Finding Meaning in the Mess

While flipping through a magazine last week, I saw a two page spread of Pretty Things You Wish You Had or something like that.

Anyway, I saw a cute, colorful glass tumbler and immediately I got caught in the glow of something sparkly.

I thought: I want my kitchen to look cute too! I must replace my mismatched (read: broken) sets immediately!

Then my house will be pretty and in magazine-like order.

Okay maybe not exactly like a magazine, because I’ve been known to overlook a tub ring for far longer than the Tub Guidebook recommends.  But I do love organization.  I like when everything has a place.  And I like to look at pretty things.

Still somehow in my house, jackets migrate to chairs (or the floor), papers can’t find their matching files and those pretty bathroom towels that coordinate with the shower curtain find themselves under the muddy feet of a sweaty boy after a game of frisbee in the rain.

Because not everyone I live with cares about the pretty.  Or even organization.  And I am outnumbered.

**Warning:  If you’ve looked at Pinterest recently, then the following image may be offensive.**


finding meaning in the mess 2_opt

You can lead a horse to water, but doesn’t mean he’ll put his shoes in it.


Several years ago I declared our living room my Serenity room.  It was the one room that was not allowed to be a dumping ground. I could have a few pretty, unbroken things set up in my serenity room and whenever I passed it, it was proof that I actually could keep a house clean and in order.

But now I don’t bother with a serenity room, and it’s not just because I know sweaty kids have been plopping down on the so-called serenity couch.

No I didn’t give up.  I readjusted my idea of meaningful.  Because when I really thought about it, I realized that all those messy habits kind of come with the territory.

And I like this territory.

Because those stacks of papers and scattered shoes mean people I love live here.

And kids grow up, they move out.  Someday there will be less stuff to pick up and put away.  And pretty glasses will stay in sets.

So maybe I will put a bookmark in that magazine, but right now I am happy to set the table with my mismatched glasses, because for now it means I get to see this:


silly smiling faces


 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

― Melody Beattie


What messes are you grateful for?




54 thoughts on “Finding Meaning in the Mess

  1. What a great way to look at it! I’m big on organization, but it helps that I don’t have much stuff. Except for shoes, of course! My issue is always with paper. That’s where I get messy. So, I put a dresser in my office and I put the papers in the drawers. As long as I don’t have to look at it, I’m good! Kids are messy. But at least they grow up and can learn to use the toilet and talk and become great people. Mess is the reason I don’t have pets.


  2. I had a friend cursing Pinterest for giving her false hope she could have a house like in the pictures (but do craft, school-like stuff with her children alll day everyday).

    No one in our house is organized. well the 2 year old might be but that remains to be seen. I know the main problem is clutter, but I’m rather addicted.

    I’ll just serenely go on, and yes, the mess is partly because people I love live here.Just wish they didn’t live quite so much.


  3. I’m sort of organize by piles and then randomly hide the piles. Sigh. With an almost two-year-old, I’ve learned to live with piles of blocks, books and stuffed animals. Kiddo has fun. I relax (because I’m not freaked out all the time). At night, I clean them up and know I’ll repeat the play and the cleanup the next day.


    1. I wanted to take pictures of the stacks of papers that surround my husband’s favorite recliner, but it felt too mean. Especially considering I always have a stack of books on the stairway. Besides if he can live with my penchant for watching really crappy TV, then I guess I can live with his papers. 🙂


  4. Picture perfect does not happen in my house. I redecorated the living room a couple years ago and it looked perfect for maybe two weeks LOL. Too much stuff for too small a house. But you’re right, it’s because people live there. I just wish the ones I love would learn to put stuff away instead of just dumping it wherever!


  5. This is a messy time for you. Just wait until you empty nest and then you will long for those kind of messes!

    How do you put your signature on your photos? I would love to know how to do that!


    1. I know I will long for those messes. Whenever my kids do something annoying nowadays I find myself thinking, One day I will miss this!!
      As for my signature, I used to use Picnik for editing my photos but they just closed down. This week I used I upload a photo and then add text and save. 🙂


  6. I moved from our family home to a townhouse, thinking small would help me stay organized. I moved from that to a house double the size of my former residence. That didn’t help either. So I have concluded I’m a dropped and a mess maker and as long as I whip thru once a week (or two) then I can survive. otherwise, I will drown in paper. thank Amazon for my Kindle, cause that means no more books lying around. yay.


  7. Coleen, great post! I really like things neat, matching, organized. Husband always kids me about how I rearrange cabinets to find a better system! I “move things” LOL. But you are absolutely right – the people I care most about won’t be living here forever. There will be plenty of time for neatness, and then I’ll be missing my boys like crazy. *stifles sob*


  8. Ha! Ha! Every picture you showed reminded me of my cupbords, coat room etc. I keep saying, I’m going to tackle it today, and find other priorities. Hate to burst your bubbles, but even after the kids are gone, they come back, or visit and you still have the mess. But, my house is lovingly lived in. I do have my quiet room where I work, for that I am gratefu!


  9. I love pretty things, too and have always wanted those cute, matchy matchy glasses with the plates and napkin rings, etc. But really that’s so impractical for us. I’ve got one out of the house and let me tell you, there is a huge difference in the amount of mess in the house! She’d never admit to it, but she’s a bit like a cyclone. The guys keep their things to the man cave or sometimes on the coffee table. I’ve noticed lately that it’s me who has been leaving messes everywhere. Little projects I need to finish, etc. Yikes.

