10 Scenarios Where It’s Completely Fine to Have a Messy House


As a borderline obsessive compulsive neat freak, it’s my firm belief that my house should never be messy. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t care if your house is messy, and I won’t judge you at all. I just cannot for the life of me rationalize being in a house that’s messy. And that’s a difficult realization for me, as the mother of four kids. Fortunately, I have developed habits that make it possible for my house to remain clean at all times, and my kids are great about picking up after themselves, putting toys away that they are no longer using and placing their dishes in the sink when they are finished eating. They’re pretty cool, and I’m super happy about that. I, on the other hand, am a basket case. I will not leave the house if everything is not perfect when it’s time to leave. I will not go to bed if the house is not clean. I cannot relax until everything is clean – just ask my husband.

I like my cleanliness. It makes me happy. But there are times when I wish I could relax about it a bit. I wish I could be a little bit more relaxed about a toy or two on the floor, or a cup on the counter, or a dirty coffee cup in the sink for more than a second. Really, I’m working on it because I don’t want my kids to grow up and be one extreme (total neat freak like me) or the other (total disaster to rebel against said neat freak mother). I want them to be clean and tidy, but not obsessive. So that’s why I’ve been working on allowing myself to let go of the mess in certain situations. I’m not doing a very good job of it, but I’m working on it. And I thought I’d share it with you. Maybe make myself a little more accountable for my actions. Maybe remind myself that these are situations in which it is okay to have a slight mess (in no way am I condoning filth).

When You Have People over for Dinner

We have a longstanding Wednesday night tradition with our best friends. We have been doing this every week for 7 years, enjoying family dinner together on Wednesday nights, switching houses every week. And I’ve had to learn that when they are here with their two kids and our four kids, my house is not going to look good. It takes less than five minutes for toys to be everywhere, for cups and plates and all kinds of things to clutter the counters, and I have to learn to be okay with that. It will all be cleaned when they go; and that’s all right.

When it’s Confined to the Playroom

There is one thing I’m learning to let go, and that’s the state of the playroom. I’ve become a bit more comfortable with the fact that it’s not visible from the rest of the house, so I kind of don’t care that it’s a disaster if I can tell myself it’s not. I can’t see it, it’s not a mess – right? Yes, I know I’m a lunatic. The kids and I pick it up every evening before bath time, but I’m working on not letting the mess throughout the day bother me in there.

When it’s Confined to the Kids’ Rooms

We’ve decided that our kids’ rooms are their own. They are free to decorate how they please, to clean as they see fit. They are required to keep their rooms neat and go to bed with a clean room, but we’ve decided we no longer care if they make all the mess in the world throughout the day as long as they put everything away at night.

When You’re Hosting a Play Date

When you have other kids over, forget it. Let the house become a mess. It’s going to end up a cluttered jumble of toys anyway, so you might as well let go of the desire to clean up behind the kids every second for the next few hours or just suck it up and move on.


I don’t love it, but I get that when we host the holidays in our house, cleanliness is not really possible. There are presents being ripped open, coffee being poured, k-cups littering the counter, food being prepared, kids screaming in excitement. I dislike the mess, but I love the happiness.

When You’re Remodeling

My husband and I are beginning a kitchen remodel. Well, we are having our cabinets painted and our countertops replaced, but still. I’m learning that I need to let go of the idea of perfection and get ready for a week of kind of messy and disastrous stuff happening in there. I can do it. I know I can do it. I’m strong and I’m capable.

When You’re Having Fun with the Kids

Sometimes when I’m having fun with the kids playing a game, the mess doesn’t bother me. I’m learning to make that a thing every single time we’re having fun. Playdough all over the place when we’re making a castle out of the stuff? So what? The kids are having fun and there is plenty of time for me to clean up the mess later on. What’s important is spending time with my kids. My house will be spotless when they’re off at college.

When You’re Having a Party

We love to entertain. We have a home that makes entertaining so easy and so much fun, and that makes us want to host things all the time. But I hate the mess. I’m learning to let go and worry about it when everyone leaves so that I can sit back and have fun while they’re here. I’m a work in progress.

When You’re Having an Adventure

Kids need adventure, and that’s what makes them fun. So when I’m having an adventure with my kids, whether it’s a dance party dance off or a treasure hunt around the house, I don’t worry about things that need to be cleaned or put away. I worry about having a good time with my kids and making the adventure as much fun as possible. It helps me let go of my anal qualities about cleanliness.

When You’re Sick

When you’re sick, stop whatever you’re doing. The kids need you, you need to rest; everything else needs to forget it. I’ll never forget when I had the flu. It was a solid week of torture. I could barely move. I could barely function. My husband didn’t realize I felt so bad on that first day until he came home and realized that I’d laid on the couch all day long and let the kids destroy our house, moving only when I had absolutely no choice (such as feeding the kids). When you’re sick, rest. Trust me; you need the rest.

Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images


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