When a Little Mess is a Good Thing

Inspired everyday living is to live fully expressed and happily in our homes—to really live. Yet, many friends we talk to (ourselves included) have admitted to avoiding cooking in a recently cleaned kitchen because they don’t want to mess it up! Have you ever excused yourself from a table of guests to do dishes, picked up the kitchen during a party, or discouraged children from playing in a “formal” living room? Our homes are a source of pride, and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetics and de-cluttering, cleaning, and organization rather than simply enjoying our homes and lives, taking meaningful steps in pursuit of a dream, or focusing on what truly matters to us such as our relationships or our health. While beauty is inspiring and organization is empowering, being overly organized, clutter-free or making your home picture perfect can be just as constraining as living with too much clutter. We need to feel like we can live full out and freely paint on our canvas. The real art in our homes is not what we hang on our walls or how we decorate, it’s how we live—the people, the daily routines, and yes the mess that goes with it! This kind of inspired living creates real style, true beauty, and good energy.

Below are some things to think about when considering whether a quest for a “perfect” home, is holding you back from enjoying life, expressing yourself, or pursuing your goals.

Embrace the mess: Occasionally things get messy, and often there are good reasons for a little mess—a party, houseguests, kids playing. If you’re overly concerned with being clutter-free and organized, you can miss the fun. Just know your limit. Some people don’t feel at peace unless everything is organized while others can tolerate more of a mess. For example, you may need to do the dishes before you go to bed in order to fully relax and your partner may be comfortable waiting until the morning. Be honest about where you stand and where anyone else who lives in your place stands and decide what works for everyone, but next time you have a dinner party enjoy your guests and let the dishes wait until they leave!

Explore creative chaos: Often the creative process involves a bit of chaos before form emerges. It’s similar to the need to brainstorm about a bunch of ideas before honing in on one. When we are in the middle of a project things get messy and we might bring in a lot more stuff, move things around, or make a mess. This kind of “clutter” or mess is alive and serves us. The key is that after completion, (i.e. after the party, when the paint has dried on the canvas, after the project is finished…) we need to regroup, clean up and organize again so there is room for new creative inspiration. Otherwise the creative energy that enlivens the mess dissipates and the mess simply becomes a mess… stagnating the energy and impeding future creative inspiration.

Let go of perfectionism: We all want to create the best possible home for ourselves and our families, but the quest for perfectionism can prevent us from being in the moment and negatively affect our self esteem. What exactly is a perfect home? A place that looks beautiful and organized that neighbors admire from afar? Or is a perfect home a place that makes sense for you—reflects your authentic self and fits your lifestyle—where you, your family, and guests feel comfortable and welcome and enjoy spending time? Check in to make sure you’re not getting caught up in the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. You get to define what a perfect home is for you and your family. Make sure your definition supports you and doesn’t hold you back from living life and enjoying the moment.

Use every part of your home: Check in and see if there are any parts of your home that you do not use, such as a formal living room or a guest room. If we are not using all of our homes it can be a metaphor for not using all of ourselves. Untouched parts of your home may represent untouched parts of your life. Consider using rooms for different or multi purposes… perhaps the guest room is also an office or the formal dining room doubles as an arts and crafts space.

Let loose: Being overly organized can hold us back in the same way clutter does. Clutter often prevents us from moving forward and doesn’t allow for new things or opportunities to enter our lives. In the same way, if you’re too organized and too attached to your systems and routines, you may be missing out on new ways of doing or perceiving things. Often it is the mishaps or mistakes in life that make us see other possibilities. For example, if you always follow a recipe exactly you’ll always get exactly the same flavor, but perhaps a more interesting flavor awaits you if you added a dash more of this or a teaspoon more of that… Or if you always follow the same route to get to work, you may not discover a quicker route or a great new coffee shop just a few streets away. Being able to let go of our systems and routines allows us the breathing room to try something different and discover something new.

Clutter clear with a purpose: When you do decide to take time to clutter clear and organize it helps to connect the process with meaning and purpose. This could be as simple as being conscious of why you are clearing, or setting an intention that while you clear the physical you are also clearing away any emotional negativity. Your purpose could also be more concrete, such as organizing a bedroom to help you sleep better or clearing out a garage so you can turn it into as playroom. A purpose will ensure that you are not in the endless cycle of clearing without making any positive difference in your life.

If you’re like us, clutter clearing and organizing is fun and makes you feel good about your home and yourself—like you’ve accomplished something. There are many things in this world that we can’t control, but our homes are often something that we can control, so when we make changes to our homes we often feel empowered. Just make sure that the clutter clearing, yard work, and organization doesn’t get in the way of pursuing other goals. For example, we both like to clean our workspaces before we write, making sure our desks and computer desktops are organized. But occasionally, the organization becomes a way to procrastinate. Do we have to have a clean desk to work? Do we need a perfectly tidy kitchen before we cook? Although it’s nice, it’s not necessary. So if you too can get a little too focused on clearing clutter and organization, make sure it’s not an excuse not to do something else, take a risk, or try something new!