‘My house is a pigsty’, I told my neighbour as we chatted through my kitchen window.
‘No, it’s not a pigsty—your home is lived-in!’ The 80-something-year-old reassured me.
The Bible talks about wives being ‘homemakers’, along with loving their husbands and children and living a godly life (Titus 2:5, NKJV). But I often feel like I am failing in the ‘homemaker’ department because of mess, children, busyness and my own bad habits. If you’re feeling frazzled too, here are four thoughts to help you make peace with your ‘lived-in’ home.
1. Change your terminology
Do you refer to your home as a ‘pigsty’ or ‘mess’? Do you apologise to guests because your living area is untidy? Maybe there’s a smatter of Lego, Hot Wheels cars and puzzle pieces to tiptoe around. Spillages run down kitchen cupboards and spider webs adorn the ceiling. There are baskets of unfolded washing everywhere and urine stains on the carpets.
In the words of my neighbour, your house isn’t messy—it’s lived-in! You can change your mindset by changing your terminology.
2. Remember it’s a season
You may have little people in your house. You’re balancing sleeps and feeds. Life is a blur of pooey nappies, breastfeeding, blending vegetables, temper tantrums and craft projects.
Whatever your standard of cleanliness was before having children, it will doubtless need to change. The adults are no longer the only ones in the home: there are little hands constantly pulling and tipping things out.
You are in a new season. This is the season of babies, toddlers, preschoolers and young children. This season will finish one day. As you train your children, they will learn housekeeping skills and together you will become a team, doing life together.
So let go of messy house guilt. Teaching toddlers to clean up takes time and patience. For five fun clean-up games for preschool-aged children, keep reading.
3. Adjust your expectations
I knew that I had let go of unrealistic expectations of myself when my husband started retrieving his own clean clothes from the laundry baskets, folding them and putting them away; when he started ironing his own work shirts and packing his own lunches.
What do you expect of yourself? With a new baby, the extent of your housework for the day might be half unpacking the dishwasher. And that’s OK. Again, this is a season.
Adjust your expectations of others and especially your expectations of yourself. If you’re naturally a ‘cleanie’, that may mean relaxing your standards for a few months or years. If you’re a ‘messy’ like me, I encourage you to learn from friends and family members. Pick up organisational tips, but don’t be too hard on yourself. ‘Messy’ creativity is also a gift.
I have benefited from listening to ‘The art of decluttering’ podcast and reading a book by one of the hosts, Simply Organised. These Aussie women offer many great tips on organising different areas of the house. I also subscribe to ‘The minimal Mom’ channel on YouTube.
4. The heart of the home is what matters
Proverbs 14:1 says, ‘The wise woman builds her house.’ So how can we build wisely? Remember what God said to Samuel:
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7b).
The heart of the home is what matters, not how it looks. As a wise woman, focus on building your house with compassion, kindness, peacefulness and love.
In the words of 1 Peter 3:4, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth in God’s sight. Your children won’t remember how much you dusted and vacuumed. They will remember what kind of mum you were and the experiences you shared. More than fussing over the state of your house, cultivate a gentle spirit. Sing to your children. Cuddle and kiss them. Keep your eyes and your mind focused on these precious blessings.
Is your house a pigsty? No—it’s lived-in. Let’s invite our friends over for playdates without cleaning up. Let’s be real. Keeping house is more than spotlessness. Keeping house is building warmth amidst the chaos of life and actually living in our homes.
Clean-up games for preschoolers
• Pack up song: Play your child’s favourite song as you pack up. Hit repeat as many times as you need to!
• Throwing and catching: Encourage your child to throw soft toys to you. Catch them and put them away.
• Truckers: Boys especially love to stack blocks and cars in dump trucks. Even when packing up Lego, encourage your child to make loads and zoom them over to the Lego box.
• Beat the timer: Set your oven or phone timer and challenge your child to pack up all the toys before it beeps.
• Next fun activity: Before beginning pack up time, tell your child about the fun activity you will do next. This is great incentive to pack up faster.
Nicki Jeffery is the author of Faith-based Travels: A Devotional Guidebook for the Faith-filled Traveller, Encouraging Mums with Hope: Light in the Darkness of Maternal Depression and Precious Michelle: A Sister Reminisces a Life Lost to Suicide. Nicki lives with her husband and two sons, their puppy, cat and four chooks on the mid north coast of NSW, Australia.
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