My house is a mess right now, which—truth be told—has sort of become the norm these days.

Sometimes I feel like it’ll always be messy—like for the rest of my life.

And no magic amount of singing the clean up song will straighten things up. I’ll sleep among piles of unfolded laundry and relax on a couch taken over by action figures in a home with bright, crayon-colored walls and polka dot (by way of stains) rugs.

I won’t remember any previous life of order or cleanliness. I’ll just know of my new life of piles and spills and old pretzels found in various hiding spots in the playroom.

But then I snap out of my craziness, and remind myself that it won’t be like this forever.

One day, many years from now our homes will be tidy again.

When my babies leave for college, I’ll be able to sit on the couch with a glass of wine, and admire the perfectly vacuumed floor and spotless kitchen.

And there won’t be dinosaurs on top of a tower my daughter built on that clean living room floor. There won’t be any more chocolate milk spills in the kitchen, and tiny clothes that need washing. And one day, believe it or not, our little ones will have apartments and houses of their own to make messes in. Then, after thousands of loads of laundry and meals made and love shared, my husband and I will just have to clean up after ourselves.

And we’ll cry because we’ll miss those little dinosaurs.

I suppose I could put forth more effort now to have an orderly home, and not necessarily wait until my children leave for college or have a house of their own. But life is so busy with two little ones.

Sure, I could cut back on work during nap time so that I could organize…but I don’t want to. I love my job, and want to get my work done.

Yes, I could definitely skip out on a Saturday morning activity to straighten up the house…but it would break my heart. I want to spend that precious time with my family.

I could hire someone to clean for us, but that costs money. I don’t want to prioritize spending money on a housekeeper; I want to save for necessities or a fun trip.

I can, and do, take about twenty minutes each night after the kids have gone to bed to tidy up. It’ll look nice until morning and then the dolls and toys and craft supplies quickly take over again.

These 20 minutes satisfies the neat freak part of myself enough, and helps the perfectionist in me realize that there are more important things going on in life.

Twenty minutes is really all I can give on a consistent basis. My babies are only going to be small for a short while. I don’t want to spend these important years obsessing over putting toys back exactly where I crazily-specifically-organized them to go. (Like I used to.)

Our house may not make it into the pages of Martha Stewart Living any time soon, but that’s okay—it’s a lived-in home, a playful home, an honest home.

So for now, I’ll revel in the cleanliness of our home when visitors are scheduled to come (because that’s really the only time I step up my game), or after my twenty minute clean up before morning comes and the tiny tornadoes roll through.

For now, I’ll try not to cringe when I look around our home. Instead, I’ll make peace with the state it’s in.

This is where we learn, where we grow, where we play, and where we explore. We’re all busy and have important things to do here. Looking spotless is just not one of them. Not right now. Not when there are forts to build, tea parties to host and paintings to create.