Would you join the new wave of mums embracing domestic chaos? Yep, the ‘clutterati’ are prioritising good times with the kids over doing the dishes
My home couldn’t be further from the super-stylish homes I like to ogle on Pinterest, while my daughter Grace, two, has her afternoon nap. But I’m happy with that – I’d rather spend time with her than tidy. In fact, my husband and I are both experts at looking the other way when Grace tips up her toy basket…again.
We love clutter
The clutter that surrounds us as parents – the random stickers, the glitter-covered creations, the mysterious remnants of toys – becomes a poignant document of our lives. And an increasing number of us are embracing the chaos. Recent research shows women are spending less time doing housework and more engaged in leisure activities. This is because we’re more likely to be working and sharing housework with our partners – or just putting it to the bottom of our to-do list.
'Clutter becomes a poignant document of our lives'
Just as men aren’t expected to come back from work and start mopping the kitchen floor, nor are women feeling that this is in their job description. ‘We are realising as a society that women are entitled to do as much or as little as they want, whether that means letting the house become messy, paying someone else to help with the cleaning, or doing it together at the weekend,’ says psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley. ‘It’s a healthy attitude to have and we can only gain from it, in terms of having a sense of value and a sense of self.’
Don’t aim to be perfect
Even if we embark on motherhood with high hopes for our domestic credentials, this often changes. Aimee Horton, author of novel Survival Of The Ginnest: Mothers Ruined, admits she used to be obsessive about cleaning up after her sons, Theo, five, and Larry, two. ‘I would tidy behind them,’ she says. ‘But, by the time I’d finished, the house would be a mess and I’d have to start all over again. It was getting me down.’ When a new-mum friend caught her stashing clutter in the bathroom and bedroom during a playdate, Aimee realised it was time for a change. ‘I was so embarrassed, but then thought she didn’t care, so why should I? What was I trying to prove?’
Now Aimee embraces the clutter, even sharing it on Twitter (@AimeeHorton) to make other mums feel better. ‘I started posting photos of my messy Tupperware cupboard cascading onto the kitchen floor and it got a huge reaction from other mums, saying they had a cupboard just like it. Then some of them started posting their own photos, too.’
'It’s becoming common to enjoy normality – the real, flawed chaos of parenthood'
This new trend for honesty about how our homes really look is something to celebrate, says parenting author Liz Fraser, The Young Mummy’s Survival Guide (Harper Collins, £9.99). ‘It’s becoming common to enjoy normality – so that’s the real, flawed chaos that emerges when you’re a parent,’ she says. ‘We’re allowed to say, “Hey, my house is a mess, I haven’t washed my hair for a week, and it’s OK!”.’ The only tension can be if your partner has higher standards than you, says Sandra. ‘But if they’re unhappy with certain things not being done, it’s up to them to take on the responsibility.’
In the past, parents were comfortable popping their tot in a playpen while they got things done around the house, but now there’s a greater focus on playing with your baby. ‘I ignore mess in favour of fun with the kids,’ says mum-of-two Morgana Gregory, 29, a blogger at butwhymummywhy.com. ‘Learning and fun come first – tidying can wait. I’d rather go to a playgroup. Although this does mean I’m always peeling Play-Doh off shoes.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you live in an unhealthy house. It’s about prioritising, finding shortcuts and ditching ideals. ‘Your physical surroundings can affect your mental state,’ says Sandra. ‘So, if your home has stopped making any of you feel calm and happy and started making you anxious, then you need to clear up.’ Otherwise, it’s a question of finding a happy balance for you and your kids – even if it involves dodging Lego and regaining your sense of humour about those sticky handprints up the stairs.
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