As a mother of a second grader and a preschooler—both boys—I have first-hand field experience with messes (so many messes) and messy houses. And having been a student whose college finals coincided with the Christmas/holiday season the past four years and now being in the midst of a career transition, I have had to let go of many self-imposed expectations, also societal pressure and pressure from family relatives about what/how my home should look around the holidays. I’ve decided we’re going to have a messy house this holiday season—and that’s OK. 

The holiday season is meant to be for experiencing joy, making new memories, having fun, and family traditions, so, who said we have to keep our homes clean and immaculate during the holiday season? One of my favorite family films (“Yours, Mine, and Ours”)  has a quote that has always stood out to me, “Homes are for free expression, not good impressions.”

Related: I’m not worried about giving my kids ‘the perfect’ gift this year 

I think our society has gotten this backward, and social media hasn’t helped the situation either. Somehow homes have become extensions of our personal branding endeavors and cohesive aesthetic Instagram squares—instead of becoming places where we, as individuals and a family, are free to express ourselves. 

Every scattered mess and seemingly random assortment of items displayed around our home tells a story.

This holiday season, I’m trying to rewrite the narrative for me and my family of what purpose our home is meant to serve. It’s not meant to be a museum, or a window display, it doesn’t host relics from bygone eras. It holds life. Admittedly often more life than the laundry baskets, sinks, shelves and toy tubs can hold and that’s OK. 

How our home feels is more important than how our home looks.

Every scattered mess and seemingly random assortment of items displayed around our home tells a story. The acorns and sticks and rocks are treasures my four-year-old gathered on one of our evening walks. The stack of papers and pencils hold sketches, because my second grader has recently become deeply invested in drawing. There is a pile of last week’s library haul on the living room side table. There are likely to be sprinkles and flour on the dining room/living room floor for a while. And I like to let our craft supplies have free reign throughout the house because there are Christmas cards to be made for teachers, neighbors, friends, and gift tags to be made with love and added to gifts. 

I’ve decided how our home feels is more important than how our home looks. Does it feel like a place where you can put your feet up? Where you can put a mug down and not worry about coffee stains? A place where it is okay to exhale and make messes? A place where you can bake, build, color, draw, dance, laugh, cry? 

The struggle is real most days. I wish the living room floor would stay bare (and clean), that my throw pillows and blankets would stay where I put them and that I wouldn’t always be stumbling upon discarded snacks randomly throughout my home. But as much as I wish things would stay clean, I love this season of life with my boys more. I love that they still want to do things with me and spend time with me. I love that they love to play and color. I love that they feel safe to be themselves in our home, something I didn’t always feel growing up in my own. 

Related: A ‘3 gift Christmas’ can be magical & minimalist for kids 

This holiday season I want to rewrite the narrative. Our home isn’t meant to be immaculate, and Pinterest-perfect 24/7. It is meant to reflect the lives, interests, and personalities of the people who live in it. This year, I am going to clean up after the holidays. Because I only get this season, with my children at this stage of life, once. And I’d rather embrace a messy house during the holidays than strive to meet an outdated unrealistic expectation of perfection. Mama, I hope you know that your messy house, life, and family are beautiful and worth embracing this holiday season and that your home won’t be the only messy house this season.

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