Should Mess Matter?
by Sally Burgess, Forefront families LLC
My husband, Brian, was quizzing some of his teaching staff one day after school by asking them if they would invite him into their homes if he just arrived on their doorstep unannounced. Coming from a culture where this is expected he was astonished at their responses. One said, "I wouldn't let you in because I hadn't invited you!" Another said, "I wouldn't let you in because my house might be untidy," while yet another said, "I wouldn't let you in because I may not have my make-up on or my hair done!"
All of these teachers were on very friendly terms with Brian, yet none of them would be courteous enough to allow him entry to their homes. Perhaps the guy who would have refused him entry thought that Brian was being discourteous for not calling to make an appropriate 'time' to visit.
The above responses made me realize that appearances and image have become more important than friendships. Has our busyness or our need for privacy created the requirement to always make an appointment before visiting friends? What has happened to the 'drop-in' mentality of years ago? Where are the front porch chats, and the sharing of an egg or cup of sugar between neighbors?
Let me make another point. Is it helpful, healthy or appropriate for parents or kids to live in a constantly chaotic environment at home? I would say not. For me, I think more clearly and work more efficiently when there is some order around me. My house in no way resembles a show home, but I do like the living areas to be basically clear of clutter. Sure, there are times that while I am working on some project, things get a bit out of hand under the heading of tidiness, but as soon as I complete the job I clean up. If things are not put in their allotted place I also find myself wasting a lot of time looking for that illusive bill or letter when I allow piles of paper to accumulate on counter tops. I do have to pay more attention to that!
As far as our children are concerned, insisting on tidy bedrooms teaches them to care for and respect their stuff and to respect you and yours. I have heard many parents say that their kids' rooms are their own domain, and if they want to live in a pig pen, then that is their business! NOT! If their rooms are a mess when they are young, then very likely the bedrooms in their own homes will be the same. Believe me, I have seen some shockers! When I was working as the Health and Safety Coordinator for a large company I was asked to go around all the offices and cubes and take photos of the really messy ones. Not only was it a tidiness issue, all the accumulated paper and books on the floor created the possibility of fire and trip hazards.
I would go as far as to say that people who live in a chaotic mess most likely have chaotic thought patterns or muddled minds. Maybe this is where the term, 'I can't think straight' came from! We don't really think of our brains as being compartmentalized, do we? When our son was 12 years old he decided to change his 'persona' so he went through some complicated brain process to become the 'person he wanted to be'. We had no idea that this was occurring, as he tends to be a quiet, thoughtful soul. However, when he turned 21 years-of-age, he decided he didn't like the 'new' him and wanted to go back to how he was before. One day during this 'going back to normal' phase I said, "Son, you really need to change X behavior/attitude." His reply was, "Yes, I know that Mom, but I am not up to that box in my head yet!"
Are there times when being in a messy environment is fine? Absolutely! How else can kids learn the magic of huge cardboard box forts in the middle of the living room floor? Part of the exercise of creating a 'mess' is also learning to put it all away for later use.
A tidy environment teaches kids to place their stuff in a regular place so they can always find it. Being clutter free helps keep kids safe. An ordered environment develops an ordered and efficient mind. Being tidy (not immaculate) at home teaches kids respect for their belongings. When they visit friends' homes they hopefully will apply the same principle of respect for other people's stuff. In their homes these parents would hopefully become great role models for their children.
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