How Proactively Keeping a Messy House Made My Life a Better Place

My mom came over to my house one day, and at some point in the duration of her visit, she volunteered to change my 2-year-old daughter out of her peed-in Pull-Up.

Her: <Looks around my living room, confused>

Me: What are you looking for?

Her: Zoe’s Pull-Ups.

Me: We keep a few in that table over there. You act like you’ve never been here before.

Her: Well, you’ve been keeping this house such a mess lately…

Why, yes, Mother. Yes, I have. And there’s a purpose for that.

I’m an overachiever. A perfectionist. Everything has to be done when I want it done how I want it done, and everything has a place. And the only spot where I really have total control over all of this is my home. But this whole overachiever-perfectionist ideology doesn’t work out so well when you have children, a career, a man, bills, sisters, sister friends, long commutes, cold Chicago winters, goals, natural hair, racism, police brutality, rape culture, sexism, <insert every other thing an adult black girl worries about on a daily basis> to think about.

These were the things I was pondering every day and then once I got home, I would clean my house. Even if I was tired, which I often was, I did it. I’m an overachiever perfectionist. I cleaned my house. My house was always clean. If you dropped by my house (which, don’t EVER in yo’ life just drop by my house because, unless you’re in the inner circle, I will peek out the blinds and act like I didn’t hear you ringing my doorbell), my house would be ready for you to come and have a seat and watch the program you enjoyed the most on the television. People complimented me on my clean house. Because I constantly did it like a mad woman.

I came home from work, and as soon as I walked in, I was picking up toys and 4T-size skinny jeans and that one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sock I was looking for all last week and monster-size Jordans and Timberland boots and old homework and weird bird-with-human-legs drawings on construction paper and booger tissues and Cheerios — my god, the Cheerios…and the raisins. I swept through the place like a whirlwind because the clutter made me nuts. (Because overachiever-perfectionist-everything-has-its-place.)

But anyone who has kids knows that there is literally no point in constantly cleaning up after them. Because. Kids. They are little people who don’t get it, and go through life with zero fucks given. I want to be them. But whatever. I digress.

A few months before 2016, I gave myself the motto that I would do more of what I loved. The secret second part of that was giving two middle fingers to the stuff I hated. Cleaning every day. Hate that shit. Not a domestic, wasn’t ever built to be one, so I stopped doing it. And <cue the Snow White/Cinderella talking and singing birds who help you make it through life all cute and lovely>. I had a Julie Andrews “The Hills Are Alive” moment because, man, life was a little bit more chill after that.


So the first person who noticed was the dude I married because dudes notice this type of shit first. Even if they’re not misogynist pigs, they tend to take heed when you stop doing things like cooking all the time, cleaning all the time, combing your hair or having sex with them (three of those four things I myself have not stopped doing, although it often crosses my mind, especially the combing hair one). But then…

Mom notices and it’s a wonderful thing for me. Because she noticed and she realizes that the overachiever perfectionist crazy person is not operating here anymore. The house is not clean and that’s a victory. The floor is covered in toys, and we simply tiptoe around the Hot Wheels cars and Lego bricks and Hello Kitty stuffed cats and Doc McStuffins books, and pray to sweet baby Jesus that we don’t break our ankles on them. And whoever doesn’t like it can exit because my disorganized house frees up some head space so that I can focus on things that are more important. Like playing in the mess with the little folks. Or writing. Or watching a Golden Girls’ marathon. Or lying on the floor diffusing arguments between the 6-year-old boy child and 2-year-old girl child.

Granted, my house is not filthy. Ain’t no rats and roaches running around here and ain’t no dirt caked up on the floors and walls. (You would be reading my obituary if that was the case.) The dishes might be piled up for a couple days longer than we like and the toys might live in the common spaces for days — oh, and the dining room table is probably covered in the laptops and tablets, and grocery store sales papers, unopened mail, old homework and more weird bird-with-human-legs drawings but…


I’m cool like that. I’m chill like that. The good Lord above knows this won’t kill me, so, progress. We go on, I go on and life is a little less stressful. I think. I do. I be.

What I learned is that constantly focusing on the small things tends to add to an avalanche that eventually comes crashing down hard. Small things = cleaning up every second of the day. Will my family die if we don’t fold the laundry as soon as it’s done drying? Nah, we might be a little wrinkled, but overall, we’ll be aight. Will I regret not spending time doing the things I love because I’m so focused on completing tedious insignificant tasks that in the grand scheme of life don’t really matter? Probably.

The overachiever perfectionist in me is still terrified of making life a little messy sometimes. But things are fine. My mother will likely continue to judge me, but that’s what they do — it’s in the job description. (Secretly, I’m looking forward to carrying that torch when my small people get old enough.)

So cheers to the messes and the disorganization and the living room full of toys and sinks full of dishes. Cheers to happily operating in the madness and, hopefully, making life a better place.