In Defense of the Unkempt

Agatha - Lexington, Kentucky
Entered on February 15, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

If you walk into my house on any given day, the first thing you notice is that I am not a tidy person. There are dishes in my sink, stains on my countertops, and tumbleweeds of dog hair making tracks on the floor. My laundry forms slow-moving mountains that shift on imaginary tectonic plates, forming amazing recreations of Pangaea. One day, the mess will become sentient, and I will be in trouble.

The second thing you notice is the laughter. My husband, son, and I laugh more than any family I have ever known. We find joy in our wreckage, and mirth in our mayhem. I have seen the panicked faces of those with tidy abodes — those who fear disturbance in their perfection — and I look at my disarray and feel peace in the knowledge that a muddy footprint on the coffee table won’t much affect the look of the place.

In the five years that we have lived in our home, my son has marked his artistic history upon our apple green walls, first with toddler-friendly crayons, later with permanent marker that I don’t know how to cover up. Right now he love stickers, and every room of the house gives testament to this with rockets, smiley faces and Curious George’s inquisitive mug. If I were a good housekeeper, these works of a budding interior designer or modern artist might cause me grief. I might scrub at the walls with magic erasers or repaint the house to cover the scribbles and scrapes. I would most certainly be irritated that my child seems incapable of understanding the value of time spent cleaning. Instead, I see the marks for what they are: a gift from my son to our family. A history of his well-spent youth.

My own creative path shows in the tangles of yarn, notebooks filled with sketches, and the overflowing closet of supplies that would put a middling-sized craft store to shame. I find comfort in the disorganization of my materials. I know — even if no one else does — where to find the right medium for the right project to uplift me and let me express the love I feel for the moments I have in this life. Bins and racks do not provide me the pure, joyous release that my piles do. Knowing what I need most will be whatever I can find, even if I do not tediously organize and catalog my options, provides to me with the gift of improvisation, imperfection, and surprise.

Living in my house means that you might not always get to wear your favorite shirt, that dinner might be served on mismatched plates, and that you might not be able to describe the heady aroma coming from the fridge. It also means that you will be surrounded by the love and creativity of people who know their priorities. Because of this, I believe in messy houses.