Mess – Five Minute Friday

Mess is an artificial construct, an implied judgment that reveals more about the speaker than the situation. That’s my fancy way of saying there’s no such thing as a mess unless you want to call it a mess.

My mother didn’t like to bake bread because it was too messy. She baked biscuits, but that was a small, contained, short-term mess. Baking yeast bread required more mixing, more floured or oiled surfaces, more time – and ultimately more cleanup. I, however, prefer baking the slow-rising bread that requires more interaction, more tactile experience, more . . . relationship? With yeast? It can feel like that, yes. I don’t mind the cleanup.

I wasn’t sure I could help my children be artistic, because, you know, it’s messy. Paint and Play-doh and bits of colored paper all over the carpet or the floor or the table or the clothes. I got over it. Watching them be creative was worth the price of wiping up a spill or doing an extra load of laundry.

I didn’t think I could have people over to visit because my house was too much of a mess, until I finally realized I wasn’t having people over to visit my house, but to visit me. Since I got over that hesitancy, I’ve had loads of people over, and never once has someone left in shock or refused to return because of the mess.

So I’ve stopped calling myself, my things, my place a mess. Mess implies less – less neat, less orderly, less self-controlled, less organized, the list can go on forever. Instead, I’m choosing more: more attention, more connection, more community, more relationship. And sometimes the peaceful folk who frequent my place even help me tidy it up.

Thanks to Lisa-Jo Baker for the weekly writing prompts. You can see more thoughts about messes over at her Five Minute Friday page.


  1. My childhood experience was similar to yours. You could eat off my mother’s floor, but the house was never “ready” for company. I don’t encourage anyone to eat off my floor, but the table and the dishes are clean, and I make great cookies and coffee. Come on over! 🙂

  2. When I was little, I was never allowed to have my friends over because of the “mess”. That’s changed, and relationships have become more important than a little mess.

  3. i loved this… being afraid of not having a perfect or clean space makes us always miss out on life…with others, with our kids and with God. because we are just fooling ourselves like we try to fool others by throwing all the junk mail in a heap in a cabinet and hiding all the clean laundry in an unused crib. I like your ideas that the word “mess” is just a perspective and really a label to things we don’t like because it appears we have lost control of them…when really many times we have taken the route of courage…courage to let them happen. Thanks for the reminders

    • Thanks for coming by, Summer, and for noting that it takes courage to let the messes happen. It’s much too easy to follow expected norms and miss out on things that are far better than “normal.”

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