Most of us are able to look at the chaos in the kids’ bedrooms or playroom and laugh it off, roll our eyes, or even sigh and shut the door.
Most of the time, that is.
There are moments, though, when it all just gets too much. We step on a plastic pineapple or a stray piece of Lego and we snap. Out of nowhere, a stream of threats come thick and fast…
‘You better watch or the hoover will get your toys,’
‘Those things will be going into the roof space if they don’t get put away, fast!’
We’ve got a running joke with a friend – affectionately named ‘Auntie Beth’ – that she ‘will come around some day with her bin bag when you’re not there, and if she finds these toys on the floor, into her bin bag they’ll go!’
Shame on us, eh? Maybe none of you make those kinds of threats 😉 But if the mess is getting you down, here’s six reasons to not be too down in the dumps about it.
1. This is normal
Mess is totally normal. Let’s face it – what most people’s houses look like on Instagram is not what they look like from day to day. Especially those with young children.
There are those who thrive on tidy and are experts at it. But they are few and far between.
So if you find odd socks and toast mixed in with your duplo once in a while, it’s fine.
2. Mess may be in the genes
Yes, you can ‘train a child up in the way they should go,’ but I’m not entirely sure this totally applies to messiness. Bill nicknamed me ‘Cinders’ when we first met. My mum was very thorough in preparing me for life; we did lots of chores and tidied up regularly. But am I still messy? Yes, I am.
Actually, now most child psychologists agree that messiness is predominantly an innate personality trait. That’s why, from an early age, children will usually lean either towards lining up and organising their toys, or dumping them out on the floor.
What’s the lesson here? Do your best to train them, certainly, but don’t think you’re failing if they don’t always catch on.
3. You may be teaching independence
At one point in my early teens, my mum gave up nagging me to tidy and let my room become my responsibility. At that point, I got creative and enlisted help from my childhood bestie. Suddenly, tidying became lots more fun! We played games while sorting through all the stuff and letting my gerbils run wild in the midst of it.
Are you ready to give up on keeping on top of the clutter? Look on the bright side. At an appropriate age, allowing independence in this area can actually pay dividends.
4. Learning is messy sometimes
Maybe learning is actually a messy process. Some mums crack up when the toys are mixed up. But what if the Disney princesses wanted to go to the aquarium that day? Kids don’t play by manufacturers’ rules when they play. The world is their oyster. Let them play with more than one thing at a time, if their scenario requires it. After all, their play is their work, and their work is their learning.
5. You learn to function in mess
Ever heard the phrase, when a room is cluttered, your mind is cluttered? That is true, to an extent. Mess can negatively affect your mental well being, but only over a prolonged period of time. And maybe it’s partly because, especially in Northern Ireland – mess has such a stigma attached to it.
I remember the houses I loved going to the most as a kid. And I’ll be honest, they were the ones where mess was ok. Where your imaginative scenarios weren’t interrupted. Where you were given freedom.
A little untidiness from time to time can actually help you feel comfortable in a range of environments. Win win!
6. Mess isn’t wrong
This one is really important to remember. Order is nice. It makes us feel capable and in control. But sometimes disorder is beautiful too.
Like when the leaves fall from the trees and gather in a heap of fiery hues. Breathtakingly disordered.
If creation itself is messy, then it’s not a bad thing if our homes are from time to time.
Don’t mind the mess!
If kids are always pressured to put a toy away after they are finished, then maybe the play adventure ends before it’s supposed to.
Depending on my mood these days, I usually just leave the playroom now until just before bed, where the tidy up song is played.
Recently I’ve also put half of the toys in the roof space, and plan to do a switch in a month’s time. That’s why even the messiest it gets won’t be as messy as it could get.
Whatever your approach to mess, at the end of it all remember that one day you’ll miss that mess and the memories it created. Really, you will!