kitchen?



thegypsymama February 8, 2010 at 10:20 PM  

You just described my life. (I daydream about house cleaning services - on a regular basis!)

Boy Crazy February 8, 2010 at 10:23 PM  

Really?? Do you honestly not wash your floors? Because I thought no one did, and then I thought everyone did, and I pretty much feel like a slacker for not doing it....

Mommy Melee February 8, 2010 at 10:25 PM  

I love your photos. They really pull me into your world. Also, you're gorgeous.

Your posts ALWAYS make me smile and feel all content and happy. Thank you.

simplicity February 8, 2010 at 10:28 PM  

You're not alone. It goes in spurts for me. TOday was one of my let it go, they're only little once days and I did let it all go. And dusting? You're so right, that's so outdated!!! ha!

Anonymous,  February 8, 2010 at 10:31 PM  

How do we do it all? We don't.

And when your kids are older, you will be glad you took time to photograph and write about them, and indifferent to the past state of your floor!

There will always be floors to clean, but hardly ever your own kids to hold.

Jennifer Fink February 8, 2010 at 11:19 PM  

Lunch today at my house: bacon and eggs. It is now after 11 pm at night, and those dishes are still waiting to be washed. The basket of clean laundry is where I placed it 3 days ago. My sheets are washed but still...in the washer. Whoops. Guess I'll have to grab the other set of sheets and quick make up my bed before I go to sleep. My kids were in their jammies til 2 pm, at which point I said, OK, we're leaving for our appt. in 20 min. If you want clothes on, now's your chance. If not, you can go in your jammies.

In other words, my life looks a lot like yours!

Lee of MWOB February 8, 2010 at 11:48 PM  

All I can say is I have no idea what your problem is. Everyone clearly has it all together. Except you.


Hey girl, that picture is just gorgeous.

Non-negotiable for me? I HAVE to put my kids to bed with clean feet. If there are feet are filthy, they are washed even if they are lying in bed and I stand with a wash cloth at the bottom of their bed.

Clean feet are where it's at.

Miss ya.

Lee of MWOB February 8, 2010 at 11:50 PM  

I HATE when I have a there typo. I was thinking one thing and typed another. Sentence should have read -

"If their feet are filthy,I wash them even if...."

Too many theys above. :-)

Jenn February 9, 2010 at 12:23 AM  

I think having a baby really changes things. And I don't mean, becoming a mother, although of course that does too -- hugely. I mean, if there is an infant in your family, it is really hard to get as much done as you have done before or will do later. At least that's my experience.

I don't ever do everything in one day. Some days I clean, and don't write or blog. Some days I write & blog & visit the library, and don't do any laundry. Some days I spend lots of quality time with the kids, sometimes not so much...

To even keep all the balls in the air takes serious juggling.

I have to admit I dust, but not every knick knack and not on a schedule.

Beautiful picture, and loved the post.

Angie Muresan February 9, 2010 at 1:53 AM  

My secret? I still wear pretty slips underneath my dresses. ;) Maybe that's why hubby does the cooking 5 nights a week, vacuums the entire house once a week, and cleans the bathrooms.
No, I don't think it's that. I just trained him well. Not that either. Did I say that I'm the sole provider, working 12 hour days, keeping hubby in graduate school? Yeah, that's why he does it.

H-Mama February 9, 2010 at 5:47 AM  

hubs tries to tell me, 'we just have the lived-in look. people understand.' i should listen to him more often. it's hard balancing everything. i recently read, 'a clean house or well homeschooled children. pick one. my children must be very smart.' ;) guess we can't do it all. i appreciate the transparency. those posts are my fave. :)

Sherrie February 9, 2010 at 6:13 AM  

I teach full time and have three boys. Some days are just crazy. Having cleaning ladies that come every other week has pretty much saved my sanity (every week would be even better;)). Honestly that has made a complete difference for our whole family.

I do not function well in disorganization and chaos, it definitely affects my mood. That's not to say that things are not chaotic from time to time (OK lots of time).

For me the two non negotiables are having clean laundry and a clean kitchen (with meals planned). If I keep on top of that everything else can kind of slide by if need be.

