When we reflect back on our lives, most of us find that our most powerful, life-altering moments aren’t scripted. They are raw, un-hinged and well, messy. Despite this, we as a society tend to worship at the foot of organization, cleanliness, minimalism and order. Every day there is a new guru or best seller promising a system, standard, philosophy or method that will let us feel IN CONTROL once and for all.
The only problem with that is, we’re fighting a never-ending battle (which is why messes make such good business). Like nature, our lives are a variable tapestry knitted together by complex, ever-shifting forces.
Here are five things that happen when we embrace the life-changing magic of making a mess:
We Give Ourselves Time
We all have things we’d like to improve or change, but there is no reason everything needs to happen right now. Facing and finding joy in the midst of life’s messes doesn’t mean we’re making excuses or not trying. It just means we are being gentle with ourselves, giving ourselves time – time to breath and find our rhythm. When we stop seeing messes and start looking for meaning, our homes, families and relationships begin to naturally reflect that peace, instead of the pressure and stress of trying to shoehorn our reality into our vision overnight.
We Become Better Parents
I used to walk into my bedroom, see my girls pulling blankets off the bed for the hundredth time and instantly have a “mess response.” Now, when this happens, I have a completely different reaction – I smile. Why, because I know the story behind this particular “mess.” Turns out these aren’t bed sheets at all, they are part of a nest where two little birds hide out from storms.
Whether it’s to engage in their play, honor their perspective or respectfully define boundaries and co-create house norms, messes offer up incredible opportunities for authentically connecting with our children.
We Are Healthier
When you are holding disinfectant spray, everything looks like a germ. The problem is, when we wipe out everything, we run the risk of destroying beneficial bacteria. Emerging research suggests a link between overly clean, sanitized environments and a host of issues including compromised immune systems, increased risk of asthma and diminished gut flora. While this research is still emerging, maintaining a diverse microbiome on and in our bodies plays a crucial role in promoting our overall health and well being.
We Get Creative
There’s some truth to the image of the disorganized, impassioned artist. That’s because rarely does real creativity, genius or inspiration thrive in antiseptic, rigid environments. I love these thoughts from Mary Oliver’s, Upstream:
I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be hundred meals without mustard. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive.
And yes, we are parents and cannot simply burn the beans. But, I believe we have as much responsibility to preserve our creative spirit (in whatever form it takes) as we do to get dinner on the table.
We Accept Ourselves
You can scrub, scrape, minimize, standardize, organize and containerize, but the truth is, at the end of the day you’ll still be you. I mean at the cellular level, we are all basically a hot mess – a gorgeous tangle of microbes, stardust and tears. Click the image below to get the printable!
I am still discovering, learning from and trying not to hide my wild, sensitive, raw messy self.
But, I’m hopeful that my daughters will learn faster. I hope they can allow themselves to be vulnerable, weave their own unique path through the chaos, and draw strength instead of fear from the knowledge that change is the only constant.
Ready to get messy? Here are some of my favorite articles and books on the subject:
“Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives” by Tim Harford
Your Woman Gone Wild,