I Have Finally Come to Terms with Not Having a Perfectly Clean Home — Here’s How

published Jun 6, 2022
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Woman vacuuming kitchen
Credit: sukiyaki/Shutterstock

When we put our house on the market this spring, as part of the process, one day we had to have our neighbor friend come over and turn on the air conditioning for us. Of course, the house was in absolutely picture-perfect form at the time. It was in better shape than it’s ever been, honestly. And, you know what our friend said when he saw the immaculate inside of our home? “It looks beautiful, but it’s alien.” 

I loved that. He’s only ever seen our house in its more normal, lived-in state. And with a busy household of seven (we have five kids) plus two huge and very lively dogs, “lived-in” for us is somewhere between laundry-and-toy cyclone and presentable but please don’t look too closely at the baseboards or open the playroom cabinet doors. 

His comment really stayed with me. Here’s the thing: A pristine, move-in ready house that shows few signs of life might help prospective buyers imagine themselves living in your home, but it isn’t a realistic setup for the average family living their daily lives. Signs of my family’s busy life — muddy cleats peppered on the mudroom floor and crooked works of handmade kids’ art stuck on the fridge with tacky magnets — are what helped to make a generic house into a home of our very own. 

Frankly, as much as I aspire to put everything away where it belongs and instill that habit in our kids too, I don’t want to spend my daily life in a constant Cinderella state cleaning and storing away the moments that make us a family and our house a home. I’m still practicing straddling that line between keeping our house in reasonable order (if we don’t, the visual chaos gets to me and I’m not a happy wife or mom) and not letting the constant cleaning up of daily messes distract from the lives that are creating them. Honestly, even just pausing on the word create helps remind me that marker streaks on desks are evidence of art and a pair (or three!) of dirty socks on the floor are proof of children making themselves at home when their little feet got hot. Those are what matter most, right? Not perfection.

There was a lesson in this for me: Before managing my house I need to manage my perspective and think more about how my standards for cleanliness can affect the overall atmosphere in my home.

So as it turns out, making my house completely immaculate for showings didn’t bring me the happiness I thought it would as someone who loves to keep things clean and neat. But it did teach me to value and be happy during all the normal days when my house is exactly the way it’s supposed to be — lived and loved in. 

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This Was the Moment I Gave Up On Wanting a ‘Perfect,’ Clean House