Whether you've chosen to embrace chaos (see Saying Yes to Mess or made it your mission to manage the mess, one thing is clear: At some point, we all struggle with organizing our homes, our families — and our lives. Here's what some of you had to say about how messiness factors into your lives.
Not an illusion
Clutter accumulates as if by magic all around my house. I’m having a hard time teaching my four-year-old daughter to put her toys away because I often don’t notice that they’ve been left out.
—Cindy Sweeney, Redondo Beach, California
A ceasefire on clutter
I used to be messy, but four years in the Marines helped me become more organized. I also make an effort to pick up after myself because my wife prefers things neat and I don’t want to disappoint her.
—Ben Connally, Houston, Texas
Valuing family time over housecleaning
My son will never be neat. Time with my family is more important to me than a spotless house, so we’ve all learned to live with the mess. When he moves out on his own, I’ll have a clean house again…and will have to hire a maid to clean his.
—Joi Kinnett, Fitzgerald, Georgia
Double the trouble
My husband calls me a “collector.” I hate to throw things out. The irony is that I often end up buying replacements for things instead of looking for them around the house.
—Alison Bowman, Long beach, California
A pack rat at heart
I am unorganized am a sentimental pack rat — a deadly combination. I’m working on reconciling my tendency to “collect” things with what others expect of me.
—Dana Barnett, Birmingham, Alabama
Clutter and quarrels
Messiness is at the root of much conflict in our household. Everyone makes messes, then blames others for them. This has led to my trying to pick up after the others or taking the blame when someone yells. My sense of humor is all that I can lean on.
—Suzanne Scampini, Dyer, Indiana
My trouble with prioritizing and my low boredom threshold mean I’d have a house brimming with mail, bills, school notices, projects, letters, and so on — if it wasn’t for my 15-year-old daughter, who has strong organizational skills. She earns extra money — and my gratitude — by taking on tasks for me.
—Betsy Mitchell, Sarasota, Florida
Money does the trick! We created a chart with money values assigned to chores, and that’s how my kids earn their allowances. Some weeks, no allowance is given…but Rome wasn’t built quickly. With continued support, we’re confident they will learn to pick up after themselves.
—Ellen, Livonia, Michigan
A messy crowd
My four children and I are all messy, and I can’t stand it. You know those people who say they prefer the mess and know where everything is? I’m not one of them. I don’t know where anything is! We clean up one pile, and another one appears. They just seem to grow like fungus.
—Lisa Bryk, Wall, New Jersey
One pile, one day at a time
I know where things are in the piles throughout my house, but my husband has to ask me when he needs something. Then I have to stop what I’m doing to go get it for him. (It would take longer to explain, “I think it’s in the pile by the window, with the red shirt on top, halfway down, beneath the black book.”) He’s starting to learn more about ADD and be more understanding. As a compromise, I try to keep my piles to a minimum. (So far, this has meant fewer, but significantly taller, piles.) It’s a struggle that I take one day at a time.
—Briton Gualdoni, Kernersville, North Carolina