A League of its Own

I get the feeling sometimes that when I write about how messy my house is, the people reading nod their heads and think, yeah, my house is messy too.

They think they get it. They think they understand.

Except they don’t.

No really. They don’t really understand. The messy they visualize and the messy I’m talking about… they are completely different. The messy I’m talking about is in a league of its own.

Sure, I’m not a hoarder. Sure, there people with dirtier, messier houses than mine. But honestly, I doubt that anyone reading this blog really understands how gross my house gets. How gross my house is 99% of the time.

When I say that you can’t see the floor in the master bedroom, I mean, quite literally that YOU CANNOT SEE THE FLOOR. Not one part of it. Anywhere. It is covered in shit: clothes, boxes, paper, receipts, more clothes, clean clothes, dirty clothes, more clothes, socks, underwear, random articles that don’t have a home, books, pictures, hangers, the list goes on, maybe forever. That is how much shit there is on my bedroom floor. And under that shit is dust and sand and cat hair and layers of sediment. It has probably been swept three times in the last two years. Okay, maybe five. But honestly, it could be three. When I get into bed I have to clean my feet because they are black from walking around my house, and covered in sand and other debris from walking around my room.

When I say that my bathroom is disgusting I mean just that. It’s dirty to the point of unsanitary. You would be appalled to know that all four of us use it on a daily basis. And yes, we only have one bathroom, so we’re all using it all the time.

The shower gets so gross that recently it took FOUR Mr. Clean magic erasers just to get the scum off. I didn’t realize that my shower doors weren’t actually frosted, it was just a uniform layer of filth caking the glass. There is mold permanently growing around and in our sink basin. The toilet wreaks.

My car recently started smelling so bad that I was finally forced to clean it out. In excavating through the junk I found an entire lunch that my MIL had given to us to feed to Isa just rotting under the seat. Who knows how long it had been there. I drove it with the smell for over a week before I finally broke down and looked for what was so rank. An entire week of driving a car that smelled like a dozen shitty diapers.

So when I write a post like yesterday’s and say that I think the way my house looks says something about who I am, I’m not talking about what it means if my toilet isn’t sparkling or if there are a few books and toys and shoes in the back seat. I’m talking about living with a level of mess and filth that the people reading this probably can’t actually fathom. I’m talking about grossness on an incomprehensible scale.

When I say that I NEED to this, to life a minimalist life, I’m not being facetious. I really do NEED this. We can’t continue to live this way.

And when I say I’m ashamed of the what I’ve let my house become, it’s not about a few dishes in the sink or missing a weekly toilet scrubbing, it’s about actually wondering if CPS could take my kids based on how messy our house sometimes gets.

That is the kind of disorder I am talking about.

You may wonder why I am writing this. Why would I share this with the world?

I need to be honest about this. I need to put my truth out into the world or I will never own it, and things will never change. In AA the first step is to admit that you have a problem and are powerless to stop it. This is my admission: I can’t manage my life. Eventually, my stuff will consume me. I need to admit that to myself more than to anyone else, but I can’t know and accept it as truth, not really, if I don’t put it out there.

I would also love to think that, in admitting this terrible secret, I’m letting someone else know that they are not alone. That when I say my house looks like a disaster area it actually does, and I’m not referring to a few toys are strewn about an otherwise pristine living space. That I get it, and I don’t judge. But honestly, I don’t really believe that anyone reading this is living in a home that resembles my own. I don’t believe that anyone reading this could stand to live in the conditions I endure.

This thing I’m doing, this attempting to live a minimalist life, it’s not about cleaning my bathroom more. It’s about having a bathroom that I might actually be able to clean. It’s not about vacuuming my car’s interior once a month, but getting the level of crap down to a point where my daughter’s legs can hang in front of her car seat. I have so much work to do, but I really hope to get it all done.

Because when I say that my house is dirty, and someone nods their head in understanding, I want to think that we’re imaging the same level of disarray, instead of accepting that what she considers messy I would probably consider clean. I want to think that I’m more like everyone else.


  1. I am glad you shared this. I am self-conscious about my house, because I am in a lot of people’s homes as part of my job and most of them are way neater than mine. I always wonder, if an outside observer came here would they think I need the same kind of intervention that I sometimes provide to residents at work? But usually, I think that no, they wouldn’t. It is fascinating to see the wide range of ways that people keep their homes.

    It is a big undertaking you are doing here, but it will be rewarding.

