From The Confessional: Our Messy Houses Are Giving Us Anxiety

by Karen Johnson
Justin Paget/Getty

When I think back to my pre-motherhood days, I remember things like sleeping in on the weekends, going for happy hour on Fridays after work, and taking long, leisurely walks through the neighborhood with my husband, dreaming of our unknown future. I also remember our very tiny, but always very clean apartment.

Why was it always clean? Well, for one, I had time to clean it all for hours every Saturday. But mostly, it was clean because we didn’t have clutter. We didn’t have piles of legos on the counter and 900 pairs of shoes by the door and endless sippy cups and apples left out with one single, tiny bite taken out of them.

It was far easier to keep our lives and home clutter-free when it was just the two of us and we had more hours in the day and fewer humans inside our walls. But now we barely limp to the finish line called bedtime every night. The house, in its entirety, is never clean. Even if I spend all day de-cluttering a room and feel a sense of satisfaction, that joyous feeling is immediately cancelled out when I enter literally any other room that I neglected all day long.

The kitchen is cluttered with mail and dirty dishes and the ketchup bottle no one put away and a hoodie thrown across a chair and all the ingredients for the dinner I’ll somehow find the time to cook and the bottle of wine I opened last night when I saw what a mess my freaking house is. And that’s just the kitchen. The kids’ bedrooms and the office and the living room and the basement… well, you get the idea.

The truth is, I hate clutter. I miss my old, clean, tiny apartment. But I love my family more, and despite my hounding them relentlessly to put. away. their. shit, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. I would, however, love them to say Happy Mothers Day next month by putting their dirty socks in the laundry rather than leaving them on my living room rug.

Successfully decluttering my daughter's playroom without just throwing everything away in defeat is the greatest accomplishment I've had in a year. I really mean it!! It's SO clean I feel Marie Kondo would be proud!

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I don't know what happened but, after 30 years of resistance, DH has started purging the clutter he hoarded, and cleaning/fixing the house. The house is looking less like a hellhole - and DH is starting to look more attractive to me too. Coincidence?

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I’ve been donating a lot of clutter. I wouldn’t say it has sparked joy, but I do feel better.

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Been annoyed with my family not cleaning up after themselves, so lately when I 'clean up' their stuff. I just throw it away without telling them. Clutter be gone! The sad part is, they don't even care about the stuff to notice it's more stuff

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Marie Kondo is right. De-cluttering makes you feel gooooood. And when your spouse does it, it’s really good. Like take your pants off good. (Maybe that’s just me. But I’m telling you when my man cleans out his office and throws piles of unnecessary papers into the recycling bin, mmmmm, that’s hot.)

My motivation for finally tackling my clutter problem after all these years is that I have 2 kids in college and, if they get engaged in college like I did, I don’t want to be ashamed to have their fiancé’s parents into our home.

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That awkward moment when you de-clutter your house and try to donate the stuff you’re getting rid of to Goodwill or other charity thrift stores – only to find out even THEY don’t want your shit.

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Have a video visit with my doctor today. I’m more nervous than a normal visit. Afraid kids will scream, dog will bark, he’ll see how cluttered my house is, freaking out! And I won’t be able have lunch and me time

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Feeling embarrassed of our own homes when they’re cluttered or messy is the worst feeling. We worry what the world will think of us, when the truth is, we really are trying our best.

I'm frustrated with my teen DD who expends more energy hiding her clutter and piles of clothes than it would take to pick them up off the floor.

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What I miss most from my child-free days is a clean house. We declutter, make the kids clean, but between books, school, sports, crafts, and toys I CAN'T WALK THROUGH MY OWN GD HOUSE IS THAT TO MUCH TO ASK FOR???

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I need to stop complaining over every minor frustration. It's damn hard though. The clutter makes me crazy. I am hopeless at being neat and organized. Hopeless. Having two small kids doesn't help. So sick and tired of living in a shoe box.

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Living with other people’s clutter is going to be my unhinging.

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Seriously though, living with our family’s clutter makes us ragey. Like why can’t the other humans in our homes put their damn shoes away or take this random ass happy meal toy off the kitchen table?! WHY.

Fantasizing about leaving H and the cute, clean, uncluttered house I would like to live in. Not sure if this is good for giving me hope or bad because it's giving false hope.

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Decluttering, and I'm getting more and more pissed as I find one item after another that my husband spent lots of money on years ago, and then never even took it out of the box.

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H thinks i am decluttering, selling and donating stuff just to get organized. Im actually prepping for our inevitable divorce.

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SO clutters up every available surface, esp in the kitchen. Half of the contents of the kitchen seem to have a permanent home on the counter. It makes me ragey. After 15 years of this BS, I no longer even feel bad about throwing away SO’s shit.

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And it can really do some damage to our relationships too. It’s hard to reign in your resentment when you bust your ass all day to have a tidy house and your SO drops their keys, coffee mug, and a dirty plate right there on your kitchen counter and walks away. It can make us feel taken for granted and invisible. Doesn’t anyone else care if the house looks like shit??!! ANYONE?!

For many of us, whether it’s because we aren’t naturally neat, or our families aren’t naturally neat, or there just aren’t enough hours in the day, clutter is just a part of life. We have those brief moments of post-de-cluttering when a room is shiny and clean and organized, right before they destroy it all over again. We buy the Marie Kondo guide and follow the “how to de-clutter IG pages” and teach our family where things go. But inevitably there’s a sock on the counter or a homework packet on the couch or a pile of dirty cups in our kids’ bedroom and we wonder if they even heard a word we said.

And round and round we go. If you battle clutter on the reg and wonder how in the hell people with clean houses do it, I’m right there with you. It’s a mystery to me too, sis. I’m going to go clean my kitchen again now, only to watch it be systematically destroyed 11 minutes later. At least that wine bottle will still be there though.