Does your kitchen ever get so messy that you just don’t know where to start?

Clearly, I never have that problem.

When it gets like this, I usually just tell myself to start somewhere, to clear one section of counter space.

And, one section at a time, it really does improve. It’s not show-room clean, but in-good-shape-to-cook clean.

I feel so much better cooking in a space that’s clean…when I have no clear counter space left, cooking stresses me out something fierce. I just hate having no place to set things down!

Of course, shortly after I took the second picture, I got my kitchen messy again and cleaned it up again.

It’s the ebb and flow of life in a house that’s well lived-in….get it messy, clean it up, get it messy, clean it up.

I don’t like the messy part of that ebb and flow, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t really want a house that never got messy because of what that would mean.

No toys on the floor would mean no children were there playing with them.

A consistently sparkling kitchen would probably mean that few meals were cooked there.

A perfectly neat bookshelf is pretty much only possible if no one reads the books.

A neatly folded blanket can’t be used to make a tent.

A piano without fingerprints and sheet music would be a silent one.

A tidy, shelved bag of towels and suits belongs to a family that hasn’t gone swimming.

Living is messy, isn’t it?

But I want a home where lots of living is going on, so messy, clean, messy, clean, messy, clean is just where I’ll need to be.


My friend at Ready. Set. Simplify. wrote her time diary wrap-up, and as it turns out, she and I waste time in similar ways.


Today’s 365 post: One of Joshua


  1. Linda M says

    I always say that I have “job security” as you can do it and soon it needs to be done again. It is good to be needed! You have got it right…..a home is for living in and living gets messy. Isn’t that just beautiful when you think about it….really!!!

  2. says

    Loved this post! With a 2 1/2 and an 11mo. old at home with me all day, my house goes from “clean” (I don’t think it’s ever really clean – picked up is more accurate) to a mess in no time at all. Thanks for the reminder that messes are proof of a family that knows how to live.

  3. says

    I love this post! I hope that this will be my house one day. I love the saying that I saw on Pinterest- “Excuse the mess, the children are making memories.”

  4. says

    My biggest problem is that I don’t allocate enough time to cleaning the kitchen, and it slowly but surely slides into a state of disrepair, to the point that I actually get some anxiety just walking in there. I’ve been working very hard to try and change my ways, and clean after every meal/cooking episode. I’ll keep it up for a day or two and then it will all go down the toilet again… :-P

  5. OhioEllen says

    My rule of thumb in the kitchen is never go to bed leaving dishes in the sink or too much clutter on the counters. 99% of the time I follow my rule ;) Some days are harder than others, cleaning up a messy kitchen after a long day can be daunting but worth the end result.

  6. WilliamB says

    So true! This happens in every room in my place, at one time or another. I long ago learned that for me, just getting going is much more effective than planning the most efficient method. I may make more motions than necessary but I get it done sooner.

    In the kitchen I moved a some things around so there ae fewer items on the counter. Frex I put the paper towel dispenser in a cabinet – with the added benefit of using fewer of them.

    • says

      Ditto – However it took me a while to click that just starting in one area and going for it was way more productive than trying to discover an ‘efficient’ method of tackling a messy area. Previously I was just ended up with piles of stuff scattered about the room – and still messy. So now I clear that one space regardless of how many trips up and down stairs, or in and out of cupboards. I console myself with the fact it’s exercise!

  7. says

    I don’t even have kids and my kitchen/living room/bathroom/anyroom get so messy! We just did a massive clean this week (nothing like a visit from the in-laws to get you motivated). We’ll see how long the super-cleanliness lasts!

  8. Carole says

    I have felt that way at church, too, after a big dinner of some sort. I’ll look around at the mess and think “will we ever get this place cleaned up again?”. We always have, but when you’re in the midst of, it you wonder. I’ve heard that the more elegant the kitchen is, the less cooking occurs in it.