Honestly though, if you have an infant you get a free pass as far as I am concerned! :)

Dawn February 9, 2010 at 6:27 AM  

i have to say... it is nice to know that there are other homes out there that are not spic & span. tat there are other mothers out there that can't do it all. because i know what it feels like to try to juggle and just be pounded with those falling ping pong balls instead. my husband does a lot. and my kids are big and they help out. but at the end of the work day... i am beat. and i wonder how others do it. it is nice to know that there are others like me... who have to choose between the clean floor and a few snuggles. and here? snuggles always win :)

alita February 9, 2010 at 6:41 AM  

Funny! You are quite funny. I have to agree. How do we all wear so many hats. The mom hat, the friend hat, the employee hat, the entrepreneur hat, etc...

My mom's motto was "If the house is spotless then I'm not doing my JOB."
With that being said my husband THINKS my "job" is to clean the house. SO how do I get it done? I do the bare minimum to make the place bling and everyone is happy. I don't live in a showcase home because I have 2 boys, 1 male cat, and a hubby. I do my job at home by taking care of all their needs and cleaning when necessary.

MommaKiss February 9, 2010 at 6:52 AM  

I don't want to come and clean your kitchen, but I don't mind some dishes out when I pop by a friend's for coffee. I am also messy. I work full time, try the gym 5x a week (the non-negotiable part) and say Hi to my husband once in a while. I'll sleep when I'm dead. I've heard.

ms. less is always more February 9, 2010 at 7:11 AM  

Keep with the shortcuts you like best... husband usually does laundry around here because he gets more fed up with it than I do. I am obsessive about the sink and counters being clear and crumb free. If those two are fine... I'm pretty much fine with the rest of the dust bunnies, toys scattered every where and the occasional dirty toilet. The bathrooms are always last in my book... I'll just close the door! (I have FOUR bathrooms though - ridiculous - so when I do have to clean them, it's torture!)

ps, welcome to the world of working motherhood - you rock girl! oxo, Jill

Tara February 9, 2010 at 7:16 AM  

Eggs and toast for dinner at our house! haha...and that was after we left your messy house and went to our messy house! Your life is normal, trust me. And yes, it is priority setting. What's most important...that your kids have clothes on so they're warm..not WHAT they have on. They have food in their belly not that it's NOT dinner food...who cares? Don't second guess yourself too much, you're amazing, and don't let anybody tell you any differently! And I was telling the truth when I told you we don't wash our floor either!

Corinne February 9, 2010 at 7:35 AM  

I am brimming with love for you.
I spot clean. Vacuum before a playdate or a visit from the grandparents. But that's it. I gave up cleaning when I had kids. I'm being honest. Spot cleaning goes a long way...
And the messy haired kids (well, just Fynn since Paige doesn't have hair...) We are so go with the flow it's not even funny. And the flow is keeping us happy, and sane, and we eat pancakes for dinner (a mix...) all the time.
But we love. Lots.
I can't tell you how much I loved reading this, this very morning as my mother questions my tumbleweed ridden kitchen floor, and dustbunnies in my bookshelves...

JadeLD February 9, 2010 at 8:14 AM  

Good luck with the 365 challenge, whre are you going to do it - on your blog or on flickr?

I love how honest you are about not getting everthing done. It's just me and my boyriend at the moment, both full time work, we've got other commitments too Girl Guiding and my boyriend's curling. It get a bit crazy, we don't dust ever, hoover before we have guests and try to keep up with it all. I can't imagine how we would cope with kids too (hopefully one day we'll know).

I started doing this Mimimum Maintenace thing which I got from Rachel Anne @ Home Sanctuary. Five minutes in every room, except 15mins in the kitchen. Set the timer and do it a few times a week, it helps me feel more in control!

We have to invite people over just to make up clean and tidy otherwise it's a low priority - food is more important! Don't stress, it's more important to be happy and spend time together than be clean and tidy.

Miss Isabelle February 9, 2010 at 8:32 AM  

We don't have the kids yet and I wonder how you handle it all. we already don't wash the floor, or dust, or have well balanced meals... I don't think it matters, as long as you love and are loved in return.
P.S. LOVE the hair.

Nancy February 9, 2010 at 8:33 AM  

I would much rather clean your kitchen than clean mine, so I'll do it anytime. And you have two choices: be out of the house with a kid or two, (others can fend for themselves upstairs) or make us both a big chai and then you sit at the table and surf the web. (or write).
Also, hair combing is entirely unnecessary. Floor cleaning as well, except for bodily fluids that have leaked or spewed, and even those can sit tight for awhile if you throw a paper towel over them to indicate a location to be avoided. (And hey, if said paper towel happens to accidentally soak up all of said fluid, dry out, and get blown out of the way, then yahoo!) Comfy sweats; all good. Cereal for dinner, good. Heck, even DRY cereal is fine if you are out of milk. Your boys are vibrant and healthy and smart and full of life, because they are being taught and loved by two people who are the same. They've got it good. As do you. No worries. Much love.

