Work Life Balance

Pay It Forward: I Give My Friends The Gift of a Messy House

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My dear friend Sarah has four kids. She’s a military wife and that means lots of moves. A few years ago, she was back living in my city and invited my kids and I over to her house. And I have to say, it was messy. I mean, seriously messy. Which was kind of weird because she actually had family visiting who ostensibly could have been helping out.

While there, she told me that she “gives the gift of a messy house.” You know what? It was a gift. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, in fact. Going over to a friend’s house and having an awesome time while the kids played and further messed things up was liberating and awesome. I used to fret about how I couldn’t have friends over on account of the way things looked. I work multiple jobs and stay home with the kids. Sometimes I have great childcare. Sometimes I don’t. The house’s condition varies tremendously in terms of cleanliness and messiness.

But ever since Sarah had me over and gave me the gift of a messy house, I have payed that gift forward. I had a friend from church over — one of those women who is naturally gorgeous and perfectly put together, has well-behaved kids in the most amazingly cute fashion. In my old life, she would never have been allowed in. Well, we hadn’t even gotten halfway through unpacking from our recent move. The house was an utter disaster. She and I didn’t even notice. We had a fantastic time.

Another time, a neighbor came by with her three kids. She saw my less-than-perfect conditions and we were quickly invited over to her house the next week. In her house, they’re renovating and are basically living in about 1/8 of the typical space. Talk about a disaster! And my girls beg to return there whenever they can. See, I’d paid that gift forward.

Sure, I still like going over to my perfect girlfriends’ houses. The ones with disciplined cleaning regimes or housekeepers and housecleaners, lots of outside help and floors so clean you want to eat off of them. I like going as I find these visits aspirational. I want to have those floors, too.

While having a messy house isn’t something to aim for, sometimes it’s just how things are. If you’re not superhuman and have a messy house, consider giving it as a gift to other stressed-out friends. The results may surprise you.