Yesses to Messes

A few weeks ago, we had family coming into town for Lacy’s birthday and baptism. I was working so hard to get the final push of holiday messes out of the way. I was busy packing away, throwing away, and dusting away.
“Mom,” Lacy sat next to me during one of my many collapses on the couch, “WHY are we cleaning so much?”
I laughed out loud.
“I don’t know,” I said when I’d quit laughing so hard, “Because my mom always cleaned a lot before people came to visit?” I laughed some more, and this only furthered her insatiable curiosity.
“But WHY?”

The real answer was that there was going to be a lot of people in a small space and I needed some semblance of tidy so the busy weekend would have a canvas to play out smoothly on.

My house is currently a disaster.

I have spent YEARS. YEARS feeling intense shame about this. I have studied people who clean well, read articles with tips! I have tried. so. hard. In my mind, if my house was clean, I could accept myself.

I don’t know why, but I have always believed that there was ONE RIGHT WAY of doing things, and when I couldn’t seem to nail myself down to that ONE ideal I had mustered up in my head, I felt so much shame -self-loathing, worthlessness, hopelessness.

In college, I worked as an English tutor. I had a very frustrated freshman boy come in and vent, “I wish English was like math. In math, there’s only ONE RIGHT ANSWER.”
I remember lighting up like a Christmas tree, “But that’s what’s SO GREAT about English -there’s so many ways to get it right!”

Glass half empty meet glass half full, I guess.

I’m just a little amazed at finding myself on the other end of the tutoring table… so frustrated, thinking there was only one right answer for everything. It seemed to me that once my stomach was a little more on the flat side and my house a little more on the clean and organized side, I’d be able to love myself more.
I worked really hard at it, and I was so good at working hard.
I lost inches doing hard work outs. My house smelled good. Things were most always in their proper places, and the food I put on the table was homemade (this was when I was at home full time). Things ran like clock work and I found a new respect for current self, but every time I pulled out old home movies and saw the empty pizza boxes on the counter (next to the stack of unopened mail and unfinished crafting projects…) I would HATE and JUDGE my old self.
How could I have LIVED with myself? Thank goodness THAT part of me is dead.

I didn’t want to admit it out loud -or even silently to myself -that running a routine of working out and cleaning, cooking, and so on was kind of… stifling. I didn’t feel like myself at all and the only true “joy” I gleaned from any of it was self-earned loved. I had no genuine self-love. Any love I gave myself was EARNED.

After I became pregnant with Alice, I wasn’t able to keep up and I haven’t caught up since. She’s two, dear. TWO.

During my pregnancy and the years there after, I came to learn something priceless (though the counseling it took to get here cost a pretty penny) and it is: I love myself.

I don’t work out hard anymore. I don’t clean so I’ll quit hating myself.

I walk and do yoga because I LOVE MY BODY. I clean when I feel I can or when there’s no more spoons. I follow a new routine… one of creativity and acceptance. There’s no more earning love in this house.

One thing I learned while studying women who take naturally to cleaning and organizing is that they don’t have to put monumental physical and emotional effort into it. Cleaning and organizing have always been great mysteries to me. I have to work SO HARD to pull them off. Women who clean efficiently have given me cleaning tips that have blown my mind. I stare at them in wonder and say, “That makes SO much sense.” And they shrug it off like the most natural thing in the world and IN THOSE MOMENTS I see how much we need each other. I have friends who are great cleaners who rely on me for ideas, crafting and the like.

I find immediately after cleaning my kitchen the need to MUCK IT UP. My counters are no sooner cleaned than I’ve spread all manner of ingredients all over them. My house is my canvas. I clean only to create.
I create BETTER when the house isn’t clean.
There, I said it.

My best ideas come in the middle of a mess. I can find a figurative needle in a haystack, and if you ask me where the “blank” is, I will be able to find it UNLESS someone has deep cleaned.

Yesterday, I traveled an old road of shame and worthlessness over my messy house (and yes, there were TWO empty pizza boxes on my counter) and this morning, I hit my knees and asked God to please help me either clean or stop hating myself.
As I read my scriptures, I didn’t absorb much of what I read. I tried, but I Was tired. I pried myself out of the recliner I spent the night in (I drowned out my shame with a movie and fell asleep. It happens). As I went to take a bath, the scripture came to mind, “Prepare every needful thing… Establish a house… A house of order.”

