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Messy, clean, messy, clean = NORMAL

In a recent post, I shared a picture of my messy kitchen.

messy kitchen.

I’ve done this quite a few times before.

See here:

messy kitchen.

And also here:

messy kitchen.

In the comments on that recent post, many of you said, “Oh, thank you for being vulnerable and keeping it real.”

But the funny thing is…I didn’t even feel vulnerable sharing my messy kitchen photos! 

I think it’s because I know that my kitchen never stays that way. 

watermelon in a bowl.

But: my clean kitchen never stays that way either.

bowls on a shelf.

I have long accepted that homes (ok, mine at least!) are in a persistent state of ebb and flow.


Things get messy, I clean them up. 

Things get messy again, and I clean them up. 

Repeat ad nauseum.

So, in a single day, my kitchen could look like this.

messy kitchen.

And a bit later in the same day, it can look like this.

clean kitchen.

Messy-clean-messy-clean is normal

Unless you have a maid following you and your family around all day long, your house is not going to be in a persistent state of tidiness. 

It is just impossible to keep things impeccably tidy all the time!

People wear clothes and then dirty laundry accumulates.

laundry basket.

You cook dinner and then there are dirty dishes, pots, and pans. 

You clean the bathroom, but then people shed body hair and splash toothpaste on the mirror. 

(Ok, for me, it’s more that I keep hitting the mirror with my mascara wand. My vision is so bad, I have to get super close to the mirror to apply mascara, and then I inevitably hit the mirror with the wand.)

You put your shoes on the rack in a tidy manner.

shoe rack.

And then you lazily chuck them into the closet after wearing them.

messy closet floor.

(That’s all me. No one else uses my closet!)

Getting back to clean is what matters

If you want to have a generally tidy, clean house, there’s good news: you don’t need to avoid the messy part of the cycle.

You just have to not stay stuck there!

If I take care of the dishes each night, they’re never gonna pile up too high.

a dirty kitchen full of dishes.

I think the abandoned house owner got stuck in a messy-messy-messy cycle.

If I wash the dirty laundry regularly, it will never become overwhelming.

If I take out the trash and recycling when it’s full, it won’t overflow.

If I tidy up here and there, the tidying will never be a 10-hour job. 

Kristen in her messy kitchen.

There are actually three paint cans on my counters in this photo. Ha.

But even if I DO let part of  my house get stuck in the messy cycle for a while, the solution is still the same: I give myself a little grace for being normal, and then get it back to clean when I have some time to devote to it.

No harm, no foul. 

You don’t see everyone’s ebb and flow

If you stopped to visit me randomly, you’d be likely to find some part of my house in the messy part of the messy-clean-messy-clean cycle. 

In fact, my home is almost never ALL in the clean part of the cycle, except for times when I’ve listed a home for sale (or right before I’ve had a baby!)

messy counter.

I have formica countertops, which are just as normal as messes.

But the problem with the internet is that we mostly see other people’s homes when they are in the clean part of the cycle. 

And then our brains think, “Oh, everyone else’s houses are always clean, all the time.” 

tidy kitchen counter.

You will note the dishcloth hanging on the faucet. That’s so that it doesn’t sit in a wet, warm, bacteria-growing lump. Here’s more how I keep my dishcloths from being disgusting.

You know that oft-repeated saying about how the internet is the highlights of people’s lives, and we shouldn’t compare their highlights to our everyday lives?

Well, this is kinda the same concept. 

Even people whose homes are generally clean still will have times where rooms are messy. ESPECIALLY the kitchens (assuming that they cook!)

So, don’t compare the messy part of your cycle to the clean part of someone else’s. 


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you find yourself thinking that you’re the only one with messes? 

P.S. If you can’t do all, here are the three household tasks I recommend not skipping.

P.P.S. I wrote a little post about the messy-clean-messy-clean cycle back in 2012. So click here if you want a trip back in time and a picture of my old kitchen in a messy state. 

P.P.P.S. I don’t have ADHD or depression or a physical disability that would keep me from cleaning. I’m writing from my experience as an able-bodied person, because that’s all I know. 

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Friday 6th of October 2023

I might have to print out this post and put it somewhere in my home for me to regularily re-read! My parents' house is impeccable and even though my mother says I shouldn't compare myself since I have a young family, I still feel I cannot be at peace if our home is not tidy. It makes me compulsively clean and tidy all the time, it is ridiculous. When I visit friends (mostly with young children) that have messy homes and they apologize, I tell them that they are just doing their duty of showing other people that it is okay to have messes at home and that they make me feel better about myself.


Friday 29th of September 2023

I needed to read this today! I’m currently in the messy part of the equation and have been feeling so frustrated by it. This helped me gain a little perspective and I appreciated the reminder that as long as it doesn’t stay that way, it’s normal! Thank you. :)


Thursday 28th of September 2023

I will say that having an empty nest GREATLY increases the chances of the clean cycle lasting longer! :-)

Also, you need a suction cup magnifying mirror! That will greatly increase your chances of NOT hitting the mirror with your mascara wand! I shudder to think what my makeup would look without one. I will admit, though, I have often wondered how people who need glasses (I wear contacts.) apply eye makeup? Seems tricky, for sure!

Happy Thursday!


Tuesday 26th of September 2023

This post really resonated with me...when my house is tidy, I feel so much better about life in general...but it's not always the way I'd like it to be, that's for sure! It's a good reminder that when we visit someone, or see photos, it's usually because they planned for company, or cleaned up before taking photos. Real life is sometimes messy! We live in an old farmhouse with not a ton of storage, and keeping the clutter under control is difficult. We became empty nesters over this past weekend (yikes!!) and perhaps with just two peoples' things it will be easier?? We shall see! Thanks for being real!


Tuesday 26th of September 2023

Aww, I'm so glad it encouraged you!


Monday 25th of September 2023

First off, thank you for making me look normal though No paint cans on kitchen counter (though I'm sure they were in transit to somewhere else). I try very hard (with pretty good odds) of not saying or judging most people homes that are not (perfect) clean when I'm there. Honestly, if it is (perfect!l clean I know must have just happened or they have not been home lately or not at all. I can honestly say that you are still ahead of me in clean because all your moving boxes are gone/not in sight/are taken care of. But I know that I am in process of projects/finding storage so that the mess will not he there forever. Some parts of house are generally cleaner than other areas (kitchen). Some day when house is completely clean (all areas) I know that it is only temporary, as I live there & life can be messy. (Wink)

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