Cleaniness May Be Next to Godliness But Mess Is Next To Joyfulness

Mess, what a great topic. I am not talking about mess in the physical mess, although I am quite partial to sticking my hands in mud, sand and cream, although probably not all at the same time. And I have given fleeting thought to jumping into a pool of jelly, fully clothed without any wrestling involved, but the thought of that much jelly wastage keeps me firmly grounded.

The concept of mess is more about the consequences of having taken a conscious step. You do something, another thing or several things you deem unpleasant follow. This follow on is the creation of mess and mess usually needs to be dealt with. Ignoring mess, just makes it worse as mess tends to breed.

Most mess is planned and predictable. When you decide to jump into that enticing puddle, you know that you will end up with wet shoes and wet trousers that will most likely need cleaning once you are done. As puddles do, it beckons and you are willing to expend the energy to clean up. Other mess is neither planned nor predictable. Having decided to jump into that puddle, you didn’t see the black dirt that lay under the water and the splash you created has actually reached your coat. The mess created is bigger than you initially anticipated and you will now need even more energy to deal with it. Whilst these examples happen to involve physical mess I could equally have used examples that do not.

We learn from an early age that mess is to be avoided. We spend a lot of time ensuring that our children make as little mess as possible and teach them (mostly through chiding) that mess is bad. Further and regrettably, we spend a lot of time cleaning up our children’s messes because heaven forbid they should actually have to experience mess. But if we do this, how are they ever going to learn how to assess predictable mess or how to deal with mess? Are we to deny our children the joy of playing in the mud because it creates physical mess that we will have to clean?

Mess avoidance tends to lead to:

    • a flawlessly clean existence that is not a life
    • a lack of resilience
    • black and white two dimensional living
    • stagnation
    • fear

As such I’m here to advocate for mess.

For the longest time, I feared mess, spent a lot of time and energy avoiding it (well, except in the physical sense, but that’s another story you can ask the long suffering Italian Stallion). Living a life, growing and experiencing is messy. There is just no way around it. Now I put that same energy into dealing with mess, which in most cases turns out to be less messy than my inner voice had led me to believe.  But the joy of having given myself permission to create mess and have the experience along the way far outweighs the energy expended to deal with the mess.  And for the most part, I have stopped cleaning my sons’ messes. The time has come for them to learn their own cleaning techniques, with my support and guidance.

Embracing mess means embracing possibility, potential and growth. It means involvement, engagement and life. Permit yourself to experience mess. You may even learn some new clean-up techniques.

I thank my new found relationship with mess in bringing me to the blogging world. It has not been a flawless performance every time, but I know that I can deal with any mess. And in any event, the concept of immaculate is generally overrated.

When was the last time you got literally messy? Please feel free to leave your finger prints all over the dust in my comment box.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

39 thoughts on “Cleaniness May Be Next to Godliness But Mess Is Next To Joyfulness

  1. You raise a good point. I tend to avoid mess, but I likely miss out on life as a result. Sadly, it seems to get worse with age. I’ll think of your words the next time life gets messy. 🙂

    • I’m glad it struck a chord. I’m going the opposite way in my old age, letting go of some of the tightly held assumptions I had during my early adulthood. I think I’m going to call my middle age memoirs “The Incredible Lightness of Freeing”. Actually you have just given me the idea for a blog post – Thanks xx.

  2. you mean it’s not supposed to be like this? I am a mess, my house is a mess and I am enjoying the adventure! Thanks for this post, as usual I am enjoying it very much. I find myself staying up to see what you have written for the day. What a wonderful way to end my day! DAF

  3. Wonderful piece and I agree with it to a large degree. However there can come a point where mess spills over into all out war on the fairly stable concept of chaos theory and you can end up drowning in mess with no goal posts for pulling out of. These situations build character (don’t you love that expression; it implies a positive, thoughtful process in which we catalog life’s experiences). The trick to this of course is recognizing it and finding the road maps to life again and achieving balance within this.
    I am a great fan of chaos theory but have allowed it to run through the fissue’s and cracks in my person. Like a constant trickle of water the mess that runs through my own chaos theory schemata these cracks have opened further and at points threaten to pull me into the chasms that are widening at my feet. Due to this the fortifications are going up and the building stones into place and the careful use of the rubble from the widening cracks are being moved into place to enable a healthy, balanced system of chaos and mess and it is being utilized to gain a healthy level of mess and chaos.

