Behind the disheveled curtain

23 Jul

…or that period of time when my house was a holy mess…

Today, I read a post from a dad about how he had blamed his wife for their messy house, then was enlightened.  You see more of these articles lately, menfolk backing up what the stay-at-home mom does.

In a way, it’s sad they have to defend their wives and their less-than-showplace homes.

But sadder still, is reading the comments.  Because it’s not men saying “Ugh, wimmen need to be barefoot making sammiches and mopping floors, no excuses!”  No, it’s women stating how they have 2,3,4 kids under the ages of two and they prioritized their home and housecleaning and there is no excuse for living in FILTH!  That if a 4 year old comments that your house is messy, then it must be a filthy germy biohazard full of feces.

Like I said, sad.

Because once again, women are pitting themselves against other women.  Mothers are trying to one-up other mothers.  “Look, I can do it ALL, you can too!”

But some of us can’t.

We just can’t.

I can’t.

I have never been the neatest of people, I will own that.  I can organize with the best of them, but I also end up with piles of clutter here and there.  Clutter doesn’t equate to filth.  I would just clean around the piles, shift the stacks of paper on my desk, wipe the desk clean, put stacks of paper back more neatly.  As a young mother, I may have had piles of clothing out, but they were the clean clothes that I needed to fold after the toddlers of destruction were not present (why is it so much fun for toddlers to unfold folded clothing).  I was a stay-at-home mom of one, then two, then three.  Sometimes, things would slide, then I would catch up.  But while our house was sometimes a bit of a disaster, it was never filthy.

And then, Maura came along.

This is where someone goes “Oh sure, excuses.”  Well maybe, if you consider post-partum depression, then depression and anxiety, as “excuses”. If you do, well, go along with your clean home and heartless soul, this story is not for you.

But yeah, Maura.  Maura rocked my world.  And I was tired, overwhelmed, trying to parent four little kids, realizing that there was something wrong with my baby girl, and it all got too much.  Everything got to be too much.  Anxiety and depression, they’re a pair of right bitches. Really, it’s amazing how I was able to get up every day, dress kids, get them to places on time, feed them semi-healthy meals while trying not to ruin their childhoods with my struggles.  I put blinders on to my surroundings, put on a happy face for the outside world and went into survival mode.  For like three years.

Do you know what it’s like to come out of survival mode and realize your home is completely disheveled?  That you’re surrounded by chaos, and realizing that anyone who walked in the door would probably judge you as a horrible mother?  Forget that I was taking my child to doctors and therapists while trying not to fail the older three kids, and somehow they were all happy and decently adjusted – no, that wouldn’t have played into the situation.  I should have rallied the children, made cleaning fun, and teach them responsibility!  – or so the comments sections of other posts would tell me.

Other mothers have children with special needs and clean homes!

No excuses!

You can do it!

But I wasn’t them.  I was me.  I was me, and overwhelmed and not sure where to start digging myself out of the hole I was in, and still having to take care of four kids, feed them, nurture them, while trying to make the little girl with issues thrive and achieve. It was easier to ignore the mess, ignore the piles, ignore the clutter.  And the more I ignored, the worse it got.  My house was a reflection of the struggle I was going through – but no one outside of my very inner circle could have realized that.  To others, it would have just been a messy house.

This went on for about three years.  Three years of feeling horrible on the inside while coming to terms with our new realities.  Three years of coming to acceptance with Maura’s issues, and growing in other ways.

I did manage to finally climb my way out of the hole, with a lot of help from my husband (who has always proved to be amazing), and some help from a therapist and a bottle of Prozac.  I decluttered, and organized, and moved overseas, and moved back.  I went from having too much stuff to realizing I may have decluttered a little too much in some areas and had to go buy new curtains because I donated all the ones we weren’t using.  I am still going through, making donate piles, organizing life.

My house is still not picture perfect.  It never will be.  I live with Maura, and she needs constant supervision or else we walk into things her trying to cut the watermelon with a giant knife, or bathroom flooding.  And to be honest, if I spend all my time cleaning, and trying to keep things perfect, then that’s all I will ever be able to do.  And I will get very grumpy.  I don’t want my life’s achievement to be the cleanest house on the block.  I just want a happy family and happy life.

So if you stop by and my house is looking more than a little lived in, it’s not because I don’t care.  It’s because every day is its own challenge.  Every day I get up and fight inner demons of depression, anxiety, and general overwhelmedness, and keep moving forward.  I do the best that I can – not the best that you can, not the best that she can – just the best that I can.