    We’ve got a few years before the Kid heads off to college, so I will be thankful that he leaves his backpack or air soft guns all around the house. When he’s gone, it’s going to be so quiet around here.


  10. Coleen & everyone, you are sooooo right! Everything in its place? I once dreamed of that but the worst part is now I have it, picture perfect but oh tooooooo quiet!. I want racing to soccor games & crew again, getting ready for proms & graduations, looking for colleges, Where did it all go. I’d really enjoy a good mess nowadays. Enjoy it while you have it. And wish me some grandchildren soon before I go nuts from the silence!! love you Col


    1. I love pieces that have interesting patterns or simply remind me of something. I don’t want to have too much stuff, but it’s nice to set a table and really enjoy a meal or party.


  11. Beautifully said, Coleen! I agree wholeheartedly. Like you, I learned long ago not to mind the mess. I’m not looking forward to the loneliness that will come with finally having that clean house.

    Love the picture of the kids =D


  12. Wow. I needed this post Coleen. Thanks. I wonder how everyone always has a picture perfect house and ours always looks like a cyclone ripped through it. Papers get stacked on the bar, shoes left all along the laundry room wall, and mismatched glasses. Not to mention all the kid things left everywhere. Someday I will have my pretty house, until then I will fill it with love and fun. That’s what really matters. Sometimes we all need reminders. 🙂


  13. Well, I don’t have children and my husband is fairly tidy so we have nice things that generally stay that way. He occasionally uses a “good” towel for an outdoor project, but I bite my tongue and scrub the stain remover in hoping for the best.

    But . . . I do work with a complete slob. She’s a wonderful boss and exceptionally bright, but her organization skills are non-existent. I can’t tell you how many hours I waste every week looking for things that she can’t find. I usually find whatever it is in her office, but we won’t go there. It drives me crazy.

    It is a great job and she’s a very kind and understanding boss, so there’s beauty in the mess even though it drives me absolutely insane to have to constantly organize and file mountains of papers that she refuses to put back where she finds it.

    Fun post and good looking kiddos!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


    1. Your comment has me looking outside my home to find the gratitude–something I know I don’t do naturallly! Thanks for sharing your graciousness Patricia 🙂
      Your boss is lucky to have you!


  14. This was EXACTLY what I needed to read today. My house is Wreck Central. But then again, the stains on the living room carpet mean that we eat while watching family movies together. The dirt chunks on the kitchen and utility room floors mean my son just played baseball and I got to cheer him on. The pile of blankets means my other son constructed a cozy sleeping spot for our cat. I could go on and on. So I guess the mess is okay. If my house looked like a show home, it wouldn’t be our lived-in house. Thanks, Coleen.


    1. I agree art messes are pretty great too. 🙂
      I got the red squares cup at Target a few years back–I used to have a lot more! But that’s ok–the pattern still makes me smile AND reminds me of earlier years.
      Thanks Peggy!


  15. This is so very true, Coleen! My house generally looks like a whirlwind covered in dog hair just whipped through, and it drives my husband nuts that our house isn’t orderly and hair-free. But I love my kids and my dogs and the lived-in comfortable feel of our home, and like you said, the kids are growing up and before long it’s going to be way too quiet and tidy around here. Although I’d like it if things were more organized, I am more than happy to enjoy the mess while I can 🙂


    1. Sounds like my office. It was organized, but ever since I decided to “redesign” it, I’ve been dumping stuff in a corner. There is always something to write instead of re-decorate 🙂


  16. I love your humor, Coleen, and that’s a great quote. Our home has always been lived in. Our living room was like a gym when the kids were little. Such a terrible mother, I let my toddlers pull the cushions off the couch and bounce on the springs. Our dining table was also a craft and school-projects table. I let my kids touch the walls and leave fingerprints. You’re so right about them growing up so fast and moving out one day. I’m an empty nester now, but I get to do it all again by babysitting my grandbaby. I had to work when my kids were growing up, so I’m thankful for this 2nd chance to be a stay-at-home mom — grandma! Only, now the messes are made at my daughter and SIL’s place! LOL!


  17. As much as he has a tendency to leave more messes than a teenage boy, I’m still grateful for my husband and his messiness. We’ve been married for 1.5 years, but have only been able to live in the same country and house for 6 months, so even though he drives me nuts sometimes, I’m glad he’s here 🙂


  18. I love the comment about pinterest and the following pictures may be offensive – not at all!!!

    I am still clinging to my “serenity” room, though I try not to be too naggy about it with the kids, because I don’t want them growing up to think I valued a room more than them! One hour a week I make them help me clean up rooms. The rest of the week, I declutter my serenity room myself (mostly just the removal of all sorts of things that pile up on the furniture)


  19. I’m quite happy with the mess in my office. It lets me know that this is my office, and I used it how I want to. Of course, keeping it a little neater might make it easier to find important papers, but how important is paperwork really.


  20. awww—so cute Col. 🙂
    I’d have to say I don’t mind cleaning my 3 year old’s dirty fingernails after he has been digging for worms…it’s just so boyishly cute that it makes me smile.


  21. After a particularly gut-wrenching break-up and move out scenario, I found myself living alone, throwing wadded up paper balls across the bare living room of my new apartment, watching them bounce off the wall and land on the carpet. Then when I came home from work, they were in the same place I left them. The orderliness of it all made me sad. Yeah, I have piles of paper in my work area, but messes are love repositories–people and pets who you love make them. Great post, Coleen.


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