The Important Distinction Between Dirty And Messy

When we have children, it's important that we make peace with the fact that our homes may be slightly less tidy but they can still be clean. 

When it comes to how tidy your house is, standards really change when children come along. This happens for a variety of different reasons. Babies (and children in general) require huge amounts of your time every single day which leaves you with less time for chores and domestic duties. 

Tidy homes and children generally don’t mix very well either. You could spend hours tidying your home and it will resemble a play centre after fifteen minutes. This can make your attempts at tidying up seem futile because it is a constant battle to keep it the way you like it.  

It is important to understand the distinction between dirty and messy because it has been a cathartic realization for me personally. Since baby number two came along I have really struggled to keep on top of my usual housework routine.  

I don’t work well in a messy environment and am the kind of person who will always find something to do. These days I am reminding myself that there really is more to life than housework. Having a new-born baby has helped me come to this conclusion.  

One of the most powerful elements of this has been teaching myself the important difference between my home being dirty and untidy. I am not OK with dirty, but I have learned to be OK with un-tidy.  

Dirty is dangerous. At least that is what I tell myself anyway. When the house is dirty there are more bacteria which can increase the chances of someone in the family getting sick. That is a pretty good motivator to keep things clean.  

Clothes pegs on a line
There really is more to life than housework.

When things are messy, they create obstacles, they don’t look so “well” in a photo and it can make it difficult to find the things you are looking for. For example, right now my bedroom is messy but clean. The bed-sheets are clean, I hoovered the floors yesterday and I let in fresh air daily. However, the bed is unmade and currently covered in clean clothes that need to be put away.  

Messy is often an indicator of our children’s happiness too. When my home is messy it usually means that toys are scattered around the house, jigsaws are open, and arts and crafts are in full swing. It means that we are playing, and the children are happy. They do not share my passion for a tidy clutter-free space and why on earth would they?  

Upon having this realization, I started to change the way I look at house-work. I now prioritise cleaning over tidying. It makes sense when the pockets of time available are so small these days. If I get a free fifteen-minute window, I will grab some antibacterial wipes and give the bathrooms a good once over. I’ll clean the toilet and the sink. Five-year-olds are not the cleanest when it comes to toilet habits, so I have to keep on top of that.  

I’ll also focus on quick jobs like hoovering, opening windows and emptying the bins which might be full of nappies and food items. I like to get these things out of the house and into the wheely bins so they don’t smell bad or attract flies.  

There are certain products and tools which have really helped me maximise the amount of cleaning I can get done in a short space of time too. Cleaning wipes are a godsend and I couldn’t be without our cordless vacuum cleaner.  

These days I try to remind myself that a clean and messy home can co-exist. At the end of the day, I give the place a quick once-over and “tidy” everything up. It gives me a clear clutter-free space which feels “adult” in the evenings and that’s good enough for me. 

Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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