I’m not a complete slob, but I’m also not a neat freak. I guess I’d describe myself as “laid back” when it comes to my house. I like it to be clean and neat and tidy, but it isn’t always, and I’m okay with that. I work from home and so does my husband, and we have three kids whom we homeschool, so our house gets used. A lot. And it shows.
However, when someone I don’t know well is coming over, I turn into Mary Poppins on steroids. I can whirlwind our lived-in home into perfectly presentable in no time flat. Of course, that involves shoving piles of papers and laundry into bedrooms and some frantic yelling at my family to get it done, but I can do it.
If it’s your first time to my home (assuming you don’t just show up without warning), you’ll be greeted by a living area worthy of an HGTV reveal, complete with centerpieces and fresh coffee. I can make my house look like a magazine shoot when I put my back into it.
But honestly, I prefer not to do that all the time. While I would love to keep my house spic and span all day, every day, that’s just not going to happen with our lifestyle. Not without causing everyone enormous amounts of stress, which is not worth it.
So when good friends are coming over, we will neaten a bit, but we don’t fret over making the house look perfect. There’s a very good chance you’ll find a laundry basket full of clothes in the dining room, a half-played game of Monopoly to be finished later on the coffee table, a few art projects mid-creation, and some piles of paper that I haven’t gotten around to sorting yet.
The floor under the dining table will almost surely need sweeping. There might be a pile of dishes in the sink that didn’t fit into the dishwasher and are waiting for the next cycle. Guaranteed, there will be shoes that belong elsewhere.
And if you are greeted by such things at my house? Take it as a compliment. I’m serious.
Because if I didn’t know you well and like you a lot and trust you implicitly, I wouldn’t let you see all of that. I’d put on the neat-and-tidy show for you — out of respect and courtesy, of course — and wouldn’t invite you into our intimate mess.
But our good friends get to be a part of our family’s norm. If I don’t make a big effort to clean up before you come, it means I trust you not to judge our life. It means we share a mutual understanding that we don’t need to present our very best to one another all the time. It means we can be comfortable and genuine in every way, like family.
Believe it or not, my laundry baskets mean I love you. My clutter shows I care. Piles of paper mean you’re my people.
If you step into my home at any point in our friendship and notice that it looks like we’ve sort of let the house go, we haven’t. That’s our normal state most of the time — not like an episode of Hoarders, but definitely not HGTV material. And we love you so much that we want you to be part of our normal.
So please take our mess as the compliment that it is. Letting you see it is testament to our friendship. It means you’re welcome in our home — and our life — anytime.
This post first appeared on Scary Mommy