Getting Over the Shame Cycle of Messiness

How denial helps me cope with the chaos in my home.

Denial is, for the most part, not a good thing. But deployed appropriately, under just the right circumstances, it can also be pretty wonderful. When it comes to the tornado that tears through my house every morning by 6:31, for example, I’m pretty sure denial is the only thing I have left keeping me sane.

Let me set the scene: Usually every night by 8 or so, my house looks like civilized human beings live there. The playroom door is closed, the toys might be dispersed and messy, but it’s dark. The kitchen is cleaned up and tidy. The house looks nice, relatively orderly, and I can think clearly. Maybe one day my home will rise up to greet me, as Oprah says it should (whatever that means). But this works just fine.

Fast-forward to about 60 seconds after the children are awake the next morning, and all I can wonder is: Were we just ransacked by drug-induced thieves? Did a tornado tear through here? Am I raising savages? How is it possible for my house to look this chaotic so very quickly?

Every day. Every day it’s like this. The organization and tidiness from the previous night are a distant memory. Sometimes I wonder if it was all in my head. Then I start to count the number of times someone randomly drops in at 10 AM to borrow some sugar, and I find myself saying, “It doesn’t usually look like this!”

But it’s a lie. It always looks like this. I think the Pottery Barn Kids catalog is made and distributed just to make me feel bad. Even when my house is neat and tidy, it still doesn’t look that perfect.

Usually I clean up the morning chaos only for the afternoon version to arrive shortly thereafter. Should I even bother cleaning up in the morning?

A friend of mine recently told me that one day after she dropped her kids off at school, instead of going home to the tsunami of chaos, she decided she was going to go shopping. Not grocery shopping but shopping for herself only. A few minutes into her rare solo adventure, her cell phone started ringing. She tried to ignore it, but after the fourth call from the same number, she answered. It was the police calling to say her alarm was going off at home and because she hadn’t answered her phone, the police were on their way there. Remember, she deliberately hadn’t gone home to clean up yet because she was shopping.

She got home, and the police said, “Well, it definitely looks like your house has been ransacked.”

That’s right, officer. No robbers, just kids. But I swear, it doesn’t always look like this.