  2. You are so brave owning this and posting this. I can imagine how overwhelming this seems right now and is, however, after you get things all cleaned and organized, imagine how AMAZING this will feel? I think that you will feel a giant, emotional weight taken off your shoulders. All these feelings you posted about recently in terms of feeling lonely, friendships, overwhelmed, mommy guilt, I think may correlate to how you are feeling about your house. If you think about it, when one small part of your life stresses you out, makes you feel so guilty, that spills into the way you view yourself and your relationships. Visualize a clean house, take a day off work (or have your family watch the kids while you clean) and buy some gloves/garbage sacks and go to town! Have your hubby be in charge of taking garbage to the dumpster once you both bag things up. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, focus on one thing at a time. YOU CAN DO THIS! YOU WILL FEEL SO AMAZING AFTERWARDS!
    In my opinion, (and I know $ is tight), after you get 2 main rooms cleaned out of garbage, IMMEDIATELY, have a house cleaner arranged for an hour or two to clean behind you. It will seriously give you major motivation to continue! Having the time for her to come set, will also give you some motivation to get those rooms picked up by the time she gets there.
    Then, move on to another 2 rooms, etc. A cleaning schedule (google them) can help you stay on top of things like Monday: sweep, mop Tues: bathrooms, etc.
    You’ve got this!!!

  3. I love this post. I love how honest it is, how brave you are for owning the mess. I also love the fact that instead of being overwhelmed, you are in a place where feel like it’s possible to live differently than you are living now. All amazingly good things. I know you can do it.


  4. I hope sharing helped. It is only minimal comfort to know that others are worse, I suppose, but someone on twitter went to a kid’s birthday party a couple of weeks ago where the hosts hadn’t bothered to clean up the dog shit all over the inside of the house. It’s one thing to have your house in a state that you’re embarrassed about it and it’s a whole ‘nuther thing to not even recognize it for what it is.

    My house is just piles of stuff everywhere and the most helpful thing for me is to just make an effort when I’m walking from one room to another to take a couple of things with me that belongs in the direction I’m moving. Such a simple thing makes such a big difference in my mindset (if not actually on the piles of stuff!)

  5. This sounds like my ex boyfriends parents house. It was really hard for me to be there. It wasn’t hoarding but just filthy. I put it down to 7 kids in a 3br house and of the 7 there were 6 boys but it was more than that. Definitely unaddressed issues. I remember I would try to clean up but it hardly made a dent. The best thing that happened was when the garage burnt down and thankfully got rid of a lot of junk. Anyway. Whilst I am not like that I understand what you are saying. Sometimes the actual thought of cleaning is so overwhelming you never get started but I s’pose if you choose one area and start with small steps there eventually it will become the whole. I imagine tne state of your house is sometimes why you feel so frantic and stressed and anxious. Maybe get a cleaner to start the mess and you can follow through xxx

  6. I also think you are very brave for posting this, and I do believe that making this change goes beyond the cleanliness of your house to a more generalized resolution to get on top of things and even ahead of the game in life, instead of struggling through in survival mode. I am really rooting for you over here, N, and excited to see your progress. You amaze me with your capacity for self-reflection, honesty, and ability to change your life.

  7. Thank you for your honesty. I also think you are being so, so hard on yourself. I tell myself, my house doesn’t look like this because of JUST me. It took others to get it to this state. Sure, I need to clean it up, but I need help. Look, try to do everything at once…tackle something, one thing a day. A weekend. It’s overwhelming. But, you can do it. Your family can do it.

  8. You said this is what is. You did not ask for advice or help. You publicly stated you intend to change your house and its maintenance. People who write about ‘how to change one’s life’ say these first steps are key to reaching the final goal.
    Ever since your year of the back yard, where you did more than I thought was possible for anyone to do, I have known you can and will achieve what and how you decide to do.
    I would like to help you. Please say what would help support you in this project. I thought of things to suggest and then stopped and remembered that is not my place or role. I believe in you.

  9. I love your honesty. My husband bought me a robot vacuum for my birthday and my goal during the work week is maintain a clean kitchen and make sure main areas are not disgusting. Btw I asked for the vacuum repeatedly and he relented. The clothes may pile up on the dresser, but at least our floors are clean. My car is disgusting, however my toddler isn’t eating cat food. I love the whole concept of simple living for many reasons. We live in a consumer culture and it’s awesome to get away from it. I am glad my partner takes care of half the chores and meals plus works full time and goes to grad school or I would be so screwed. Wishing you well.

  10. I agree that this was a very brave post. Admitting that there is a problem and that it’s not something you can continue to live with is a huge step. I hope you are able to take the steps you need to in order to manage it. You’ve shown great discipline in other areas of your life. Draw on that!

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