  9. says

    you nailed it. What is the purpose of a house? What is the purpose of each room? When as room doesn’t look like it’s living up to its purpose, I feel it’s time to either, find a new purpose for that room, or begin fulfilling its intended purpose. Living rooms and dining rooms can be that way. Our dining room sat picture perfect and unused for a long time. We’ve been making a greater effort to use it for dinner lately.

    Of course, this does mean that I have one more room to keep cleaning up.

  10. says

    my roommate in grad school always wanted an overly clean apartment. people told us that it was like walking into the ‘show’ apartment that ended up on tours. it bothered me. i was afraid to live in my own space. i need a space to at least look like people are living there.

  11. says

    I needed this today. With a sick baby and a cooped-up 4.5-year-old, I’ve had a rough time keeping up with the apartment this week. This made me feel better. Lately, I’ve been feeling so completely ineffective. I pick up all the toys on the floor and then the kids come in and put them all back out. I clean up the kitchen and then make another meal and mess it all up. But it is the constant changing state of the lived-in home. Thanks for giving me some perspective this morning.

    • Kristen says

      Trust me, I need to remind myself of this often, because I get frustrated with messes around here more than I should.

  12. Katie says

    What a wonderful way to put the mess into perspective. Thanks! We do the messy, clean-up routine often. I just prefer that when I come down for the first time in the morning, things look clean, so we always clean before going to bed (kids too!). :)

    P.S. Your link for the other blog keeps 404’ing me.

    • says

      I like the kitchen all cleaned up in the evening as well. And I do something else that my husband thinks is totally crazy. The day before and morning of, leaving for vacation, I do a really thorough housecleaning. When we get back from our family vacays, I really enjoy walking into a wonderfully clean home. When I don’t do the cleaning, I feel a real post-vacation letdown, a sort “oh, my vacation is REALLY over” feeling.

      • Linda M says

        I know that my husband is the same way also. I think it probably takes a woman to understand that perspective. A gentleman that I once worked with commented the same about his wife and how he did not get it and wondered why. I told him there is something about walking back into a clean and neat home….and what if something happened to me….I sure wouldn’t want someone to have to come in and see all my messes:)!

  13. Eileen says

    Thanks for a post that I really needed to read! I get very frustrated at times that my house never seems to stay neat and orderly ( we have three kiddos, 6, 4, and 2), but this really puts it into perspective! Excuse the mess, but we live here!

  14. Linda says

    My kitchen seems to look like your *before* all the time. When I see the mess, I remind myself that we are so blessed that we have the food to eat when so many don’t. That helps me to grumble less as I clean.

  15. says

    I once read that ‘trying to clear up whilst kids are playing, is like trying to shovel snow as it’s still falling’ (paraphrased) – agree!
    It’s taken a few years to realise that I probably am not a natural housekeeper, so with the kitchen I start at one end of clear each space in turn – regardless of whether this is the most efficient method or not. Otherwise I know I will get sidetracked.
    A post last November I asked myself “Can a Family Kitchen Be Minimal?” and did a tour of my own (with not so great camera or person behind the lens!)

  16. Tricia says

    I can sure relate to this, especially not enjoying cooking when the kitchen is a mess! AND…if there was no trail of shoes, hair clips, books, from our front door to my daughter’s room, then there would be no beautiful little girl that I adore! Being a mom is a special job!

  17. Shelagh says

    Love this post – two things come to mind. 1) When I get frustrated by the messy/clean cycle, I make myself think 40 years ahead when my house will be far too neat and quiet for my liking and 2) As a librarian, I have to remind myself that it’s wonderful my son’s bedroom floor is constantly scattered with books he’s just read and stifle my urge to sort them neatly back onto his shelf!

  18. Jeni says

    I can’t even tell you how much I love this post! I have to remind myself of this often. A messy life is a life well lived… cleaning isn’t fun, but it is necessary and really is a blessing. Thank you for this awesome reminder!

    Oh, and I am JUST like you. A messy kitchen, counters and stove mostly, stresses me out like no other part of a house. I simply can’t cook in a messy kitchen. My husband doesn’t quite understand lol!