Nicole February 9, 2010 at 9:06 AM  

Oh, how I loved reading this!!!!

I'm a mom to 3 boys and expecting my 4th child. I "stay home" but I have the same cleaning challenges that you do. I am so, so relieved that I am not alone! I basically do cleaning cleaning when something gets so gross I can't stand it anymore. I actually don't mind cleaning. What I REALLY mind is cleaning up all the junk that accumulates everywhere so I can see my house to clean. It's not like I do nothing all day. Just keeping to the status quo with this many people (and a dog and a cat) in the house is a lot of work!

I crisis clean before people come over. This is the #1 thing that bothers me about women in general. We all have messy houses and we ALL crisis clean before we have other women over. It sends the message that we all have perfect houses and that perfection is expected when the truth is that we all crisis clean our mess.

So no, you (me) are not alone!

denise February 9, 2010 at 9:31 AM  

I can only imagine how tough it must be now that you are off working out of the home all day. ROUGH!!! Not enough hours in the day for sure.

I have worked from home for 10+ years now and homeschool kids/paint/write/blog/garden so it is sometimes just too much. For me, I feel like I must have things put together and fairly clean or I feel like it is out of control and I am miserable and cranky. Clean (looking) = Calm for me. But I also don't need much sleep, so I do most of my work/blog/writing/art after boys are in bed and just do the cleaning, organizing, food prep, garden, making stuff etc. during the day when there are lulls and they are playing happily on their own or in a project. I also like being home, and so try not to over schedule, which I know is quite impossible for most families with juggling school/work stuff.

I grew up an anal retentive Type A Virgo though, and had to relax my standards quite a lot once I had kids. I used to vacuum every single day. And mop daily. Really. I used to alphabetize my CDs. CRAZY, eh? :P I do make myself do things the same way every day so it is a habit and stays somewhat under control. But it is never perfect.

Of course my basement is just a mess waiting to be organized, but out of sight out of mind. And my closet? Ha!

Finding time and managing things is the hardest part of being a mom, I think. We usually forget to take care of ourselves since we spend so much time caring for everyone else! But then the kids grow up and I have a feeling that while we suddenly will have more time for ourselves, we will miss having them around and wonder at how the time flew. :)

Alicia February 9, 2010 at 9:34 AM  

Eliz-our house is ALWAYS a wreck. And I have only one toddler and no job. A month ago, I was bedazzled by a saturday morning infomercial. I was sure the Shark Portable Steam Pocket would transform my house and in turn, my life! I waited impatiently for my magic to arrive via the UPS truck. I have had it for a month now, and am so sorely disappointed. Yes, it sanitizes with steam and no chemicals, BUT you need to have a surface free of debris and junk before you can even use it! And I can never get to that first step. I plan to return it, IF I can find all the gazillion attachments it came with, that are now scattered all over the house in the next 30 days.
My mother-in law told me that she thinks that those who keep an immaculate house must be really boring people, because they spend their time cleaning rather than developing their interests. We choose to believe this because it makes us feel better. So, there. We aren't filthy people, we are just REALLY interesting:)

Deb February 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM  

uh, i stay at home, my boys are teens and i can't seem to get my act together. cereal for dinner is a staple, the boys have NEVER combed their hair, they occasionally sleep in their school clothes (which are gym shorts and t's all 365), and my floors have 4 mammals-worth of pet hair rolling around.

my kids are happy (most of the time), though.

Pamela February 9, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

I used to scrub everything weekly. USED. TO. Then I had child number three. I do it every two weeks now and even then, Swiffer Dusters are my BFF. Oh and the other two kids are old enough to clean their own rooms so there. I used to care about when it would get done now I only care about a third of what I used to care. I'm careless, HA!

Boy Crazy February 9, 2010 at 9:59 AM  

These are probably the most heartwarming comments I've ever gotten. :)

Honestly, it does help to hear what works, what people let go, what's non-negotiable. Because everyone does hide it, so we don't really know.

I feel like I need to mention that my husband is an equal partner in house maintenance and child rearing. It's just that it feels impossible to keep up with it all, and we'd both rather spend our days off doing something fun than cleaning. (And I think we both have a pretty high tolerance for mess.)