The point of the story?  That sometimes, probably more than we realize, the state of a mother’s house is a reflection of her inner state.  Don’t judge a mother by her clutter.





17 Responses to “Behind the disheveled curtain”

  1. Carol C July 23, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    The photo looks like an afternoon’s worth of clutter on a very clean rug. You’re doing a great job. Don’t feel judged.

    • phoebz4 July 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      That is just an afternoon of clutter, lol! Maura’s bedroom closet vomited out a herd of stuffed animals that I have to shove back in now so she has floor space again. Ah, life.

  2. saracvt July 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Oh my God! Thank you thank you THANK YOU for posting this! I thought it was just me!

    This is EXACTLY me, from Maura trying to cut the watermelon with a giant knife (Maddy LOVES watermelon and sometimes doesn’t want to wait) to bathroom flooding (Olivia; sometimes I worry that the bathroom floor will suddenly rot away under our feet).

    I, too, have never been the neatest of people, but my house was never STICKY until the girls came along. Some years back, I went online for support and was told I “should just die” for having poop on my walls. (This was that period when the girls would not countenance diapers, but were unsure what the bathroom was for.) Since they’re mostly potty-trained now, the smell’s gotten better, but I still light fragrance candles often.

    And, yes, antidepressants have helped and my spouse is understanding. But I still need to climb out of that hole you mentioned. (God knows my relatives won’t help, having given up on us.) Every day is a challenge.

    But, on a reassuring note, I have been investigated twice by CPS (for different reasons) and each time they told me a messy house is the LEAST of their concerns. Each time, the complaints were officially found to be unfounded.

    I am an awesome mom but a lousy housekeeper, and that’ll have to do for now.

    But I can’t help feeling I’m somehow failing the girls, you know?

  3. Dana D July 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Thank you! I have NT kids, and still a very messy house. I struggle all the time with feeling like I am not measuring up – despite having awesome kids, awesome life, etc. The house being “disheveled” is a major source of anxiety for me and one of the many ways I judge myself so harshly, but I too want to live life, not spend it cleaning. I love to entertain, but never have people over because of the house not meeting my standards – I even go so far as to pick up other people’s kids for playdates so the parents don’t come in when they drop their kids off. (in my mind, kids don’t judge.) The comments on the internet feed into my anxiety and depression. I wish it was all easier and that I could just be “o.k.” with it all and go with the “this is how we roll” attitude. It is hard to do, but your article made it a little easier today.

  4. Jackie groden July 23, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    What have learned most from this crazy journey that we are on?? Dont judge… Great lesson for me over these 18 years. We all do/ try our best with the cards we are dealt! Walk one minute in my shoes and maybe people wont be so judgemental! Thanks for always making me smile! Peace to you always!

  5. franhunne4u July 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Your carpet is still WHITE … Do you have a fishing license? If my flat, without kids or dogs as a reason for disorganisation, would look anything like this I would feel a lot better than I do. Fact is, I AM JUST PLAIN LAZY. So, no, you will not get any You can do better-comment from me.

  6. Christine Stimson July 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    Those people who say “I have 8 kids, 2 dogs, 3 cats, a full-time in-home business plus I volunteer at the homeless shelter 4 times a week & I can keep a clean house, so can you (or I can find time to exercise or whatever) have never made me feel inspired or encouraged. Instead, they make me want to sit in the bathtub with a good book and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Which is probably my problem in a nutshell.

  7. Lori-Anne July 23, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    YES!!! Thank-you!!! Your story totally resonates with me, from the not being neat to begin with (some due to a creative personality, I like to think…some due to procrastinating) to dealing with several children, to dealing with depression and my own health problems. I don’t have a child with the cares that you deal with, but we have our own concerns here. Mothers need to be more caring and empathetic and build eachother up, we’re all doing the same job. are we not? *hugs* and high gives to you, Pheobe!

  8. donofalltrades July 23, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    I don’t trust people who have kids and immaculate houses. It doesn’t make any sense to me. My wife and I both work, so our house is always a mess. We do what we can when we can and are okay with it. Lol. Good luck with the clutter! Own it.