    • We can talk about this more off line. But the message is that you have to deal with mess as it arises, rather than avoiding it all together. Whilst it may take some time to resolve you can’t ignore it, or leave it or wish it away, because then you do get the spread. Cheryl, remember the “clean as you go” principle?

    • Hi Stuart, thanks for jumping aboard the Curtin Raising bus, great to have you! The Wizard of Oz, huh? Happy to say no pullies, levers, smokes or mirrors here. Learned all this the hard way. BTW, I’m the queen of the messy office. Once I had a temp secretary “clean” up of her own accord. It threw me out for weeks :)!

  4. I am dealing with the aftermath mess of change and growth right this second. I swear you telepathically know what to write to me. Apparently my growth/mess is causing a bigger mess in my home, it’s making my hubby very unhappy. He would love for everything to remain just as it was..he’s not quite ready for the mess. We both need to clean some things up in order to balance the mess…dear lordy.

  5. Ah, messiness. My philosophy of life. My brain remains tidy(ish), but in the world around me stuff jumps out of their places just to make me feel at home. I have never been known as a neat-nick!

    • Elyse, same, same, same. There was a saying I saw recently “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then what does an empty desk mean”? I’d rather clutter. Would it be fair to say there is a system to one’s chaos? I believe there’s a system to mine.

  6. Fantastic Judy! I so enjoyed reading this when I logged on in the wee hours this morning. How true. Life should be messy and fear is no place to abide with any peace. Become peaceful with your messes and embrace them. Because, then your are living and not just EXISTING!

  7. If not for all the “messes” I have found myself in I would not be the open, receptive person I am today. While I prefer order to chaos, we really do learn from all that “mes”

    Great post!!!

  8. hate messes! yes, i try to avoid! but i know $@&? happens! and we learn from it.
    as a writer, my characters have to deal with many messy situations! or it wouldnt be exciting.
    and as in life, you appreciate the happy ending more after a few messes are cleand up!

    • Hi Tyra, thanks for coming around and commenting. Messes are essential to good fiction, the best stories usually centre around character growth through the chracter’s response to predicaments, which is a rather genteel way of saying “messes”.

  9. Mess. I grew up in a house scrubbed within an inch of its wall-painted rooms. Mom dressed us in pretty dresses (5 girls, 0 boys). We could not get dirty. Same in the winter in snowsuits. We had a tobbagan but couldn’t get wet. The dirtier my daughter growing up, with rips and tears to clothing, the happier I was. I used to keep a spotless house: no lint, no dust bunnies anywhere. Now, not so much. My mess is mostly the paper kind. It’s everywhere and drives me crazy. Otherwise, I’m a happy person, mess and all.
    Nothing wrong with a little mess. It’s sets you free (to do other things).

  10. Love it. With three kids, two dogs and one cat, the best we can do is be tidy with our mess. Our house is the embodiment of chaos theory. God bless the mess makers.

  11. I’m uncomfortable with mess. I’m not sure exactly when that began, but it does affect my mood. And it sometimes makes me the “un-fun” mom, as I’ll direct the kids towards “cleaner” activities just because I don’t want to deal with the mess. I’m not OCD-like, my house is far from being pristine, but mess stresses me out. I think it’s the feeling I’ve lost control over something. I think I need to take your advice and learn to embrace mess again, as I once did.

    Right after I mop up the muddy footprints someone left behind in the kitchen… 🙂

    Great post!


    • Thanks for the comment Lynn. I think the feeling of a lack of control is definitely a factor. The first step is coming to the conclusion that you don’t have to control everything because you have the confidence to deal with any consequences. Indeed, one can’t control everything anyway.

  12. Pingback: Embrace the Mess? Why yes, I think I will. « A Common Sea

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