I still think my issue is half priority-setting, half laziness. I'm going to adopt some of your strategies.

Keep 'em coming, friends....

krista February 9, 2010 at 10:20 AM  

granted, i only have one toddler but i also have a serious organization gene. my man says it hits once a month. like clockwork. re-organizing and cleaning out closets is fun for me.
i know, i know.
that being said, i also watch 'hoarders' and it helps motivate me to clean the crap out from under the couch.

Erin February 9, 2010 at 11:30 AM  

It most definitely is not you. I promise.

rv February 9, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

The sad thing is that we are all able, in a split second, to admit what our perceived housekeeping faults are. Somewhere, someone has set standards that we have somehow absorbed and applied to our lives. For Dutch-Americans like myself, it's my heritage from my Grandmother, who not only had the Dutch cleanliness ethic, but also worked as a cleaning lady when she immigrated. I am conscious of this on a weekly basis because my mother comes to watch the kids while I work, and inevitably the house is much cleaner by the end of the day. I always have to ask myself whether she is just trying to help out or whether she is making a point...but I've gotten to the point of not caring anymore.

That being said, I tend to ignore things above 4 feet - I don't dust the cobwebs, I don't clean windows, I don't change lightbulbs until it gets kinda dark. I concentrate on keeping the kids' level clean and mostly clutter-free. My non-negotiable is healthy home-cooked food, and my strategies for achieving that are weekly meal planning, and nightly kitchen clean-up and food prep for the next day. I try to do a nightly 5 min toy-clean up blitz, which lets me sweep up the dirtiest floor areas. We try to attack the paper clutter once a week. There are so many things that I don't get to, though, that I don't really want to talk about it. :) Let's just say that there are parts of my house that haven't seen the vacuum in months.

Does your babysitter do any housework while she's there? It's not unreasonable to expect her to accomplish 1-2 tasks during the day, and it will help you immensely.

Hang in there!

Rachel V.

rv February 9, 2010 at 12:03 PM  

Oh, and thanks for posting the photo. It gave me some inspiration for handling the day with my own teething baby!

Rachel V.

Boy Crazy February 9, 2010 at 12:48 PM  

Oh, man I love you guys. These are the best comments ever. Turns out, people like to know they aren't standing alone in the middle of their messes. Who woulda thought.

Thanks for the virtual arms linked through mine. :)

p.s. I was just as bad at juggling (cleaning) before I started working outside the home again. If anything, the busier schedule has motivated me to get better at grabbing those small moments to throw in a load of laundry....

Kristen @ Motherese February 9, 2010 at 1:08 PM  

Sorry to be so late to the party, but I so appreciated this post and all of the supportive comments.

I was recently reminded of the saying: "You can have it all, but not all at once." And I think there is absolute truth to that statement as it applies to keeping a house together while raising kids. I know there are some parents who manage to do more than I do, but I have resigned myself to clutter and dust for now.

Every once in a (great) while the chaos of clutter will overwhelm me. When it does, I take five minutes (literally) and speed-sort. Having a few inches of space neat and tidy is usually enough of a hit to tide (but not tidy) me over.

Elizabeth February 9, 2010 at 1:13 PM  

I loved this post and all the comments. My house is definitely messy and dusty and I'm so glad to hear that I'm not alone. I'm a SAHM to two little ones and basically just spot clean the floors when our socks start sticking to them! Can't remember the last time I mopped. Someone told me once to not get so wrapped up in taking care of urgent (but not important) things that you miss the important things. I classify quality time with the kids as important.

emmajames February 9, 2010 at 2:54 PM  

I don't have kids, or a husband. I live in a studio apartment. I'm currently job hunting. But I'm still attacked by chernobyl-sized dust bunnies on a daily basis and consider cereal a well-balanced dinner. So... I have no frakkin clue how you do it and can't imagine anyone doing it any better.

denise February 9, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

oh, and the "... need to mention that my husband is an equal partner in house maintenance..."

I have found that is usually why things get messier! ;) I decided long ago his standards and mine were completely different, and that was part of why it was so chaotic (who does what/when, who is busier, who shoulda done that, i don't think that is messy but you do, etc.) so at home he only does things like taking out garbage, shoveling, heavy stuff I can't do because of my back injury. No cooking, no cleaning. Helps a lot, oddly! ;)

natalie February 9, 2010 at 7:11 PM  

First of all, that's my favorite quote. First of all, I love that photo of you and baby. (I felt strongly enough about both that they both had to be first)

Tell you what - I've got four kids, a full time job, I blog, I'm trying to get a book written, and my husband is in college. That's what what I got going on, you know, like normal. Throw in my mom's 60th birthday, putting together childbirth ed classes for a community center, learning ASL and Visio, and you know what?