  9. Sparrowgrass July 24, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    I suspect there’s a research project waiting to be written about the correlation between depression and messy houses. Not just the “duh, depressed people can’t/don’t want to tidy” relationship, but also something beyond that. At my worst, not only did I not see or care about mess, I felt physically uncomfortable about tidiness. An empty table top was a desolate wasteland that would upset me, but one with scattered papers, discarded train tickets and the general detritus of life was acceptable.

  10. Suziqueue July 24, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Unf*ck Your Habitat saved my sanity, and my home.

    And I don’t say that lightly.

    I’ve struggled all my life with mental illness, and when you add 4 kids to that, and a marriage that was rocky at the best of times (and a husband who seemed blind to everything that didn’t directly affect him – including the piles of moldy food he would leave on his side of the bedroom), and you have a recipe for disaster. Then in January last year, my life literally crumbled around me. My husband walked out, a whole bunch of other family shit went down, my finances went from little to literally nothing (because it was all in his name), I mean you name it, I was probably going through it. And I’m honestly not sure I would have survived it if it wasn’t for UfYH.

    Team UfYH – what we who follow the blog and its recommendations like to call ourselves – is awesome. PileOfMonkeys (also known as The UFYH Lady) goes above and beyond trying to make sure she makes everything inclusive. Got mental health issues? She covers that. Got chronic illness? She covers that. Got mental blocks due to cleaning being used as abuse/punishment as a child? She covers that too.

    Judgemental people are told (in a polite way) to stfu or gtfo. We won’t put up with that in our community. Too many of us already judged ourselves into a worse state than we started out at, we sure as hell don’t need it from people who obviously don’t know wtf they’re talking about.

    I really didn’t mean this to turn into a huge ad (sorry ’bout that >.>), but seriously, the positive effect UfYH has had on my life simply can’t be quantified. I went from never wanting people to come over because the house looked like a bomb site to having it almost always clean and knowing that if somebody just showed up out of the blue? The house is clean. And I do it in only minutes a day (ymmv, ofc, but it’s worked out to about 30-40 minutes a day for me, cleaning up after myself and 3 teenagers).

    Oh yeah, and she’s got an app for that. Both iOS and Android.

    • saracvt July 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Well, I had hope, but…

      I couldn’t help but notice that this blog is targeted at “single people and people without kids.” While she does talk a lot about depression, what do you do if:

      You’re clinically depressed AND have health challenges and you have two special-needs kids (one bipolar, one autistic) that demand nearly all your time. And you are in the lifestyle so disdained by this blog, but your caring spouse has to work incredible hours to try to cover the ginormous medical bills you all incur?

      And swearing prolifically at me is NOT going to morivate me. If that were all it took, I would’ve had an immaculate house long ago.

      So fuck them and the horse they rode in on. And I don’t say that lightly, either.

      • saracvt July 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

        Excuse me, mo*t*ivate me. Nor telling me that “excuses are boring”.

        (And I DO make my bed, but my kids UNmake it several times a day.)

      • phoebz4 July 25, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

        You know, the first person was just trying to share something that helped her. That’s all. It might help someone else. I have friends who would love a curse-ladened motivational blog, b/c that’s how they are. Also, single people sometimes need help with clutter – have you ever watched “Hoarders?”

        If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t, and that’s okay too. Lord knows I’m a 4 time Flylady failure. But I don’t think all this needed such a strong reaction.

      • saracvt July 26, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

        Yeah, Phoebe, you’re probably right. I do apologize, Suziequeue.

        All I can say is that I was EXTREMELY frustrated by the site, and would’ve given the boss lady herself this feedback, but they don’t let you. And I really don’t like being cursed at on a supposedly understanding site, or being told that “excuses are boring”. The assumption seemed to be that I didn’t do this because I was just dumb or deluding myself. I really don’t care for that tone.

        But still, I got hot under the collar and went further than I should have. And I’m sorry.

        (And, yes, I’ve seen “Hoarders”. And “Hoarding: Buried Alive”. But I’m not sentimentally attached to my crap, there’s just too much of them and not enough of me.)

      • phoebz4 July 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

        Thanks for that Sara!

        As for the profuse amount of language on the site…well…one would think the title of it would be a giveaway that there’d be loads of cursing 😉

  11. Cindy July 25, 2014 at 12:08 am #

    I could swear you took a picture of my living room! We also live in a constant state of mess. I finally resolved to just be happy that 1 (random)room is clean at any given time. Those people who have clean, spotless homes? Open their drawers, closets, garages…..souls, & there you’ll find the clutter!

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