Minimalist Messes: Two Keys to Address the Mess


Quick! The kids are all outside, probably getting muddy, so I have a moment to chat with you again. I'm always happy to share our minimalist journey with you from our little log home filled with six wild, amazing children. Part of that journey includes messes.

I think that minimalist media has often portrayed minimalism as peaceful, white pristine interiors.  I'm inspired by those images. I enjoy clean spaces, and I live in 1400 square feet with six children. Let's be honest, they don't always take off their shoes like they are supposed to, especially when they are excited to bring me a fist full of crushed first-spring flowers. And while I have a minimalist home that cleans up quickly, it still gets messy.

I think the question that I often hear from other fellow-minimalist-journey-takers is "how do you handle the messes even as a minimalist?" And, I must say the key is that we have a plan to deal with, prevent, and learn from our messes. 

1. Plan for the mess. This could mean having "floor rags" like old cloth pre-fold diapers to handle the muddy mess. This could be leaving enough time in the evening for one last "at the end of the day, we put away" time. We call it "closing up shop" routine. Perhaps it is leaving enough time for the emotional needs of high-intensity little guys who just require more stability. Emotions are messy! Whatever mess you are dealing with today, you may want to think through how you can actually create a plan to handle it better the next time.

Do you need a better allocation of jobs in the home? Can you make a simple chalkboard chart? Do you need more time to help your high-need personality to gain stability in a time of transition? Could you cut out other outside commitments so your high-need child is not rushed? Messes, physical and emotional, happen to every healthy household. Often these are completely intertwined. The difference between a healthy mess and a disaster is made in how those messes are handled. 

2. Stop apologizing for the mess. God knew when He made people that would have certain needs and make certain messes. If He can deal with it, then so can I. Now, I'm a strict momma and if a child is old enough to make a mess, they are old enough to start cleaning it up. Even the baby scrubbed the front of the dishwasher this week at 9 months old. Personal responsibility is important, but without shame! Most often, the high-intensity mess-makers are my house will be given a rag, told to clean it up, but then shown how to clean it up. Oh, thank God we aren't shamed by our mess or left alone in it! 

We try to keep clean-up fun. I want the children to know and feel the love that I have for them even in their mess. That means I clean with them, showing them how to work through the mess. Sometimes,  I even cry with them in their heart-break of messy childhood emotions. But then, I show them how to breathe deeply, take a quiet moment, pray, get the emotions back under control. All the while, they are snuggled in my arms. My arms need to be the haven they run to in order to learn how to deal with the messes of life. 

I want my children to run to me when they know they're stuck, they've made a mess, or they don't know how to handle their anger. That moment of creating sacred space with them is why I cleared away my own mess in donating the 558 bags to charity. When I was dealing with depression and smothering mountains of useful junk, I was not able to show them how to handle emotions in a healthy way. I did not have the self-control that I do now. I want them to learn that self-control instead of being tossed around by every whim or thought. 

And I want them to learn that creating clean space in the midst of messes, whether in our hearts or our homes, is an important process. It takes time. It takes work. It takes prayer. And there's no shame in it. In fact, there's joy. We learn from it, fine tune our systems to prevent it as applicable, and keep the heart of love for each other along the way.


Blessings for your journey,