(D&C 88:119)
This scripture has been our family theme for years. Danny and I picked it, and I can’t count how many hours I have spent focusing on what I thought “A House of Order” meant.
I have HATED myself for SO LONG over this.
I have come up with charts, graphs, sources and so many different things to help me keep my house clean. All have failed me. I have made most every guest in my home uncomfortable with strings of apologies and excuses over messes. And as I stepped over dirty clothes to get to the tub, it hit me.
A House of Order.
Has Nothing.
To Do.
With Dirty Clothes.

A House in Order is a house with it’s priorities in line. A House of Order is a house where God sits in the center.

Because my home is next in line of importance to the temple does not mean that it needs to LOOK LIKE A TEMPLE INSIDE. Small children aren’t allowed to roam and tumble inside of the LDS Temples. But my home functions pretty much exactly for that purpose.


Would I be embarrassed if Christ himself walked into my home right now? NO! I mean, it’s my SAVIOR, for crying out loud!  In my HOUSE! I would fall on his neck and at his feet, and I would welcome his Grace with open arms. I would ask him questions -SO MANY QUESTIONS.

We are taught that Christ is the Master Teacher -the Greatest Example, and WHERE WHERE WHERE in the scriptures does it say that He kept a pristine house? Where is that written? I do know Christ speaks of having no place to lay his head, and that speaks pretty loudly of how important He felt it was to keep Himself housed neatly. Jesus came to earth to make the ultimate sacrifice, to open the way of Heaven to us through HEALING. That was his mission. He taught the importance of love through example, and nowhere in the scriptures can I find reference of His teaching the importance of having a counter clean of all things at all times! When Martha got caught up in cleaning and hosting, Christ didn’t join in to teach the importance of cleaning and hosting!  He sat with Mary and taught her the BETTER part.

If cleaning were a vital part of God’s plan, I would never be saved. I would have no hope for salvation.

Historically, there are many great messy people. Ben Franklin strove for organization but failed… but look at everything he accomplished!  He established the first library system, sanitation committee, and POLICE FORCE.  And that’s just a few of the lesser knowns! Mark Twain wrote amazing novels that have enriched us all… but his desk was a mess.

Loving myself means loving ALL of myself -learning to see the glass half full in the traits I wish I didn’t have. Can I force myself to be a clean, organized person? The answer is YES. I know because I’ve done it. But when I do that, I LOSE the parts of myself I love MORE than the parts of myself who can’t figure out a smooth method to scrubbing.
My creative energy dwindles, my writing suffers, my crochet projects tend more toward bland coloring and I have trouble getting on board with myself. In fact, the only pacification I have during the entire process is that my couch is clean enough to lay on.
And so I lie down and enjoy a clean house and a more flat stomach.

BUT THAT IS NO LIFE FOR ME BECAUSE IT LACKS DEPTH AND MEANING AND DIRECTION and has nothing at all to do with the talents God has endowed me with.

My life is lived to it’s fullest when I access Christ’s will for me… when I put HIM in the center of my disorganized life and go from there. My potential is realized in HIM! My potential is not limited to the state of my shelves and thighs.

When Sister Reeves gave this talk in Conference, I had to excuse myself after she said, “Amen.” I went into the kitchen and cried. I cried a lot. Tears of RELIEF. SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT. Someone finally understood what I was going through and spoke absolute peace to my soul.

A House of Order, Alicia, is a House where priorities are in place: God, Love, Peace.

How do we lead our children to deep conversion and to access our Savior’s Atonement? I love the prophet Nephi’s declaration of what his people did to fortify the youth of his day: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, [and] we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”4

How can we do this in our homes? Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”
~Sister Reeves

I do still clean my house, but only when I can do it from a place of love and not fear, pressure, or shame.
I clean when it feels natural.
But I know now that I can look to God -I can look up heavenward from my where I stand amid my clutter -and say, “I consecrate myself, my messes and my heart unto Thee.”

He can do great things where there is love.


  1. I know I commented on your Facebook post, but I just had to leave a comment here as well.

    You are amazing, my friend. I love this so very much, and I LOVE your thought about what it means to have a house of order, as I have used that exact same scripture as a stick to beat myself with many times in the past.

    It’s exactly right, and as I read your interpretation of it, I sighed a sigh of relief. That is truth, right there, my friend. A house of order is a house in which God is the first priority. Things are in order.

    You amaze me.

  2. Preach it, sister. There is just so much I need to learn from you.

    I love this blog, and I hope you post more about your journey this past year because it speaks to my soul.

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