One Bag Nation

Reality Check: Other People DO Live Like This

Posted on: August 11, 2008

Do you always imagine that everyone else has it all together? I do!

I imagine “everyone else” sailing through their days with amazing and natural efficiency, while their well-behaved children play in their lovely yards (or tidy bedrooms); their inboxes never overflow; their basements are clean and organized; and there is nothing resembling clutter – physical or otherwise – to be seen. My husband insists that I have an unrealistic view of “everyone else’s” orderly life, and I think he might be right . . .

In the past two weeks I’ve been to two different friends’ houses, and what did I see? A dust bunny or two (or more!), piles of mail, paperwork and magazines; a few stray hairs in the bathroom; messy teenage girl bedrooms that rival any of my daughter’s messes; crumbs on the carpet; the list goes on . . .

Did I decide that I could no longer be friends with women whose houses looked this way? Of course not! I thought: wow! life creates dust and crumbs and piles and stray hair at “everyone else’s” house too.

This is not to say that I want to live surrounded by clutter and chaos. I just need to realize that “everyone else” is struggling to balance work, home, kids, husband and self just like I am, and that I should stop worrying about being judged for not always being able to keep all the plates spinning.

Somewhere a few years ago, I read a great line – I think it was a comment on – that said:

If you’re coming to see me, come right over. If you’re coming to see my house, give me 30 minutes!

I loved that and I should remember it more often.

How about you? Do you feel like your clutter or sense of disorganization define you? Or maybe you’re on the other side, and really pride yourself on being neat, clean and efficient. Either way, let’s not lose sight of the rabbits for the bunnies – or something like that!


20 Responses to "Reality Check: Other People DO Live Like This"

I totally feel like my house is always in a mess…try as I may, it takes me less than 5 minutes to cover up the entire bed with things! And then I don’t know what to do with it!
And I think a lot of this has to do with my life in India. We always had a maid to do the cleaning up and it all just magically got done! Sigh…I miss her! The maid, i mean 😉

Life is messy.

Life with kids is even messier.

Of course others live like that too. I told you so a long time ago in a comment that I left here. 🙂

I would much rather read a book than vacuum. I do the bare minimum, and life goes on. No one has run from my house in horror, my children are not wheezing from the dust, and the mail eventually gets opened. Call it priorities, call it time management, but it’s all about what is important to you. We all have grass, and it’s basically the same, with minor variations.

Kashmira: I’ve never had a maid and nothing gets magically done around here, unfortunately. But I do think you can work on developing habits and routines to help you keep things in order.

Vered: I have a friend who honestly doesn’t live that way; I don’t know how she does it, but I think I’m usually thinking about her when I’m feeling discouraged.

You’ve said you don’t have a lot of clutter at home; do you have piles, and unread emails, and toys scattered around?

Laura: I’ve done more than my share of reading instead of vacuuming. Maybe it’s because I now work from home, but I experience a lot of anxiety when my house is upside down (i can live with dusty floors).

I also am striving to take care of things promptly, rather than procrastinating until they become bigger than they should.

Hi Ann,

When I was single, I had a clean and tidy house. My married friends marveled at it. Now, my house is lived in, and I call it home. I used to be embarrassed if someone showed up unexpectedly and it wasn’t tidy. Now I happily greet them. Homes aren’t meant to be showcases.

I say cut yourself some slack, enjoy those little ones and your husband, and the rest can wait. And trust me, it waits. 🙂

I love that quote too. I’ll definitely use it 🙂

Which goes to prove that I don’t ‘have it together’ either 😉

I stopped worrying about being judged when I started blogging about my struggle to balance everything and everyone in my life.

I don’t think it’s about keeping all of the plates spinning, I think it’s about choosing the right plates and remembering to pick up the important plates when they fall.

Barbara: When I was single, my apartment was a mess (usually). Believe me, my house is not pristine by any means now! The issue for me is the anxiety I feel when things are too cluttered and messy.

Sharon: isn’t that a good quote? Keeps things in perspective.

Create: I’m working on that too. Managing my anxiety is a little trickier.

Well, the Urbane Lion and I did posts on this very issue last week, and it was because we were getting a little stressed about not staying on top of it all. The response from everyone? Get over it! As long as the health inspector hasn’t broken down your door, it’s all good.

My brother and sister-in-law lived in the Netherlands for a couple of years. Apparently you aren’t allowed to have curtains on the windows because the neighbours need to be able to see that your house is neat and orderly. I am serious!! And when company comes over, they actually to the finger tip test for dust. I’d be run right out of town!!

I always imagine that everyone else has a clean house, balanced checkbook, tidy emergency fund in the bank, eats a balanced diet and exercises an hour a day. Please don’t disillusion me!

Of course people often ask how I do it all and I answer that my kids are neglected, my house is filthy and I never sleep.

Well the sleeping part is true. But appearances are deceiving aren’t they? The incredible thing is that we KNOW that, and we let ourselves get sucked into it anyway.

This was a great post Ann. Thanks.

I try to keep my house looking presentable, but I had no idea what a tough job that was with kids.

My closest friends are the ones who let me come over without them picking everything up first.

Panther: that sounds terrible! I don’t have curtains downstairs either, but those are the rooms that stay the tidiest – thank good ness 🙂

Kelly: I won’t disillusion you! We need something to strive for – haha! But you’re so right about appearances. I wonder if anyone thinks I have it all together . . . nah.

Rachel: I can’t blame my daughter (though she is an unbelievable mess-making machine) because I’ve always struggled with this. I do think being home more now makes me more sensitive to it.

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LOVE this post!! I was just getting ready to blog on something similar….but I’ve been to busy CLEANING!! LOL:)

I am expecting a new friend and her family from out of town this weekend and have been running around frantic trying to tidy up. My dear husband keeps reminding me they’re coming to see us not the house…still…

With four boys and as many dogs, a cat, mouse and bird, it is hard to stay on top of it all!

Hi Tara,
Wow – you ARE busy! I can barely keep up and I just have one little girl. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I hope you enjoy your friend’s visit.

Interesting post.. too often I don’t have people over because my house is never picture perfect. I need to get over it! My most recent post is about my entertaining weekend. It was great to have people over and just enjoy our company. That’s what it’s all about – relationships!

I totally agree that a lot of people are not as “together” as we tend to think they are, but how we compare to others depends just HOW bad we are…
My house strays too often from a relatively “normal” lived-in (though always fairly cluttered) family home to a complete disgrace, so I think I’m justified in feeling a bit ashamed of my house at times. Like right now. I’ve been away twice in the last few weeks (going away always results in a mess as I’m focusing on packing & unpacking rather than keeping the place clean & tidy) so my house is in a really bad state and I have so many things I need to do… but I’m STILL procrastinating!
I do have to remind myself occasionally that I shouldn’t beat myself up about it too much as I live in a very small house and I’m a single parent, so I’m operating under less than ideal circumstances, but that doesn’t always make me feel any better (and sometimes makes me feel even worse as it just reminds me of the ways my life is “less than ideal”!), and it doesn’t stop other people criticising me! (One of the worst things about being a single parent is that the “other parent” often feels that the only way they can exert control over their kid’s life is to nag you about all the things you’re doing wrong! In my case it’s usually about the state of my house)
Sorry for the rant, I’d better go and get on with something useful!

Hi MIss Dipsy: Although I try to tell myself there are more important things than a tidy house, I find the anxiety of the mess and clutter unpleasant. I can imagine doing “double duty” maintaining a house is very hard work!

I try to remember that others are struggling too (this is partly why I blog) and that I’m doing the best I can.

Thanks for commenting – hang in there!

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