  19. says

    It’s funny because I go over to my MIL’s house all the time where she complains how dirty her house is…and I feel like I can never compete with a 2 & 4 year old at home. I often feel like there is too much pressure from others to have a show-ready house at all times, and it doesn’t help that my MIL is one of those pressures! Most days, I’d rather the kids not playing and food not being made in order to have a clean house as the lack thereof leads to more stress than it’s worth. Glad you’ve found a happy medium!

    • says

      Megyn, I know exactly how you feel. When my 3 kids were small, I found it nearly impossible to keep a house as clean as my dad would’ve liked. The stress when he’d visit was enormous. We had a “cleaning” routine when he’d come visit. Just before he arrived, we’d grab a box from the garage and pile everything that was out of place in the main living areas, inside the box, then put that box in the garage till he left. I had 3 young kids, two of which were active twins, and this was truly the best I could do. So, give yourself a break about getting the house clean. Happy grandchildren will be more important to their grandma than a perfect house.

      Which brings me to another point, it usually isn’t cleaning that’s an issue, but tidying. And I’ve found tidying is a lot easier when we have less stuff.

  20. Kathy says

    This post makes me so happy! With 6 kids, homeschooling and a home based business, this has been my life for over 20 years! I used to let myself get uptight about the messes, but I think by baby #3 I had to let it go! My oldest is married now so only 5 kids at home :( but my youngest is only 6 so I hope to be doing the messy, clean, messy, clean, messy, clean routine for quite a few more years! Thanks, Frugal Girl, for all your inspiration and encouragement.

  21. says

    Often my kitchen gets this messy and my school room/play room as well. In fact I just got finished rearanging and cleaning my school room and it looks and feels so much better. It won’t take them long though to mess it all up again:) Oh well, at least I know that they use it frrequently and are not wasting the

  22. Tricia says

    This is a great post. Thanks for reminding me a “messy” house is a lived in house. It is a good thing…not a bad thing!

  23. says

    Yep, we have “flat surface syndrome” around here.
    Reminds me of the poem “Song for a Fifth Child.” It’s become my motto for as long as i have little ones!

  24. says

    There’s always something in my kitchen that needs cleaning…but every day I always have to sweep the floor from all the dog hair and shrubbery and stuff from outdoors, too. It seems like a never-ending battle, but I’d rather “fight” with it every day than have the alternative…Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  25. says

    I needed that today. My babysitter gave my mom this poem. (She was always giving little scraps of paper with typewritten poems or words of wisdom. She always sent us juicy fruit gum in the mail too- my card when I had my first baby even had some in it! What a neat lady.) It always sat on the little shelf above the sink. Your post brought it to mind. I should probably make myself a reminder :)

    Author Unknown

    Thank God for dirty dishes;
    They have a tale to tell.
    While others may go hungry,
    We’re eating very well
    With home, health, and happiness,
    I shouldn’t want to fuss;
    By the stack of evidence,
    God’s been very good to us.

    • Lilypad says

      I hate doing the dishes: messy, wet, smelly, noisy! Ugh. But I’ve reminded myself so many times that if there are dirty dishes in the sink, it means we have food to eat. So I love this poem!

  26. says

    When my kids were little you could tell what kind of mom I’d been that day by looking at the state of my house. It it was a mess, it meant that we’d made breakfast from scratch, gone out to find adventure and then come home to play and hang out.

    If the house was clean, you’d be right to assume that I’d parked the kids in front of The Lion King all day.


  27. says

    My house sure lookes “lived in”! lol . But when I get up in the morning, I like to have clean counters to start out……..well at least the toaster and kettle counter!

  28. says

    This post really resonates with me. I’m keeping it unread so I’ll see it a few more times. Thanks for the reminder that messy means you’re living! Now just gotta on the cleaning part of the cycle ;)

  29. Eva says

    I should remind myself of this every single day… Thank you a lot for posting this, Kristen. I love this post.

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