My house is completely upside down and inside out. There are sandy towels from the beach and wet bath towels from the grandchildren – including the ones that live in the city but still choose to take their baths at my house with their cousins that don’t!
There are dirty breakfast dishes on the table, clean dishes out in anticipation of lunch, and meat defrosting on the counter for dinner (Yes, I know there’s a health risk; I won’t leave it out too long). There is a (very) messy teenager’s bedroom and laundry from two months at camp. There are back-to-school lists and supplies spread throughout the house and I’m about to go to the market – as soon as I figure out where I’m going to put the groceries! I’m getting ready for a short out-of-town domestic trip and my husband is making his complicated preparations for a longer overseas one. Put simply, it’s chaos around here!
Some people thrive amidst chaos. They love the bustle of activity, the action in every corner, the three-ring circus. Let me state emphatically that I am NOT one of those people.
I like order and rules. I like routine and regularity. I like childrens’ books to sit on the shelf in numerical order! But I’ve learned to let go (mostly). For three reasons.
The first is practical. Although I repeatedly tell my husband that he should be grateful for my compulsive nature (“Just imagine what the house would look like otherwise!”) he’s not buying. He doesn’t want to sacrifice our time together so I can make sure all the garbage cans are constantly emptied. And he’s right (don’t tell him I said so!). Clearly our relationship takes priority.
It’s not possible (without live-in help) to have a spotless home and still spend real time with my children and grandchildren.
And it’s not only one that does. It’s not possible (without live-in help) to have a spotless home and still spend real time with my children and grandchildren. So I’m choosing them. I’ve learned to live with the chaos because it’s the only way to really live. And because I don’t want to quash my children in order to satisfy my neurosis (although that teenage bedroom could be a little cleaner without damaging anyone’s self-esteem!).
The second reason is practical in another way – or shall we say realistic. It’s just not realistic to expect constant order and routine. Life isn’t like that; it’s chaotic and messy. Just when school finally starts and we begin to image a quiet day alone, the washing machine breaks down, one of our children has a stomach ache, and our friend has a family crisis and needs our help. Routine takes a big back seat to the physical and emotional needs of our families and friends. We’re always waiting for life to get back to “normal” instead of perhaps accepting that there is no such thing!
The third reason is the deepest and most philosophical reason or all. A life of order creates the illusion of a life of control. Just as chaos threatens our sense of and desire for control, a regulated life promotes it.
We feel in charge, on top of things. But, as I said, it’s only an illusion. We aren’t in control – whether the books are lined up or not. The Almighty is running the show and sometimes we need reminders. A chaotic home is a simple, painless way to reinforce that lesson.
With this recognition internalized, our need for order is diminished – although certainly not eliminated. I still need a relatively neat home. It frees me to concentrate and be productive. But the compulsive aspect is a reflection of anxiety and lack of trust in the Almighty. It’s that pesky need for control. Refocusing on the fact that the Almighty is in charge lets me breathe again. It lets me think and function with greater peace of mind – even amidst the chaos. I just have to throw one more load of towels into the wash…