I don't clean my house much either.

I'll sleep when I'm dead and I'll clean when I've got no babies to puke/poop/Cheerio the place up.

Cuz we live here.

natalie February 9, 2010 at 7:12 PM  

And I always make eggs for dinner. And pancakes

Becca @ Our Crazy Boys February 9, 2010 at 8:53 PM  

I spot wash, unless someone important is coming over, like, the President. And he hasn't come by yet, so there you have it.

And I only work 2 days a week!

Ann's Rants February 9, 2010 at 9:31 PM  

I don't know.

I have no idea.

I pay cleaners once a month and we do the rest.

Dinner is Exhausting.


The Lady of the House February 9, 2010 at 11:12 PM  

Thank God...I'm normal!

Remember - if you're happy, they're happy.

Cybil February 10, 2010 at 7:11 PM  

I love love love the picture of you and your baby - absolutely beautiful! I am in a similar situation as you - working full time, kids, husband, running like a bat out of you-know-where... We finally hired a cleaning lady to come in every two weeks - she saved the marriage

aaron browne February 10, 2010 at 8:19 PM  

your stories always resonate with us, but none moreso than today's. in that vein, we've posted an update to our blog (hopefully the first of many more regular posts to come) with pictures for you to commiserate with! :)

a different shade of browne

Mary February 10, 2010 at 8:49 PM  

I have found that these things do not leave your life once the little ones grow older. There will always be laundry to do and floors to clean, priorities to set and re-set. My advice...take each day as it comes. Your daily priorities will make themselves known very quickly. Be present to your children and spouse as best you can. Time moves so quickly and one day there will be no one in that sling.
Enjoy today...it only comes once!
Blessings and Grace...

Deb February 10, 2010 at 8:55 PM  

It's impossible not to have chaos, unless you want a tiny, tiny, non creative life. Who wants that? And with those juicy boys? Live it loud and messy!

Adventures In Babywearing February 11, 2010 at 10:32 AM  

Sounds like my life, pretty much. But I tell myself it won't always be like this. It fades faster than we think.


Sarah February 11, 2010 at 10:07 PM  

Thank you thank you thank you for this! Your description of walking in the door at 5 pm? That is my life...everyday...and everyday I am fighting off some kind of meltdown because I just got off of work and the kids are all whiney and food needs to be made and I can't find the energy to look at them and take in their smiles and their hugs the way that I want to.

Thank you thank you thank you for this. You just know. You just wrote it all out. It's perfection. Life is messy. My house is messier!

bransblahg February 27, 2010 at 4:32 PM  

I'm a full time SAHM, and even still, you just described my house. The laundry, NEVER EVER all done. The floors, we live in North Dakota so cleaning the floors in the winter is pointless. Dishes, there are always dishes. My kids, in pajamas all day unless we go somewhere...which they've started complaining about so we might have to do something about that. BUT, being a full time SAHM doesn't mean I'm home full time either. I have a lot I do outside and they come with me.... so really, I'm only HOME home, a few days a week...

And really, sometimes I think this is my way of rebelling since I never really did have a rebellious streak growing up. HA!

Anonymous,  March 19, 2010 at 10:05 PM  

I just loved reading this! I'm a 47-year-old full-time working mom with 2 boys: 12 and 8 years old. Um ... make that 3: the oldest is 44 (guess who?). Oh wait! We also have a 90-lb black lab, a 21-year-old cat (can you believe that?) and my 12-year-old's bearded dragon (who never gets fed or watered unless I do it). We have a new TV, which I rarely get to enjoy, let alone do I have much time to clean. My husband has been the stay-at-home guy for the past few years: he does the shopping, cooking, laundry and runs the kids EVERYWHERE. Plus he's just started up an eBay business with a buddy. The house? HAHAHAHA ... a disaster! I love having clean floors ... at least from what I remember from the good old days. Now I'm happy if I can walk across the floor in the middle of the night without tripping on something. Gee, it's good to know I'm not alone ... I always thought it was just because 2 of the 4 members of my household have ADHD! You're in good company, sister!

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I'm a realistic optimist who relies on raw honesty and plenty of humor to navigate the boystorm that is my life. I am mother to three and wife to one. These are my stories.

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