A friend told me once that my idea of a mess was to have clean dishes left drying on the counter. All I could do was laugh heartily and think to myself that I had really managed to pull the wool over her eyes.
There are indeed houses where everything stays obediently in its place, where surfaces gleam continuously, and bedspreads lie wrinkle free and untouched. Like unicorns, these places are the stuff of luxury hotels and mansions where either nobody is around--or the maid has just left. And even in these magical places, as soon as someone opens the door, or the fridge, or kicks off their shoes-- well, the spell is completely and utterly broken. It seems that we humans cannot enter a space without leaving some trace that we have been there.
I struggle with this greatly, because I adore the glossy magazine cover look. There is just something so endlessly engaging about houses that look like they are suspended in time, holding their breath and waiting to be enjoyed. It's like looking at a birthday cake, with its swirls of colored frosting roses, moments before you cut into it. So delectable to touch the piles of perfectly stacked bath towels as the steaming water is running into the tub, to admire the willow basket of green apples moments before they become sticky peelings, cores, and eventually a pie, to walk across a floor that is squeaky clean and gleams with summer sunlight. There is a sense of expectation in a room where the pillows are fluffed, where flowers and trinkets sit in perfectly studied casualness on shelves and tables. In that orderliness and calm, there is, or rather there should be, a sense of welcome, and yes, implicit in that is also an invitation to come in and mess it up. In other words, to live in it.
I show you my home often in its finer, more organized moments. And I will admit that I work very hard to keep my home clean, tidy, and yes, I do strive for that 'cover look.' But the longer I am a homemaker, the more I realize that messes are another kind of artistic still-life, that, heck, they are indeed life. They are the evidence that living people (and a cat) eat here, sleep here, love here. The messes in the home are like the wrapping paper all over the floor when the gifts have been opened and enjoyed. They are something I am learning to be grateful for, and they are, whether I like it or not, an essential aspect of the goodness of being alive.